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Conquering Doubt

God Is Faithful to Keep Us

What ever you do, do it for the Honor and Glory of God.
If it does not Honor and Glorifies God, then don't do it!
For it becomes a sin.  This is a true relationship with God. 

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If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, trusting Him alone for salvation, believing that His sacrifice is the full payment for your sins – congratulations, you are one of the elect.

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           GOD'S CALLING TO YOU!  Read and PRAISE


by John MacArthur


The Measure of Grace

Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.
Romans 5:20

God will lavish grace upon sinners who are truly repentant.

Did you ever sin so terribly that you felt, I really blew it this time. There’s no way God would want to forgive me now? It’s easy sometimes to let our past sins be a constant burden to us, even after we’ve confessed and repented. Paul has comfort for those who feel this way, and that comfort is founded on the power and measure of God’s grace to us. Before his conversion, Paul (then known as Saul) persecuted the church mercilessly (see Acts 8:3 and 9:1-2). He was “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13; see also Gal. 1:13). If anyone could be beyond grace, it was Paul.

But God intervened and saved him (Acts 9:3-19). Why? “For this reason,” Paul says, “I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). If God would forgive Paul, He will forgive anyone who will confess their sins and repent. If He would show abundant grace to a violent unbeliever, He will also shower grace upon His penitent children.

God is not stingy with grace. Paul celebrates God’s saving “grace, which He freely bestowed on us” (Eph 1:6), and “the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (vv. 7-8). Speaking of sustaining grace, Paul says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). Notice the words Paul uses: “all grace,” “abound,” “all sufficiency,” “everything,” “abundance,” “every good deed.” God’s grace is inexhaustible and is given so freely that words cannot express it fully.

Great sins require great grace, but God will give super-abundant grace to those who seek forgiveness, for “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Don’t let your past sins weigh you down; learn to rest upon God’s super-abundant grace.

Suggestions for Prayer: 
Ask God to teach you to understand His grace more fully and help you forget “what lies behind” (Phil. 3:13).

For Further Study: 
Read Romans 6. What is Paul’s argument here? How are we to live now that we have received God’s grace?


by John MacArthur

Enjoying God’s Forgiveness” 

In Christ we have…the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of [God's] grace, which He lavished upon us” (Eph. 1:7-8)

In Christ we have infinite forgiveness for every sin – past, present, and future.

On Israel’s Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the high priest selected two goats. One was sacrificed, the other set free. Before releasing the second goat, the high priest symbolically placed the sins of the people on it by laying his hands on its head. This “scapegoat” was then taken a great distance from camp and released – never to return again (Lev. 16:7-10).

The greek word translated “forgiveness” in Ephesians 1:7 means “to send away.” It speaks of canceling a debt or granting a pardon. Like the scapegoat, Christ carried away our sins on the cross.

In Christ, God canceled your debt and pardoned your transgressions, and He did so “according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon [you]” (v.8). That means you have infinite forgiveness, because God’s grace is infinite. You cannot sin beyond God’s grace, because where sin abounds, grace super-abounds (Rom. 5:20).

God delights in lavishing His grace upon you. Such grace is overflowing and cannot be contained. You are forgiven for every sin – past, present, and future. You will never be condemned by God or separated from Him (Rom. 8:1-2, 31-39). Even when you fail, God doesn’t hold your sins against you. Christ bore them all so that you might know the joy and peace that freedom from sin and guilt brings.

Let the reality of God’s grace fill your heart with joy and assurance. Let the responsibility of glorifying Him fill you with awe and reverence. Let this day be a sacrifice of praise and service to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer: Thank God for His infinite grace and forgiveness. ~ Look for opportunities to extend forgiveness to others.

For Further Study: Read Matthew 18:21-35. ~ What characteristic marked the wicked slave? ~ What was the kings response to the wicked slaves actions? ~ What point was Jesus making? How does it apply to you?

by John MacArthur

"Take the helmet of salvation" (Eph. 6:17).

Doubt comes to Christians in many ways. After you've sinned, your conscience might hiss at you, saying, "Surely you're not a Christian. Why would God save you anyway? You don't deserve His mercy. You're not good enough. How presumptuous to think God could ever use you!" Such doubts are common among Christians who focus on their performance rather than God's power.

All too often we're quick to acknowledge God's power to save us but slow to understand His power to keep us. To complicate matters, many Christians believe they can lose their salvation, so they live in constant fear of falling away from the faith. Still others have never learned what Scripture teaches about their security in Christ. They're so intent on pleasing God through their own efforts that they lose sight of grace and drift into a subtle works- righteousness mentality.

Your performance doesn't determine your standing in Christ; your standing in Christ determines your performance. Good works are the necessary result of salvation (Eph. 2:10) but they don't save you or keep you saved. That's God's work.

Jude said, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy" (v. 24). "Able" in that verse translates a Greek word that speaks of power. "Keep" literally means "to secure in the midst of an attack." "Stumbling" refers to falling into sin. Together they say that God is powerful enough to prevent you from stumbling into sin and falling away from Him--no matter how intense Satan's attacks might be. He will continue to protect and cleanse you until the day you enter His glorious heaven perfected.

Sin is a serious issue and you should never take it lightly. But when you do sin, remember that as a believer you're immediately cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7). So always confess your sins and turn from them, but never doubt God's power or willingness to keep you saved. Trust in His grace, not in your ability to perform.

Suggestions for Prayer:

Praise the Lord for continually cleansing your sin.

For Further Study:

Memorize Jude 24-25 and recite it often as a reminder of God's power and majesty.

John MacArthur

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24, 25 ESV)

would God save you anyway? 

You have a calling that cannot be revoked!


Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us . . .” - Ephesians 3:20

Through the Holy Spirit, God gives His children all the spiritual power they will ever need to live the Christian life.

It’s a joy to know that spiritual gifts are not like toys whose packages say “batteries required.” What the Spirit provides is not dependent on perishable batteries for power. Instead, when the Spirit secures our new life in Christ, He also empowers and strengthens us with every spiritual resource we’ll ever need to serve Christ and minister to others.

The Holy Spirit draws from an infinite supply of strength and power, as Paul indicates in Ephesians 3:20. In verse 16 he had just prayed that the Ephesians would “be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Paul was certain that God’s Spirit can do far more in the lives of believers than most of us ever imagine. So many of us don’t get past the phrase “to Him who is able,” and with that failure we limit how much the Holy Spirit can do in and through us.

Paul had much more than a theoretical understanding of the Spirit’s infinite power supply—he experienced it firsthand. Even when he was stretched to the limit physically and spiritually, he said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We can’t attribute his inner perseverance to any other source than the Holy Spirit.

No matter how difficult or discouraging our own circumstances become, we have the very same Spirit. If we’re hindered, we don’t have to be frustrated. If we’re puzzled, we don’t have to be in despair. If we’re persecuted, we don’t have to face it alone. If we’re dying from a physical disease, we can be alive in heart and spirit. Our outer person might be exhausted and hard-pressed, but we have the assurance that our inner self is being renewed with fresh strength daily from the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 4:16).

Suggestions for Prayer: 
Thank God today that even before your life encounters a crisis, you have the Holy Spirit as a source of strength and power to help meet that challenge.

For Further Study: 
Moses was uncertain that he could or would be empowered for God’s ministry. Read Exodus 3:1—4:17. What excuses did Moses raise? How did God deal with each one?

by John MacArthur


Lord Bless my Royal Family
For Eternity + 1 Day




"I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications" (Dan. 9:2-3).

Have you ever wondered if it's biblical to pray for things that God has already promised in His Word to do? Is it proper to pray, say, for the salvation of sinners, knowing that God will redeem all the elect anyway, or for Christ's return, knowing that it is a sure thing? Daniel gives us a clear answer.

God prophesied through Jeremiah that the Babylonian Captivity would last seventy years (Jer. 25:11-12). When Daniel read that prophecy, he realized that the time was near for his people to return to their homeland. That inspired him to pray fervently.

In Daniel 9:19 he cries out, "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God, do not delay." He was in tune with God's Word and understood that somehow his prayers were part of God's plan.

The exact relationship between God's sovereignty and our prayers is a mystery, but it is clear that somehow God's Word and our prayers are co-laborers in achieving God's will.

Like Daniel, you and I live in a time when many of God's promises seem near to fulfillment. Never before have world events pointed so dramatically to the nearness of the return of our Lord. Consequently, this is not the time for complacency or over-enthusiastic speculation. It is the time for careful Bible study and fervent prayer.

Suggestions for Prayer:

  • Thank God for His faithfulness and the sure promises of His Word.
  • Ask Him for spiritual wisdom and insight to discern His will and then live accordingly.
For Further Study:

Jeremiah 24:1 - 25:13 gives some background to Judah's captivity in Babylon. After reading those verses, answer these questions:

  • To what kind of fruit did God liken Judah?
  • What did God say would happen to King Zedekiah?
  • What warning did the prophets give to Judah?
  • What was Judah's response?
  • How would God deal withBabylon 



From Strength for Today by John MacArthur


Good morning brothers and sisters, I pray that you are rejoicing in the Lord today, and every day hereafter.  When you truly repent to The Lord confessing all your sins, sin's weight is lifted off your shoulders.  And even though, we go through trials and tribulations, we rejoice in the wonderful hope of our Lord Jesus Christ and Savior.  


Deut. 31:8

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed."  REJOICE!!!

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John 6:37
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 

We all know God the Holy Spirit quickens our hearts unto repentance.  We receive the gift of faith from God the Father, a perseverant faith from an eternal faithful God.  That is an awesome precious gift, to rejoice upon.  We should rejoice upon the fact that God knows us, from eternity past, and gave us, to JESUS.  And JESUS will not cast us out.   Never to doubt our salvation.   Even if we are grieved by trials. 

Once saved, always saved.  But this does not give us license to sin.  In other words, we will not, deliberately sin against God.  Yet we live in a sinful flesh, if and when we do sin, (I personally come to learn that, sin by definition is, what ever we do, we do it for the Honor and Glory of God.  If it does not Honor God, it's a sin.)  we confess our sins to God. WE HONOR ABBA FATHER THAT WAY, since we despise sin, like our Daddy does.  We have an advocate, 1John 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. (AMEN!).  

Romans 8:26, 27
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
27 And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

God the Holy Spirit will energize you.  REJOICE

Trials will come, you are not alone, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit will empower you.  You are, secured by the Trinity. 



John 10:27-30

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 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.
30 I and the Father are one."

The saints will always persevere.  Going through the sanctification process, we go through trials which in turn serves a lesson from God, to strengthen our faith.   The same faith which is a gift from God.  Once we accept the sacrifice of Jesus, we are indeed saved.  Therefore when trials come by, the only way to get over it, is through it.  Don't think of avoiding it, rejoice in The Lord through trials with continual prayers, you will draw nearer to God, this is perseverance of the saints.  It gives you endurance to the end.  And no one or any trials will snatch you from the hands of God.


For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Romans 11:29




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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.  Psalms 136:1

It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

Special Message tonight 03/03/15


Confidence and assurance

1 John 3:22King James Version (KJV)

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight

You can know you're a believer if God answers your prayers. The only way that can happen is if you keep His Commandments, and the only way you can do that is if you belong to Him. As John says in verse 24 the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him. 

In a similar passage John said, 

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us.

15 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 5:13-15

God always answers prayers that are according to His will. Obedient believers know His will  as stated in His word, and tailor their prayers accordingly. The answers that result bring about confidence and assurance. God is more eager to answer the prayers of His children than they are to ask. I suspect there's a certain disappointment in God's heart because He would do so much more than we ever ask Him to do.  Think of the blessings and assurance we missed out on!  

No there are many people who prayed to God, but don't even know the God their praying to or what His will is. God is under no application to answer such prayers. We learn from the Psalms that He Doesn't even hear them in (PS 66:18)

But those of us who see answers to our prayers can know we have eternal life. One of the many good reasons to pray fervently and faithfully is to enjoy the assurance that answer prayers brings.

By John MacArthur

Lovingly in the abundance Love of our Lord, 


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28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
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.
30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. - Romans 8:28-30

Paul in the epistle to the Romans is discussing the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, that is the truth by which we are saved. And he's discussing it in all of its features. He talks about man's condition in sin in the first three chapters, and starting toward the end of chapter 3 and all the way through chapter 7 he talks about justification and its fruits, or its effects. Then in chapter 8 he gives to us the great reality that justification is eternal, that whoever the Lord justifies He glorifies, that anyone that is saved in the beginning will be saved in the end. In other words, that we are eternally secure and will persevere in faith to the end. That great truth of chapter 8 is summarized in those verses. They sum up the whole doctrine of eternal security. "Whoever the Lord foreknew He predestined, whoever He predestined He called, whoever He called He justified, and whoever He justified He glorified." And nobody is lost in the process and that is because "God causes all things to work together for their good." That is the sum of this wonderful text. Justification is eternal.

Justification and its eternal character is secured to the believer by the marvelous ministry of the Holy Spirit whose work is outlined throughout this chapter. It is the Spirit who secures us in a no-condemnation status. We will never be condemned, we are secured eternally as justified in a no-condemnation status because of the work of the Holy Spirit. 



Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Jeremiah 31:3

And that is the kind of love that God places upon those who belong to Him eternally. 

God is able to complete what He begins in Philippians chapter 1 and verse 6, "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you were perfected until the day of Jesus Christ."

It is an everlasting work of salvation that God does.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:12, "I know whom I have believed and am convinced He is able to guard what I've entrusted to Him, namely my soul, until that day." Jude 25, again a wonderful and securing promise that the Lord will keep us in these great words, "To the only God our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty and dominion and authority...why?...because He is able to keep you from stumbling and make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy."

Scripture is filled with promises about the eternality of our salvation, that whom the Lord saves He secures forever. And, of course, that is what we have been seeing in this great chapter. It all began in verse 1, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." If you're in Christ, if you've been placed in Christ, into union with Christ in faith in Him, there will never be any condemnation. 


Trials' Lessons: We See Greater Reward

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace . . . will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Successful endurance of present trials leads to greater focus on glorifying God in the future.

Sufferings and trials teach us patience. However, in Heaven we won’t need to have patience, and therefore it is not the major long-term lesson God wants us to learn from trials. He is far more pleased if we grasp the truth that what we suffer now is directly related to our ability to glorify Him in eternity. Worshiping God will be our role in Heaven (Rev. 4—5), and Paul reminds us that “if we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12). In other words, if we learn to endure trials and tribulations now, we can expect to receive great reward in eternity. I believe that reward is primarily the capacity to glorify God; and therefore the greater our present endurance, the greater will be our capability to glorify Him in the future.

At one point during Jesus’ ministry with the disciples, two of them—brothers James and John—desired that He appoint them to the two positions of greatest prestige in His kingdom—seats at His right and left hands (see Matt. 20:20-23). James and John recognized the concept of eternal rewards, but they did not understand how it works. Thus Jesus asked them if they were ready to endure the cup of suffering and death (as He was) prior to occupying such powerful positions in His kingdom (v. 22). This implies again that endurance in trials and advancement in future glory are correlated. (Jesus endured the greatest suffering on the cross, and He was raised to the highest position, at the Father’s right hand.)

The application for us from all this is clear: the Lord wants us to realize that the end of every trial contains much satisfaction and joy because we are building up our future capacity to glorify Him. At the same time, we are comprehending more and more about the value of persevering through all sorts of pain and tribulation (see Rev. 2:10).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you the desire to see the benefits of trials from an eternal perspective.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 4—5. What attributes of God do you see, directly or indirectly, that are worthy of eternal praise?


Building a Leader: The Right Lessons (Peter)

The twelve apostles included "Simon, who is called Peter" (Matt. 10:2).

Peter learned five lessons that every believer must also learn.

We have seen that God uses our experiences to mold us into more effective Christians and leaders. Using Peter as our example, let's briefly look at five lessons we can learn from our experiences: submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love.

Leaders tend to be confident and aggressive, so they must learn to submit to authority. Jesus illustrated that by telling Peter to go fishing and look for a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught (Matt. 17:24-27). He was to use that coin to pay their taxes. Peter was a citizen of God's Kingdom, but he needed an object lesson in submitting to governmental authorities.

When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, Peter grabbed a sword and would have fought the entire group if Jesus hadn't restrained him. Peter needed to learn to entrust His life to the Father, just as Christ was doing.

Peter bragged that he would never leave or forsake Christ—but he did. Perhaps humility was the most painful lesson he had to learn.

Jesus told Peter that he would die as a martyr (John 21:18-19). From that day forward Peter knew his life was on the line, yet he was willing to make the necessary sacrifice and minister anyway.

Leaders tend to be task oriented and often are insensitive to people. Peter was that way, so Jesus demonstrated love by washing his feet and instructing him to do loving deeds for others (John 13:6-934).

Submission, restraint, humility, sacrifice, and love should be characteristic of every believer—no matter what role he or she has within the Body of Christ. I pray they are characteristic of your life, and that you will constantly seek to grow in those graces as God continues His work in you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Spiritual lessons are sometimes painful to learn, but God is patient and gracious. Thank Him for His patience and thank Him also for Christ, who is the perfect example of what we should be.

For Further Study

Peter learned his lesson well. Read 1 Peter 2:13-1821-234:816; and 5:5. What can you learn from Peter's instructions on submission, restraint, love, sacrifice, and humility?


True Giving Should Anticipate Rewards

“‘When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’” (Matthew 6:3–4).

When you give as Jesus directs—lovingly, unpretentiously, and with no concern for public recognition—“your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” In other words, if you remember, God forgets; and if you forget, God still remembers. You should simply try to meet every need you can and leave the bookkeeping to Him. This kind of giving is just a matter of realizing that “we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Luke 17:10).

There is nothing wrong with humbly anticipating our reward for true and honest giving. God knows our hearts, attitudes, and motives, and He will not fail to reward us appropriately. After all, our sovereign Lord knows exactly what everyone is doing (Heb. 4:13).

In giving and every other realm of good works, Jesus Christ is our perfect role model (cf. Eph. 2:10). He preached and taught before crowds large and small, and He did miracles of healing, compassion, and power over nature for many to see and benefit from. But He always focused the final attention on His heavenly Father and did not seek His own glory but the Father’s (John 8:49–50).

Our motive in hoping for any rewards ought to be the anticipation of placing them as offerings at the Lord’s feet, like the twenty-four elders who “will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power’” (Rev. 4:10–11).

Ask Yourself

Like with any sinful tendency you wish to conquer, the secret is daily obedience, even in the smallest ways, not wanting to give the enemy the slightest opening for victory. In what ways could the day ahead likely give you an opportunity to practice this—to seek God’s reward alone?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 21:2 The king has ordered me. David, fearing someone might tell Saul where he was, deceived Ahimelech the priest into thinking that he was on official business for the king. He supposed, as many do, that it is excusable to lie for the purpose of saving one’s life. But what is essentially sinful can never, because of circumstances, change its immoral character (see Ps. 119:29). David’s lying led tragically to the deaths of the priests (22:9–18).

1 Samuel 21:5, 6 bread…common. Since that bread was no longer on the Lord’s table, having been replaced by hot bread, it was to be eaten by the priests and in these exigencies, by David under the law of necessity and mercy. The removal of the old bread and the replacing with new was done on the Sabbath (Lev. 24:8).

1 Samuel 21:13 changed his behavior. David feared for his life, lacked trust in God to deliver him, and feigned insanity to persuade Achish to send him away. See the titles of Psalms 34 and 56. Drooling in one’s beard was considered in the East an intolerable indignity, as was spitting in another’s beard.

Luke 24:45 opened their understanding. He undoubtedly taught them from the Old Testament, as He had on the road to Emmaus. But the gist of the expression also seems to convey a supernatural opening of their minds to receive the truths He unfolded. Whereas their understanding was once dull (9:45), they finally saw clearly (see Ps. 119:18Is. 29:18192 Cor. 3:14–16).

DAY 9: What was the resurrected body of Christ like?

In Luke 24:31, it tells us that after the two men had traveled with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, “their eyes were opened,” i.e., by God. They had been sovereignly kept from recognizing Him until this point (v. 16). His resurrection body was glorified and altered from its previous appearance (see John’s description in Rev. 1:13–16), and this surely explains why even Mary did not recognize Him at first (John 20:14–16). But in this case, God actively intervened to keep them from recognizing Him until it was time for Him to depart.

“He vanished from their sight.” His resurrection body, though real and tangible (John 20:27)—and even capable of ingesting earthly food (vv. 42, 43)—nonetheless possessed certain properties that indicate it was glorified, altered in a mysterious way (1 Cor. 15:35–54Phil. 3:21). Christ could appear and disappear bodily, as seen in this text. His body could pass through solid objects—such as the grave clothes (v. 12) or the walls and doors of a closed room (John 20:1926). He could apparently travel great distances in a moment, for by the time these disciples returned to Jerusalem, Christ had already appeared to Peter (v. 34).The fact that He ascended into heaven bodily demonstrated that His resurrection body was already fit for heaven. Yet it was His body, the same one that was missing from the tomb, even retaining identifying features such as the nail wounds (John 20:25–27). He was no ghost or phantom. 

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Trials' Lessons: Confidence in Heaven

“To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).

We can rejoice after enduring a trial because our hope in Heaven will be renewed.

The joy a Christian experiences as a result of trials can be the best kind he will ever know. But so often we allow the everyday stress and strain of financial difficulties, health problems, unrealized goals, and many other trials to rob us of our joy in Christ. True joy stems from spiritual realities that are much greater than temporal circumstances.

In today’s verse Peter gives us one strong reason for rejoicing—the confident hope that as Christians we have inherited a place in Heaven. This confidence can be so powerful that Peter, who was writing to believers suffering persecution, describes it as a truth we ought to “greatly rejoice” in (v. 6). This expressive, intense word is always used in the New Testament in relation to the joy of knowing God, never of shallow, temporal relationships.

Jesus’ disciples had a difficult time seeing that trials could be related to the certainty of going to Heaven. In teaching them about His upcoming death, Christ told the Twelve, “Therefore you, too, now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you” (John 16:22). And that is exactly what happened when they saw the risen Savior and understood the impact of His work.

We can have two responses to trials, just like passengers riding a train through the mountains. We can look to the left and see the dark mountainside and be depressed. Or we can look to the right and be uplifted by the beautiful view of natural scenery stretching into the distance. Some believers even compound their sadness by continuing to look to the mountain shadows of their trial after life’s train has moved away from the threatening peaks. But they would not forfeit their joy if they simply looked ahead to the brightness and certainty of their eternal inheritance.

Nothing in life can take away the wonderful promise of Heaven’s glory: it was reserved by God, bought by Christ, and guaranteed by the Spirit (see Eph. 1:11-13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you meditate today on the glories promised for you in the future.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 21 and note the primary living conditions that will be true of Heaven. 


Building a Leader: The Right Experiences (Peter)

The twelve apostles included "Simon, who is called Peter" (Matt. 10:2).

Your present experiences contribute to your future leadership ability.

Stan Carder is a dear brother in Christ and one of the pastors on our church staff. Before coming to Grace Church he pastored a church in Montana. While there, he was riding one night in a truck that was involved in a very serious accident. Stan suffered a broken neck and other major injuries. As a result he underwent months of arduous and painful therapy.

That was one of the most difficult periods in Stan's life, yet God used it for a specific purpose. Today, as pastor of our special-ministries department, Stan ministers to more than 500 physically and mentally handicapped people. God needed a man with unique qualifications to show love to a group of very special people. He chose Stan and allowed him the necessary experiences to fit him for the task.

God doesn't always permit such serious situations, but He does lead each of us into life-changing experiences that heighten our effectiveness in ministry.

Peter had many such experiences. In Matthew 16:15-16, for example, God gave him special revelation about the deity of Christ. In Acts 10 God sent him to preach the gospel to Gentiles—something unheard of at the time because Jewish people resisted any interaction with Gentiles. Perhaps the most tragic experience of Peter's life was his denial of Christ. But even that only increased his love for Christ and his appreciation of God's grace. After His resurrection, Christ forgave him and restored him to ministry (John 21:15-19).

Peter's many experiences helped prepare him for the key role he was to play in the early church. Similarly, your experiences help prepare you for future ministry. So seek to discern God's hand in your circumstances and rejoice at the prospect of becoming a more effective Christian.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for both the good and bad experiences you have, knowing that each of them is important to your spiritual growth (cf. James 1:2-4).

For Further Study

Read Acts 10, noting what Peter learned from his experience.

  • What vision did Peter have?
  • What was the point of the vision?


Principles of Giving: Part 2

“‘When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’” (Matthew 6:3–4).

Continuing from yesterday’s list of scriptural giving principles, four more come to mind. First, financial giving correlates to spiritual blessings. God will not entrust things of greater value to those who are not faithful with lesser things. Jesus asks, “If you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” (Luke 16:11). Men have dropped out of the ministry because they couldn’t handle their finances, and others remain but see little fruit because God won’t commit souls to them if they can’t manage material things, including their giving.

Second, believers must personally decide their giving. True giving will flow from a righteous heart, not artificially imposed percentages. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7; cf. 8:1–2Phil. 4:15–18).

Third, Christians must give toward the needs of others. The early Jerusalem church did not hesitate to share its resources (Acts 2:44–45), and years later Paul took a collection from Gentile churches to help meet the continued needs of believers in Jerusalem.

Finally, genuine giving demonstrates the love of Christ, not adherence to the law. The New Testament does not specify required amounts or percentages (such as the tithe) for our giving. The amount we give, which ought to be as generous as possible, will derive from our heartfelt love and our knowledge of others’ needs.

Ask Yourself

How do you go about deciding the amounts you give? Are you satisfied that you’re being obedient to the Lord in this? Remember, giving is not supposed to be a source of guilt but rather a fount of blessing and gratitude. Are you experiencing a high level of peace about your giving decisions?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 18:1 Jonathan loved him. Jonathan loved David with a loyalty and devotion indicative of covenantal love (18:3). Hiram of Tyre had much the same covenantal love for David (see 2 Sam. 5:111 Kin. 5:19:11). David’s later reign from Jerusalem is marked by loyalty to his covenant with Jonathan (2 Sam. 9:1).

1 Samuel 19:23 the Spirit of God was upon him. This was the last time the Spirit of the Lord would rest on Saul. God turned Saul’s heart to prophesy and not to harm David.

1 Samuel 19:24 stripped off his clothes. Saul removed his armor and royal garments, prompted by the Spirit of God, thus signifying God’s rejection of Saul as king over Israel. lay down naked. Without the royal garments, Saul was figuratively “naked,” perhaps so overwhelmed by the Spirit of God as to be in a deep sleep. Other than Saul’s utter despair and pitiful state at the home of the medium at En Dor (28:20) and his end at Mt. Gilboa (31:4–6), this episode represents one of the severest humblings in Saul’s life. Is Saul also among the prophets? This is a final editorial comment tying together the Spirit of God’s presence at Saul’s inauguration (10:10, 11), and the final departure of the same at his rejection (19:24).

Psalm 58:4 Their poison. The words and actions of these tyrants are like poisonous venom in a serpent’s fangs. deaf cobra. Like a cobra which cannot hear its charmer are these stubborn rulers, who ignore all encouragements to righteousness.

DAY 8: What happened on the day that Christ was resurrected from the dead?

Early in the morning, certain women came to the tomb “bringing the spices which they had prepared” (Luke 24:1). But they found “the stone rolled away” (v. 2). Matthew 28:2–4 records that an earthquake occurred and an angel rolled the stone away. The Roman guards fainted with fear. Mark, Luke, and John make no mention of the guards, so it appears they fled when they awoke to find the empty tomb. The women must have arrived shortly after.

Finding the stone rolled away, the women entered the tomb, but found it empty (v. 3). While they were still in the tomb, the angels suddenly appeared (v. 4; Mark 16:5). Only Luke mentioned both angels. Mark was concerned only with the one who spoke for the duo. Such minor differences in the Gospel accounts are all reconcilable.

The angel who spoke reminded them of Jesus’ promises (vv. 6–8), then sent them to find Peter and the disciples to report that Jesus was risen (Matt. 28:78Mark 16:78). The women did as they were told (vv. 9–11). The disciples were skeptical at first (v. 11), but ran to where the tomb was, John arriving first (John 20:4), but Peter actually entering the tomb first (John 20:6). They saw the linen wrappings intact but empty, proof that Jesus was risen (v. 12; John 20:6–8). They left immediately (v. 12; John 20:10).

Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb and was standing outside weeping when Christ suddenly appeared to her (John 20:11–18). That was His first appearance (Mark 16:9). Sometime soon after that, He met the other women on the road and appeared to them, as well (Matt. 28:910). Later that day He appeared to two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (vv. 13–32) and to Peter (v. 34).

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Trials' Lessons: Right Priorities

“‘For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me’” (Genesis 22:12).

Trials from the Lord will reveal to believers what they love and appreciate the most.

A big part of the reason for the Lord’s testing Abraham at Moriah was to show him what he valued most in life. The question God wanted Abraham to answer was, “Do you love Isaac more than Me, or do you love Me more than Isaac?” And the Lord was prepared for the drastic test of taking Abraham’s son’s life if that’s what was necessary for Abraham to give God first place in everything.

God also tries the sincerity of those today who claim to love Him (see Deut. 13:3Matt. 22:36-37). Jesus was so concerned that we have our priorities right that He made this radical statement: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Christians must love Christ so much that by comparison they will seem to hate their families and themselves. In order to test this first love, God might in some dramatic fashion ask us to renounce the many tugs and appeals from family and place His will and affections first in our life.

That kind of radical obedience, which is what Abraham had, always leads to God’s blessings. Jesus Himself was a perfect example of this principle. Because He was fully human as well as fully God, our Lord did not escape ordinary pain and hardship while on earth. As the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53), He learned completely what it means to obey through pain and adversity, all the way to His crucifixion (Heb. 5:7-9). As a result, the Son was exalted by the Father (Phil. 2:8-9).

God sometimes makes our path of obedience go through the experiences of trials and sufferings. But if we are faithful to His Word and will, those difficulties will teach us to value and appreciate God’s many blessings.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that your priorities each day would stay in line with God’s.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9. What must be the top priority for all believers?


Building a Leader: The Right Raw Material (Peter)

The twelve apostles included "Simon, who is called Peter" (Matt. 10:2).

God can use your natural abilities as a basis for your spiritual service.

Peter is a good illustration of how God builds a spiritual leader. He begins with a person's natural traits and works from there. Natural traits alone don't make a spiritual leader—the person must also be gifted and called by the Holy Spirit to lead in the church and be a model of spiritual virtue. But often God endows future leaders with natural abilities that constitute the raw materials from which He builds spiritual ministries. That was certainly the case with Peter, who demonstrated the leadership qualities of inquisitiveness, initiative, and involvement.

Peter was always asking questions. In fact, the gospel records show he asked more questions than all the other disciples combined! People who aren't inquisitive don't make good leaders because they're not concerned about problems and solutions.

Initiative was another indicator of Peter's leadership potential. He not only asked questions, but also was often the first to respond when Jesus asked the questions (e.g., Matt. 16:15-16Luke 8:45).

Also, Peter loved to be in the middle of the action, even when it got him into trouble. For example, we might criticize his lack of faith when he sank after walking on water, but remember, the rest of the disciples never even got out of the boat.

Peter was inquisitive, showed initiative, and sought to be involved. How about you? Are you inquisitive about God's truth? Do you take the initiative to learn about Him? Do you want to be involved in what He is doing? If so, you have the raw material for spiritual leadership. Continue to cultivate those qualities, allowing the Spirit to use you for God's glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for your spiritual leaders.
  • Ask God for opportunities to lead others in the way of righteousness. Use every opportunity to its fullest.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting the kinds of questions Peter asked: Matthew 15:1518:2119:27Mark 13:2-4John 21:20-22.


Principles of Giving, Part 1

“‘When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’” (Matthew 6:3–4).

From this and other Scripture, we can learn principles to guide us in God-honoring giving. First of all, genuine heart-giving is an investment with God. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38; cf. 2 Cor. 9:6).

Second, biblical giving should be sacrificial. We don’t determine this by the amount, but by the proportion. Consider the widow and Jesus’ observation: “A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned’” (Mark 12:42–44).

Third, Christians of all income levels should give. If you don’t give when you have little, you won’t necessarily give when you’re prosperous. You might give a larger amount, but not a greater proportion. Jesus’ parable of the unrighteous steward teaches, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10). God is concerned not with how much you have to give, but with how much love is behind the gift.

Ask Yourself

Think of personal examples from your own life where this “faithful in small things” principle has proven itself true. What have you promised you’d do if only you had a little more? What has usually happened when the “more” became reality?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 16:7 his appearance…physical stature. Samuel needed to be reminded that God’s anointed was not chosen because of physical attributes. This was initially a difficult concept for Samuel as he was accustomed to a king whose only positive attributes were physical. the LORD looks at the heart. The Hebrew concept of “heart” embodies emotions, will, intellect, and desires. The life of the man will reflect his heart (see Matt. 12:3435).

1 Samuel 17:4 champion. Literally, “the man between two.” An appropriate appellation as Goliath stood between the two armies and offered his challenge to a “duel” of hand-to-hand combat, the outcome of which would settle the battle for both sides. six cubits and a span. One cubit measures approximately 18 inches and one span about 9 inches, making Goliath about 9 feet 9 inches in height.

1 Samuel 17:32 Let no man’s heart fail. Joshua and Caleb exhorted Israel in the same fashion regarding the giant Anakim 400 years prior (Num.13:3014:89). The heathens’ hearts fail at the name of the Lord God of Israel (Josh. 2:11).

1 Samuel 17:37 The LORD…He will deliver me. Just as Jonathan believed earlier (14:6). David had a wholehearted faith in the God of Israel. the LORD be with you. One of the first explicit indications in the text that Saul knew that the Lord was with David (see 15:28).

Luke 23:42 Lord, remember me. The penitent thief’s prayer reflected his belief that the soul lives on after death; that Christ had a right to rule over a kingdom of the souls of men; and that He would soon enter that kingdom despite His impending death. His request to be remembered was a plea for mercy, which also reveals that the thief understood he had no hope but divine grace and that the dispensing of that grace lay in Jesus’ power. All of this demonstrates true faith on the part of the dying thief, and Christ graciously affirmed the man’s salvation (v. 43).

DAY 7: Contrast the spiritual anointings of David and Saul.

David was first anointed by Samuel “in the midst of his brothers” (1 Sam. 16:13). David’s first anointing was before his family/house. His second anointing would be before the assembly of his tribe, Judah; and his third anointing would be before the nation Israel. At this time, “the Spirit of the LORD came upon David.” This familiar Old Testament expression relates to empowerment for some God-given task (see 10:6, 11; 11:6; 19:20, 23; 2 Sam. 23:22 Chr. 20:14Is. 11:261:1Ezek. 11:537:1). David’s anointing was an external symbol of an inward work of God. The operation of the Holy Spirit in this case was not for regeneration, but for empowerment to perform his (David’s) role in God’s program for Israel. After David sinned with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 1112), he prayed, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11).

When David’s ascent to the throne began, Saul’s slow and painful descent began also. “The Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul” (1 Sam. 16:14). Without God’s empowering Holy Spirit, Saul was effectively no longer king over Israel (15:28), although his physical removal from the throne, and his death, happened many years later. “And a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.” God, in His sovereignty, allowed an evil spirit to torment Saul (see Judg. 9:231 Kin. 22:19–23Job 1:6–12) for His purpose of establishing the throne of David. This spirit, a messenger from Satan, is to be distinguished from a troubled emotional state brought on by indwelling sin or the harmful consequences of the sinful acts of others (e.g., spirit of jealousy, Num. 5:14). This demon spirit attacked Saul from without, for there is no evidence that the demon indwelt Saul. Saul, whose inward constitution was already prone to questionable judgment and the fear of men, began to experience God’s judgment in the form of severe bouts of depression, anger, and delusion, initiated and aggravated by the evil spirit assigned to him. There are several New Testament occasions where God turned people over to demons or Satan for judgment (see Acts 5:1–31 Cor. 5:1–71 Tim.1:18–20).

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Trials' Lessons: Contentment

“Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt . . .” (Hebrews 11:26).

Trials can show that material things are inadequate to meet our deepest needs.

We rely every day on material possessions—cars, computers, pagers, telephones, microwaves, radios, and TVs. These familiar conveniences make us feel as though it’s quite a hardship to cope without them. Therefore it’s difficult to avoid the pitfall Jesus warned about in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [riches].”

Materialism can exert such a powerful influence on us as believers that the Lord will sometimes subject us to trials just so He can remove us from the grip of the world’s devices and riches. Various trials and sufferings will almost invariably reveal how inadequate our possessions are to meet our deepest needs or provide genuine relief from the pains and stresses of life. And this realization ought to become more and more true of you as you grow in the Christian life. I have observed that mature believers, as time goes by, become less and less attached to the temporal items they’ve accumulated. Such stuff, along with life’s fleeting experiences, simply fades in importance as you draw closer to the Lord.

Moses is a wonderful example of someone who learned through trials these important lessons about materialism (Heb. 11:24-26). He spent forty years in Pharaoh’s household and was brought up to be an Egyptian prince. But he was willing to leave a position of prestige and power so he could experience something of the sufferings of his fellow Israelites, who were living as slaves in Egypt. God in effect made Moses a participant in Israel’s trials, content to rely on Him, not on the comforts and advantages of materialism: “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:27).

The Lord might need to get our attention in similar fashion, so that we learn one of the key lessons from life’s trials: to rely on His unlimited spiritual wealth, not on our finite and fading material possessions.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to make you more willing to rely on His strength and less willing to lean on material things.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-11. According to Paul, what does contentment involve?

Gaining Spiritual Stability (Peter)

The twelve apostles included "Simon, who is called Peter" (Matt. 10:2).

Jesus can make an impulsive and vacillating Christian as stable as a rock.

The first disciple Matthew's gospel names is "Simon, who is called Peter" (Matt. 10:2). He was a fisherman by trade but Jesus called him to be a fisher of men. John 1:40-42 records their first encounter: "One of the two who heard John [the Baptist] speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He found first his own brother Simon, and . . . brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which translated means Peter)."

"Peter" means "stone." "Cephas" is its Aramaic equivalent. By nature Simon tended to be impulsive and vacillating. Apparently Jesus named him Peter as a reminder of his future role in the church, which would require spiritual strength and stability. Whenever Peter acted like a man of strength, Jesus called him by his new name. When he sinned, Jesus called him by his old name (e.g., John 21:15-17). In the gospel of John, Peter is called "Simon Peter" seventeen times. Perhaps John knew Peter so well he realized he was always drifting somewhere between sinful Simon and spiritual Peter.

For the next few days we will see how Jesus worked with Peter to transform him into a true spiritual rock. It was an amazing transformation, but not unlike what He desires to do in every believer's life.

You might not have the same personality as Peter, but the Lord wants you to be a spiritual rock just the same. Peter himself wrote, "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" (1 Pet. 2:5). That occurs as you "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 3:18). Make that your continual aim.

Suggestions for Prayer

List the areas of your Christian walk that are inconsistent or vacillating. Make them a matter of earnest prayer, asking God for wisdom and grace as you begin to strengthen them.

For Further Study

First Peter was written to Christians in danger of severe persecution. Read that epistle, noting the keys to spiritual stability that Peter gives.


The Satisfaction of True Giving

“‘When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’” (Matthew 6:3–4).

The most satisfying, God-blessed giving is that which we do and then forget about. We do not wait for or want recognition—we’re not even concerned whether the recipient is grateful or not. The act should be so discreet that even our left hand will not realize what happened.

The Old Testament describes giving as a part of God’s cycle of blessing. Proverbs says, “The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered” (11:25). God blesses our giving, and when that occurs we can give some more out of the additional resources He gives. The Lord, through Moses, told the Israelites, “You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with a tribute of a freewill offering of your hand, which you shall give just as the Lord your God blesses you” (Deut. 16:10).

Appeals from all sorts of charities, ministries, and causes—some legitimate, others illegitimate—bombard Christians today, perhaps in a greater way than ever before. Having discernment on how to allocate your giving resources can be very difficult. But first of all, you should give systematically to your local church: “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper” (1 Cor. 16:2). Then you can be alert for opportunities to give other amounts directly to individuals in need.

Willing and generous giving has always and should always characterize God’s faithful people.

Ask Yourself

Are you being faithful to contribute the firstfruits of your giving—regularly, repeatedly—to the church where you are fed each week? Does this seem like a painful thing to do, or does it instead stir gratitude within you? As you pray, ask God to lead you with wisdom, sensitivity, and generosity to other people and ministries He wants to bless through you.


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 14:15 the earth quaked. The earthquake affirms the fact that divine intervention aided Jonathan and his armor bearer in their raid. The earthquake caused a panic among the Philistines. God would have intervened on Saul’s behalf in such a manner had he chosen to be faithfully patient (see 13:9).

1 Samuel 14:37 Saul asked counsel of God. At the request of Ahijah, Saul inquired of the Lord regarding his battle plan. He did not answer him. Because of the sin that Saul had caused in his army, God did not answer his inquiry. This would not be the last time that the Lord would refuse to respond to sinful Saul (see 28:6).

Psalm 57:1 the shadow of Your wings. Metaphorically, God cares for His own as a mother bird protects its young. Symbolically, there may be a reference here to the cherubim wings on the ark of the covenant where God was specifically present (see Ex. 37:1–16Pss. 17:836:761:463:791:14). I will make my refuge. When life becomes bizarre, only one’s relationship with his God calms the soul.

Luke 23:8 desired…to see Him. Herod’s interest in Christ was fueled by the fact that Christ reminded him of his late nemesis, John the Baptist. At one time Herod had apparently threatened to kill Jesus (13:31–33), but with Christ in Judea rather than Galilee and Perea (where Herod ruled), the king’s concern seems to have been nothing more than an eager curiosity.

Luke 23:9 answered him nothing. It is significant that in all Jesus’ various interrogations, Herod was the only one to whom He refused to speak. See Matthew 7:6. Herod had summarily rejected the truth when he heard it from John the Baptist, so it would have been pointless for Jesus to answer him.

DAY 6: Why is obedience so important?

Samuel’s specific command to Saul was to destroy all the Amalekites and their animals, but instead he spared their king and the best of the animals (1 Sam. 15:39). But when confronted by Samuel, Saul’s response was: “I have performed the commandment of the LORD” (V. 13). Saul, either ignorantly or deceitfully, maintained that he did what was commanded (15:20). Saul also began to place blame on others (vv. 11, 12), making room for his own excuses just as he had done earlier. Then he tried to justify his sin by saying that the animals would be used to sacrifice to the God of Samuel. Saul’s blatant disobedience at least pained his conscience so that he could not claim God as his God. Instead of confessing his sin and repenting, Saul continued to justify himself.

“Behold,” Samuel told Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (v. 22). This is an essential Old Testament truth. Samuel stated that God desires heart obedience over the ritual sacrifice of animals (Ps. 51:1617Is. 1:10–17). The sacrificial system was never intended to function in place of living an obedient life, but was rather to be an expression of it (Hos. 6:6Amos 5:21–27Mic. 6:6–8).

Saul needed to see that his real worship was indicated by his behavior and not by his sacrifices. He demonstrated himself to be an idolater whose idol was himself. He had failed the conditions (12:13–15) which would have brought blessing on the nation. His disobedience here was on the same level as witchcraft and idolatry, sins worthy of death (v. 23). “Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you.” A universal principle is given here that those who continually reject God will one day be rejected by Him. The sins of Saul caused God to immediately depose Saul and his descendants forever from the throne of Israel.

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Trials' Lessons: Humility

“To keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

God sometimes uses trials to humble believers.

Professional athletics, as a whole, makes up one of the least humble sectors in modern American society. Players with multi-million dollar salaries and extravagant benefits have replaced those who played because they loved their sport and had great community loyalty.

One such noble model from the past was Lou Gehrig, the Hall of Fame first baseman with the New York Yankees, whose career ended in 1939 after he was stricken with a rare and always fatal neuromuscular disease. Throughout his ordeal, Gehrig conducted himself with dignity and humility, all of which culminated on July 4, 1939, before a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium, with millions more listening on the radio. He concluded his special remarks on “Lou Gehrig Day” with this amazing statement: “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” He died approximately two years later.

Shouldn’t those who seek to serve and glorify God react in similar fashion if confronted by the same kind of trial? They will if they remember that He sometimes sends trials to humble His children and remind them they are not to be overconfident in their own spiritual strength (Rom. 12:3).

Today’s verse tells us God allowed Paul to be plagued by some sort of chronic, painful problem, “a messenger of Satan.” This likely refers to a man who led the opposition to Paul at the church in Corinth. When we are greatly blessed spiritually—Paul saw the risen Christ several times and was even taken up into the third heaven—the Lord sometimes allows “a thorn in the flesh” to afflict us, that we might remain humble. Whenever we are besieged by such trials and come to the point where all strength seems gone, God’s Word reminds us, as it did Paul, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I [Paul] will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to remind you throughout the day of your humble dependence on Him, whether or not you are going through a trial.

For Further Study

Read James 4:6-10 and 1 Peter 5:5-7. What do these passages say is the key to genuine humility?


The Priority of Spiritual Unity

"The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him" (Matt. 10:2-4).

Unity in the Spirit is the key to a church’s overall effectiveness.

Unity is a crucial element in the life of the church—especially among its leadership. A unified church can accomplish great things for Christ, but disunity can cripple or destroy it. Even the most orthodox churches aren't immune to disunity's subtle attack because it often arises from personality clashes or pride rather than doctrinal issues.

God often brings together in congregations and ministry teams people of vastly different backgrounds and temperaments. That mix produces a variety of skills and ministries but it also produces the potential for disunity and strife. That was certainly true of the disciples, which included an impetuous fisherman like Peter; two passionate and ambitious "sons of thunder" like James and John; an analytical, pragmatic, and pessimistic man like Philip; a racially prejudiced man like Bartholomew; a despised tax collector like Matthew; a political Zealot like Simon; and a traitor like Judas, who was in it only for the money and eventually sold out for thirty pieces of silver.

Imagine the potential for disaster in a group like that! Yet their common purpose transcended their individual differences, and by His grace the Lord accomplished through them what they never could have accomplished on their own. That's the power of spiritual unity!

As a Christian, you're part of a select team that is accomplishing the world's greatest task: finishing the work Jesus began. That requires unity of purpose and effort. Satan will try to sow seeds of discord, but you must do everything possible to heed Paul's admonition to be "of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, and intent on one purpose" (Phil. 2:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray daily for unity among the leaders and congregation of your church.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, noting how Paul addressed the issue of disunity in the Corinthian church.


What’s Wrong with False Giving?

“‘When you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full’” (Matthew 6:2).

Giving to the poor literally means any act of mercy, but it came to mean more specifically the giving of money or goods to the needy. Jesus did not say “if” but “when” concerning our giving—in other words, He expects us to do so. But just as sympathy for the needy does not help them unless something is actually done toward their need, so giving money provides us no spiritual blessing unless done from the heart.

Those who, like the Pharisees, give to impress others with their piety and generosity will receive no further reward. When we give with this false motive, we receive back only what people can give; we thereby forfeit God’s blessings.

Many times, of course, the pretense people use to draw attention to or make an impression with their giving is not so obvious. They know, especially if they profess to follow Christ, that other Christians will resent ostentatiousness. So they seek to make their giving “accidentally” noticed. But any strategy designed to draw attention is still a basic form of trumpet-blowing hypocrisy, which can appear in vari-ous forms. Whenever we make a point of doing our giving publicly to be noticed, rather than doing it privately simply for God’s reward, we behave more like the hypo-crites of Jesus’ day, not like His children.

Ask Yourself

What are some of the ways that giving can be done for personal recognition, even within the decorum of outward humility? How does one guard against this need for acknowledgment? What are we forgetting when we’re tempted to crave the credit for every dollar we share with others


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 12:12 when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus, Nahash was campaigning over a large area. It was that Ammonite threat that seemingly provoked Israel to demand a human king (8:1–20). the LORD your God was your king. The clearest indictment of Israel for choosing a mere man to fight for her instead of the Lord God (see 8:20).

1 Samuel 13:19 no blacksmith. The Philistines had superior iron- and metal-working craftsmen until David’s time (see 1 Chr. 22:3), accounting for their formidable military force.

Psalm 56:8 my tears…Your bottle. David asked God to keep a remembrance of all of his sufferings, so that God would eventually vindicate him.

Luke 22:51 Permit even this. I.e., the betrayal and arrest (see John 18:11). All was proceeding according to the divine timetable. touched his ear and healed him. This is the only instance in all of Scripture where Christ healed a fresh wound. The miracle is also unique in that Christ healed an enemy, unasked, and without any evidence of faith in the recipient. It is also remarkable that such a dramatic miracle had no effect whatsoever on the hearts of those men. Neither had the explosive power of Jesus’ words, which knocked them to the ground (John 18:6). They carried on with the arrest as if nothing peculiar had happened (v. 54).

Luke 22:53 this is your hour. I.e., nighttime, the hour of darkness. The arresting group had not the courage to confront Jesus in the presence of the crowds at the temple, where He had openly taught each day. Their skulking tactics betrayed the truth about their hearts. Nighttime was a fitting hour for the servants of the power of darkness (Satan) to be afoot (see John 3:2021Eph. 5:812–151 Thess. 5:5–7).

DAY 5: Why was Saul judged so severely?

When Saul was anointed king by Samuel, Saul was commanded to wait 7 days to meet Samuel in Gilgal. Samuel would offer burnt offerings and peace offerings, and he would show Saul what he should do (1 Sam. 10:8). After 7 days of waiting and Samuel had not come, the people were scattered (1 Sam. 13:8). Saul’s men were deserting him because of anxiety and fear over the coming battle.

Rather than continue to wait, Saul “offered the burnt offering” (v. 9). Saul’s sin was not specifically that he made a sacrifice (see 2 Sam.24:251 Kin.8:62–64), but that he did not wait for priestly assistance from Samuel. He wished to rule as an autocrat, who possessed absolute power in civil and sacred matters. Samuel had waited the 7 days as a test of Saul’s character and obedience to God, but Saul failed it by invading the priestly office himself.

Confronted by Samuel, Saul’s response was “When I saw…” (v. 11). Saul reacted disobediently based upon what he saw and not by faith. He feared losing his men and did not properly consider what God would have him do. Consequently, Samuel places the responsibility fully on Saul’s shoulders: “You have not kept the commandment” (v. 13). “Now your kingdom shall not continue” (v. 14). Instead of Saul, God was going to choose one whose heart was like His own, i.e., one who had a will to obey God. Paul quotes this passage in Acts 13:22 of David. Someone else, namely David, had already been chosen to be God’s leader over His people.

My Royal Family





No condemnation status, Praise God!!!   REJOICE!

Romans 8 starting in verse 28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom He predestined these He also called, and whom He called these He also justified and whom He justified, these He also glorified."

 "Whoever the Lord foreknew He predestined, whoever He predestined He called, whoever He called He justified, and whoever He justified He glorified." And nobody is lost in the process and that is because "God causes all things to work together for their good." That is the sum of this wonderful text. Justification is eternal.

Justification and its eternal character is secured to the believer by the marvelous ministry of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Spirit who secures us in a no-condemnation status. We will never be condemned, we are secured eternally as justified in a no-condemnation status because of the work of the Holy Spirit. 

in verses 2 and 3 that it is the Holy Spirit who frees us from sin and death.

2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, - Romans 8:2-3

In verse 4 it is the Holy Spirit who grants to us the fulfillment of the law by giving us the righteousness of Christ. 

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. - Romans 8:4

It is the Holy Spirit in verses 5 to 11 that changes our nature.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.

8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

11 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. - Romans 8:5-11

So, the Holy Spirit does this securing work, keeping us in a no-condemnation status. 

(The beauty of it is that we are not licensed to sin, since we are indwelled by God  the Holy Spirit, empowers us not sin.  

But God knows that we are living a sinful flesh, and we have weaknesses, and at times we sin against Him  but not deliberately 

we asked for forgiveness of sins and in doing so we can even give Him the honor and the glory.)

It is the Holy Spirit in verses 12 and 13 who empowered  us for victory over sin. 

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:12-13

It is the Holy Spirit in verses 14 to 16 who confirms our adoption as children of God. 

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

15 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!"

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Romans 8:14-16

And then in verses 17 to 27, it is the Holy Spirit who guarantees our eternal glory. 

17 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.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope

21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

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

25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:17-27

ultimately the Holy Spirit guarantees our glory by what it says in verse 27, He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. It is the ongoing intercessory work of the Holy Spirit that secures our eternal glory. That is the great truth.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

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.

30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30

God causes, all things to work together for good to those that love Him. And it is the "all things" there that is so comforting. 

Verses talks about the extent of our security, the recipients of security, the source of security and the certainty of security comes in verses 29 and 30. 

The extent of security, it covers all things. The recipients of this security, those who love God. The source of their security, they are called. The certainty of their security, that whoever He foreknew and whoever He predestined and whoever He called and whoever He justified He glorified. So we see the extent, the recipients, the source and the certainty of security. If anybody ever asks you where in the Bible it tells them about being eternally secure, this is where you go first and foremost.

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? Romans 8:32

Verse 32 reiterates the limitless nature of this security when it says, "If God didn't spare His own Son," if God would give His greatest gift, His Son, "for us while we were yet sinners, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things." In other words, if God would give us the best gift which is His Son to save us when we were sinners, won't God do whatever is necessary to keep us now that we're His? That's the point. He will freely, without constraint give us all things, whatever the extent, whatever the amount, whatever the intensity, whatever the overwhelming character and nature of our trouble, it all is woven together by God for our good.

Look at the verse 

Rom. 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

The verse starts with this confidence, "And we know..." This isn't something that is ambiguous, this isn't something that is a possibility, this isn't something that is a potential, this is something that is reality and we know that God causes all things to work together. Take that verb "work together," it's the Greek verb sunerge from which we get synergism which means "to work together." Everything is synergistic, everything blends together, everything operates cooperatively.

In the Psalms you have a similar statement in Psalm 25:10 where it says, "All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant." That really is an Old Testament parallel promise, to those that are His who keep His covenant, who believe in Him, who follow Him, all the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth.

Now, all things then are synergized by God, woven together, brought together in order to produce good. 

All things are not necessarily good in themselves, right? But God takes all things and weaves them into what is good. The word "good" it's agathon 

And agathon means "good in the purest and truest sense," what is morally good, what is practically good. There's another word for good in the New Testament, kalos, and it means "what is beautiful, or what looks good, outward goodness, outward beauty." But this is the inherent goodness. And God is taking everything that happens in the believer's life, no matter what it is, and effecting out of it ultimate good, moral good, practical good, real good.  Kalos appeals to the eyes, agathos appeals to the soul.  Kalos appeals to the eyes, agathos appeals to the moral sense. This is true goodness. No matter what happens in your life it will turn out good. And that is the reason you could never lose your salvation because no matter what happens it turns out...good. That is a gilt-edge promise that nothing can happen in the life of a believer that can end up in ultimate bad. 

It's another way of saying "Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ," down in verse 35. 

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

It's another way of saying what is in verse 31,

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

"If God is for us, who is against us?" It's another way of saying what is in verse 34, "Who is going to condemn us?" 

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. Romans 8:34

If everything works together for good, then nothing could possibly cause us to lose our salvation. That's Paul's point. It is an absolutely potent argument. God calls, justifies and glorifies and nobody falls through the cracks, everything is causing ultimately their eternal good.

by MacArthur


God Bless my Royal Family



Trials' Lessons: Faith

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son” (Hebrews 11:17).

The main reason God allows trials in the lives of Christians is to test the strength of their faith.

The memorable example in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s testing is perhaps the severest trial any human being has ever faced. When God told Abraham to offer his only son Isaac as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of Moriah (Gen. 22:1-2), Abraham no doubt was stunned. In terms of God’s nature, His plan of redemption, His promise to Abraham, and His love for Isaac, the entire concept was utterly inconceivable and unprecedented.

But in the face of all that, Abraham showed remarkable faith in dealing with this trial (Gen. 22:3-8). He did not second-guess God, as many of us would, but rather obeyed immediately (v. 3) and displayed the confidence that he and Isaac would return (v. 5) and that God would supply a lamb for the offering (v. 8). Then Abraham showed he was ready to obey completely. Genesis 22tells us he “bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slay his son” (vv. 9-10). What unbelievable faith, and what a dramatic moment when God spared Abraham from the full cost of obedience (vv. 11-12)! The story clearly shows us the nature of true faith (Gen. 15:6) and why Abraham was later called the father of the faithful (Rom. 4:11-12Gal. 3:6-7).

As heirs to Abraham and his extraordinary trust in God, we can also endure the most difficult trials and pass tests of faith that seem unimaginably severe at the time. God might want us to offer our own loved ones to Him and let them go His way rather than tightly holding on to them for our own purposes. However, if we look to God as Abraham did (Heb. 11:17-19), we can be confident in any trial and know with certainty that our faith has passed the test.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would strengthen your faith even in the smallest of daily trials.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 20:1-11 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-31.

  • What was at the heart of Hezekiah’s difficulties (2 Chron. 32:25)?
  • Why did God test him (v. 31)?


Chosen to be Sent

"Having summoned His twelve disciples, [Jesus] gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles were these" (Matt. 10:1-2).

Every disciple must also be a discipler.

Have you ever met someone who constantly absorbs what the church has to offer, yet never seems to plug into a ministry where he can give to others? I've met many people like that. Some have attended church for many years, and have even taken evangelism and other special training classes. But they never quite feel qualified to minister to others or even to share their testimony. Eventually that has a crippling effect on their spiritual lives and on the life of the church in general.

When Jesus called the disciples to Himself, He did so to train them for ministry. We see that in Matthew 10:1-2. The Greek word translated "disciples" means "learners." "Apostles" translates a Greek word meaning "to dispatch away from" or "send." In classical Greek it refers to a naval expedition dispatched to serve a foreign city or country. Disciples are learners; apostles are emissaries. Jesus called untrained disciples, but dispatched trained apostles. That's the normal training process.

In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, "Go . . . and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Paul said to Timothy, "The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).

As wonderful and important as it is to learn of Christ, you must never be content to be a disciple only. You must also be a discipler!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Matthew 28:18-20. If you aren't currently discipling someone, ask the Lord for an opportunity to do so.

For Further Study

An important part of discipleship is spending time with Christ. One way to do that is to read through the gospels on a regular basis. You might want to obtain a harmony of the gospels to help in your study. Tell a friend of your plan so he or she can encourage you and hold you accountable.


Jesus on God’s Love: To Be Like the Father

“‘Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’” (Matthew 5:48).

These words embody all the truths Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount—in fact, they are the apex of all He teaches in the gospels. The ultimate goal of our redemption and the sincere, strong yearning of God’s heart is for all who would trust in His Son to be like Him.

The word translated “perfect” essentially means arriving at an intended end or realizing a completion of something. The word elsewhere in the New Testament is often rendered “mature” (cf. 1 Cor. 2:614:20Eph. 4:13, etc.). But here Jesus clearly intended to convey the meaning of perfection, because He is presenting God as the ultimate, holy standard for being and doing. It is the criterion of absolute perfection.

In our own power, such supreme and divine perfection is completely impossible to attain. And if we wonder how our Savior can demand the impossible, we simply have to remember His later instruction, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). God always provides the means and the power to accomplish what He commands.

Simply because God’s righteousness is perfect, it is impossible in human strength to attain it. However, the impossible becomes possible for those of us who trust the Lord Jesus, because God gives to us the very righteousness of Christ.

Ask Yourself

Are you willing to believe God for the impossible—that you can actually be “wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil” (Rom. 16:19)? How could you cooperate with Him today in drawing closer to this noble goal?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 10:1 the LORD has anointed you commander. The Lord chose Saul to be the leader of Israel and communicated His choice through the private anointing by Samuel, signifying a setting aside for God’s service. His inheritance. The inheritance was God’s nation, Israel, in the sense that she uniquely belonged to Him (Deut. 4:209:26).

1 Samuel 10:6 the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you. The Holy Spirit would enable Saul to declare the word of the Lord with the prophets. turned into another man. With this empowerment by the Holy Spirit, Saul would emerge another man (see 10:9), equipped in the manner of Gideon and Jephthah for deeds of valor (see v. 9; Judg. 6:3411:29).

1 Samuel 11:15 they made Saul king before the LORD. All the people came to crown Saul king that day. The process of entering the kingship was the same for both Saul and David: 1) commissioned by the Lord (9:1–10:16; 16:1–13); 2) confirmed by military victory (10:17–11:1116:142 Sam. 1:27); and 3) crowned (11:12–152 Sam. 2:45:3). peace offerings. Sacrifices of thanksgiving (see Lev. 7:13). rejoiced greatly. Along with the victory over the Ammonites, there was a great celebration over the nation being united.

Psalm 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD. The word for “burden” implies one’s circumstances, one’s lot. The psalmist promises that the Lord will uphold the believer in the struggles of life.

Luke 22:44 like great drops of blood. This suggests a dangerous condition known as hematidrosis, the effusion of blood in one’s perspiration. It can be caused by extreme anguish or physical strain. Subcutaneous capillaries dilate and burst, mingling blood with sweat. Christ Himself stated that His distress had brought Him to the threshold of death (see Matt. 26:38Mark 14:34Heb. 12:34).

DAY 4: How can we face temptation with confidence?

Shortly after a dispute among the disciples as to which one should be considered the greatest (Luke 22:24), Jesus specifically addresses Peter as “Simon, Simon” (v. 31). The repetition of the name (see 10:41Acts 9:4) implied an earnest and somber tone of warning. Christ Himself had given Simon the name Peter (6:14), but here He reverted to his old name, perhaps to intensify His rebuke about Peter’s fleshly overconfidence. The context also suggests that Peter may have been one of the more vocal participants in the dispute of v. 24.

“Satan,” Jesus told him, “has asked for you.” Though addressed specifically to Peter, this warning embraced the other disciples as well. The pronoun “you” is plural in the Greek text.“ That he may sift you as wheat.” The imagery is apt. It suggests that such trials, though unsettling and undesirable, have a necessary refining effect.

Nevertheless, Jesus said, “I have prayed for you” (v. 32).The pronoun “you” is singular. Although it is clear that He prayed for all of them (John 17:6–19), He personally assured Peter of His prayers and of Peter’s ultimate victory, even encouraging Peter to be an encourager to the others. “That your faith should not fail.” Peter himself failed miserably, but his faith was never overthrown (see John 21:1819).

My Royal Family




Love of the Truth Brings Hatred

“‘All these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me’” (John 15:21).

The world, in its general hatred of the truth and ignorance of God, will also hate believers.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time hated Him intensely. If we are committed to following Him wholeheartedly today, we can’t expect to avoid persecution and hardship any more than He did. In John 15:20 our Lord tells us what to expect: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

If our perspective is right, however, this expectation should actually make us happy and even provide a certain sense of security. Receiving persecution from the world because we are Christ’s representatives means we have an opportunity to experience what Paul called “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). As one commentator has said, Christian suffering “is the very means God uses to transform us into the image of His Son.” Troubles and pains can be great reassurances that we have been united with Christ.

As we saw yesterday, it’s no surprise that the world hates us. It despises our general opposition to its system, but aside from that, the world hates believers simply because it doesn’t know God.

This basic ignorance of God usually appears in one of two ways. Either it shows up as apathy and religious superstition (Acts 17:22-23) or as more glaring actions and attitudes of moral and spiritual deviation (Romans 1:18—2:2). Whatever the case, people in the world are just doing what is natural for them because of their sin and depravity.

As a Christian, what should your response be? You should not be indifferent or accommodate the serious challenges you’ll face from the world. Instead, you ought to, by faith, realistically accept the truth of John 15:21, comfortably rest in the teaching of Philippians 3:10, and confidently seek to minister to the world “because the foolishness of God [the gospel] is wiser than men, and the weakness of God [the cross] is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you begin grasping what it means to partake in “the fellowship of His sufferings.”

For Further Study

Read Acts 5:17-42.

  • How is the world’s attitude toward the gospel displayed in this passage?
  • What did the apostles appeal to when faced with severe opposition?


Overcoming Spiritual Inadequacies

"Having summoned His twelve disciples" (Matt. 10:1).

Jesus can overcome any inadequacy you might have.

Most people think of the disciples as stained-glass saints who didn't have to struggle with the faults and frailties of normal people. But they had inadequacies just like we all do. Seeing how Jesus dealt with them gives us hope that He can use us too.

One inadequacy common to all the disciples was their lack of understanding. For example, Luke 18tells us Jesus gave them details about His future suffering, death, and resurrection, but they didn't understand anything He said (vv. 31-34). Jesus overcame their lack of understanding by constantly teaching them until they got it right.

Another inadequacy was their lack of humility. More than once they argued among themselves about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (e.g., Mark 9:33-37). Jesus dealt with their lack of humility by His own example. He likened Himself to a servant, and even washed their dirty feet.

In addition to their lack of understanding and humility, they also lacked faith. Jesus often said to them, "O men of little faith." In Mark 16:14 He rebuked them for not even believing the reports of His resurrection.

They also lacked commitment. Just prior to Christ's death Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the others deserted Him. Jesus dealt with their lack of commitment by praying for them (e.g., John 17:15Luke 22:31-32).

Finally, they lacked spiritual power, which Christ overcame by giving them the Holy Spirit.

Those are significant inadequacies, but despite all that, the book of Acts records that the disciples turned the world upside down with their powerful preaching and miraculous deeds. They were so much like Christ that people started calling them Christians, which means "Little Christs."

Jesus still transforms inadequacies into victories. He does it through the Spirit, the Word, and prayer. Don't be victimized by your inadequacies. Make those spiritual resources the continual focus of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for your inadequacies because they help you realize your dependence on Him.
  • Ask for grace always to rely on your spiritual resources rather than human abilities.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 20:20-28.

  • Who spoke to Jesus on behalf of James and John?
  • What was His response?
  • How did the other disciples respond?
  • What was Jesus' concluding principle?


Jesus on God’s Love: That We Exceed Others’ Actions

“‘For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?’” (Matthew 5:46–47).

These words of Jesus were perhaps the most devastating and offensive ones the religious leaders had ever heard. The Lord bluntly stripped away their hypocrisy to reveal that their love was nothing more than the ordinary self-centered love common among the despised tax collectors and Gentiles. Tax collectors were dishonest, traitorous extortioners; Gentiles were considered unfit to be people of God.

Yet the type of love displayed by the scribes and Pharisees, according to Jesus’ infallible assessment, was no better than the persons’ whom they so looked down upon. In essence, our Lord declared that their righteousness was no better than that of the worst and lowest of other classes and groups.

Christ urges believers to have a much higher standard of righteousness than the world’s low standard. The world should notice Christians as being more honest employees and more helpful and caring neighbors. The culture should always notice that saints love as God loves: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). J. Oswald Sanders once wrote, “The Master expects from His disciples such conduct as can be explained only in terms of the supernatural.”

Ask Yourself

Yes, we can become so comfortable in our culture and so indoctrinated in its ways that we are nearly indistinguishable in our likes, our schedules, and our matters of importance. Ask yourself what makes you appear different from the unsaved world around you. Is it just by what you don’t do, or by Jesus’ active brand of love and righteousness?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 9:16 anoint him. This represents a setting apart for service to the Lord, which occurs in 10:1. commander. Literally, “one given prominence, one placed in front.” The title referred to “one designated to rule” (see 1 Kin. 1:352 Chr. 11:22). their cry has come to Me. The people had been crying out for deliverance from the Philistines, their longstanding rivals, just as they did for liberation from Egypt (see Ex. 2:253:9).

1 Samuel 9:17 This one shall reign over My people. God identified Saul to Samuel, assuring there was no mistaking whom God was choosing to be king.

Luke 22:3 Satan entered. I.e., Judas was possessed by Satan himself. Satan evidently gained direct control over Judas on two occasions—once just before Judas arranged his betrayal with the chief priests and again during the Last Supper (John 13:27), immediately before the betrayal was actually carried out.

Luke 22:12 a large, furnished upper room. One of many such rooms for rent in Jerusalem that were maintained for the express purpose of providing pilgrims a place to celebrate feasts. The furnishings undoubtedly included a large banquet table and everything necessary to prepare and serve a meal.

Luke 22:22 as it has been determined. Every detail of the crucifixion of Christ was under the sovereign control of God and in accord with His eternal purposes. See Acts 2:234:26–28. but woe. The fact that Judas’s betrayal was part of God’s plan does not free him from the guilt of a crime he entered into willfully. God’s sovereignty is never a legitimate excuse for human guilt.

DAY 3: What was wrong with Israel wanting a king?

“Now make us a king…like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). When Israel entered the land, they encountered Canaanite city-states that were led by kings (Josh. 12:7–24) and were later enslaved by nations that were led by kings (Judg. 3:8124:28:511:12). However, at the time of the judges, there was no king in Israel (Judg. 17:618:119:121:25).

According to Deuteronomy 17:14, God knew this would be their desire and He would allow it to occur. “Heed the voice of the people,” the Lord told Samuel (v. 7) and give them a king. “They have not rejected you, but…Me.” The nature of this rejection of the Lord by Israel is explained in vv. 19, 20.

Samuel obeyed the Lord by warning them of the behavior of a human king in vv. 10–18. A king would: 1) draft young men and women for his service (vv. 11–13); 2) tax the people’s crops and flocks (vv. 14, 15, 17a); 3) appropriate the best of their animals and servants (v. 16); and 4) place limitations on their personal freedom (v. 17b). Additionally, Samuel told them “you will cry out…because of your king” (v. 18). They would later cry out for freedom from his rule (1 Kin. 12:4), but “the LORD will not hear you.” In contrast to the Lord’s response to Israel during the period of the judges (Judg. 2:18), the Lord would refuse to deliver the people out of the hand of their king who oppressed them.

In spite of Samuel’s warnings, the people demanded a king who will “fight our battles” (v. 20). Up until this point, the Lord Himself had fought the battles for Israel and given continual victory (Josh. 10:141 Sam. 7:10). Israel no longer wanted the Lord to be their warrior—replacing Him with a human king was their desire. It was in this way that Israel rejected the Lord. The problem was not in having a king; but, rather the reason the people wanted a king, i.e., to be like other nations. They also foolishly assumed there would be some greater power in a king leading them in battle.

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1 Cor. 2:1-5

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. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Opposition to the World Brings Hatred

“‘If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you’” (John 15:18-19).

Because they are not part of the world’s system, Christians should expect it to hate and oppose them.

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you doubtless remember how soon you realized that you were no longer in step with the world’s culture. You were no longer comfortable with its philosophy. You no longer had the world’s desires and yearnings. You no longer felt good about doing some of the things the world takes for granted. In fact, you even felt constrained to speak out against such things and urge unbelievers to turn from their sins and embrace Christ. All that opposition to worldliness, when added up, can and will result in hatred toward us from people in the world.

In John 15, the Greek word translated “world” (kosmos) refers to the world’s system of sin, which is devised by Satan and acted out by sinful people. The Devil and his angels sometimes make it even more difficult for us by subtly presenting their “religion” as if it were true. Such deception can lull us into complacency and leave us spiritually weak when persecution comes.

Because of the world’s relentless opposition to God’s kingdom, it is crucial that we remember Christ’s call to stand for Him in our sinful society. The apostle Paul exhorts us to be “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:15).

If we take Scripture seriously and prayerfully spend time in it daily, we will not be caught off guard when our faith is opposed. Instead, we will be heartened by Jesus’ words, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to strengthen you today and to remind you that even though you are not of the world, you are to be a light to it.

For Further Study

Read the account of John the Baptist’s death in Mark 6:14.

  • How did John suffer before he was killed?
  • What character differences do you see between John and Herod?


Exemplary Living

"Having summoned His twelve disciples" (Matt. 10:1).

A good example is the best form of teaching.

Matthew 10:1 is Christ's official commissioning of the twelve men He hand-picked to serve beside Him during His earthly ministry. Mark 3:13 says He "summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him." In John 15:16 He tells them, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit." This is not their call to salvation, but to service. With the exception of Judas, they were already saved. Before the foundation of the world God chose them to be redeemed in Christ, and they had responded accordingly. Now Jesus was calling them to a specific ministry.

God always chooses those who will be saved and serve within His church. But between salvation and service there must be a time of training. For the disciples it was a period of three years in which Jesus Himself trained them as they experienced life together from day to day. That's the best form of discipleship. Classrooms and lectures are helpful, but there's no substitute for having a living pattern to follow—someone who models Christian virtue and shows you how to apply biblical principles to your life.

Paul understood the importance of such an example. In Philippians 4:9 he says, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things." He said to Timothy, "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" (1 Tim. 4:12). Peter followed suit, admonishing the church elders not to lord their authority over those in their charge, but to be godly examples (1 Pet. 5:3).

Whether you've been a Christian for many years or just a short time, you are an example to someone. People hear what you say and observe how you live. They look for a glimpse of Christ in your life. What do they see? How would they do spiritually if they followed your example perfectly?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for those who are examples of godliness to you.

For Further Study


Jesus on God’s Love: To Show Our Sonship

“‘. . . so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’” (Matthew 5:45).

God Himself is love, and the best evidence that we are His children through faith in Jesus Christ is our love for other believers. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35; cf. 
1 John 4:20). Our divine sonship is further evidenced when love leads us to pray for our opponents.

Even though the world often has a faulty understanding of what the gospel is, it knows enough about Christ and His teachings to see that believers do not obey all His commands or live consistently as He lived. People in the world who are the furthest from saving faith nevertheless often sense the divine power that underlies the loving and caring Christian life—simply because such a life that goes far enough to love enemies is so uncharacteristic of human nature.

In this way we show our family likeness, an increasing resemblance to our heavenly Father. For example, God provides His general blessings on everyone, with no respect for merit or deserving; otherwise no one could receive them. The psalmist writes, “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food in due time. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15–16). If God is so generous, we who claim to know Him ought to show similar love and impartial concern for everyone, even those who don’t like us.

Ask Yourself

Though God does possess qualities we can never attain as mortals, He has given us—by virtue of our adoption into His family—the privilege of looking more like Him in our attitudes and behaviors. Why is pursuing this so important


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 6:19 looked into the ark. This action on the part of the men of Beth Shemesh constituted the sin of presumption. This is first addressed in Numbers 4:20 and is mentioned again in 2 Samuel 6:67. fifty thousand and seventy men. Some debate whether this figure is too large. However, retaining the larger number is more consistent with the context of “a great slaughter” and the reference to 30,000 in 4:10 (see 11:8). However, a scribal error could have occurred, in which case the number would omit the 50,000 and likely be “seventy,” as in the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament.

1 Samuel 7:6 drew water, and poured it out before the LORD. The pouring out of water before the Lord was a sign of repentance. This act is repeated in 2 Samuel 23:16. We have sinned against the LORD. The symbol of Samuel pouring out the water and the acknowledgment of the people reveal a situation where true repentance had taken place. The condition of the heart superseded the importance or righteousness of the ritual. Samuel judged. At this point Samuel is introduced as the judge of Israel. His judgeship encompassed both domestic leadership and the conduct of war. The word links the text back to the last comment about Eli who judged 40 years (4:18). Samuel is shown to be the one taking over Eli’s judgeship. He served as the last judge before the first king (see 1 Sam. 8:50).

1 Samuel 7:16 a circuit. The circuit was an annual trip made by Samuel; he would travel to Bethel, Gilgal, Mizpah, and return once again to Ramah, which allowed him to manage the affairs of the people.

Luke 21:20 Jerusalem surrounded by armies. A comparison with Matthew 24:1516 and Mark 13:14 suggests that this sign is closely associated with “the abomination of desolation” (see Matt. 24:15Dan. 9:2711:31). This sign of Jerusalem under siege was previewed in A.D. 70, but awaits its fulfillment in the future.

Luke 21:24 the times of the Gentiles. This expression is unique to Luke. It identifies the era from Israel’s captivity (ca. 586 B.C. to Babylon; see 2 Kin. 25) to her restoration in the kingdom (Rev. 20:1–6). It has been a time during which, in accord with God’s purpose, Gentiles have dominated or threatened Jerusalem. The era has also been marked by vast spiritual privileges for the Gentile nations (see Is. 66:12Mal. 1:11Matt. 24:14Mark 13:10).

DAY 2: How did the Philistines attempt to stop the plague?

“The priests and the diviners” (1 Sam. 6:2) of the Philistines were summoned to figure out how to appease God so that He would stop the plague. They understood that they had offended God. Their diviners decided to rightfully appease His wrath by sending the ark back to Israel. These pagans recognized their sin and the need for manifest repentance, which they did according to their religious tradition by means of a “trespass offering” (v. 3) to compensate for their trespass of dishonoring the God of Israel. It was their custom to make models of their sores (and the rats which brought the plague), in hopes that the deity would recognize that they knew why he was angry and remove the evil which had fallen upon them (v. 4).

“Give glory to the God of Israel…He will lighten His hand” (v. 5).While sympathetic magic was the Philistine custom, this statement expressly affirms the intention behind the offerings: They were to halt the dishonor, confess their sin, and give glory to the God of Israel by acknowledging who it was that they had offended and who was the supreme Deity. The diviners correlate the Philistines’ actions of not recognizing God with those of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. “Why then do you harden your hearts…?”(v. 6).This is the same word “harden” that was used in Exodus 7:148:1532. It is an interesting correlation, because the dominant purpose in Exodus 5–14 is that the Egyptians might “know that I am the LORD” (Ex. 7:5).

To know without a doubt that the God of Israel was behind all of their troubles, the diviners devised a plan that would reveal whether God was the One responsible. Using cows that had “never been yoked” (v. 7) meant using animals that were untrained to pull a cart and probably would not go anywhere. The second element in their plan was to use nursing cows taken away from their calves. For the cows unnaturally to head off in the opposite direction from their calves would be a clear sign that the cause of their judgment was supernatural, which is precisely what happened (v. 12).

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Why are you depressed, O my soul? Why are you upset? Wait for God! For I will again give thanks to my God for his saving intervention. Psalm 42:11

Why Sufferings and Trials?

“‘For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward’” (Job 5:7).

Because they are sinners, still living in a sinful world, Christians should expect to encounter difficulties.

“It all depends on how you look at it.” That may be a cliché, but it is very applicable for believers as they deal with trials and sufferings. Any trial can be a joyous experience for a Christian if he looks at it from the proper, biblical perspective. Or, as with Jonah (Jonah 4) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-14), trials can be frustrating times of self-pity if believers lose their focus on what God is doing.

For some of us, the first hurdle to overcome is the very notion that trials and sufferings will be a part of the Christian life. But Job 5:7 reminds us that trouble is inevitable. If we imagine an ideal world where everything is just right all the time for believers, we are setting ourselves up for profound disappointment. Jesus Himself tells us we must expect significant difficulties in our lives: “In the world you have tribulation” (John 16:33).

All of us, to a greater or lesser extent, need to be prepared for testings and tribulations. And these troubles will be different for each of us. For some, the trial might be a financial crisis, accompanied by the loss of personal savings or investments. For some, it could be the loss of employment, with the anxiety of not being able to find another job anytime soon. Perhaps for others, the severe trial will be a serious illness or injury in their family, a fatal car accident, or being devastated by a major crime like murder or burglary.

In God’s purpose and plan, trials and sufferings are real and should not catch us by surprise or leave us angry and perplexed. If we recognize the Lord’s sovereign role in all these things, we will be able to affirm these words from an old hymn:

Whate’er my God ordains is right: 
Holy His will abideth; 
I will be still whate’er He doth, 
And follow where He guideth.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for wisdom to better understand and accept the truth that He is sovereign over all areas of life.
  • Pray for a friend or family member who might be currently in the midst of a trial.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 19:1-14.

  • Who and what did Elijah focus on more than God?
  • What events from chapter 18 did the prophet quickly forget?


The Master's Men

"The names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-gatherer; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him" (Matt. 10:2-4).

God uses unqualified people to accomplish His purposes.

We live in a qualification-conscious society. Almost everything you do requires you to meet someone else's standards. You must qualify to purchase a home, buy a car, get a credit card, or attend college. In the job market, the most difficult jobs require people with the highest possible qualifications.

Ironically, God uses unqualified people to accomplish the world's most important task: advancing the kingdom of God. It has always been that way: Adam and Eve plunged the human race into sin. Lot got drunk and committed incest with his own daughters. Abraham doubted God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father. Moses was a murderer. David was too, as well as an adulterer. Jonah got upset when God showed mercy to Nineveh. Elijah withstood 850 false priests and prophets, yet fled in terror from one woman—Jezebel. Paul murdered Christians. And the list goes on and on.

The fact is, no one is fully qualified to do God's work. That's why He uses unqualified people. Perhaps that truth is most clearly illustrated in the twelve disciples, who had numerous human frailties, different temperaments, different skills, and diverse backgrounds, yet Christ used them to change the world.

This month you will meet the disciples one by one. As you do, I want you to see that they were common men with a very uncommon calling. I also want you to observe the training process Jesus put them through, because it serves as a pattern for our discipleship as well.

I pray you will be challenged by their strengths and encouraged by the way God used them despite their weaknesses and failures. He will use you too as you continue yielding your life to Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Luke 6:40. Ask God to make you more like Christ.

For Further Study

Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5, noting the weaknesses Timothy may have struggled with, and how Paul encouraged him. How might Paul's words apply to you?


Jesus on God’s Love: For Persecutors

“‘Pray for those who persecute you’” (Matthew 5:44).

Throughout the centuries the worst kinds of persecutions against Jesus’ followers have come from religious people. Persecution has been so strong against believers because they uphold God’s standards, which indict the sin and corruption of false religion. God’s Word unmasks hypocrisy in a most crucial area—humanity’s propensity for self-justification.

Knowing that persecution would be the world’s response to the Father’s truth, Christ assures us that we will be persecuted, just as He was (John 15:20). Thus His command that we pray for our persecutors is one every faithful believer will have some opportunity to obey, not just those who live in countries where Christianity is illegal or severely restricted.

The best way to have agape- love for those who persecute us is to pray for them. We might sense their sinfulness and intense hatred and ridicule of us. Those traits make it impossible to love the persecutors for what they are, but we must love them for who they are—sinners in need of God’s forgiveness and His saving grace. So we need to pray for them that they will repent and turn to Him for salvation, as we have already done.

Bear in mind, though, that persecutors will not always and only be unbelievers. Those professing to be fellow believers can give saints real grief and difficulty, too, but—as in every case—the first step in making right those situations is prayer. Jesus knew that prayer for persecutors can begin to knit our hearts with God’s in the matter of loving our enemies.

Ask Yourself

Which has been the hardest for you to deal with—persecution from without or from within the family of God? Why is prayer such a powerful tool in combating the hard feelings this dredges up in you?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 4:4 dwells between the cherubim. A repeated phrase used to describe the Lord (see 2 Sam. 6:22 Kin. 19:151 Chr. 13:6Ps. 80:199:1Is. 37:16). It spoke of His sovereign majesty. Hophni and Phinehas. These were the two wicked sons of Eli (2:12–17, 27–37), of whom it was said that they “did not know the LORD” (2:12). The fact that they were mentioned together recalls the prophecy that they would die together (2:34).

1 Samuel 4:11 the ark of God was captured. In spite of their hopes to manipulate God into giving them the victory, Israel was defeated and the ark fell into the hands of the Philistines. The view of having the ark of God being equivalent to having control of God, possessed both by Israel and then the Philistines, is to be contrasted with the power and providence of God in the remaining narrative.

1 Samuel 4:21 Ichabod…The glory has departed. Due primarily to the loss of the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, Phinehas’s wife names her child Ichabod, meaning either “Where is the glory?” or “no glory.” To the Hebrew, “glory” was often used to refer to God’s presence; hence, the text means “Where is God?” The word “departed” carries the idea of having gone into exile. Thus, to the people of Israel, the capturing of the ark was a symbol that God had gone into exile. Although this was the mind-set of Israel, the text narrative will reveal that God was present, even when He disciplined His people.

Psalm 54:1 by Your name. In the ancient world, a person’s name was essentially the person himself. Here, God’s name includes His covenant protection. vindicate. David requests that God will execute justice for him, as in a court trial when a defendant is declared not guilty.

Luke 21:1 the treasury. Thirteen chests with funnel-shaped openings stood in the court of the women. Each was labeled for a specific use, and donations were given accordingly.

Luke 21:5 donations. Wealthy people gave gifts of gold sculpture, golden plaques, and other treasures to the temple. Herod had donated a golden vine with clusters of golden grapes nearly 6 feet tall. The gifts were displayed on the walls and suspended in the portico. They constituted an unimaginable collection of wealth. All of these riches were looted by the Romans when the temple was destroyed (v. 6).

DAY 1: Contrast the pagan god of the Philistines and the living God.

In Judges 5:2, Dagon is mentioned. Ugaritic literature identifies this deity as a god of grain or vegetation, whose image had the lower body of a fish and upper body of a man. Dagon seems to have been the leader of the Philistine pantheon (Judg. 16:23) and is noted to be the father of Baal. The placing of the ark of God in the temple of Dagon was supposed to be a sign of Dagon’s power and Yahweh’s inferiority, a visual representation that the god of the Philistines was victorious over the God of the Hebrews.

The next morning the Philistines found Dagon had “fallen on its face” (1 Sam. 5:3). Ironically, God Himself overturned the supposed supremacy of Dagon by having Dagon fallen over, as if paying homage to the Lord. The same thing happened the next morning, but this time the “head…hands were broken off” (v.4). The first display of God’s authority over Dagon was not perceived. God’s second display of authority, the cutting off of Dagon’s head and hands, was a common sign that the enemy was dead (Judg. 7:258:61 Sam.17:5431:92 Sam. 4:12), and was to be understood as God’s divine judgment on the false idol. Because the head and hands of Dagon fell on the threshold, superstition developed that it was cursed; therefore, the Philistines would not tread on it (v. 5).

In contrast to the hands of Dagon being cut off, symbolizing his helplessness against the power of Yahweh, the Lord was pictured to be actively involved in judging the Philistines. “The hand of the LORD was heavy” on the people (v. 6). The imagery of God’s hand is found throughout the ark narrative (4:8; 5:6, 7, 9, 11; 6:3, 5, 9). It has been suggested that “tumors” refers to the sores or boils caused by an epidemic of the bubonic plague carried by rats (6:4, 5). The spread of the disease and its deadly effect (5:6, 9, 12; 6:11, 17) make this a likely view.

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1 Cor. 2:1-16

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. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

The Victory of the Resurrection

“‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ . . . but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-5557).

The Resurrection seals what we could not: victory over death.

Death is the great enemy of mankind. It comes to everyone without exception. It violates our dominion of God’s creation, breaks apart relationships, disrupts families, and causes us to grieve the loss of loved ones. However, Christ’s resurrection has broken the power of death for Christians because “death no longer is master over Him” (Rom. 6:9).

In today’s passage the apostle Paul reminds us of the final victory over death that results once we have been transformed into our resurrection bodies. To make his point, Paul quotes from the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea. In using Hosea’s sting of death metaphor, Paul implies that death left its sting in Christ, as a bee leaves its stinger in its victim. On the cross Jesus bore all of death’s sting (sin), so we wouldn’t have to bear any of it. When sin’s penalty has been removed, death merely interrupts our earthly life and ushers us into the heavenly realm, where we will worship and praise God forever.

Paul concludes (v. 57) by thanking God, who provided us the triumph over sin and death. We also should be thankful to God who, through Christ’s redeeming work, gave us what we could never have obtained by ourselves. God promises to all believers the heavenly in exchange for the earthly, and the immortal in exchange for the mortal.

With Jesus Christ’s triumph over death, we have no reason to fear what death can do to us. Instead, we should rejoice concerning the Lord’s promise to us about the next life: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire . . . and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 20:1421:4).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that in His sovereign wisdom and power He has defeated death and removed all reasons for the believer to be afraid of it.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 2:9-14 and 4:18-37.

  • What do these passages preview about Jesus’ control over death, His own and ours?
  • Do they remind you of any particular New Testament stories?


Realizing Your Reward

"Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12).

The sacrifices you make for Christ’s sake in this life will be abundantly compensated for in Heaven.

God's promise for those who are persecuted for His sake is that their reward in heaven will be great (Matt. 5:11). Jesus said, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29).

Focusing on that promise instead of your present circumstances is how you can experience happiness amid suffering. That was Paul's great confidence even as he faced certain death. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he declares, "In the future there is laid up 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 loved His appearing."

Another source of joy in trials is knowing that you share the fate of the prophets themselves (Matt. 5:12). Those godly men suffered untold hardships for proclaiming God's message. That's a noble group to be identified with!

One final word of encouragement from Matthew 5:11: persecution will not be incessant! Jesus said, "Blessed are you when. . . ." The Greek word translated "when" means "whenever." You won't always be persecuted, but whenever you are, you will be blessed. In addition, God will govern its intensity so you will be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10:13). He knows your human weaknesses and will supply the necessary grace and peace to get you through. That's why you can rejoice when otherwise you might be devastated and filled with grief.

If you are willing to make sacrifices now, you will receive incomparable rewards in the future. How shortsighted are those who protect themselves now by denying Christ or compromising His truth rather than sacrificing the present for the sake of eternal blessing and glory!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the example of the prophets and others who have suffered for Him.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 21:33-39 and Hebrews 11:32-38.

  • How did Jesus illustrate the persecution of God's prophets?
  • What is Scripture's commendation to those who suffered.


Jesus on God’s Love: For Enemies

“‘But I say to you, love your enemies’” (Matthew 5:44).

People tend to base love on the attractiveness and likeability of the one loved. They love the so-called beautiful people, enjoyable activities, nice houses, and sharp cars. That list could go on, but Jesus’ kind of love is need oriented. In His parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:2936–37), the Samaritan showed tremendous love because he sacrificed his own convenience, safety, and finances to help a desperately needy man.

The love our Lord sets forth here is translated from the Greek agape-, the noblest and best New Testament love. It is the form of love that strives to meet another’s utmost welfare. Such love may involve emotion, but it must involve action. Like every aspect of righteousness, love originates in the regenerate heart, but it shows its fullest potential by what it does. More than anything, this kind of love is the love God is, expresses, and provides (Rom. 5:581 John 4:7–12), which allows us to love as He loved.

When Christ told His apostles, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), He had just washed their feet as an example of agape- love. The apostles were self-centered, quarrelsome, envious of one another, and even sometimes challenged the Lord. Yet Jesus always did for them what was for their good. And this is how He wants all of us who claim to follow Him to show love—even for our enemies.

Ask Yourself

Few biblical mandates are more unnatural to our desires and experiences, but few make us a more sterling example of the difference Christ makes in an ordinary individual’s life. If you are currently dealing with situations that call for this kind of love, how do you intend to express it?


Reading for Today:


1 Samuel 3:1 the boy Samuel. Samuel was no longer a child (2:21, 26). While Jewish historian Josephus suggested he was 12 years of age, he was probably a teenager at this time. The same Hebrew term translated here “boy” was used of David when he slew Goliath (17:33). the word of the LORD was rare. The time of the judges was a period of extremely limited prophetic activity. The few visions that God did give were not widely known. revelation. Literally, “vision.” A divine revelation mediated through an auditory or visual encounter.

1 Samuel 3:19 the LORD was with him. The Lord’s presence was with Samuel, as it would be later with David (16:18; 18:12). The Lord’s presence validated His choice of a man for His service. let none of his words fall to the ground. Everything Samuel said with divine authorization came true. This fulfillment of Samuel’s word proved that he was a true prophet of God (see Deut. 18:2122).

Proverbs 15:11 Hell and Destruction. See 27:20. Hell or Sheol is the place of the dead. “Destruction” refers to the experience of external punishment. See Job 26:6.

Luke 20:37 the burning bush passage. Exodus 3:1–4:17. In that passage God identified Himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—using the present tense. He didn’t say He was their God, but “I AM” their God, indicating that their existence had not ended with their deaths.

Luke 20:40 they dared not question Him. The more questions Jesus answered the clearer it became that His understanding and authority were vastly superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees.

DAY 30: What do the two prayers of Hannah teach us about prayer?

In 1 Samuel 1:10,11, Hannah vowed in “bitterness of soul” to give the Lord her son in return for God’s favor in giving her that son. She prayed as a “maidservant”—a humble, submissive way of referring to herself in the presence of her superior, sovereign God. “Remember me,” she requested, asking for special attention and care from the Lord. She would give the child to the Lord “all the days of his life,” which was in contrast to the normal Nazirite vow, which was only for a specified period of time (see Num. 6:458).

In contrast to the prayer that came from her bitterness, Hannah prayed from joy in 2:1–10. The prominent idea in Hannah’s prayer is that the Lord is a righteous Judge. He had brought down the proud (Peninnah) and exalted the humble (Hannah).The prayer has four sections: 1) Hannah prayed to the Lord for His salvation (vv.1, 2); 2) Hannah warned the proud of the Lord’s humbling (vv. 3–8d); 3) Hannah affirmed the Lord’s faithful care for His saints (vv. 8e–9b); 4) Hannah petitioned the Lord to judge the world and to prosper His anointed king (vv. 10d-e). This prayer has a number of striking verbal similarities with David’s song of 2 Samuel 22:2–51:“horn” (2:1; 22:3),“rock” (2:2; 22:2, 3), salvation/deliverance (2:1, 2; 22:2, 3), grave/Sheol (2:6; 22:6),“thunder” (2:10; 22:14),“king” (2:10; 22:51), and “anointed” (2:10; 22:51).

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Heb. 10:23-25

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Our New Bodies

“Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:49).

All believers can look forward to one day receiving new bodies and new images.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances present a glimpse of the greatness, power, and wonder that our own resurrection bodies will have. Our Lord appeared and disappeared at will and always reappeared in other places. He was able to go through walls and doors, but He could also eat, drink, sit, talk, and be seen by others. Jesus was remarkably the same as before His death, yet He was even more remarkably changed. The body the disciples and other followers saw after the Resurrection was the same one we’ll see when we go to be with Him. Christ will also appear in the same form when He returns to earth (Acts 1:11).

As it was with Jesus, our perishable, natural, and weak bodies will be raised imperishable, spiritual, and powerful. No longer will they limit us in our service to God. In Heaven we’ll blaze forth the magnificent glory that God so graciously gives to His own (Matt. 13:43). Christ promises to “transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:21).

The future resurrection of believers to the glories of Heaven has always been a blessed hope and motivation for the church through the centuries— and it should be for you and me. No matter what our present bodies are like— healthy or unhealthy, beautiful or plain, short-lived or long-lived, pampered or abused—they are not our permanent bodies. One day these natural, created bodies will be re-created as supernatural. Even though the Bible gives us just a glance at what those new bodies will be like, it is a precious assurance to know that “we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for an opportunity to share insights from this study with a Christian friend, especially if he or she has been discouraged recently.

For Further Study

Read Luke 24:33-53.

  • What do verses 37-43 verify about Jesus’ new body?
  • Write down other things from the entire passage that describe how Jesus had changed from the way He was prior to the cross. How had He remained the same?


Receiving Christ's Wound

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me" (Matt. 5:10-11).

The persecution you receive for proclaiming Christ is really aimed at Christ Himself.

Savonarola has been called the Burning Beacon of the Reformation. His sermons denouncing the sin and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church of his day helped pave the way for the Protestant Reformation. Many who heard his powerful sermons went away half-dazed, bewildered, and speechless. Often sobs of repentance resounded throughout the entire congregation as the Spirit of God moved in their hearts. However, some who heard him couldn't tolerate the truth and eventually had him burned at the stake.

Jesus said, "'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). Sinful people will not tolerate a righteous standard. Prior to Christ's birth, the world had never seen a perfect man. The more people observed Christ, the more their own sinfulness stood out in stark contrast. That led some to persecute and finally kill Him, apparently thinking that by eliminating the standard they wouldn't have to keep it.

Psalm 35:19 prophesies that people would hate Christ without just cause. That is true of Christians as well. People don't necessarily hate us personally but resent the holy standard we represent. They hate Christ, but He isn't here to receive their hatred, so they lash out at His people. For Savonarola that meant death. For you it might mean social alienation or other forms of persecution.

Whatever comes your way, remember that your present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory you will one day experience (Rom. 8:18). Therefore, "to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing" (1 Pet. 4:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

When you suffer for Christ's sake, thank Him for that privilege, recalling how much He suffered for you.

For Further Study

Before his conversion, the apostle Paul (otherwise known as Saul) violently persecuted Christians, thinking he was doing God a favor. Read Acts 8:1-39:1-31, and 1 Timothy 1:12-17, noting Paul's transformation from persecutor to preacher.


Jesus and Non-Retaliation: Property

“‘Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you’” (Matthew 5:42).

Secular people also hold tightly to the concept that property rights are sacred. But such self-centered possessiveness is merely another symptom of humanity’s sinfulness. Even believers forget that whatever they have belongs to God and that they are simply stewards of their wealth.

We do have certain legal rights in most countries to manage property as we wish. But we must be willing to sacrifice those rights on the altar of Christian obedience and submission (cf. Rom. 12:1–2). Whenever someone wants to borrow something of ours, we ought to willingly allow him or her to do so. That person might well have a genuine need, which only we can meet.

The Lord implies here that His disciples should offer to give as soon as they sense a need, not waiting to be asked. And He is not referring to our grudgingly donating, but to generous giving that springs from a loving desire to help. Our attitude should be far more than a token charity that merely wants to salve an uneasy conscience.

Christ’s words do not intend to undercut civil justice, but to destroy human selfishness, which is sin and does not belong in the hearts of true Christians. In truth, the only persons who do not selfishly or vengefully cling to their property rights are those who have died to self (cf. Gal. 2:20). The faithful believer lives for Christ and if necessary surrenders all his or her rights and dies for Him (Rom. 14:8).

Ask Yourself

Again, since we cannot give away everything we have, how do we deal with the requirement of adhering to this Christian command while also using sound judgment, being good stewards of our God-given resources?


Reading for Today:


Ruth 4:7 took off his sandal. The scripture writer explained to his own generation what had been a custom in former generations. This kind of tradition appears in Deuteronomy 25:5–10 and apparently continued at least to the time of Amos (see 2:6; 8:6). The closer relative legally transferred his right to the property as symbolized by the sandal, most likely that of the nearer relative.

Ruth 4:22 David. Looking back at Ruth from a New Testament perspective, latent messianic implications become more apparent (see Matt. 1:1). The fruit which is promised later on in the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:1–17) finds its seedbed here. The hope of a messianic king and kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12–14) will be fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 19–20) through the lineage of David’s grandfather Obed who was born to Boaz and Ruth the Moabitess.

Psalm 52:8 green olive tree. The psalmist exults (through this simile) that the one who trusts in the mercy of God is productive and secure.

Luke 20:5 Why then did you not believe him? John had clearly testified that Jesus was the Messiah. If John was a prophet whose words were true, they ought to believe his testimony about Christ. On the other hand, it would have been political folly for the Pharisees to attack the legitimacy of John the Baptist or deny his authority as a prophet of God. John was enormously popular with the people and a martyr at the hands of the despised Herod. For the Pharisees to question John’s authority was to attack a national hero, and they knew better than that. So they pleaded ignorance (v. 7).

DAY 29: How does Ruth exemplify the Proverbs 31 wife?

The “virtuous” wife of Proverbs 31:10 is personified by “virtuous” Ruth of whom the same Hebrew word is used (Ruth 3:11). With amazing parallel, they share at least 8 character traits (see below). One wonders (in concert with Jewish tradition) if King Lemuel’s mother might not have been Bathsheba, who orally passed the family heritage of Ruth’s spotless reputation along to David’s son Solomon. Lemuel, which means “devoted to God,” could have been a family name for Solomon (see Jedidiah, 2 Sam. 12:25), who then could have penned Proverbs 31:10–31 with Ruth in mind:

1. Devoted to her family (Ruth 1:15–18 // Prov. 31:10–1223).
2. Delighted in her work (Ruth 2:2 // Prov. 31:13).
3. Diligent in her labor (Ruth 2:71723 // Prov. 31:14–1819–212427).
4. Dedicated to godly speech (Ruth 2:1013 // Prov. 13:26).
5. Dependent on God (Ruth 2:12 // Prov. 31:25b30).
6. Dressed with care (Ruth 3:3 // Prov. 31:2225a).
7. Discreet with men (Ruth 3:6–13 // Prov. 31:111223).
8. Delivered blessings (Ruth 4:1415 // Prov. 31:282931). 

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1 Thessalonians 5:12 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Prov. 12:25

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

The Resurrection: Motive for Sanctification

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).

Trusting in the fact of Christ’s resurrection and looking forward to our own rising from the dead ought to stimulate us toward sanctification.

Like any essential teaching of Scripture, the doctrine of the Resurrection can be studied and discussed from an academic standpoint only. When that happens, we usually acquire a factual understanding of the topic and perhaps some appreciation of how the doctrine supports our faith—but that’s as far as we go.

However, our studies on the Resurrection have already taught us some of the implications this Bible truth ought to have for our conduct. The hope of the Resurrection can give everyone an incentive to be saved and believers an incentive for service. This hope also provides a third incentive: the motivation toward sanctification.

The apostle Paul knew that those in the Corinthian church were being exposed to the heretical theology that there is no real resurrection from the dead. This false teaching was having a bad influence on the Corinthians’ behavior. That’s why Paul tells them in today’s verse, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” It is impossible to be around evil people and not be contaminated both by their ideas and their habits. The apostle goes on to urge those believers who hoped in a resurrection to be a positive influence on others and lead them to the truth.

This glimpse at the situation in Corinth proves that sound doctrine matters and does affect how people live. We see all around us today what results when there is no belief in a resurrection. People become short-sighted and live as they please because ultimately nothing keeps them accountable. This is all the more reason for us to hold firm to the truth of the Resurrection, live in its hope, and proclaim it to others.

Suggestions for Prayer

How is the pursuit of holiness coming in your life? Pray that the Lord would increase your diligence and help you especially in an area of weakness.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 1.

  • List all the verses that refer to God’s plan for Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • How does the existence of such a divine plan strengthen your hope?
  • Write a theme sentence for the chapter.


Three Kinds of Persecution

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me" (Matt. 5:10-11).

When you speak out for Christ, you can expect harassment, insults, and slander.

Jesus mentioned three broad categories of suffering that Christians will experience. The first is persecution. "Persecuted" (Matt. 5:10) and "persecute" (v. 11) both come from the same Greek root meaning "to pursue" or "chase away." Over time it came to mean "to harass" or "treat in an evil manner." Verse 10 literally reads, "Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted." You are blessed when people harass you for your Christian stance and you willingly accept it for the sake of your Lord.

The second form of suffering is "insults" (v. 11), which translates a Greek word that means "to reproach," "revile," or "heap insults upon." It speaks of verbal abuse—attacking someone with vicious and mocking words. It is used in Matthew 27:44 of the mockery Christ endured at His crucifixion. It happened to Him and it will happen to His followers as well.

The final category Jesus mentioned is slander—people telling lies about you. That's perhaps the hardest form of suffering to endure because our effectiveness for the Lord is directly related to our personal purity and integrity. Someone's trying to destroy the reputation you worked a lifetime to establish is a difficult trial indeed!

If you're going through a time of suffering for righteousness' sake, take heart: the Lord went through it too and He understands how difficult it can be. He knows your heart and will minister His super-abounding grace to you. Rejoice that you are worthy of suffering for Him and that the kingdom of heaven is yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those who treat you unkindly, asking God to forgive them and grant them His grace.
  • Pray that you might always treat others with honesty and fairness.

For Further Study

Throughout history God Himself has endured much mocking and slander. Read 2 Peter 3:3-9, then answer these questions:

  • What motivates mockers?
  • What do they deny?
  • Why doesn't God judge them on the spot?


Jesus and Non-Retaliation: Liberty

“‘Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two’” (Matthew 5:41).

The concept of liberty is much cherished in the United States and other democratic nations. The Declaration of Independence famously speaks of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Patrick Henry of Virginia used the bold oratory, “Give me liberty or give me death!” These sentiments were derived from biblical principles, although sometimes altered from those ancient origins.

God’s intention from the beginning was for mankind created in His image to live in perfect liberty, both spiritually and physically. But the Fall ruined this ideal and introduced such corrupt concepts as slavery and subjugation to totalitarian governments. Democratic governments have tried, although imperfectly, to protect the liberty of their citizens—sometimes even extending such freedoms to foreign visitors and immigrants. However, civil liberties should not supersede our duties to righteousness or our obligations to display a faithful witness.

Jesus here makes the analogy between surrendered liberties and the Roman law that could force civilians to carry a soldier’s pack for a mile. Except for facing them in battle, Roman troops were not as despised by their opponents as when those people were obligated to carry the troops’ packs or other equipment.

Yet our Lord teaches that we should be willing to go the extra mile for someone else—even at the expense of our cherished liberty. In so doing, we are worthy ambassadors for Christ, realizing that in Him we have an eternal liberty that can never be taken.

Ask Yourself

Who in your life regularly asks you to go the second mile for them? What is your usual response to their demand for your time and energy? How do you strike the balance between being sacrificial and maintaining boundaries that help you protect other godly priorities?


Reading for Today:


Ruth 1:16 And your God, my God. This testimony evidenced Ruth’s conversion from worshiping Chemosh to Yahweh of Israel (see 1 Thess. 1:910).

Ruth 2:12 wings...refuge. Scripture pictures God as catching Israel up on His wings in the Exodus (Ex. 19:4Deut. 32:11). God is here portrayed as a mother bird sheltering the young and fragile with her wings (see Pss. 17:836:757:161:463:791:14). Boaz blessed Ruth in light of her newfound commitment to and dependence on the Lord. Later, he would become God’s answer to this prayer (see 3:9).

Psalm 52:1 mighty man. A reference to Doeg, the chief of Saul’s shepherds, who reported to Saul that the priests of Nob had aided David when he was a fugitive (see 1 Sam. 22:91819).

Luke 19:40 the stones would immediately cry out. This was a strong claim of Deity and perhaps a reference to the words of Habakkuk 2:11. Scripture often speaks of inanimate nature praising God. (See Pss. 96:1198:7–9114:7Is. 55:12.) See also the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3:9; note the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Matthew 27:51.

Luke 19:41, 42 Only Luke recorded the weeping of Jesus over the city of Jerusalem. Christ grieved over Jerusalem on at least two other occasions (13:34Matt. 23:37). The timing of this lament may seem incongruous with the Triumphal Entry, but it reveals that Jesus knew the true superficiality of the peoples’ hearts, and His mood was anything but giddy as He rode into the city. The same crowd would soon cry for His death (23:21).

DAY 28: Why is the “kinsman-redeemer” a prominent part in the story of Ruth?

In Ruth 2:20, the great kinsman-redeemer theme of Ruth begins (cf.3:9, 12; 4:1, 3, 6, 8, 14). A close relative could redeem 1) a family member sold into slavery (Lev. 25:47–49), 2) land which needed to be sold under economic hardship (Lev. 25:23–28), and/or 3) the family name by virtue of a levirate marriage (Deut. 25:5–10). This earthly custom pictures the reality of God the Redeemer doing a greater work (Pss. 19:1478:35Is. 41:1443:14) by reclaiming those who needed to be spiritually redeemed out of slavery to sin (Ps. 107:2Is. 62:12). Thus, Boaz pictures Christ, who as a Brother (Heb. 2:17) redeemed those who 1) were slaves to sin (Rom. 6:15–18), 2) had lost all earthly possessions/privilege in the Fall (Gen. 3:17–19), and 3) had been alienated by sin from God (2 Cor. 5:18–21). Boaz stands in the direct line of Christ (Matt. 1:5Luke 3:32). This turn of events marks the point where Naomi’s human emptiness (1:21) begins to be refilled by the Lord. Her night of earthly doubt has been broken by the dawning of new hope (cf. Rom. 8:28–39).

When Boaz negotiated with another relative about the settlement of Elimelech and Naomi’s estate in Ruth 4:1–12, he referred to a law established by Moses in Deuteronomy 25:5–10. That law set out specific actions to be taken by the surviving family if a married son were to die without a son to inherit or carry on his name. Another (presumably unmarried) man in the family was to marry the widow. The first resulting child would inherit the estate of the man who had died.

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1 Cor. 13:4-5

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;

The Resurrection: Motive for Service

“If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

The truth of the Resurrection is an incentive for believers to persevere in service for Jesus Christ.

Certainly Paul’s statement in today’s verse is an extraordinary one, but it reiterates that the truth of Christ’s resurrection and the hope of believers’ resurrection are definite incentives for Christian service. It allows us to look more closely at what motivated Christians like Paul, and how we also should be motivated for service.

The apostle may have fought with literal wild animals at Ephesus. Or he may be speaking figuratively of the wild Ephesian mob that opposed him in Acts 19. But whatever the case, Paul knows that no mere human motives were compelling him to engage in such battles or continually risk his safety in other ways. He would not have put up with so many difficulties had his purposes and objectives been only temporal and worldly.

Paul and all Christians throughout history have been willing to labor under adversity, suffer, be persecuted, and continue diligently in the Lord’s service because they were convinced God’s kingdom extends beyond the frailties and limits of this life (Rom. 8:18). If our ministry on earth were an end in itself, then it would make sense to “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

However, you can praise God today that your life does not have to end simply with sensual pleasures and comforts. The hope and motivation in all your service for Christ can be identical to faith’s giants in Hebrews 11who earnestly served, that they “might obtain a better resurrection” (v. 35).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would use the truth of the Resurrection to motivate you toward more faithful service in a difficult area of ministry or in a ministry in which you have been inconsistent.

For Further Study

Memorize 1 Corinthians 15:58. What does the “therefore” refer to? Make this verse a constant reminder of the incentive you should have for serving the Lord.


Are You Avoiding Persecution?

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matt. 5:10).

If you don’t experience persecution, people probably don’t know you’re a Christian.

I heard of a man who was fearful because he was starting a new job with a group of unbelievers whom he thought might give him a bad time if they found out he was a Christian. After his first day at work his wife asked him how he got along with them. "We got along just fine," he said. "They never found out I'm a Christian."

Silence is one way to avoid persecution. Some other ways are to approve of the world's standards, laugh at its jokes, enjoy its entertainment, and smile when it mocks God. If you never confront sin or tell people Jesus is the only way to heaven, or if your behavior is so worldly no one can distinguish you from unbelievers, you will probably be accepted and won't feel the heat of persecution. But beware!

Jesus said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you. . . . Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory" (Luke 6:269:26). The last thing anyone should want is for Christ to pronounce a curse on them or be ashamed of them. That's an enormous price to pay for popularity!

If you take a stand for Christ and manifest Beatitude attitudes, you will be in direct opposition to Satan and the evil world system. Eventually you will experience some form of persecution. That has been true from the very beginning of human history, when Abel was murdered by his brother Cain because Cain couldn't tolerate his righteousness.

You should never fear persecution. God will grant you grace and will never test you beyond what He enables you to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). Nor should you ever compromise biblical truth to avoid persecution. In Philippians 1:29 Paul says that persecution is as much a gift of God as salvation itself. Both identify you as a true believer!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize 1 Peter 2:20-21. Ask God to continually grant you the grace to follow Christ's example when difficulties come your way.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, noting the severe persecution Paul endured for Christ's sake.


Jesus and Non-Retaliation: Security

“‘If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also’” (Matthew 5:40).

Most people in New Testament times owned just one coat and likely just one or two shirts. Shirts were undergarments, and coats were outer garments that also served as blankets overnight. This kind of coat was important, what the Mosaic law required be returned to its owner “before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body” (Ex. 22:26–27).

Jesus’ reference here is not to a theft, when someone wants to steal another’s garment, but to a legitimate lawsuit in a legal court. In those days the courts often mandated that fines or judgments be paid in clothing. The illustration is that a genuine follower of Christ will be willing to surrender even his most valuable coat to an adversary rather than cause offense or hard feelings. The judge could not require a specific coat in payment, but the person could voluntarily give it up.

Even if a settlement against us is fairly arrived at for a certain amount, we should be willing to pay more to demonstrate sincere regret for the wrong done and the pain inflicted on another. Most of us have probably never considered this option, but it shows the love of Christ and genuineness of our faith.

Ask Yourself

Notice again that this series of scenarios from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount consistently calls for more than the law demands. What does that tell you about the way we’re supposed to respond in situations in which our personal integrity or the cause of Christ is being challenged?


Reading for Today:


Judges 20:18 to inquire of God. The Lord gave His counsel from the location of the ark at Shiloh, probably through the Urim and Thummim (vv. 27, 28). The tribe of Judah was responsible to lead in battle since God had chosen a leadership role for that tribe (Gen. 49:8–121 Chr. 5:12).

Judges 20:22–25 The Lord twice allowed great defeat and death to Israel to bring them to their spiritual senses regarding the cost of tolerating apostasy. Also, while they sought counsel, they placed too much reliance on their own prowess and on satisfying their own outrage. Finally, when desperate enough, they fasted and offered sacrifices (v. 26). The Lord then gave victory with strategy similar to that at Ai (Josh. 8).

Judges 21:25 Judges 17–21 vividly demonstrates how bizarre and deep sin can become when people throw off the authority of God as mediated through the king (see 17:6). This was the appropriate but tragic conclusion to a bleak period of Israelite history (see Deut. 12:8).

Luke 19:17 faithful in a very little. Those with relatively small gifts and opportunities are just as responsible to use them faithfully as those who are given much more. over ten cities. The reward is incomparably greater than the 10 minas warranted. Note also that the rewards were apportioned according to the servants’ diligence: the one who gained 10 minas was given 10 cities, the one who gained 5 minas, 5 cities (v. 19), and so on.

DAY 27: How did Zacchaeus personify why Jesus came to this world?

Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, who probably oversaw a large tax district and had other tax collectors working for him (Luke 19:2). Jericho alone was a prosperous trading center, so it is certain that Zacchaeus was a wealthy man. Zacchaeus was among “the crowd” in Jericho who lined the street to see Jesus pass through. They had undoubtedly heard about the recent raising of Lazarus in Bethany, less than 15 miles away (John 11). That, combined with His fame as a healer and teacher, stirred the entire city when word arrived that He was coming. Zacchaeus was so desperate to see Christ that he took an undignified position for someone of his rank (v. 4).

Both the religious elite and the common people hated Zacchaeus. They did not understand, and in their blind pride refused to see, what possible righteous purpose Jesus had in visiting such a notorious sinner (v. 7). But He had come to seek and to save the lost, which is exactly what happened here (v. 10).

Not only did Zacchaeus receive Jesus joyfully (v. 6), but his willingness to make restitution was proof that his conversion was genuine (v. 8). It was the fruit, not the condition, of his salvation. The law required a penalty of one-fifth as restitution for money acquired by fraud (Lev. 6:5Num. 5:67), so Zacchaeus was doing more than was required. Zacchaeus judged his own crime severely, acknowledging that he was as guilty as the lowest common robber. Since much of his wealth had probably been acquired fraudulently, this was a costly commitment. On top of that, he gave half his goods to the poor. But Zacchaeus had just found incomprehensible spiritual riches and did not mind the loss of material wealth.

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Rom. 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

The Resurrection: Motive for Salvation

“What will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?” (1 Corinthians 15:29).

The fact of the Resurrection often is a powerful testimony to draw people to saving faith in Christ.

The apostle Paul knew that believers who face death with joy and hope can present powerful testimonies to unbelievers. The prospect of life in Heaven and a reunion with loved ones is a strong motive for people to hear and receive the gospel. When believers die, their spirits go immediately to be with the Lord. And one day in the future their glorified bodies will rejoin their spirits, and Christians will worship and enjoy God for all eternity.

First Corinthians 15:29 uses the term “baptized” to refer to those who were testifying that they were Christians. Although the mere act of baptism does not save a person, anyone who is an obedient Christian will be baptized. In Paul’s day, the church assumed that any believer would have been baptized, and people were not baptized unless the church was confident their profession of faith was genuine.

“The dead” in 1 Corinthians 15:29 could also include believers, those who have died and whose lives were persuasive testimonies to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. People were being saved (baptized) in Corinth because of (“for”) the faithful witness of deceased believers.

The Resurrection is still a powerful incentive to salvation. In my years as a pastor I have seen people come to Christ after the death of a believing spouse or parent. Those husbands and wives, sons and daughters could not bear the thought of never seeing their loved one again. Those converted survivors were unknowingly touched and changed by the reunion hope that already sustains believers. That hope, based on the promise of resurrection, upheld David after the death of his infant son: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for times when your testimony has been weak and the resurrection hope in your life has not been evident.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 22:23-33.

  • What did the Sadducees’ hypothetical story demonstrate about their belief concerning resurrection?
  • How important was the doctrine of resurrection to Jesus?
  • To what did He appeal in correcting the Sadducees?


Paying the Price of Righteousness

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matt. 5:10).

There is a price to pay for being a Kingdom citizen.

Unlike many today who try to make the gospel palatable for reluctant sinners, Jesus made it clear that following Him had its price. Rather than acceptance, fame, prestige, and prosperity, you can expect rejection and persecution. That's not a popular approach to evangelism, but it's honest. Also it insures that no one will try to enter the kingdom on the wrong basis.

Jesus wanted His hearers to count the cost of discipleship. He knew that many of them would be disowned by their families and excommunicated from the Jewish synagogues. Many would suffer persecution or martyrdom at the hands of the Roman government. They needed to count the cost!

Persecution did come to those early Christians. The Emperor Nero smeared many of them with pitch, crucified them, and then burned them to light his garden parties. He condemned Christians for refusing to worship him as a god, and blamed them for the burning of Rome in [sc]A.D. 64. Christians were accused of cannibalism because Jesus said, "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him" (John 6:56). They were said to be revolutionaries because they believed that God would one day destroy the earth.

The world's animosity toward Christians hasn't changed. You might not face the severe persecutions the first-century believers faced, but you will be persecuted (Phil. 1:29). Even new Christians often face difficulties. If they refuse to join their former friends in sinful activities, they might be rejected. If they work for a dishonest boss who expects them to participate in or condone his evil practices, they might be fired or have to quit their jobs. That might bring extreme financial hardship to their families.

God won't always shield you from persecution, but He will honor your integrity and give you strength to endure any trial that comes your way. Praise Him for His all-sufficient grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who are suffering hardship for Christ's sake.
  • Ask God for the wisdom and strength to face persecution with integrity and unwavering faith.

For Further Study

Read James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 5:10.

  • What purpose does suffering serve?
  • How should you respond to suffering?


Jesus and Non-Retaliation: Dignity

“‘Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also’” (Matthew 5:39).

God has created every human being in His image, and therefore He demands that we treat one another with basic respect, dignity, and consideration. But in a sinful world, this will not always happen, so believers can expect to suffer persecution simply because of their basic testimony (cf. Matt. 10:16–23John 15:18–16:3). This leaves one inevitable issue to deal with: how should Christians respond to ridicule, insult, or physical abuse.

The Lord Jesus, of course, is the perfect example of how to behave when personally attacked. When the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers physically abused Him and mocked Him prior to His crucifixion, He did not react in words or actions (Matt. 26:67–68). As Jesus hung from the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Peter summarizes well how we should respond in view of Christ’s example:

When you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:20–23)

Ask Yourself

When have you succeeded in practicing this kind of self-control and restraint? What happened as a result? Even if it left you feeling misunderstood and stepped upon, what value did you experience from obeying what Jesus has commanded?


Reading for Today:


Judges 19:22 perverted men. Literally, “sons of Belial,” i.e., worthless men, who desired to commit sodomy against the Levite. The phrase elsewhere is used for idolaters (Deut. 13:13), neglecters of the poor (Deut. 15:9), drunks (1 Sam. 1:16), immoral people (1 Sam. 2:12), and rebels against the civil authority (2 Sam. 20:1Prov. 19:28). “Belial” can be traced to the false god Baal and is also a term for yoke (they cast off the yoke of decency) and a term for entangling or injuring. It is used in the New Testament of Satan (2 Cor. 6:15).

Judges 19:25 the man took his concubine...to them. This is unthinkable weakness and cowardice for any man, especially a priest of God. Apparently he even slept through the night or stayed in bed out of fear, since he didn’t see her again until he awakened and prepared to leave (see vv. 27, 28).

Proverbs 14:33 is made known. Wisdom is quietly preserved in the heart of the wise for the time of proper use, while fools are eager to blurt out their folly (see 12:2313:16; 15:2, 14).

Psalm 51:7 hyssop. Old Testament priests used hyssop, a leafy plant, to sprinkle blood or water on a person being ceremonially cleansed from defilements such as leprosy or touching a dead body (see Lev. 14:6ff.; Num. 19:16–19). Here hyssop is a figure for David’s longing to be spiritually cleansed from his moral defilement. In forgiveness, God washes away sin (see Ps. 103:12Is. 1:16Mic. 7:19).

DAY 26: What did the anointing of the Holy Spirit mean in the Old Testament?

Old Testament Israel had mediators who stood between God and His people. To empower the Old Testament mediators, the Holy Spirit gave special administrative ability to carry out the management of the nation and military skills which enabled them to defeat the theocracy’s enemies. The Lord first anointed Moses with this ministry of the Spirit, and then in a truly dramatic scene, took some of this ministry of the Spirit and shared it with the 70 elders. Thus they were enabled to help Moses administer Israel (Num. 11:17–25).

Also Joshua (Deut. 34:9), the judges (Judg. 3:106:34), and the kings of united Israel and the southern kingdom were anointed with this special ministry of the Spirit. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon King Saul, for example, he was in effect given “another heart” (1 Sam.10:6–10). This does not mean that he was regenerated at this point in his life, but that he was given skills to be a king. Later the theocratic anointing was taken from Saul and given to David (1 Sam. 16:1–14). Saul, from that time on, became a totally incapable leader.

King David no doubt had this special ministry of the Spirit in mind in his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. He was not afraid of losing his salvation when he prayed, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11), but rather was concerned that God would remove this spiritual wisdom and administrative skill from him. David had earlier seen such the tragedy in the life of Saul when that king of Israel lost the anointing of the Holy Spirit. David was thus pleading with God not to remove His hand of guidance.

King Solomon also perceived his youthful inabilities at the beginning of his reign and requested God to give him special wisdom in administering Israel. God was greatly pleased with this request and granted an extra measure to the young man (1 Kin. 3:7–12284:29–34). Although the Old Testament is silent in this regard about the kings who succeeded Solomon, the theocratic anointing of the Spirit likely came on all the descendants of David in connection with the Davidic Covenant.

When the theocracy went out of existence as Judah was carried away into captivity and the last Davidic king was disempowered, the theocratic anointing was no longer given (Ezek. 8–11). The kings of the northern tribes, on the other hand, being essentially apostate and not in the Davidic line, never had the benefit of this special ministry of the Spirit.

My Royal Family





PHIL. 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.

The Resurrection: So What?

“If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Without Christ’s resurrection, our individual Christian lives would be pathetic exercises in futility.

In ancient times the strongest swimmer among the sailors on a ship was called the archegos, a Greek word that means “front-runner” or “pioneer.” If as the ship approached shore, it got caught in waves so strong that a safe landing was doubtful, the archegos would fasten one end of a long rope to the ship, tie the other end around himself, jump into the water, and guide the ship to land. Once on land, he would secure the rope to a rock or tree. Then the other passengers could disembark and use the rope as a safety tether to reach the shore.

Jesus is our archegos. If He didn’t overcome death and make a way possible for us to do the same, we would have nothing more to look forward to than life on earth, which would leave us with no brighter hope than the typical unbeliever (Rom. 6:23).

The archegos illustration shows us once again the crucial importance of Christ’s rising from the grave. Without the Resurrection, Christianity loses its doctrinal strength, as we saw in yesterday’s study. Furthermore, the Christian life would become futile and pathetic if we could not point to the truth of the Resurrection. If our Lord were still in the tomb, He could not help us regarding eternity or our earthly ministry. We would have nothing to justify our efforts in Bible study, preaching, teaching, witnessing, or any activity of Christian service.

However, God the Father did raise “Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:24-25). Because Christ lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). This great certainty should give us all the confidence and motivation we’ll ever want or need as we serve our Lord and risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Based on the reality of the Resurrection, ask God today to give you fresh incentive to be His faithful servant.

For Further Study

Read Luke 24:1-12.

  • What immediate effect did knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection have on Mary Magdalene and the other women?
  • How did their reaction differ from most of the disciples’?


Messengers of Peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

You are a messenger of peace!

When Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9), He was referring to a special group of people whom God called to restore the peace that was forfeited because of sin. They may not be politicians, statesmen, diplomats, kings, presidents, or Nobel Prize winners, but they hold the key to true and lasting peace.

As a Christian, you are among that select group of peacemakers. As such you have two primary responsibilities. The first is to help others make peace with God. There is no greater privilege. The best way to do that is to preach the gospel of peace with clarity so people understand their alienation from God and seek reconciliation. Romans 10:15 says, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" The early church preached peace through Christ, and that is your privilege as well.

Your second responsibility is to help reconcile believers to one another. That's a very important issue to God. He won't accept worship from those who are at odds with each other. They must first deal with the conflict (Matt. 5:23-24). That is especially true within a family. Peter warned husbands to treat their wives properly so their prayers wouldn't be hindered (1 Pet. 3:7).

Peacemakers don't avoid spiritual conflicts—they speak the truth in love and allow the Spirit to minister through them to bring reconciliation. If you see someone who is alienated from God, you are to present him or her with the gospel of peace. If you see two Christians fighting, you are to do everything you can to help them resolve their differences in a righteous manner.

Of course to be an effective peacemaker you must maintain your own peace with God. Sin in your life will disrupt peace and prevent you from dispensing God's peace to others. Therefore continually guard your heart and confess your sin so that God can use you as His peacemaker.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for those close to you who don't know Christ. Take every opportunity to tell them of God's peace.

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

  • How did Paul describe the ministry of reconciliation?
  • What was Christ's role in reconciling man to God?


A Perspective on Non-Retaliation

“‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, do not resist an evil person’” (Matthew 5:38–39).

Christians are to “resist the devil” (James 4:7; cf. 1 Peter 5:9) and all that his evil world system stands for (Matt. 6:13Rom. 12:91 Thess. 5:22). This proves that, although Jesus refuted the Jewish leaders’ wrong teaching that people should take revenge in personal matters, our Lord did not teach that His followers simply had to tolerate all sorts of sinful misconduct and evil.

The resistance of evil and wrong, if done properly, will occur within the church. Jesus’ instruction on church discipline concludes with this command: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matt. 18:17; cf. 1 Tim. 5:20). A sinning member who rejects one-on-one reproof as well as reproof from two or three others and from the entire church must be excluded from the fellowship. Concerning unrepentant immorality in the church, Paul instructed—quoting the Old Testament—“Remove the wicked man from among yourselves” (1 Cor. 5:13).

In contrast to this, Jesus clarifies that His followers must not resist or take vengeance regarding supposed harm done to them personally. Such retaliation has no place in society at large, much less among Christians. Paul later wrote, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” (Rom. 12:17; cf. v. 19). Instead, God calls us to overcome others’ bad treatment of us by doing good to them (Rom. 12:21).

Ask Yourself

What are the main reasons for this kind of rebuke and discipline? What are its goals and objectives? When do circumstances become necessary to perform it


Reading for Today:


Judges 16:20 he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. Here was the tragedy of the wrath of abandonment. His sin had caused him to forfeit the power of God’s presence. This principle is seen throughout Scripture (Gen. 6:3Prov. 1:24–31Matt. 15:14Rom. 1:24–32).

Judges 16:24 they praised their god. It is tragic when a person’s sin contributes to the unsaved community’s giving praise to a false god, for God alone is worthy of praise.

Psalm 51:1 lovingkindness. Even though he had sinned horribly, David knew that forgiveness was available, based on God’s covenant love.

Psalm 51:4 Against You, You only. David realized what every believer seeking forgiveness must, that even though he had tragically wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, his ultimate crime was against God and His holy law (see 2 Sam.11:27).

Psalm 51:5 brought forth in iniquity. David also acknowledged that his sin was not God’s fault in any way (vv.4b, 6) nor was it some aberration. Rather, the source of David’s sin was a fallen, sinful disposition, his since conception.

DAY 25: Why is human righteousness so insufficient for salvation?

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9–14 is rich with truth about the doctrine of justification by faith. It illustrates perfectly how a sinner who is utterly devoid of personal righteousness may be declared righteous before God instantaneously through an act of repentant faith. The parable is addressed to Pharisees who trusted their own righteousness (vv. 10, 11). Such confidence in one’s inherent righteousness is a damning hope (see Rom. 10:3Phil. 3:9), because human righteousness—even the righteousness of the most fastidious Pharisee—falls short of the divine standard (Matt. 5:48). Scripture consistently teaches that sinners are justified when God’s perfect righteousness is imputed to their account (see Gen. 15:6Rom. 4:452 Cor. 5:21Phil. 3:4–9)—and it was only on that basis that this tax collector (or anyone else) could be saved.

For the Pharisee to fast twice a week (v. 12) was more than is required by any biblical standard. By exalting his own works, the Pharisee revealed that his entire hope lay in his not being as bad as someone else. He utterly lacked any sense of his own unworthiness and sin.

The tax collector’s humility is notable in everything about his posture and behavior (v. 13). Here was a man who had been made to face the reality of his own sin, and his only response was abject humility and repentance. He contrasts with the Pharisee in virtually every detail. “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” He had no hope but the mercy of God. This is the point to which the law aims to bring every sinner (see Rom. 3:19207:13Gal 3:22–24). He was “justified” (v. 14), i.e., reckoned righteous before God by means of an imputed righteousness.

My Royal Family





Rom. 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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.

The Resurrection: A Belief That Matters

“How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12).

Without the truth of bodily resurrection, the Christian faith would not make sense.

Even though Paul and the other apostles made the resurrection of Christ and His followers from the dead a central part of the gospel message, some new Gentile converts (the Corinthians especially) had difficulty accepting the idea of bodily resurrection. That struggle resulted mainly from the effects of Greek dualism, which viewed the spiritual as inherently good and the physical as inherently bad. Under that belief, a physical resurrection was considered quite repulsive.

The only way for the doubting Gentiles to accommodate their dualism was to say that Jesus was divine but not truly human. Therefore, He only appeared to die, and His appearances between the crucifixion and ascension were manifestations that merely seemed to be bodily. But Paul knew that was bad doctrine. He wrote to the Romans, “Concerning His Son . . . born of the seed of David according to the flesh . . . declared with power to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3-4).

To deny the actual, bodily resurrection of Christ creates some very significant doctrinal problems. Without His resurrection, the gospel is an empty message that doesn’t make sense. Without the Resurrection, Jesus could not have conquered sin and death, and thus we could not have followed in that victory either.

Without physical resurrection, a life of faith centered on the Lord Jesus is worthless. A dead savior cannot provide any kind of life. If the dead do not rise bodily, Christ did not rise, and neither will we. If all that were true, we could not do much more than conclude with Isaiah’s Servant, “I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity” (49:4). But the glorious reality is that we can affirm with Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and . . . .without my flesh [after death] I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that the truth of the Resurrection makes our theology credible and the gospel powerful.

For Further Study

  • Sometimes Jesus’ closest followers have doubts about the Resurrection. Read John 20:19-29. How did Jesus prove to the disciples that it was really Him?
  • What else did Jesus implicitly appeal to when He confronted Thomas’s doubts?


Christ Is Our Peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

Christ’s atonement made it possible for man to be at peace with God.

After World War II the United Nations was created to promote world peace. But since its inception in 1945 there has not been a single day of global peace. That's a sad commentary on man's inability to make peace. In fact, someone once quipped that Washington D.C. has so many peace monuments because they build one after every war!

It hasn't always been that way. Prior to the Fall of man peace reigned on the earth because all creation was in perfect harmony with its Creator. But sin interrupted peace by alienating man from God and bringing a curse upon the earth. Man couldn't know true peace because he had no peace in his heart. That's why Jesus came to die.

I once read a story about a couple at a divorce hearing whose conflict couldn't be resolved. They had a four-year-old boy who became distressed and teary-eyed over what was happening. While the couple was arguing, the boy reached for his father's hand and his mother's hand and pulled until he joined them.

In a sense that's what Christ did: He provided the righteousness that allows man and God to join hands. Romans 5:1 says that those who are justified by faith have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:20 says that God reconciled all things to Himself through the blood of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

Yet on the surface, the scene at the cross wasn't peaceful at all. Pain, sorrow, humiliation, hatred, mockery, darkness, and death were oppressively pervasive, but through it all Christ was doing what He alone could do: making peace between man and God. He paid the supreme price to give us that precious gift.

In the future, Jesus will return as Prince of Peace to establish a kingdom of peace that will usher us into an eternal age of peace. In the meantime He reigns over the hearts of all who love Him. Let His peace reign in your heart today!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the peace of heart that comes from knowing Christ.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 4:6-9. What must a person do to know God's peace?


Jesus on Genuine Truthfulness

“‘But let your statement be, “Yes, yes” or “No, no”; anything beyond these is of evil’” (Matthew 5:37).

Keeping your word is the mark of a genuine worshiper and demonstrates that you, as a child of God, hate lies. Everything in God’s kingdom is sacred and all truth is His truth, so truth has no degrees or shades. Thus even what seems to be the most minor false statement dishonors God’s name.

The Lord has never had any standard other than absolute truthfulness. He wants every one of us to possess “truth in the innermost being” (Ps. 51:6). And it follows that “lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. 12:22; cf. 6:16–17Ps. 58:3–4).

Because God has the ultimate criterion of complete truthfulness, even our most routine conversations should be truthful and dependable in every detail. Our everyday talk ought to be plain and straightforward, uncluttered by qualifiers, exaggerations, or hedges on the truth. Our word must be as good as our bond or as any vow or oath we ever make. James’s admonishment agrees with Jesus’ teaching, “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment” (James 5:12).

Ask Yourself

Truth and honesty will never be your default setting until you pursue it deliberately—spending your words carefully and keeping your word completely. In what particular areas of your life is it hardest for you to keep your promises?


Reading for Today:


Judges 13:5 Nazirite. The word is from the Hebrew “to separate.” For rigid Nazirite restrictions, such as here in Samson’s case, see Numbers 6:1–8. God gave 3 restrictions: no wine (vv. 3, 4), no razor cutting the hair (v. 5), no touching a dead body and being defiled (v. 6). Such outward actions indicated an inner dedication to God.

Judges 14:1–4 she pleases me well. The Philistines were not among the 7 nations of Canaan which Israel was specifically forbidden to marry. Nonetheless Samson’s choice was seriously weak. Samson sins here, but God is sovereign and was able to turn the situation to please Him (14:4). He was not at a loss, but used the opportunity to work against the wicked Philistines and provided gracious help to His people. He achieved destruction of these people, not by an army, but by the miraculous power of one man.

Luke 17:20 when the kingdom of God would come. They may have asked the question mockingly, having already concluded that He was not the Messiah. does not come with observation. The Pharisees believed that the Messiah’s triumph would be immediate. They were looking for Him to come, overthrow Rome, and set up the millennial kingdom. Christ’s program was altogether different. He was inaugurating an era in which the kingdom would be manifest in the rule of God in men’s hearts through faith in the Savior (v. 21; see Rom. 14:17). That kingdom was neither confined to a particular geographical location nor visible to human eyes. It would come quietly, invisibly, and without the normal pomp and splendor associated with the arrival of a king. Jesus did not suggest that the Old Testament promises of an earthly kingdom were hereby nullified. Rather, that earthly, visible manifestation of the kingdom is yet to come (Rev. 20:1–6).

Luke 17:22 The days will come. This introduces a brief discourse that has some similarities to the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 and 25. you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man. I.e., desire to have Him physically present. This suggests a longing for His return to set things right (see Rev. 6:9–1122:20).

DAY 24: What about those who claim to see a wide gap between Luke’s theology and Paul’s theology?

Although Luke, more than any of the other Gospel writers, highlighted the universal scope of the gospel invitation, some have questioned why a companion of Paul’s would use so little of Paul’s language in explaining the process of salvation. But a difference in vocabulary does not necessarily imply a difference in thought or underlying theology.

Luke certainly wrote in his own style. He was an astute observer and careful thinker. In writing the Gospel, he was careful not to insert Pauline language back into the Gospel account. The theology of Luke’s record parallels Paul’s exactly. Luke repeatedly related accounts of Gentiles, Samaritans, and other outcasts who found grace in Jesus’ eyes. This emphasis not only records Jesus’ appeal, but also proves to be precisely what we would expect from the close companion of the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:13).

A compelling illustration of this parallel involves Luke’s treatment of the centerpiece of Paul’s doctrine—justification by faith. Luke highlighted and illustrated justification by faith in many of the incidents and parables he related in his Gospel. For example, the account of the Pharisee and the publican (18:9–14), the familiar story of the prodigal son (15:11–32), the incident at Simon’s house (7:36–50), and the salvation of Zacchaeus (19:1–10) all serve to demonstrate that Jesus taught justification by faith long before Paul wrote about it.

My Royal Family





Titus 2:12

Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

A Special Testimony

“And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:8).

The resurrection power of Christ transformed Paul into a preacher of the gospel.

Throughout history, reliable eyewitness testimony about a person or event has been one of the most accepted forms of courtroom evidence. The apostle Paul appeals to the eyewitness record as an important confirmation of the Resurrection’s reality. He cites the examples of Peter, the apostles (twice), 500 believers, and James (1 Cor. 15:5-7). And with today’s verse, Paul presents himself as a special eyewitness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

Paul’s case was unique. He was not among the original apostles, nor the 500 other believers, all of whom had opportunities to be with the Lord during His earthly ministry and/or see Him soon after He arose. Paul was not even a Christian during his early life and career but was rather the leader of those who persecuted the early church.

Furthermore, Paul’s situation was different because Christ’s appearance to him was not only post-resurrection but post-ascension. The Lord’s dramatic manifestation to the apostle was probably several years after the forty-day period of His many other appearings.

Paul genuinely viewed the timing of Jesus’ appearance to him as coming “to one untimely born.” We know he greatly rejoiced in his conversion, but if he had not seen the risen Savior then or some other time, Paul could not have become an apostle. In other words, by gracious, sovereign provision God chose Paul to be an apostle because “He [Jesus] appeared to me also.” The longtime opponent of the church was now like the Twelve—he had seen the risen Christ.

The power of the Resurrection is always strong enough to change a life. It transformed Paul’s life in three major ways. First, he recognized his sin and saw how far removed external religion was from internal godliness. Second, his character was revolutionized. He went from a self-righteous hatred of the things of Christ to a self-giving love for the truth. Finally, Paul’s personal energy and motivation were completely redirected. He went from being a zealous opponent of Christians to one who fervently served and supported the church.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to help your testimony always show forth the power of the risen Christ.

For Further Study

What common elements were present in Paul’s experiences in Acts 18:9-1023:11? Note some things that were more unusual about Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1-7.


Hindrances to Peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

Sin and falsehood hinder true peace.

Just as righteousness and truth are the noble companions of peace, so sin and falsehood are its great hindrances. The prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately [evil]; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). Jesus said, "Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man" (Mark 7:21-23).

People with sinful hearts create a sinful society that resists true peace. Ironically, many who talk of peace will also pay huge sums of money to watch two men beat the daylights out of each other in a boxing ring! Our society's heroes tend to be the macho, hard-nosed, tough guys. Our heroines tend to be free-spirited women who lead marches and stir up contention. Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us to stand up for our rights and get everything we can for ourselves. That breeds strife and conditions people to reject the peace of the gospel.

Beyond that, the unbelieving world has never tolerated God's peacemakers. Christ Himself often met with violent resistance. His accusers said, "He stirs up the people" (Luke 23:5). Paul's preaching frequently created conflict as well. He spent much time under house arrest and in filthy Roman prisons. On one occasion his enemies described him as "a real pest . . . who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world" (Acts 24:5).

All who proclaim the gospel will eventually meet with opposition because sin and falsehood have blinded people's hearts to true peace. That's why Paul warned us that all who desire to be godly will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). You can avoid strife by remaining silent about the Lord, but a faithful peacemaker is willing to speak the truth regardless of the consequences. Let that be true of you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for Christ, who is the solution for the world's problem of sin and falsehood.
  • Follow Paul's example by praying for boldness to proclaim God's truth at every opportunity (Eph. 6:19).

For Further Study

Read Matthew 10:16-25, noting the kind of reception the disciples were to expect from unbelievers.


Jesus on Vows and Oaths

“‘Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.” But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black’” (Matthew 5:33–36).

In the regular business of life, people use vows and oaths—at marriage ceremonies, in the courtroom, executive oaths of office. Because human nature is prone to lying and distrust, God has provided for proper use of oaths (cf. Heb. 6:16). In describing who may enter God’s presence, the psalmist says one requirement is that the person be one who “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Ps. 15:4b; cf. vv. 2–3). Such a person’s word is more important than his or her welfare.

God Himself has issued oaths in the past (Gen. 22:16–17; cf. Pss. 89:349110:4Jer. 11:5Luke 1:73). He did so to impress upon people the special importance or urgency of a promise. As Hebrews notes, “Since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself” (6:13). Christ often used the expression “truly” or “truly, truly” (e.g., Matt. 5:18266:2516John 1:513:355:1924). As with the Father’s oaths, the Son’s use of “truly” did not make those statements any more trustworthy than any other pronouncements. The “truly” teachings underscored the importance of certain teachings. Jesus even used an oath before the high priest Caiaphas that He was indeed God’s Son (Matt. 26:63–64).

In view of the special nature of divine oaths, we should “make no oath[s] at all”—in other words, no frivolous ones that would compromise our truthfulness and integrity (cf. Pss. 119:29163120:2).

Ask Yourself

Could your conversation be improved with less embellishment and exaggeration? Can your word stand on its own two feet?


Reading for Today:


Judges 11:31 I will offer it. Some interpreters reason that Jephthah offered his daughter as a living sacrifice in perpetual virginity. With this idea, v. 31 is made to mean “shall surely be the LORD’s” or “I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” The view sees only perpetual virginity in vv. 37–40 and rejects his offering a human sacrifice as being against God’s revealed will (Deut. 12:31). On the other hand, since he was 1) beyond the Jordan, 2) far from the tabernacle, 3) a hypocrite in religious devotion, 4) familiar with human sacrifice among other nations, 5) influenced by such superstition, and 6) wanting victory badly, he likely meant a burnt offering. The translation in v. 31 is “and,” not “or.” His act came in an era of bizarre things, even inconsistency by leaders whom God otherwise empowered (see Gideon in 8:27).

Psalm 50:8 I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices.The divine Judge’s condemnations are directed not at the act of sacrifice but at the people’s attitude in sacrificing (see 1 Sam. 15:22Pss. 40:6-851:1769:30Is. 1:12Jer. 7:21-26Hos. 6:6Mic. 6:6-8).

Psalm 50:9-13 will not take a bull from your house. God refuses mere ritual; it is an abomination to Him. He, unlike the pagan deities, needs nothing. He created everything and owns everything.

Luke 17:16 he was a Samaritan. Jesus’ sending the lepers to show themselves to the priest suggests that they were Jewish. This Samaritan had been permitted to associate with them when all were ceremonially unclean, but in their healing they did not share his deep gratitude.

DAY 23: Why does God make use of leaders who display such obvious weaknesses?

It is true that judges such as Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson exhibited gross failures, as well as successes. But as long as God chooses to use people at all, He will end up using people with obvious weaknesses. No one escapes that category. The point is that God uses people in His plans in spite of it.

This does not excuse the sins of a leader. Note for example that Moses forfeited his opportunity to enter the Promised Land because of an angry outburst (Num. 20:10Deut. 3:24–27). Jephthah made a rash vow for which his daughter had to bear the primary consequence (Judg. 11:29–40). What probably ought to attract our attention to these servants of God is not so much their weaknesses, or even the great accomplishments, but the fact that they remained faithful to God despite their failures.

When we study the lives of the judges, we discover ourselves. The shared victories, defeats, mistakes, and right choices form a common link across the centuries and turn our attention to the God who worked in their lives. The invitation from the ancients remains silently compelling: If we are to live as boldly for God, surely we would discover each day that same kind of God’s immediate presence that was such a part of their experience.

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1 Peter 5:8

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The Church Testifies to the Resurrection

“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand” (1 Corinthians 15:1).

The true church has consistently testified to the power of the Resurrection.

Kenneth Scott Latourette observed in his History of the Expansion of Christianity: “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which his death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of a movement begun by him.” This statement was true for the church at Corinth, even with its many problems.

The apostle Paul opens his well-known chapter on the Resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 by implicitly affirming the Corinthians’ testimony to that doctrine. Simply by receiving the gospel and having their lives transformed, the believers at Corinth demonstrated the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And that resurrection is what empowered the gospel. Paul did not need to explicitly remind the Corinthians of Christ’s rising to life until verse 4, “He was raised on the third day.” The apostle was confident at the outset that the Corinthians had already believed in the truth of the Lord’s resurrection.

The fact that the Corinthian church continued to exist, though beset with problems of immaturity and other weaknesses, was a solid witness to the power of the gospel of the risen Christ. Only a living Savior could have converted some of the hardened sinners of Corinth—extortioners, idolaters, the sexually immoral—into a community of the redeemed. Paul was concerned and distressed about many of the things that did and did not happen in the church at Corinth, but he did not hesitate to call the core group of members there “brethren.”

In spite of many challenges from skepticism, persecution, heresy, and unfaithfulness, the church through the centuries has continued to testify to the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The true church celebrates that truth often, not just on Easter Sunday. Actually, because the church gathers on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week (when Jesus rose), we remember the Resurrection every week. Praise the Lord for that reminder the next time you worship on the Lord’s Day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that His church was faithful in the past to testify to the truth of the Resurrection.

For Further Study

Read Acts 4, and list some things that suggest a testimony to the power of the Resurrection.


Risking True Peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

True peace exists only where truth reigns.

People often define peace as the absence of conflict, but God sees it differently. The absence of conflict is merely a truce, which might end overt hostilities but doesn't resolve the underlying issues. A truce simply introduces a cold war, which often drives the conflict underground, where it smolders until erupting in physical or emotional disaster.

James 3:17 says, "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable." Godly wisdom, purity, and peace go hand- in-hand. Peace is wisdom in action and is never established at the expense of righteousness. It brings righteousness to bear on the situation, seeking to eliminate the source of conflict and create right relationships. Feuding parties will know true peace only when they are willing to admit that their bitterness and hatred is wrong and humbly seek God's grace to make things right.

Some people equate peacemaking with evading issues, but true peace can be very confrontive. In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." That may seem to contradict Matthew 5:9, but it doesn't: Jesus knew that sinful people have to be confronted with the truth before they can experience peace. That can be a painful and difficult process because people usually have a hostile reaction to the gospel before they finally embrace it. Even believers will sometimes react negatively when confronted with God's truth.

Being a biblical peacemaker has its price. You can expect to upset unbelievers who openly oppose God's Word as well as believers who compromise its truth for the sake of maintaining "peace" among people of differing doctrinal persuasions. Some will call you narrow-minded and divisive for dealing with controversial issues. Some will misunderstand your motives or even attack you personally. But that's been the path of every true peacemaker— including our Lord Himself. Take heart and be faithful. Your efforts to bring peace show that you are a child of God.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the boldness never to compromise His truth.
  • Pray for those you know who are suffering for the sake of the gospel.

For Further Study

Read Luke 12:51-53, noting how the gospel can bring division even among families.


Jesus on Divorce

“‘It was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce”; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery’” (Matthew 5:31–32).

Jesus no more approves of divorce than did Moses (cf. Matt. 19:6). Adultery, another reality God never condoned, is the only reason under the law that allows for dissolving of a marriage, with the guilty party to be put to death (Lev. 20:10). Because Jesus mentions this here and again in Matthew 19:9, God must have allowed divorce to replace execution as the penalty for adultery at some time during Israel’s history.

Divorce is never commanded; it is always a last resort, allowed when unrepentant immorality has exhausted the patience of the innocent spouse. This merciful concession to human sinfulness logically implies that God also permits remarriage. Divorce’s purpose is to show mercy to the guilty party, not to sentence the innocent party to a life of loneliness. If you are innocent and have strived to maintain your marriage, you are free to remarry if your spouse insists on continued adultery or divorce.

Jesus does not demand divorce in all cases of unchastity (immorality, primarily adultery in this context), but simply points out that divorce and remarriage on other grounds results in adultery.

Our Lord wants to set the record straight that God still hates divorce (Mal. 2:16) and that His ideal remains a monogamous, lifelong marriage. But as a gracious concession to those innocent spouses whose partners have defiled the marriage, He allows divorce for believers for the reason of immorality. (Paul later added the second reason of desertion, 1 Cor. 7:15.)

Ask Yourself

How could you be an encouragement to a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse? How could you show Christ’s mercy to those who have been wounded the greatest?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 50:1 The Mighty One, God the LORD. The Divine Judge is introduced with three significant Old Testament names. The first two are the short and longer forms of the most common word for “God” in the Old Testament, and the third is the name for Israel’s God par excellence, i.e., Yahweh. From the rising of the sun to its going down. A common Old Testament idiom conveying from east to west, i.e., all over the planet.

Luke 16:13 You cannot serve God and mammon. Many of the Pharisees taught that devotion to money and devotion to God were perfectly compatible (v. 14). This went hand-in-hand with the commonly held notion that earthly riches signified divine blessing. Rich people were therefore regarded as God’s favorites. While not condemning wealth per se, Christ denounced both love of wealth and devotion to mammon.

Luke 16:15 justify yourselves. The Pharisees’ belief was that their own goodness was what justified them (see Rom. 10:3). This is the very definition of “self-righteousness.” But, as Jesus suggested, their righteousness was flawed, being an external veneer only. That might be enough to justify them before men, but not before God, because He knew their hearts. He repeatedly exposed their habit of seeking the approval of people (see Matt. 6:251623:28).

Luke 16:31 neither will they be persuaded. This speaks powerfully of the singular sufficiency of Scripture to overcome unbelief. The gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Since unbelief is at heart a moral rather than an intellectual problem, no amount of evidences will ever turn unbelief to faith. But the revealed Word of God has inherent power to do so (see John 6:63Heb. 4:12James 1:181 Pet. 1:23).

DAY 22: Why would the parable of the rich man scandalize the Pharisees?

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) was employed in the same fashion as all Christ’s parables, to teach a lesson, in this case for the benefit of the Pharisees. The mention of table scraps, sores, and dogs all made this poor man appear odious in the eyes of the Pharisees (v. 21).They were inclined to see all such things as proof of divine disfavor. The idea was that Lazarus was given a place of high honor, reclining next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet, “Abraham’s bosom” (v. 22). This same expression (found only here in Scripture) was used in the Talmud as a figure for heaven. Yet the rich man was “in Hades” (v. 23). The suggestion that a rich man would be excluded from heaven would have scandalized the Pharisees. Especially galling was the idea that a beggar who ate scraps from his table was granted the place of honor next to Abraham.

“Hades” was the Greek term for the abode of the dead. In the Greek Old Testament, it was used to translate the Hebrew Sheol, which referred to the realm of the dead in general, without necessarily distinguishing between righteous or unrighteous souls. However, in New Testament usage, “Hades” always refers to the place of the wicked prior to final judgment in hell. The imagery Jesus used fit the erroneous common rabbinical idea that Sheol had two parts, one for the souls of the righteous and the other for the souls of the wicked—separated by an impassable gulf. But there is no reason to suppose, as some do, that “Abraham’s bosom” spoke of a temporary prison for the souls of Old Testament saints, who were brought to heaven only after He had actually atoned for their sins. Scripture consistently teaches that the spirits of the righteous dead go immediately into the presence of God (see 23:432 Cor. 5:8Phil. 1:23). And the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (9:30) belies the notion that they were confined in a compartment of Sheol until Christ finished His work.

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Titus 1:8

But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.


The Centrality of the Resurrection

“‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said’” (Matthew 28:5-6).

The fact of Jesus’ resurrection is the culmination of redemptive history and the essential basis of the Christian faith.

Without the Resurrection, our Christian faith would just be a lot of wishful thinking, no better than human philosophies and speculative religions. In fact, the noted seventeenth-century philosopher John Locke, some of whose ideas were incorporated into the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “Our Saviour’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.”

From its very early accounts, Scripture has contained the message of resurrection hope. Death has never been the end for the believer, but simply a gateway to eternal life in Heaven. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac because in faith “he considered that God is able to raise men from the dead” (Heb. 11:19). The Lord assured Daniel that believers “will awake . . . to everlasting life” (Dan. 12:2).

The Resurrection was the focal point of Christ’s teaching to the disciples about His sufferings and death: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). It is therefore completely understandable that Matthew and the other three Gospel writers all included an historical account of Jesus’ resurrection in their narratives.

Paul knew that without the Resurrection our salvation could not have been possible. He was also convinced that the truth of the Resurrection must be believed or else salvation cannot be received: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

It’s no wonder that Paul, the other apostles, and every leader in the early church continually proclaimed Christ’s resurrection as the culmination of His ministry. Those men were so captivated by the significance of the Resurrection that they could not help but preach it. And that should be our attitude today.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the truth of John 11:25, which gives us the hope of resurrection in Jesus’ own words.

For Further Study

Read Acts 2:14-36 or 3:12-26.

  • What is the focal point of Peter’s evangelistic sermons?
  • How does he prove his theme?


The Cushion of Peace

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9).

God’s peace cushions the soul during difficult times.

I remember reading about what is called "the cushion of the sea." The ocean surface is often greatly agitated, but as you descend, the water becomes increasingly calm. At its greatest depths the ocean is virtually still. Oceanographers dredging ocean bottoms have found animal and plant remains that appear to have been undisturbed for hundreds of years.

Similarly, Christians can experience a cushion of peace in their souls regardless of their troubled surroundings. That's because they belong to God, who is the source of peace; serve Christ, who is the Prince of Peace; and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is the agent of peace. Galatians 5:22 says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, [and] peace." When you become a Christian, God grants you the gift of peace.

God is not only the source of perfect peace, but also its purest example. Everything He does is marked by peace. First Corinthians 14:33 says He is not a God of confusion but of peace. In Judges 6:24 He is called Jehovah-shalom, which means, "the Lord is peace." The Trinity is characterized by a total absence of conflict: perfect oneness, perfect righteousness, and absolute harmony. It is impossible for God to be at odds with Himself!

God wants everyone to know that kind of peace. He created the world with peace and sent His Son to offer peace. Someday Christ will return to establish His kingdom and reign in peace for eternity.

In the meantime turmoil exists for all who don't know Christ. They have no cushion for their souls. You, however, have peace with God through the death of Christ Jesus, and as you obey Him, His peace will continually reign in your heart. Don't ever let sin rob you of that blessed cushion. Only as you experience peace within yourself can you share it with others.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the cushion of peace He has provided amid difficult circumstances.
  • Ask God to use you as an instrument of His peace today.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 57:15-21, noting how God encourages the repentant and warns the wicked in relation to peace.


Dealing Radically with Sin

“‘If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell’” (Matthew 5:29–30).

We must be willing, as Jesus teaches here, to relinquish whatever is necessary to protect us from evil and preserve righteousness. Mutilation will not cleanse our hearts, but Jesus’ figurative words call for dramatic severing of any impulse that could lead to sin (cf. Matt. 18:8–9).

In other words, we must deal radically with sin, as Paul says, “I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27). If we don’t purpose to carefully control the worldly influences around us, they will control us. Those we can’t control we should not hesitate to discard.

Cutting off harmful influences will not necessarily and automatically turn a corrupt heart into a pure one. But just as external acts of murder or adultery reflect internal hearts of sin, the outward act of fleeing sinful effects reflects the inward attitude that seeks holiness and God’s will rather than human pleasure.

Jesus reminds us again that His standards of righteousness are humanly impossible to attain. We have all been murderers and adulterers in our hearts, and often we don’t realize this because of sin’s subtlety and blinding effect. But the impossibility of measuring up to divine standards points to our need to receive a new heart and turn over our helplessness to His sufficiency.

Ask Yourself

How have you practiced this kind of severing in your Christian life? What familiar sins and seductions have proven so injurious in your past, it’s best if they’re just never in the same room with you?


Reading for Today:


Judges 7:18 The sword of the LORD and of Gideon! Here was the power of God in harmony with the obedience of man. Such shouts reminded the enemies that the threat of the sword of Gideon and of God was for real. The impression was one of doom and terror.

Judges 8:24–27 Gideon made...an ephod. This was certainly a sad end to Gideon’s influence as he, perhaps in an expression of pride, sought to lift himself up in the eyes of the people. Gideon intended nothing more than to make a breastplate as David did (1 Chr. 15:27) to indicate civil, not priestly, rule. It was never intended to set up idolatrous worship, but to be a symbol of civil power. That no evil was intended can be noted from the subduing of Midian (v. 28), quietness from wars (v. 28), and the fact that idolatry came after Gideon’s death (v. 33), as well as the commendation of Gideon (v. 35).

Psalm 49:15 But God will redeem my soul...He shall receive me. This is one of the greatest affirmations of confidence in God in the Psalms. Although the faithless person cannot buy his way out of death (v. 7ff.), the faithful one is redeemed by the only Redeemer, God Himself. (On the significance of the word “receive,” see Gen. 5:242 Kin. 2:10Ps. 73:24Heb. 11:5.) So in v. 15 the psalmist expresses his confidence in God, that He would raise him to eternal life.

Luke 15:29 I never transgressed your commandment at any time. Unlikely, given the boy’s obvious contempt for his father, shown by his refusal to participate in the father’s great joy. This statement reveals the telltale problem with all religious hypocrites. They will not recognize their sin and repent. The elder son’s comment reeks of the same spirit as the words of the Pharisee in 18:11. you never gave me a young goat. All those years of service to the father appear to have been motivated too much by concern for what he could get for himself. This son’s self-righteous behavior was more socially acceptable than the younger brother’s debauchery, but it was equally dishonoring to the father—and called for repentance.

What is the main feature of the parable of the prodigal son?

The parable in Luke 15:11–32, unlike most parables, has more than one lesson. The prodigal is an example of sound repentance. The elder brother illustrates the wickedness of the Pharisees’ self-righteousness, prejudice, and indifference toward repenting sinners. And the father pictures God, eager to forgive and longing for the return of the sinner. The main feature, however, is the joy of God, the celebrations that fill heaven when a sinner repents.

For the son to demand “the portion of goods that falls to me” (v. 12) is tantamount to saying he wished his father were dead. He was not entitled to any inheritance while his father still lived. Yet the father graciously fulfilled the request, giving him his full portion, which would have been one-third of the entire estate—because the right of the firstborn (Deut. 21:17) gave the elder brother a double portion. This act pictures all sinners (related to God the Father by creation), who waste their potential privileges and refuse any relationship with Him, choosing instead a life of sinful self-indulgence. The Greek word for “prodigal” means “dissolute” and conveys the idea of an utterly debauched lifestyle. “To feed swine” (v. 15) was the worst sort of degradation imaginable for Jesus’ Jewish audience; swine were the worst sort of unclean animals. His situation could hardly have been more desperate.

Nevertheless, when “his father saw him [he] had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (v. 20). Clearly, the father had been waiting and looking for his son’s return. The father’s eagerness and joy at his son’s return is unmistakable. This is the magnificent attribute of God that sets Him apart from all the false gods invented by men and demons. He is not indifferent or hostile, but a Savior by nature, longing to see sinners repent and rejoicing when they do. From Genesis 3:8 to Revelation 22:17, from the Fall to the Consummation, God has been and will be seeking to save sinners, and rejoices each time one repents and is converted.

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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.

Compassionate Loyalty

“And many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him” (Matthew 27:55).

The women who supported Jesus’ ministry all the way to the cross are fine examples of compassionate loyalty.

Caring, consistent loyalty is a wonderful characteristic of godly women. This trait is probably more evident in them than it is in godly men. The women by the cross were the main group of believing eyewitnesses to Jesus’ crucifixion. They also showed incredible loyalty in the face of ridicule and danger. This courage contrasted with the disciples who, except for John, had fled in fear the night before Jesus was crucified.

We saw in a lesson earlier this month that some of the women, including our Lord’s mother, had been watching the crucifixion from the foot of the cross (John 19:25-27). But in today’s verse the women are described as “looking on from a distance.” They had not suddenly become afraid of the Roman soldiers or the Jewish leaders. Neither had they become ashamed of being known as Jesus’ followers. They withdrew because their grief was deep and their hope shattered at the impending death of their Master. The women’s endurance, however, was undaunted.

Throughout His ministry, devoted women such as those at the cross ministered generously to Jesus and the disciples. Luke 8:2-3 says, “Mary who was called Magdalene . . . Joanna the wife of Chuza . . . Susanna, and many others . . . were contributing to their support out of their private means.” It is probable that most of the meals Jesus and the Twelve ate were prepared by faithful women.

The women who followed Jesus set the standard for faithful service and compassionate loyalty that Paul later outlined for godly women: “a reputation for good works . . . washed the saints’ feet . . . assisted those in distress, and . . . devoted herself to every good work” (1 Tim. 5:10). Such self-giving acts of practical service are marks of excellence and spiritual maturity that ought to be evident in the lives of all believers.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there a Christian friend to whom you can affirm your loyalty? Pray for an opportunity to serve that person in a practical way.

For Further Study

Read John 13:3-17.

  • How did Jesus demonstrate the theme of today’s study?
  • What impact did Jesus’ example have on Peter?


Becoming Pure in Heart

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

You have a part to play in becoming pure in heart.

Purifying a heart is the gracious and miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, but there are some things we must do in response to His prompting. First, we must admit we can't purify our own hearts. Proverbs 20:9 says, "Who can say, 'I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?'" The implied answer: no one!

Next, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the cross is the basis for our cleansing. Acts 15:9 says that God cleanses hearts on the basis of faith. Of course our faith must be placed in the right object. First John 1:7 says, "If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

Finally, we must study the Bible and pray. The psalmist said we keep our way pure by keeping it according to God's Word, which we must treasure in our hearts (Ps. 119:911). As we pray and submit to the Word, the Spirit purifies our lives.

That's how you acquire and maintain a pure heart. As a result you "shall see God" (Matt. 5:8). That doesn't mean you'll see Him with physical eyes, but with spiritual ones. You begin to live in His presence and become increasingly aware of His working in your life. You recognize His power and handiwork in the beauty and intricacy of creation (Ps. 19). You discern His grace and purposes amid trials and learn to praise Him in all things. You sense His ministry through other Christians and see His sovereignty in every event of your life. Life takes on a profound and eternal meaning as you share Christ with unbelievers and see Him transform lives.

There's no greater joy than knowing you are pure before God and that your life is honoring to Him. May that joy be yours today and may God use you in a powerful way for His glory!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord for continued grace to live a pure life so others will see Christ in you.

For Further Study

Read Isaiah 6:1-8.

  • Describe Isaiah's vision of God.
  • How did Isaiah respond to God's presence?


Desire, the Root Sin of Adultery

“‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery”; but I say to you that everyonewho looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart’” (Matthew 5:27–28).

The seventh commandment protects the sanctity of marriage, and anyone who relies on external righteousness to keep it is prone to break it. Just as anger equals murder, lustful desire equals adultery.

In Jesus’ admonition, “looks” indicates intentional and repeated gazing. Therefore He means purposeful looking that arouses lust. In contemporary terms, it condemns a man who sees an X-rated movie, watches a salacious television show, or visits pornographic websites. It encompasses any thought or action done to arouse sexual desire.

Jesus is not referring to accidental exposure to sexual temptation. It is no sin if a man looks away from a provocative scene. It is the continued look that Christ condemns, because that demonstrates an adulterous heart. And by inference this prohibition would apply to women also, who must not gaze at men or dress in seductive ways to elicit stares.

In earliest redemptive history, Job understood these principles: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? . . . If my step has turned from the way, or my heart followed my eyes, or if any spot has stuck to my hands, let me sow and another eat, and let my crops be uprooted” (Job 31:17–8).

If the adulterous heart gives in to temptation, the godly heart will protect itself, praying, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You” (Ps. 119:37–38; cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).

Ask Yourself

What could replace your next lustful thought or glance? Instead of focusing on what God has graciously restricted, what blessings, privileges, and freedoms can capture your attention instead?


Reading for Today:


Judges 6:8 the LORD sent a prophet. He used prophets in isolated cases before Samuel, the band of prophets Samuel probably founded (1 Sam. 10:5), and later such prophets as Elijah, Elisha, and the writing prophets—major and minor. Here the prophet is sent to bring the divine curse because of their infidelity (v. 10).

Psalm 49:6 Those who trust in their wealth. Mankind’s propensity to trust in his own material goods is well attested in Scripture (e.g., Ps. 52:7Jer. 17:5). Biblically this is exposed as the epitome of stupidity (see Prov. 23:45Luke 12:16ff.).

Proverbs 14:20 This sad-but-true picture of human nature is not given approvingly, but only as a fact.

Luke 15:7 joy in heaven. A reference to the joy of God Himself. There was complaining on earth, among the Pharisees (v. 2); but there was great joy with God and among the angels (v. 10). persons who need no repentance. I.e., those who think themselves righteous (see 5:3216:15; 18:9).

DAY 20: Was it right for Gideon to ask God for signs?

In Judges 6:11, Gideon received a visitation from the “Angel of the LORD.” This is identified as “the LORD” Himself (vv. 14, 16, 23, 25, 27). See Genesis 16:7–1418:132:24–30 for other appearances. Conditions in the land were grim due to the Midianites, which led Gideon to express his frustration that the Lord had forsaken them utterly.

Like Moses (Ex. 33), Gideon desired a sign when the Lord directed him to rise up and lead a deliverance (v. 17). In both incidents, revelation was so rare and wickedness so prevalent that they desired full assurance. God graciously gave it. In vv. 18–23, the fire from God brought the realization of the presence of God to Gideon, filling him with awe and even the fear of death. When he saw the Lord, he knew the Lord had also seen him in his fallenness. Thus he feared the death that sinners should die before Holy God. But God graciously promised life (v. 23).

In vv. 36–40, Gideon’s two requests for signs in the fleece should be viewed as weak faith. Even Gideon recognized this when he said, “Do not be angry with me” (v. 39), since God had already specifically promised His presence and victory (vv. 12, 14, 16). But they were also legitimate requests for confirmation of victory against seemingly impossible odds (6:5; 7:2, 12). God nowhere reprimanded Gideon, but was very compassionate in giving what his inadequacy requested. In 7:10–15, God volunteered a sign to boost Gideon’s faith.

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1Peter 4:7

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.

The Soldiers' Saving Response

“Now the centurion, and those who were with him . . . became very frightened and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54).

The testimony of the soldiers after Jesus’ crucifixion demonstrates the sufficiency of His death for all sinners.

Most of the time our daily activities are dictated by the routine responsibilities of our jobs. That’s how it was for the Roman soldiers who stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus gave up His life. They were there simply out of duty, to make sure the crucifixion was carried out properly and without interference.

The soldiers probably had little knowledge of Judaism and had not heard of Jesus before, unless it was by hearsay. Therefore, they really had no idea why the Jewish leaders and most of the crowd were so intent on killing Him. To these anonymous soldiers, Christ’s claims to be the Son of God and a king seemed equally ludicrous and harmless.

The darkness and the earthquake, however, radically changed their attitudes. Their emotional fear produced by those events quickly turned to reverential awe for who Jesus was. They sensed that the natural phenomena had a supernatural origin and suddenly realized that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

Jesus’ gracious and profound words, spoken from the cross and before Pilate, and His humble, selfless demeanor worked on the soldiers’ hearts. But it was the ministry of the Holy Spirit that ultimately convinced them to confess Christ’s deity.

The declaration “Truly this was the Son of God!” proclaimed by the centurion (see also Mark 15:39) on behalf of himself and his men, was for the soldiers a profession of faith in Christ. Although that testimony was uttered by someone else after Jesus had died, it became in essence His final testimony from the cross. It also offers us compelling proof that His grace can extend to all sinners, even to those who helped put Him to death. In John 12:32 Jesus announced, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for someone today who needs salvation—perhaps someone whom you quit praying for because you thought it unlikely they would ever respond to the gospel.

For Further Study

Read Mark 10:17-27.

  • The young man was outwardly a prime candidate for salvation, in contrast to the Roman soldiers. What kept him outside the kingdom?
  • What do verses 26-27 teach about the nature of salvation?


Thinking Biblicaly

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

The way you think determines the way you behave.

God is concerned about the way you think. That's why Paul said, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom. 12:2). In Philippians 4:8 he instructs us to think about that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praiseworthy.

When Jesus spoke of a pure heart in Matthew 5:8, He was talking about sanctified thinking. The Greek word translated "heart" is kardia, from which we get the word cardiac. While we often relate heart to the emotions (e.g., "He has a broken heart"), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders"; Matt. 15:19). That's why you must "watch over your heart with all diligence" (Prov. 4:23).

In a secondary way, however, heart relates to the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions.

The Greek word translated "pure" in Matthew 5:8 means "to cleanse." In the moral sense it speaks of being free from the filth of sin. It also refers to something that is unmixed, unalloyed, or unadulterated. Spiritual integrity and sincere motives are appropriate applications of its meaning to the Christian life.

Jesus was saying the kingdom citizen is blessed because he or she has pure thoughts and pure motives that together produce holy living. Someone might say he's religious and has pure motives, but if his behavior isn't righteous, his heart isn't fixed on God. Similarly, you can go to church, carry a Bible, and recite verses, but if your heart isn't clean, you haven't met God's standard.

You must do the will of God from a pure heart (Eph. 6:6). Toward that end, make David's prayer yours as well: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Ps. 51:10).

Suggestions for Prayer:

Memorize Psalm 19:14 and make it a part of your daily prayers.

For Further Study:

Read the following verses, noting the characteristics of a pure heart: Psalm 9:126:227:828:7, and 57:7.


Reconciling with Other

“‘Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent’” (Matthew 5:25–26).

The time for reconciliation with others is always now, just as it is with salvation. Tomorrow may be too late. No excuse is valid to allow bitterness, anger, hatred, or any other sin to keep us separated from another person. Jesus illustrates here that we should make good on any debt or settle any grievance before it is too late and we’re imprisoned.

In the Roman Empire, two opponents at law could settle an issue on the way to court, but not after a judge became involved. To avoid judgment and imprisonment, the guilty person had to pay “the last cent,” or everything owed in debt.

Being thrown into prison and not being able to get out until a debt is paid is Jesus’ analogy to the Father’s punishment. We can’t miss the Son’s teaching here: we must make every effort possible, with no delay, to mend any broken relationship with a brother before we can avoid divine chastening and have a right relationship with God.

We know that because of sin, none of us is ever completely at peace or perfectly related to another. And since it’s impossible to have perfectly right attitudes toward others or God, no worship is ever fully acceptable. All of Jesus’ teachings in this passage and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount show us again the utterly perfect standard of God’s righteousness and the absolute impossibility of our meeting that standard on our own.

Ask Yourself

There’s no denying the pain of strained and severed relationships. But there’s nothing like knowing you’ve done everything you can to make it right. Can you live in the Lord’s peace even if nothing changes?


Reading for Today:

Judges 3:1–4:24
Psalm 48:9-14
Proverbs 14:18-19
Luke 14:25-35


Judges 3:10 The Spirit of the LORD came. Certain judges were expressly said to have the Spirit of the Lord come upon them (6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14); others apparently also had this experience. This is a common Old Testament expression signifying a unique act of God which conferred power and wisdom for victory. But this did not guarantee that the will of God would be done in absolutely all details, as is apparent in Gideon (8:24–27, 30), Jephthah (11:34–40), and Samson (16:1).

Judges 3:20 “I have a message from God for you.” Ehud claimed he came to do God’s will in answer to prayer (v. 15). Calmly and confidently, Ehud acted and later credited the defeat of the wicked king to God (v. 28; see Ps. 75:6710Dan. 4:25), though it was by means of Ehud, as Jael used her way (4:21) and Israel’s armies used the sword (4:16). By God’s power, Ehud’s army would slay a greater number (v. 29). Men’s evil provokes God’s judgment (Lev. 18:25).

Judges 3:31 Shamgar. His extraordinary exploit causes one to think of Samson (15:16). an ox goad. This was a stout stick about 8 to 10 feet long and 6 inches around, with a sharp metal tip to prod or turn oxen. The other end was a flat, curved blade for cleaning a plow.

Judges 4:4 Deborah, a prophetess. She was an unusual woman of wisdom and influence who did the tasks of a judge, except for military leadership. God can use women mightily for civil, religious, or other tasks, e.g., Huldah the prophetess (2 Kin. 22:14), Philip’s daughters in prophesying (Acts 21:89), and Phoebe a deaconess (Rom. 16:1). Deborah’s rise to such a role is the exception in the book because of Barak’s failure to show the courage to lead courageously (vv. 8, 14). God rebuked his cowardice by the pledge that a woman would slay Sisera (v. 9).

Proverbs 14:19 evil will bow. The ancient custom was for the inferior to prostrate himself before the superior or wait humbly before the great one’s gate seeking favor. Good will humble evil.

DAY 19: How deep of a commitment does Christ ask of His followers?

From the teaching in Luke 14:25–35, it is clear that Christ’s aim was not to gather appreciative crowds, but to make true disciples. He never adapted His message to majority preferences, but always plainly declared the high cost of discipleship. Here He made several bold demands that would discourage the halfhearted.

“Hate”(v. 26). A similar statement in Matthew 10:37 is the key to understanding this difficult command. The “hatred” called for here is actually a lesser love. Jesus was calling His disciples to cultivate such a devotion to Him that their attachment to everything else—including their own lives—would seem like hatred by comparison. See 16:13; Genesis 29:3031 for similar usages of the word “hate.”

“Bear his cross” (v. 27). I.e., willingly. This parallels the idea of hating one’s own life in v. 26. “Count the cost” (v. 28). The multitudes were positive but uncommitted. Far from making it easy for them to respond positively, He set the cost of discipleship as high as possible and encouraged them to do a careful inventory before declaring their willingness to follow.

“Forsake all” (v. 33). Only those willing to carefully assess the cost and invest all they had in His kingdom were worthy to enter. This speaks of something far more than mere abandonment of one’s material possessions. It is an absolute, unconditional surrender. His disciples were permitted to retain no privileges and make no demands. They were to safeguard no cherished sins, treasure no earthly possessions, and cling to no secret self-indulgences. Their commitment to Him must be without reservation.

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Prov. 16:32

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

God's Sovereign Departure

“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

God always must turn His back on sin, even if that meant for a short time severing fellowship with His Son.

The Reformer Martin Luther is said to have gained no insight at all when he secluded himself and tried to understand Jesus’ temporary alienation from the Father at Calvary. But in the secrets of divine sovereignty, the God-man was separated from God at Calvary as the Father’s wrath was poured out on the innocent Son, who had become sin for all those who believe in Him.

Forsaken means that a person is abandoned, cast off, deserted; he feels alone and desolate. Jesus must have had all those feelings and more. His cry from the cross could be restated this way: “My God, My God, with whom I have had eternal, unbroken fellowship, why have You deserted Me?” Against that backdrop of uninterrupted intimacy, Jesus’ being forsaken by God becomes an even more crushing experience for Him. Sin did what nothing else had done or could do—it caused Christ’s separation from His Heavenly Father.

Jesus’ separation does not in any sense mean He stopped being God or the Son. It does mean that for a while Jesus ceased to know intimate fellowship with the Father, similar to how a child might for a time cease to have fellowship with his human father.

God had to turn His back on Jesus while the Son was on the cross because God could not look upon sin (Hab. 1:13), even in His own Son. Christ, in going to the cross, took upon Himself “our transgressions . . . our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5) and became “a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13) and “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Our fallen minds, like Luther’s, are unable to grasp all the significance of today’s verse. But as our Lord experienced anguish over the separation sin caused, we ought to grieve over how our sins break off the fellowship God wants to have with us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you the discernment to see the seriousness of sin and the motivation to repent of and shun any besetting sin in your life.

For Further Study

Read John 3:18-2036.

  • What do these verses say about the basic seriousness of sin?
  • What is the only remedy for sin’s evil effects?


Entering the Kingdom

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

There are basically only two kinds of religion in the world: those based on human achievement and those based on divine accomplishment.

Religion comes in many forms. Almost every conceivable belief or behavior has been incorporated into some religious system at some point in time. But really there are only two kinds of religion: one says you can earn your way to heaven; the other says you must trust in Jesus Christ alone. One is the religion of human achievement; the other is the religion of divine accomplishment.

Those who rely on their achievements tend to compare themselves to others. But that's a relative, self- justifying standard because you can always find someone worse than yourself to base the comparison on.

Jesus eliminated all human standards when He said, "You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). Even the Jewish religious leaders, who were generally thought to be the epitome of righteousness, didn't qualify according to that standard. In fact, Jesus told the people that their righteousness had to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if they wanted to enter heaven (Matt. 5:20). That must have shocked them, but Jesus wasn't speaking of conformity to external religious ceremonies. He was calling for pure hearts.

God doesn't compare you to liars, thieves, cheaters, child abusers, or murderers. He compares you to Himself. His absolute holy character is the standard by which He measures your suitability for heaven. Apart from Christ, everyone fails that standard because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But the glorious truth of salvation is that Jesus Christ came to earth to purify our hearts. He took our sin upon Himself, paid its penalty, then bestowed His own righteousness upon us (Rom. 4:24). He keeps us pure by continually cleansing our sin and empowering us to do His will.

Your faith in Christ—not your personal achievements—is what makes you pure. Let that truth bring joy to your heart and praise to your lips!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for accomplishing salvation on your behalf and for granting you saving faith.
  • Pray that your thoughts and actions today will evidence a pure heart.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 24:1-5 and Ezekiel 36:25-29.

  • Who is acceptable to God?
  • How does God purify the hearts of His people?


Bridging the Gap to True Worship

“‘Leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering’” (Matthew 5:24).

No matter who is responsible for a severed relationship—and often both sides bear some guilt—it’s essential to reconcile before going to God in worship. Even if you have nothing against the other person and the fault lies entirely with them, you should do everything possible to settle things. You can’t change another’s heart attitude, but you should desire to close the gap between yourself and the other person and hold no grudge against him or her—then you can enter freely and fully into divine worship.

Better music, more eloquent prayers, or more classic architecture—none of these will enhance true worship. Even better or more biblical preaching will not of itself improve our worship experience. However, a contrite and righteous attitude toward God and our brothers and sisters will enhance genuine worship. Sometimes the drastic measure of staying away from church for a time until a broken or strained relationship is right is the only action that will make our worship God-honoring.

Long before Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Sam. 15:22). After that the psalmist said, “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18). If sin remains unconfessed and relationships broken, there will be no integrity in our worship.

Ask Yourself

Again, you are responsible only for the condition of your own heart, not another’s. But can you honestly say today that you have made peace in your heart with those who have been at odds with you? Have you forgiven? Have you sought renewed relationship?


Reading for Today:


Judges 1:19 they could not drive out. “They” of Judah could not. They had been promised by Joshua that they could conquer the lowland (Josh. 17:1618) and should have remembered Joshua 11:4–9. This is a recurring failure among the tribes to rise to full trust and obedience for victory by God’s power. Compromising for less than what God was able to give (Josh. 1:6–9) began even in Joshua’s day (Judg. 2:2–6) and earlier (Num.1314). In another sense, God permitted enemies to hold out as a test to display whether His people would obey Him (2:20–23; 3:1, 4). Another factor involved keeping the wild animal count from rising too fast (Deut. 7:22).

Judges 2:1 the Angel of the LORD. One of 3 preincarnate theophanies by the Lord Jesus Christ in Judges (see 6:11–18; 13:3–23). This same Divine Messenger had earlier led Israel out of Egypt (see Ex. 14:19). I will never break My covenant with you. God would be faithful until the end, but the people would forfeit blessing for trouble, due to their disobedience (see v. 3).

Psalm 48:2 The joy of the whole earth. See the judgment context of Lamentations 2:15. the sides of the north. “North” is an interpretive translation of a word that occurs as a Semitic place name, i.e., “Zaphon.” In Canaanite mythology Zaphon was an ancient Near Eastern equivalent to Mt. Olympus, the dwelling place of pagan gods. If this was the psalmist’s intention in Psalm 48:2, the reference becomes a polemical description of the Lord. He is not only King of Kings but also is God of all so-called gods. The city of the great King. See Psalm 47:2 and Matthew 5:3435. God Himself has always been the King of Kings.

Luke 14:21 the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind. I.e., people the Pharisees tended to regard as unclean or unworthy. The religious leaders condemned Jesus for His associations with prostitutes and tax collectors (see 5:29, 30; 15:1; Matt. 9:101111:1921:3132Mark 2:1516).

Luke 14:23 into the highways and hedges. This evidently represents the Gentile regions. compel them to come in. I.e., not by force or violence, but by earnest persuasion.

DAY 18: Why was there a need for the judges?

“Another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done” (Judg. 2:10). The first people in the land had vivid recollections of all the miracles and judgments and were devoted to faith, duty, and purity. The new generation were ignorant of the experiences of their parents and yielded more easily to corruption. To a marked degree the people of this new generation were not true believers.

The new generation “followed other gods” (v. 12). Idol worship, such as the golden calf in the wilderness (Ex. 32), flared up again. Spurious gods of Canaan were plentiful. El was the supreme Canaanite deity, a god of uncontrolled lust and a bloody tyrant, as shown in writings found at Ras Shamra in northern Syria. His name means “strong, powerful.” Baal, son and successor of El, was “lord of heaven,” a farm god of rain and storm, his name meaning “lord, possessor.” His cult at Phoenicia included animal sacrifices, ritual meals, and licentious dances. Chambers catered to sacred prostitution by men and women (see 1 Kin. 14:23242 Kin. 23:7). Anath, sister-wife of Baal, also called Ashtoreth (Astarte), patroness of sex and war, was called “virgin” and “holy,” but was actually a “sacred prostitute.” Many other gods besides these also attracted worship.

“The anger of the LORD was hot” against them (v. 14), which was followed by plunderers and calamities designed as chastisement to lead the people to repentance. During these times, “the LORD raised up judges” (v. 16). A “judge” or deliverer guided military expeditions against foes and arbitrated judicial matters (see 4:5). There was no succession or national rule. They were local deliverers, lifted up to leadership by God when the deplorable condition of Israel in the region around them prompted God to rescue the people.

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2 Tom. 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Supernatural Darkness

“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).

The darkness over the land while Jesus bore our sin was an indicator that the cross was a place of divine judgment.

The biblical phenomenon of light was not associated with Christ’s death. Instead, as today’s verse says, “Darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour [3:00 P.M.].”

Scripture says little about that darkness. Ancient historical reports mention an unusual, worldwide darkness that seemed to coincide with the date of Christ’s death. Astronomical records indicate that the sun and moon were too far apart that day for a normal solar eclipse. Therefore, the darkness had to be caused by God’s intervention.

But you may still ask, “Why did God intervene like this when Jesus died?” Again, sources outside Scripture provide a reasonable clue. For many years the Jewish rabbis taught that a darkening of the sun meant judgment from God for an especially heinous sin. Many passages in Scripture make the link between darkness and God’s judgment. Jesus spoke several times of divine judgment in terms of “outer darkness,” where “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:1222:1325:30).

In sending darkness over the whole earth for three hours, God presents us with an object lesson concerning His attitude on the day Jesus died. The darkness was God’s sign of judgment against mankind for the gross sin of rejecting and murdering His beloved Son. It is also a sign of God’s reaction to sin as a whole. Darkness is a graphic portrayal of the cross as the focal point of God’s wrath, a place of His immense judgment, where sin was poured out on His Son Jesus, our Savior. This twofold object lesson ought to be a constant,fresh reminder to us of how seriously God views sin and how vital it was that the Lord Jesus die on our behalf.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He can use aspects of nature to illustrate spiritual truth for our finite minds.
  • Pray that the Lord will never let you take for granted the awesome seriousness of the events at Calvary.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 10:12-29.

  • How did the plague of darkness differ from the plague of locusts?
  • What was Pharaoh’s ultimate response to these two plagues?
  • How does this preview the onlookers’ reaction to seeing darkness at the cross?


Breaking the Bondage of Legalism

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).

Legalism can’t produce a pure heart.

By the time Jesus arrived, Israel was in a desperate condition spiritually. The Jewish people were in bondage to the oppressive legalism of the Pharisees, who had developed a system of laws that were impossible to keep. Consequently, the people lacked security and were longing for a savior to free them from guilt and frustration. They knew God had promised a redeemer who would forgive their sins and cleanse their hearts (Ezek. 36:25-27), but they weren't sure when He was coming or how to identify Him when He arrived.

The enormous response to John the Baptist's ministry illustrates the level of expectancy among the people. Matthew 3:5-6 says, "Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins." The uppermost question in everyone's mind seemed to be, "How can I enter the kingdom of heaven?"

Jesus Himself was asked that question by many people in different ways. In Luke 10:25 a lawyer asks, "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" In Luke 18:18 a rich young ruler asks exactly the same thing. In John 6:28 a multitude asks, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Nicodemus, a prominent Jewish religious leader, came to Jesus at night with the same question, but before he could ask it, Jesus read his thoughts and said, "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3).

As devoutly religious as those people might have been, they would remain spiritually lost unless they placed their faith in Christ. That's the only way to enter the kingdom.

Still today many people look for relief from sin and guilt. God can use you to share Christ with some of them. Ask Him for that privilege and be prepared when it comes.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those enslaved to legalistic religious systems.
  • Be sure there is no sin in your life to hinder God's work through you.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 3.

  • Why did Paul rebuke the Galatians?
  • What was the purpose of the Old Testament law?


Hatred Blocks Real Worship

“‘Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you . . .’” (Matthew 5:23).

Outward acts of worship are unacceptable to God as long as we harbor internal sin. They are particularly offensive if we retain a hateful attitude toward a brother and yet attempt to come before God.

Worship is important for most religious people today. They can spend much time in places of worship, offering prayers, giving tithes, and doing all sorts of religious activities. But, as with the scribes and Pharisees, none of it is meaningful if carried out with the wrong attitude.

Presenting an offering at the altar was a familiar scene for Jesus’ listeners. On the Day of Atonement, for example, worshipers would bring animal sacrifices and give them to the priest as sin offerings. But that process must halt if the worshiper were to remember some hatred between himself and a brother. Unresolved conflict has priority over external ceremony and must be settled.

Sin between us and other brethren must be resolved before we can bridge the gap of sin between us and God. The Lord told Israel, “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me? . . . I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. . . . Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, learn to do good” (Isa. 1:1116–17a).

Not to be at peace with someone else and yet to attempt worship of God is a hindrance to genuine fellowship.

Ask Yourself

This is a call for worship to matter, and for relationship with God to be taken seriously. More than a Sunday morning verse, it’s a principle demanding conciliatory action in the days prior to the Lord’s day. Is there such a matter occurring in your life situation right now?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 24:15 choose...this day whom you will serve. Joshua’s fatherly model (reminiscent of Abraham’s, Gen. 18:19) was for himself and his family to serve the Lord, not false gods. He called others in Israel to this, and they committed themselves to serve the Lord also (vv. 21, 24).

Proverbs 14:14 backslider in heart. This term, so often used by the prophets (Is. 57:17Jer. 3:68111214228:531:2249:4Hos. 11:714:4), is here used in such a way as to clarify who is a backslider. He belongs in the category of the fool, the wicked, and the disobedient, and he is contrasted with the godly wise. It is a word that the prophets used of apostate unbelievers.

Luke 13:23 are there few who are saved? That question may have been prompted by a number of factors. The great multitudes that had once followed Christ were subsiding to a faithful few (see John 6:66). Great crowds still came to hear (14:25), but committed followers were increasingly scarce. Moreover, Christ’s messages often seemed designed to discourage the halfhearted. And He Himself had stated that the way is so narrow that few find it (Matt. 7:14). This contradicted the Jewish belief that all Jews, except for tax collectors and other notorious sinners, would be saved. Christ’s reply once again underscored the difficulty of entering at the narrow gate. After the resurrection, only 120 disciples gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15) and only about 500 in Galilee (1 Cor. 15:6).

Luke 13:29 They will come. By including people from the 4 corners of the earth, Jesus made it clear that even Gentiles would be invited to the heavenly banquet table. This was contrary to prevailing rabbinical thought, but perfectly consistent with the Old Testament Scriptures (Ps. 107:3Is. 66:1819Mal. 1:11).

DAY 17: Why would Jesus call Herod a “fox” in Luke 13:32?

Some have suggested that Jesus’ use of this expression is hard to reconcile with Exodus 22:28Ecclesiastes 10:20; and Acts 23:5. However, those verses apply to everyday discourse. Prophets, speaking as mouthpieces of God and with divine authority, were often commissioned to rebuke leaders publicly (see Is. 1:23Ezek. 22:27Hos. 7:3–7Zeph. 3:3). Since Jesus spoke with perfect divine authority, He had every right to speak of Herod in such terms. Rabbinical writings often used “the fox” to signify someone who was both crafty and worthless. The Pharisees, who trembled at Herod’s power, must have been astonished at Christ’s boldness.

Jesus’ message to Herod was: “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected” (v. 32). This expression signified only that Christ was on His own divine timetable; it was not meant to lay out a literal 3-day schedule. Expressions like this were common in Semitic usage and seldom were employed in a literal sense to specify precise intervals of time. To “be perfected,” i.e., by death, in the finishing of His work. (See Heb. 2:10John 17:4519:30.) Herod was threatening to kill Him, but no one could kill Christ before His time (John 10:1718).

Jesus adds that “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (v. 33). Not all prophets who were martyred died in Jerusalem, of course. This saying was probably a familiar proverb. The statement is full of irony, noting that most of the Old Testament prophets were martyred at the hands of the Jewish people, not by foreign enemies. Luke’s inclusion of this saying underscores his theme in this section of his Gospel—Jesus’ relentless journey to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying.

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1Cor. 9:27

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Being Considerate of Others' Needs

“When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’” (John 19:26).

No matter what trials we have, it is still possible to be concerned for others’ needs.

As the time for Jesus’ death grew closer, His mother’s well-being was on His heart and mind. His concern is consistent with what we have already seen in our brief study of some of Jesus’ last words on the cross—our Lord was faithful in ministry no matter what the cost.

Here the object of Jesus’ focus shifted to a small group of five friends at the foot of His cross. And out of this sympathetic band, which included the disciple John, Salome (John’s mother), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, Christ’s attention drew especially toward His mother.

Mary, the mother of our Lord, was perhaps the neediest person of any in that cluster that stood beneath the cross. She was most likely a widow by this time; otherwise, Jesus would not have shown so much special concern for her future welfare. Mary was also seeing and feeling the fulfillment of Simeon’s prophecy that her soul would be pierced because of Jesus (Luke 2:34-35). Drawn to the place of her son’s execution by loving concern and sorrow, Mary stood with the others but undoubtedly felt very alone as she suffered quietly.

At that moment Jesus graciously intervened and reminded Mary that she needed to regard Him not primarily as her son but as her Savior. When Jesus called Mary “Woman,” He was using a title of respect. His intent was simply to commit Mary into John’s care.

At Calvary, Christ experienced the agony of the cross, the weight of the world’s sin, and the wrath of God the Father. Yet through all His ordeal, which is beyond our comprehension, Jesus took some moments to show compassion to others who were hurting. That’s a pattern we are to follow. We should never be so overwhelmed with our own pain and trials—and certainly not life’s routine, daily cares, and burdens—that we lose sight of others’ needs.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for Jesus’ incredible example of compassion in the midst of the most adverse circumstances.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 27:46John 19:28John 19:30; and Luke 23:46.

  • What additional traits do these reveal about Jesus?
  • Look for at least one example you can apply to your life.


Commended or Condemned?

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

God commends merciful people but condemns the merciless.

Scripture shows that those whom God blessed most abundantly were abundantly merciful to others. Abraham, for example, helped rescue his nephew Lot even after Lot had wronged him. Joseph was merciful to his brothers after they sold him into slavery. Twice David spared Saul's life after Saul tried to kill him.

But just as sure as God's commendation is upon those who show mercy, His condemnation is upon those who are merciless. Psalm 109:14-16 says, "Let the iniquity of [the merciless person's] fathers be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out . . . because he did not remember to show [mercy]."

When judgment comes, the Lord will tell such people, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me" (Matt. 25:41-43). They will respond, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?" (v. 44). He will reply that when they withheld mercy from those who represented Him, they were withholding it from Him (v. 45).

Our society encourages us to grab everything we can for ourselves, but God wants us to reach out and give everything we can to others. If someone wrongs you, fails to repay a debt, or doesn't return something he has borrowed from you, be merciful to him. That doesn't mean you excuse sin, but you respond to people with a heart of compassion. That's what Christ did for you—can you do any less for others?

Suggestions for Prayer

If there is someone who has wronged you, pray for that person, asking God to give you a heart of compassion for him or her. Make every effort to reconcile as soon as possible.

For Further Study

Read Romans 1:29-31. How did Paul characterize the ungodly?


The Evil of Saying, “You Fool”

“‘Whoever says, “You fool,” shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell’” (Matthew 5:22).

No one wants to be called a fool, and on the other side of the coin, no one should fix that label on someone else. That’s especially true when we realize that the word in this verse translated “fool” is from the Greek word from which we get moron. The word also denotes one who is stupid or dull. Greek literature sometimes used it to refer to a godless or obstinate person. And it was perhaps parallel to a Hebrew word that means “to rebel against.”

Twice the psalmist tells us “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:153:1; cf. 10:4). The book of Proverbs contains many negative references and warnings to fools (1:7; 10:8, 10; 14:9). Jesus used a related but less severe term when He reprimanded the two disciples on the road to Emmaus: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25).

Because of these and other testimonies in God’s Word, we know people engage in foolish thoughts and actions. Therefore it is not wrong for us to warn or rebuke someone who is acting or speaking foolishly and clearly opposing God’s will. In fact, we are supposed to take this action! The Lord is warning us here, however, that it is sin to slanderously call someone a fool out of personal anger or hatred. Maliciously calling another a fool is again equivalent to murder and worthy of eternal punishment in hell if not repented of.

Ask Yourself

Most of our slanderous remarks are not made to others’ faces but rather behind their backs. What guiding principles can you set in place to guard yourself from being ugly and unkind to others, even when speaking about them in private conversation?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 21:43–45 So the LORD gave to Israel all the land. This sums up God’s fulfillment of His covenant promise to give Abraham’s people the land (Gen. 12:7Josh. 1:25–9). God also kept His Word in giving the people rest (Deut. 12:910). In a valid sense, the Canaanites were in check, under military conquest as God had pledged (Josh. 1:5), not posing an immediate threat. Not every enemy had been driven out, however, leaving some to stir up trouble later. But God’s people failed to exercise their responsibility and possess their land to the full degree in various areas.

Psalm 46:7 The LORD of hosts is with us. The precious personal presence (see “God with us” in Is. 7:148:810) of the Divine Warrior (see “LORD of hosts” or “armies,” e.g., Pss. 24:1048:859:5) secures the safety of His people.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God. This twin command to not panic and to recognize His sovereignty is probably directed to both His nation for comfort and all other nations for warning.

Luke 13:11 had a spirit of infirmity. This suggests that her physical ailment, which left her unable to stand erect, was caused by an evil spirit. However, Christ did not have to confront and drive out a demon, but simply declared her loosed (v. 12), so her case appears somewhat different from other cases of demonic possession He often encountered.

Luke 13:12 He called her to Him. The healing was unsolicited; He took the initiative (see 7:12–14). Furthermore, no special faith was required on her part or anyone else’s. Jesus sometimes called for faith, but not always (see 8:48; Mark 5:34).

DAY 16: Are catastrophes a sign of God’s judgment?

Upon hearing about an incident where Galileans were sought out and killed in the temple by Roman authorities while in the process of offering a sacrifice, perhaps because they were seditious zealots, Jesus asked His listeners, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners…because they suffered such things?” (Luke 13:2). It was the belief of many that disaster and sudden death always signified divine displeasure over particular sins (see Job 4:7). Those who suffered in uncommon ways were therefore assumed to be guilty of some more severe immorality (see John 9:2).

Jesus did not deny the connection between catastrophe and human evil, for all such afflictions ultimately stem from the curse of humanity’s fallenness (Gen. 3:17–19). Furthermore, specific calamities may indeed be the fruit of certain iniquities (Prov. 24:16). But Christ challenged the people’s notion that they were morally superior to those who suffered in such catastrophes. He called all to repent (v. 3), for all were in danger of sudden destruction. No one is guaranteed time to prepare for death, so now is the time for repentance for all (see 2 Cor. 6:2).

Jesus also mentions another disaster in Siloam, where evidently one of the towers guarding an aqueduct collapsed, perhaps while under construction, killing some people (v. 4). Again, the question in the minds of people was regarding the connection between calamity and iniquity (“worse sinners”). Jesus responded by saying that such a calamity was not God’s way to single out an especially evil group for death, but a means of warning to all sinners.

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1Cor. 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.


Reaching Out to Others

‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:43).

The circumstances are never too adverse, nor the hour too late, to offer the gospel of Christ to someone.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals (thieves)—one on each side of His cross. At first the two men both joined the onlookers in hurling unbelieving rhetoric at the Lord (Mark 15:32). But one of the thieves obviously had a change of heart as the hours elapsed. He rebuked the other thief by pointing out Jesus’ sinlessness (Luke 23:40-41) and then expressed his need of salvation: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (v. 42). And Jesus graciously answered the thief’s request.

The dying thief’s conversion is an extraordinary story. At Calvary there was nothing convincing or favorable about Jesus. From man’s vantage point He was dying because He had been completely rejected; even the disciples had deserted Him. Jesus appeared weak, disgraced, and ashamed. When the thief uttered his plea for help, no one was pointing to Jesus and saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Given the circumstances, it is difficult to comprehend how Christ could be concerned with the immediate salvation of a wretched thief who was justly being executed for his crimes. But our Lord cared very much about the destiny of that man’s soul. Jesus’ desire to see sinners saved was constant, because He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). His concern for the unsaved is the supreme example and motivation to us in reaching out to others.

The thief’s salvation is also a clear illustration of the sovereignty of God in redemption. So often the church wants to attribute someone’s salvation to human cleverness in presenting a well-crafted message at just the right time and in the most appropriate place. But salvation is always the direct result of God’s intervening grace. The sovereign work of God’s Spirit, not circumstances, gave the thief a saving understanding about who Jesus was and what His death was accomplishing.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the courage to reach out with the good news of salvation no matter what the circumstances.

For Further Study

Read John 4:1-42.

  • What excuses could Jesus have used for not talking to the woman?
  • How did He keep His focus during His conversation with her?


Showing Mercy

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

There are many ways to show mercy.

God delights in mercy, and as a believer you have the privilege of showing mercy in many ways. In the physical realm you can give money to the poor, food to the hungry, or a bed to the homeless. God has always wanted His people to be that way. Deuteronomy 15 says, "If there is a poor man with you . . . you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from [him]; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks" (vv. 7-8). Verses 12-14 instruct Israelites who release a slave to provide for the slave's needs. That was the merciful thing to do.

In the spiritual realm you can show mercy by pitying the lost. St. Augustine said, "If I weep for that body from which the soul is departed, how should I weep for that soul from which God is departed?" (cited by Thomas Watson in The Beatitudes, p. 144). We mourn over the dead but do we mourn as much for lost souls? When Stephen was being stoned, he pitied his wretched murderers, asking God to forgive them (Acts 7:60). Jesus did the same (Luke 23:34). That should be our attitude as well.

Another way of showing mercy is to rebuke sin. Second Timothy 2:24-25 says, "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all . . . with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth." It is merciful and loving to rebuke sinners because it gives them a chance to repent and be forgiven.

Prayer is also an act of mercy, as is preaching the gospel. In fact, sharing Christ with someone is the most merciful thing you can do!

There are many more ways to be merciful, but I hope these will stimulate your thinking and encourage you to discover as many ways as possible to pass on the abundant mercy God has shown to you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the mercies you have received from others.
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to minister to others.

For Further Study

Determine who receives mercy according to the following verses: Matthew 6:14Titus 3:5-6Hebrews 4:14-16James 2:13; and 1 Peter 2:9-10.


Slander Equals Murder

Whoever says to his brother, “You good-for-nothing,” shall be guilty before the supreme court’” (Matthew 5:22).

The word (raca) translated by the New American Standard Bible “good-for-nothing” has been variously rendered elsewhere as “brainless idiot,” “worthless fellow,” “blockhead,” and the like. It was a term of malicious abuse and slander that really has no precise modern translation. David graphically described persons who used such slander as those who “sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips” (Ps. 140:3). The Roman soldiers who tortured and crucified Jesus could well have used the term to mock and disrespect Him (cf. Matt. 27:29–31).

According to Jewish legend, a young rabbi had just come from a session with his famous teacher. He felt especially proud of how he had handled himself before the teacher. As he basked in those feelings of superiority, he passed an especially unattractive man who greeted him. The young rabbi responded, “You Raca! How ugly you are. Are all men of your town as ugly as you?”

“That I do not know,” the man replied, “but go and tell the Maker who created me how ugly is the creature He has made.”

To slander someone made in God’s image is to slander God Himself and is the same as murdering that person. Jesus called such harsh contempt murder of the heart. The contemptuous person was as much as “guilty before the supreme court” (the Jewish Sanhedrin, which tried the most serious cases and pronounced the ultimate penalty—death). We dare not trifle with any kind of contemptuous language toward others.

Ask Yourself

Remember, this is not just an injunction against speaking unkind, judgmental words, but also of thinking them in our minds. When God has led you to seasons of victory in your thought life, how has He accomplished it? What stopped evil thoughts from ever coming up?


for Today:


Joshua 20:1–9 cities of refuge. Moses had spoken God’s word to name 6 cities in Israel as refuge centers. A person who inadvertently killed another could flee to the nearest of these for protection (see Num.35:9–34). Three lay west of the Jordan, and 3 lay to the east, each reachable in a day for those in its area. The slayer could flee there to escape pursuit by a family member seeking to exact private justice. Authorities at the refuge protected him and escorted him to a trial. If found innocent, he was guarded at the refuge until the death of the current high priest, a kind of statute of limitations (Josh. 20:6). He could then return home. If found guilty of murder, he suffered due punishment.

Proverbs 14:10 At its depth, suffering and rejoicing are personal and private. No one is able to communicate them fully (1 Sam 1:101 Kin. 8:38Matt 2:1826:39–4275).

Luke 12:33 Sell what you have and give alms. Those who amassed earthly possessions, falsely thinking their security lay in material resources (vv. 16–20), needed to lay up treasure in heaven instead. Believers in the early church did sell their goods to meet the basic needs of poorer brethren (Acts 2:44454:32–37). But this commandment is not to be twisted into an absolute prohibition of all earthly possessions. In fact, Peter’s words to Ananias in Acts 5:4make it clear that the selling of one’s possessions was optional. money bags which do not grow old. These purses that do not wear out (so as to lose the money) are defined as “treasure in the heavens that does not fail.” The surest place to put one’s money is in such a purse—in heaven, where it is safe from thieves and decay, as well.

Luke 12:34 your heart will be also. Where one puts his money reveals the priorities of his heart. See 16:1–13; Matthew 6:21.

DAY 15: Where can we find stability in troubled times?

Psalm 46 was the scriptural catalyst for Martin Luther’s great hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” This psalm extols the adequacy of God in facing threats from nature and the nations. God indeed protects (see vv. 1, 7, 11) His people upon the earth (see vv. 2, 6, 8, 9, 10). The major burden of Psalm 46 is that God provides stability for His people who live in two exceedingly unstable environments.

Specifically, “Even though the earth be removed” (v. 2). I.e., “When earth changes and when mountains move or shake or totter or slip” (see the language of Is. 24:192054:10Hag. 2:6). These are poetic allusions to earthquakes. Since “the earth” and “mountains” are regarded by men as symbols of stability, when they “dance,” great terror normally ensues. But when the most stable becomes unstable, there should be “no fear” because of the transcendent stability of God. And “though its waters roar” (v. 3). This is an illustration of powerfully surging and potentially destructive floods of waters. These will not erode God’s protective fortifications.

“There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4). Refreshing waters contrast with those threatening torrents of v. 3. See the garden of paradise concept often mentioned in ancient Near Eastern literature, but most importantly, see the biblical revelation, noting especially the “bookends” of Genesis 2:10and Revelation 22:12. “She shall not be moved” (vv. 5, 6). These verses pick up some of the key terms about moving, slipping, tottering, sliding, and roaring from vv. 1–3. However, here, because of the presence of God, the forces of nature and the nations are no longer a threat to the people of God who dwell with Him.

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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.


Forgiving Others

“‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:34).

As Jesus forgave others (including us), we should extend forgiveness to those who wrong us.

Jesus had a forgiving heart right up to the end, even after He had experienced a lifetime of mankind’s worst treatment. He came down to a world He had created, but that world rebuffed Him. Its inhabitants’ eyes were blinded by sin, and they could not see any beauty in Jesus. Almost immediately after His humble birth in a stable, King Herod sought to have Him killed (Matt. 2:1316-18). And the Jewish leaders on various occasions contested Christ’s teachings and looked for opportunities to seize Him and kill Him. The cross was just the culmination of a lifetime of persecution against Jesus.

Jesus’ death by crucifixion was one of the most humiliating, painful forms of execution the world has ever known. From a human perspective, we would have expected Him to plead with God the Father for mercy or to be enraged at God and denounce Him for allowing Him to be crucified. If we had written the original script for Jesus’ crucifixion scene, we probably would have had Him screaming threats of retaliation at His killers. But our Savior did none of those things. Instead, He asked His Father to forgive His enemies.

The Lord Jesus prayed for the most important need His executioners would ever have. They would never be able to enter the presence of a holy God if their sins were not forgiven. Christ was concerned that His opponents, who were ignorantly putting Him to death, have an opportunity to be forgiven rather than endure God’s vengeance.

Such an attitude of love and mercy should also be ours. We, unlike Jesus, are sinners ourselves who need constant forgiveness. Therefore, when we are wronged, our primary concern ought to be that God would forgive the one who has sinned against us. An excellent model of this attitude is Stephen, who prayed as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). He followed Christ’s own example of love and forgiveness, and so should we.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you may have a more consistently forgiving attitude toward others who wrong or offend you.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 18:21-35.

  • What is implied in Jesus’ figurative expression “seventy times seven” (v. 22) regarding forgiving others?
  • Ultimately, how much does it matter that we maintain a forgiving attitude (vv. 32-35)?


Following Christ's Example

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is compassion in action.

Mercy is not a human attribute. It is God's gift to those who seek Him. Psalm 103:11 says, "As the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him" (KJV).

The verb form of "merciful" appears many times in Scripture and means "to have mercy on," "aid the afflicted," "give help to the wretched," or "rescue the miserable." In general it refers to anything you do to benefit someone in need. The noun form is used only twice: here in Matthew 5:7 and in Hebrews 2:17, which reads, "[Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest." Christ Himself is both the source and illustration of mercy.

Christ modeled mercy throughout His earthly ministry. He healed the sick and enabled the crippled to walk. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute. His redeeming love embraced sinners of all kinds. He wept with those in sorrow and comforted the lonely. He embraced little children and the elderly alike. His mercy was compassion in action!

Despite His abundant mercy, Jesus received no mercy from His enemies. They hated Him without cause, accused Him falsely, beat Him, nailed Him to a cross, spat upon Him, and cursed Him. Even then He sought mercy for them, praying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Some have paraphrased Matthew 5:7 to say that if you show mercy to others, they will show mercy to you. Now that might happen in some isolated incidences, but in this jaded world that's not often the case—as Jesus' life clearly demonstrates. Many Christians have incurred slander, rebuke, lawsuits, and even death for their noble efforts. Jesus didn't guarantee merciful treatment from others. His emphasis was that God shows mercy toward those who show mercy to others.

Don't ever be reluctant to show mercy to others—even when they misunderstand or mistreat you. God will use your kindness for His glory and reward you accordingly.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise Jesus for being willing to suffer death that you might receive mercy.
  • Is there someone you might show mercy to today in some tangible way?

For Further Study

Read John 5:1-18.

  • How did Christ demonstrate mercy to the sick man?
  • How did the Jewish religious leaders react?


Selfish Anger Equals Murder

“‘Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court’” (Matthew 5:22).

From Jesus’ own life we know He does not forbid every form of anger. In righteous indignation He twice cleansed the temple of its defiling, profaning influences (Matt. 21:12–13John 2:14–15). The apostle Paul instructs Christians to “be angry, and yet do not sin” (Eph. 4:26). Faithfulness to Christ sometimes demands that we exercise a righteous anger. Many of the current cultural trends, the surges of violence and grossly dishonest and immoral practices, and the unbiblical ideas promoted even within supposedly evangelical circles need to be opposed with righteous anger. That’s because such things undermine the kingdom and glory of God. The psalmist wrote, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day” (Ps. 7:11).

In His sermon, Jesus did not speak against legitimate, righteous indignation, but against a selfish anger toward someone for doing something against us, someone who’s just rubbed us the wrong way. The word the Lord used for “angry” indicates a simmering anger that a person nurtures and refuses to let die. Examples of such anger are the long-standing grudge or the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive someone. This kind of anger does not want reconciliation and can become so profound as to be a “root of bitterness springing up” (Heb. 12:15).

Jesus says anyone who harbors such severe anger against another person is the same as guilty before the civil court of murder and deserving of the death penalty in God’s eyes.

Ask Yourself

So are there names and faces that come to mind when confronted with this stark reminder from Scripture? Is there personal anger that needs instant removal from your heart?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 17:12–18 children of Manasseh. Tribesmen of Manasseh complained that Joshua did not allot them land sufficient to their numbers and that the Canaanites were too tough for them to drive out altogether. He permitted them extra land in forested hills that they could clear. Joshua told them that they could drive out the Canaanites for God had promised to be with them in victory against chariots (Deut. 20:1).

Psalm 45:6, 7 Your throne, O God. Since this king-groom was likely a member of the Davidic dynasty (e.g., 2 Sam. 7), there was a near and immediate application (see 1 Chr. 28:529:23). Through progressive revelation (i.e., Heb. 1:89), we learn of the ultimate application to “a greater than Solomon” who is God—the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 12:11 do not worry. I.e., do not be anxious. This does not suggest that ministers and teachers should forego preparation in their normal spiritual duties. To cite this passage and others like it (21:12–15Matt. 10:19) to justify the neglect of study and meditation is to twist the meaning of Scripture. This verse is meant as a comfort for those under life-threatening persecution, not as an excuse for laziness in ministry. The exact same expression is used in v. 22, speaking of concern for one’s material necessities. In neither context was Jesus condemning legitimate toil and preparation. He was promising the Holy Spirit’s aid for times of persecution when there can be no preparation.

DAY 14: What passages in Luke are unique to his Gospel?

Luke included 12 events or major passages not found in the other Gospels:

1. Events preceding the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (1:5–80).

2. Scenes from Jesus’ childhood (2:1–52).

3. Herod imprisons John the Baptist (3:19, 20).

4. The people of Nazareth reject Jesus (4:16–30).

5. The first disciples are called (5:1–11).

6. A widow’s son is raised (7:11–17).

7. A woman anoints Jesus’ feet (7:36–50).

8. Certain women minister to Christ (8:1–3).

9. Events, teaching, and miracles during the months leading up to Christ’s death (10:1–18:14).

10. Christ abides with Zacchaeus (19:1–27).

11. Herod tries Christ (23:6–12).

12. Some of Jesus’ final words before His ascension (24:44–49).

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What is sin?

Sin is a difficult topic to discuss theologically because the same word in English refers to several different states. In its most basic form, sin is a transgression of law and rebellion against God. Sin is any action that harms the relationship we have with God and/or another person. It is choosing to act in a way that pulls us away from God. He designed us to respond to Him in a way that is in agreement with His nature. Sin breaks that connection, refuses that gift, and rejects God.

Sin entered the world when Adam ate from the tree God had prohibited. We are now spiritually sinful because of the "sin nature" we inherited from Adam. We are born with the nature of sin and a natural tendency to sin. We are born with the inclination to reject God. Because of our identity as descendents of Adam, we also carry "imputed sin." This is a financial or legal term meaning taking something that belongs to someone and crediting it to another's account. It is almost like being a fan of a certain team because they are the only team in town. We are identified with that team, which in our case is sin. Of course, sin is also each individual action which is counter to God's law.

Sin can manifest in many different ways. The Hebrew 'awonmeans an iniquity or malevolent unfairness (1 Samuel 20:1). Rasha'infers restlessness or something that is out of control (Isaiah 57:21). Chata'is the most commonly heard definition. It means missing the mark or straying off course (Judges 20:16). 'Abarmeans to transgress or to go beyond that which is sanctioned (Judges 2:20). In the New Testament, the Greek hamartiais similar to the Hebrew chata'but it goes further. It is not only "missing the mark," but also the inner compulsion or nature that induced the offense (Romans 6:1). Similarly, it can be an organized power that deliberately sets about causing a person or group to fall into sin (Romans 6:12).

Since all sin is the rejection of God, His authority, and His preference, sin automatically excludes us from His presence. But forgivness of sin, as well as grace and peace and eternal life in paradise are only found in God. Freedom from the grasp of sin is only found in God. Our inherited sin nature, our imputed sin, and our every little choice definitively separate us from God. Fortunately, Jesus' sacrifice covers all sins. Instead of Adam's imputed sin, we receive Christ's imputed righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21)—we choose another team to identify with. As the Holy Spirit indwells us, the sin nature loses its grasp, and we are no longer its slave. And when we commit individual acts of sin, we are authorized to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), knowing that coming to God and confessing our sins will allow us to renew our relationship with Him.

Is it a sin to have intrusive thoughts?

An intrusive thought is an involuntary, unwanted image, phrase, or impulse. They are very common; nearly everyone has them from time to time. Sometimes they are of a violent nature, other times they are sexual. Often they are blasphemous or induce great fear of having done a ritual incorrectly. They can be quite disconcerting, especially when they are completely contrary to what a person actually believes.

Psalm 139:2 says, "You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar." God knows our thoughts, and He knows how insubstantial they can be (Psalm 94:11). But we tend to forget that He also knows the intent behind our thoughts. He knows the wicked will blaspheme His name—"In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, 'There is no God'" (Psalm 10:4), but He is always prepared to forgive (Isaiah 55:7). God knows that Christians can have intrusive thoughts as well. He looks deeper than the fleeting image, "…for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought," (1 Chronicles 28:9). He is easily able to judge between a thought, a belief, and an intent (Hebrews 4:12).

God also has a plan to prevent intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are not necessarily sin, but the actions we take leading up to the thought may be. If we fill our minds with ungodly things, blasphemous and harmful thoughts will be more likely to come up. Philippians 4:8 tells us, "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." And even if our actions led to the thought, God will be our consolation (Psalm 94:19). 

Second Corinthians 10:3-5 details how to take control of intrusive thoughts. First, relax and realize that intrusive thoughts cannot be completely conquered by earthly methods. Spontaneous blasphemy and harmful inclinations are aspects of spiritual warfare. Next, take the thought captive—capture it, break it down, determine if there is any truth in it, and vanquish the lies. Study and memorize Scripture so that you can be ready with the truth the next time the thought pops up. Analyze your own heart, and submit any part of you that believes the lie. Pray David's prayer from Psalm 139:23-24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!" You may have to do this many, many times, but, eventually, the lie should fade as you concentrate on God's truth (Psalm 1:1-3).


Gal. 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.


Peter's Repentance

“Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, ‘Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75).

Even when a believer sins greatly, God is there to forgive and restore.

Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus was a great tragedy. But Peter had already taken a number of steps toward denial before uttering a single word that repudiated Christ. First, he presumptuously boasted that he would never fall away (Matt. 26:33). Second, Peter was insubordinate to Jesus and blatantly refused to accept the Lord’s prediction of his disloyalty (v. 35). Third, he was prayerless in the Garden of Gethsemane (vv. 40-41). Fourth, he foolishly and unnecessarily wielded the sword to defend Jesus (vv. 51-52). Finally, Peter compromised himself and willfully went to a place (the high priest’s courtyard) of spiritual danger (v. 69), where his faith could be tested beyond its endurance.

As Peter tried to wait inconspicuously in the high priest’s courtyard, on three occasions he was confronted by other bystanders and accused of being one of Jesus’ followers. Peter’s reaction showed he had lost all sense of reality and awareness of God. Each accusation was a bit more incriminating and provoked a more vehement denial by Peter. After the third denial, according to the Lord’s providence, Peter’s slide was halted. A penetrating look from Jesus Himself (Luke 22:61) and his remembering of Jesus’ prediction that he would deny Him three times were enough to bring Peter to his senses. As our verse explains it, “he went out and wept bitterly.”

Peter’s tears were not merely tears of remorse—they indicated a true sorrow and turning from sin. It was not until he saw Christ’s face and remembered His words that Peter grasped the seriousness of his sin and repented. This is a profound lesson for you and me. Peter’s sin itself did not cause him to repent; his forgiveness and restoration came only when he turned from sin to God. After His resurrection, Jesus affirmed Peter’s restored love three times (John 21:15-17). This gift of restored fellowship through God’s gracious forgiveness is available to all believers (1 John 1:79).

Suggestions for Prayer

Commit your thoughts and plans to God throughout the day so that you may avoid the kind of compromising situation Peter was in.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 51.

  • How does David’s dealing with sin parallel what we saw about Peter’s coming to his senses?
  • What verses from this psalm are especially helpful in seeing this parallel?


Being Filled with Mercy

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7).

Mercy is a characteristic of true believers.

Like the other beatitudes, Matthew 5:7 contains a twofold message: to enter the kingdom you must seek mercy. Once there, you must show mercy to others.

The thought of showing mercy probably surprised Christ's audience because both the Jews and the Romans tended to be merciless. The Romans exalted justice, courage, discipline, and power. To them mercy was a sign of weakness. For example, if a Roman father wanted his newborn child to live, he simply held his thumb up; if he wanted it to die, he held his thumb down.

Jesus repeatedly rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for their egotistical, self-righteous, and condemning attitudes. They were intolerant of anyone who failed to live by their traditions. They even withheld financial support from their own needy parents (Matt. 15:3-9).

Like the people of Jesus' time, many people today also lack mercy. Some are outright cruel and unkind, but most are so consumed with their quest for self-gratification that they simply neglect others.

Christians, on the other hand, should be characterized by mercy. In fact, James used mercy to illustrate true faith: "What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,' and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:14- 17). He also said mercy is characteristic of godly wisdom: "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (3:17).

As one who has received mercy from God, let mercy be the hallmark of your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His great mercy.
  • Ask Him to give you opportunities to show mercy to others today.

For Further Study

Read Luke 10:25-37.

  • Who questioned Jesus and what was his motive?
  • What characteristics of mercy were demonstrated by the Samaritan traveler?
  • What challenge did Jesus give His hearer? Are you willing to meet that challenge?


Jesus on Murder: Contrast to the Rabbis

“‘You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court’” (Matthew 5:21­­–22).

With just two sentences Jesus shatters the rabbinic view of murder, which was so complacently self-righteous. Because of their externalism and legalism, the Jews had an inflated view of themselves. But Jesus destroyed that thinking with the declaration that a person guilty of anger, hatred, cursing, or defamation against another is guilty of murder and worthy of a murderer’s punishment.

All anger, hatred, etc., is incipient murder, as the apostle John writes, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15a). By that biblical standard, we are all guilty of murder—after all, who has not hated someone at one time or another?

Not only does Jesus here sweep away the rubbish of the rabbinic, traditional view of murder, His total indictment blasts away any notion of self-justification so common to everyone. The way the Jews thought in Jesus’ time is identical to people’s prevalent thinking today. Even believers can feel proud that they are “not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11)—and we could add “murderers.” Jesus in that parable and in this passage says we are all potentially capable of the worst sins, even murder, because of the sometimes evil attitudes of our hearts.

Not to consider the state of your heart and confess thoughts of anger and hatred, which can lead to taking someone’s life, is not to consider that the Lord can hold you guilty of murder.

Ask Yourself

What benefit is found in knowing that you and I are capable of the most heinous crimes imaginable? Does recognizing this startling piece of information have an effect on your relationship with God and your resultant manner of living?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 16:10 Ephraim did not drive the Canaanites from their area. This is the first mention of the fatal policy of neglecting to exterminate the idolaters (see Deut. 20:16).

Psalm 45:1 My heart is overflowing...my tongue. The psalmist is overwhelmed with emotion upon the occasion of the king’s marriage. Consequently, he puts his stirred-up mind and feelings into words. In v. 2ff. his tongue is the brush that he uses to paint vivid word pictures.

Luke 11:34 The lamp of the body. This is a different metaphor from the one in v. 33. There the lamp speaks of the word of God. Here the eye is the “lamp”—i.e., the source of light—for the body. when your eye is bad. The problem was their perception, not a lack of light. They did not need a sign. They needed hearts to believe the great display of divine power they had already seen.

Luke 11:38 He had not first washed. The Pharisee was concerned with ceremony, not hygiene. The Greek word for “washed” refers to a ceremonial ablution. Nothing in the law commanded such washings, but the Pharisees practiced them, believing the ritual cleansed them of any accidental ceremonial defilement.

DAY 13: How does God’s guarantee of success to Joshua relate to us?

The Book of Joshua begins with God’s commissioning of Israel’s new leader. God described Joshua’s mission—to go in and possess the Land (1:2–6). God hinged Joshua’s success on three key factors: 1) God’s own presence (v. 5); 2) Joshua’s personal strength and courage (vv. 7, 9); and 3) Joshua’s attention to and application of God’s word (vv. 7, 8).

God spelled out this third factor with some detail for it was to be the basis for all of Joshua’s actions. God’s word was to be Joshua’s constant conversation, continual meditation, and unswerving application. The phrase “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth” (v. 8) deserves added attention. While a first impression might lead to the conclusion that Joshua was not supposed to talk about the Book of the Law, the direct opposite is the case: he was not supposed to stop talking about it.

Biblical meditation begins with the thoughtful, lingering reading of God’s Word. It progresses to familiarity and memorization. In order to “meditate in it day and night” (v. 8), the Book of the Law would have been in Joshua. The purpose has been achieved when meditation leads us to “observe to do according to all that is written in it” (v. 8).

“Then,” God told Joshua, “you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (v. 8). Joshua found the ultimate measure of prosperity and success—knowing how God wants His people to live and then living that way. God repeatedly assured Joshua of His own presence “wherever you go.” What greater measurement of success could there be than to honor the ever-present God with our obedience?

My Royal Family




With my whole heart I seek you; let me not  wander from your commandments! I have  stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O  Lord ; teach me your statutes! I will  meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your  ways. I will  delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.


The Unjust Conspiracy

“The chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death” (Matthew 26:59).

The only evidence of guilt against Jesus was man-made and contrived.

The essence of the Jews’ ancient legal system is found in the Lord’s words to Moses and Israel: “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial” (Deut. 16:19). Therefore, it is truly amazing to consider what twisted measures the Jewish leaders resorted to in their trial of Jesus.

The Council, or Sanhedrin, was authorized to judge only those cases in which charges already had been brought. But in Jesus’ case, with no formal charges yet made and with the Jews’ rush to judgment, the Council had to act illegally as a prosecuting body to keep the chief priests’ murder plot moving forward.

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, the only way for the Jews to convict Him was to obtain false testimony against Him. And to do that, the leaders had to pervert the very heart of their judicial system and endorse the words of liars.

But the Jews quickly found it was not easy even to manipulate and assemble false charges. As is so often the case with liars, what they testified to was not only false but inconsistent. Mark’s Gospel notes that even the two witnesses’ more usable charges about Jesus and the destruction of the temple were not consistent (14:57-59).

It is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible to Christ’s moral and spiritual perfection that not a single human witness could make an accusation that would convict Him of a crime. After all the desperate maneuvering by the Jews to come up with even the flimsiest testimony against the Lord, He stood innocent of any violation of God’s moral or spiritual law. Instead, it is the unjust, hateful group of men that will one day stand before God condemned for their sinful actions in falsely accusing the Savior.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for wisdom and integrity in the judges who make decisions in today’s courtrooms.

For Further Study

Read Deuteronomy 16:18-20 and 19:15-20. How do these passages show that Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was based on wrong principles (list several factors)?


How's Your Spiritual Appetite?

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6).

Your appetite for righteousness should equal your appetite for food and water.

David was a man after God's own heart. In Psalm 63:1he writes, "O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." He communed with God and knew the blessings of His sufficiency: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. . . . He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness. . . . Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me" (Ps. 23:1-4). He endured unjust persecution for the Lord's sake: "Zeal for Thy house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach Thee have fallen on me" (Ps. 69:9).

David's zeal for God illustrates what Jesus meant when He said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). The words translated "hunger" and "thirst" speak of intense desire. They are present participles, which imply continuous action. The idea is paradoxical: the believer's continuous and intense desire for righteousness is continually satisfied by Christ.

J.N. Darby, an early leader of the Plymouth Brethren movement, said, "To be hungry is not enough; I must be really starving to know what is in [God's] heart towards me. When the prodigal son was hungry he went to feed upon husks, but when he was starving, he turned to his father" (quoted in Martyn Lloyd-Jones's Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, vol. 1, p. 81). When you have that kind of desperation, only God can satisfy it!

Does your desire for righteousness drive you to Christ for satisfaction? I pray that the words of the psalmist will be yours as well: "As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15, KJV).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to use the events of today to increase your hunger and thirst for righteousness. Look to Him in all things, knowing that He alone can satisfy.

For Further Study

Read Philippians 3:1-14.

  • What does it mean to place confidence in the flesh?
  • How did Paul define true righteousness?


Beware of Redefined, Self-centered Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

Many people today—and sadly, more and more within the church—have redefined biblical concepts to fit their own human perspectives. Like the scribes and Pharisees, religionists know they can’t match God’s righteousness, so they simply change the definition of holiness. A prime example from Old Testament times is how the Jews reinterpreted God’s command, “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). They turned this from a call for inner holiness into a requirement to perform certain rituals.

The godly person will never rely on self-centered, redefined righteousness. Instead, he will focus on the kind of holiness Jesus taught. He will be broken about sin and mourn over the evil propensity of his heart. Such people long only for the righteousness God can give through His Spirit. They will never rely on their own strength or wisdom for what they can do spiritually.

God has always been focused on inner righteousness. When Samuel was ready to anoint David’s oldest brother, Eliab, to succeed King Saul, God told him, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). And that inner righteousness must be perfect: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). To be truly qualified for entrance into Christ’s kingdom we must be as holy as God Himself.

Ask Yourself

Being broken over sin is certainly a crucial part of dealing with its incessant appeal and presence in our lives. But be sure you’re not choosing to remain in perpetual inactivity and introspection. How well is your grieving over sin being translated into renewed obedience?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 11:18 war a long time. The conquest took approximately 7 years. Only Gibeon submitted without a fight (v. 19).

Joshua 11:20 it was of the LORD to harden their hearts. God turned the Canaanites’ hearts to fight in order that Israel might be His judging instrument to destroy them. They were willfully guilty of rejecting the true God with consequent great wickedness and were as unfit to remain in the land as vomit spewed out of the mouth (Lev. 18:2425).

Joshua 11:21 Anakim. Enemies who dwelt in the southern area which Joshua had defeated. They descended from Anak (“long-necked”) and were related to the giants who made Israel’s spies feel small as grasshoppers by comparison (Num. 13:28–33). Their territory was later given to Caleb as a reward for his loyalty (14:6–15).

Luke 10:42 one thing...good part. Jesus was not speaking of the number of dishes to be served. The one thing necessary was exemplified by Mary, i.e., an attitude of worship and meditation, listening with an open mind and heart to Jesus’ words.

DAY 11: If we are to love our neighbor, who is our neighbor?

The lawyer who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life in Luke 10:25 knew the commandments well enough. But when he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” we are told that he was “wanting to justify himself” (v. 29). It revealed the man’s self-righteous character, as well as his desire to test Christ.

The prevailing opinion among scribes and Pharisees was that one’s neighbors were the righteous alone. According to them, the wicked—including rank sinners (such as tax collectors and prostitutes), Gentiles, and especially Samaritans—were to be hated because they were the enemies of God. They cited Psalm 139:2122to justify their position. As that passage suggests, hatred of evil is the natural corollary of loving righteousness. But the truly righteous person’s “hatred” for sinners is not a malevolent enmity. It is a righteous abhorrence of all that is base and corrupt—not a spiteful, personal loathing of individuals. Godly hatred is marked by a brokenhearted grieving over the condition of the sinner. And as Jesus taught here and elsewhere (6:27–36; Matt. 5:44–48), it is also tempered by a genuine love. The Pharisees had elevated hostility toward the wicked to the status of a virtue, in effect nullifying the second Great Commandment. Jesus’ answer to this lawyer demolished the Pharisaical excuse for hating one’s enemies.

Contrasting the Levite, a religious person who assisted the priests in the work of the temple, with a despised Samaritan, who rescued the wounded person, Jesus reversed the lawyer’s original question (v. 29). The lawyer assumed it was up to others to prove themselves neighbor to him. Jesus’ reply makes it clear that each has a responsibility to be a neighbor—especially to those who are in need.

My Royal Family




1 Cor. 10:13

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.


Disappointing the Lord

“Then all the disciples left Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

In defecting from Christ in an hour of crisis, the eleven disciples displayed certain marks of faithlessness.

Sometimes no amount of truth and logic will ever persuade someone to change their mind. We all know that is true from times we have debated another person on a particular topic. Nothing we say will convince them that their plans may be wrong or their opinions unsound. Jesus knew that far better than us as he continued to face the hostile crowd in Gethsemane.

As the Son of God, Jesus could confidently tell the crowd that “All this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled” (Matt. 26:56). The Son knew that, completely apart from the armed mob’s evil motives and intentions, the Father was sovereignly using the situation to accomplish His righteous and gracious purposes.

But Jesus’ words to the crowd obviously gave little comfort or reassurance to His own disciples. They finally realized Christ was going to be seized. Fear and panic gripped them when they further realized they might have to risk suffering and death with Him. Therefore, each of the eleven “left Him and fled.”

The disciples’ faithless desertion reveals several common characteristics of weak commitment. First, any believer who neglects God’s Word and prayer will be unprepared and unfaithful when testing comes. Second, a weak disciple is likely to be impulsive, like Peter, and respond to a crisis with faulty human discernment. Third, a defective disciple tends to be impatient, like Jesus’ men, refusing to listen to His promises and unwilling to wait for His deliverance.

It’s easy to criticize Jesus’ disciples for their faithless lack of resolve in letting Him down and running away when things became difficult. But if you are an honest follower of Christ, you know that you have sometimes compromised or run away when your faith was tested. As a result, you need to confess your failings and lean more than ever on God’s Word, prayer, and the strength of the Holy Spirit to help you stay the course (Eph. 5:15-21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Commit yourself today to be faithful to Christ, no matter what circumstance confronts you, and pray for strength.

For Further Study

  • John 14 comes from a section of the Gospels called the Upper Room Discourse. Read this chapter, and identify the verses in which Jesus promises peace.
  • What additional Helper does He promise to send believers?
  • What is the key to obedience (vv. 23-24)?


Rejecting Worldly Ambitions

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6).

Only Christ can satisfy your deepest needs.

Within every man and woman is a hunger and thirst only God can satisfy. That's why Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

Sadly, most people search for happiness in the wrong places. The prodigal son in Luke 15 is one example. He turned from God to pursue sinful pleasures, but soon discovered that sin cannot satisfy a hungering soul. That's when he returned to his father's house, where he was given a great feast—a picture of salvation.

The rich fool in Luke 12 thought that amassing possessions was the key to happiness, saying to himself, "What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops? . . . This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (vv. 17- 21). Unlike the prodigal son, the rich fool never turned to God in repentance. Consequently he lost everything.

The rich fool is typical of many people today: they ignore Christ and attempt to fill the void with worldly pleasures. Most are oblivious to the eternal peril that awaits them if they don't repent.

Those who love God shun worldliness, pursue righteousness, and know the satisfaction that comes from pleasing Him. That's the essence of the Sermon on the Mount: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all [you need] will be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). Keep that goal uppermost in your mind as you face the challenge of each new day.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that He satisfies the deepest desires of your heart.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 4:28-37.

  • What was Nebuchadnezzar's sin?
  • How did God punish Him?
  • How did Nebuchadnezzar respond after being punished?


Warning against Partial Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

The righteousness practiced by the religious leaders further displeased God because it was partial, falling way short of His perfect standard. Again in Matthew 23, Jesus illustrates this phony righteousness: “You tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” (v. 23).

The Jewish leaders were conscientious about making nonessential tithes of the smallest plants and seeds, yet they totally neglected showing justice and mercy to others or having heartfelt faithfulness to God.

To a large degree this sin of partial righteousness flows directly from externalism. Unregenerate people disregard justice, mercy, and faithfulness because those traits basically reflect a divinely transformed heart. Without a new heart no one can accomplish “the weightier provisions of the law.”

In a separate encounter, the Lord quoted Isaiah and further warned the Phari-sees of their empty and misdirected religion: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Mark 7:6–7). Like the religious leaders and many of the people of Jesus’ day, professing believers today can be constantly exposed to Scripture but only superficially responsive to it. Their watered-down, partial obedience to God’s commands demonstrates their failure to grasp the profound spiritual intent of God’s law and their probable unsaved condition.

Ask Yourself

Realize afresh today that the only obedience which interests God is total obedience—the kind that can only be accomplished through Christ’s righteousness, imputed to His redeemed children. What instances of partial obedience need to be converted to full obedience in your life?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 10:11 The hailstones were miraculous. Note their: 1) source, God; 2) size, large; 3) slaughter, more by stones than by sword; 4) selectivity, only on the enemy; 5) swath, “as far as Azekah”; 6) situation, during a trek down a slope and while God caused the sun to stand still; and 7) similarity to miraculous stones God will fling down during the future wrath (Rev. 16:21).

Joshua 10:12–14 sun stood still, and the moon stopped. Some say an eclipse hid the sun, keeping its heat from Joshua’s worn soldiers and allowing coolness for battle. Others suppose a local (not universal) refraction of the sun’s rays such as the local darkness in Egypt (Ex. 10:21–23). Another view has it as only language of observation; i.e., it only seemed to Joshua’s men that the sun and moon stopped as God helped them do in one literal 24-hour day what would normally take longer. Others view it as lavish poetic description, not literal fact. However, such ideas fail to do justice to 10:12–14 and needlessly question God’s power as Creator. This is best accepted as an outright, monumental miracle. Joshua, moved by the Lord’s will, commanded the sun to delay (Hebrew, “be still, silent, leave off”). The earth actually stopped revolving or, more likely, the sun moved in the same way to keep perfect pace with the battlefield. The moon also ceased its orbiting. This permitted Joshua’s troops time to finish the battle with complete victory (v. 11).

Proverbs 13:24 rod...disciplines...promptly. Early childhood teaching requires both parental discipline, including corporal punishment (see 10:1319:1822:15; 29:15, 17) and balanced kindness and love. There is great hope that the use of the “divine ordinance” of the rod will produce godly virtue (see 23:13, 14) and parental joy (see 10:1; 15:2017:2123:15, 16, 24, 25; 28:7; 29:1, 15, 17). Such discipline must have the right motivation (Heb. 12:5–11) and appropriate severity (Eph. 6:4). One who has genuine affection for his child but withholds corporal punishment will produce the same kind of child as a parent who hates his offspring.

DAY 10: What authority are Christians given over demonic power?

The commissioning of the 70 disciples is recorded only in Luke 10:1. Moses also appointed 70 elders as his representatives (Num. 11:1624–26). The 12 disciples had been sent into Galilee (9:1–6); the 70 were sent into every city and place where Jesus was about to go—i.e., into Judea, and possibly Perea. They were to go out 2 by 2, as the 12 had been sent (Mark 6:7; see Eccl. 4:911Acts 13:215:27394019:22Rev. 11:3). Jesus warned them in Luke 10:3 that they would face hostility (see Ezek. 2:3–6John 15:20) and spiritual danger (see Matt. 7:15John 10:12). Yet we are told they “returned with joy” (v. 17). How long the mission lasted is not recorded. It may have been several weeks.

Regarding their experience, Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (v. 18). In this context, it appears Jesus’ meaning was, “Don’t be so surprised that the demons are subject to you. I saw their commander cast out of heaven, so it is no wonder if his minions are cast out on earth. After all, I am the source of the authority that makes them subject to you” (v. 19). He may also have intended a subtle reminder and warning against pride—the reason for Satan’s fall (see 1 Tim. 3:6). Jesus gave them “authority to trample on serpents and scorpions.” These appear to be figurative terms for demonic powers (see Rom. 16:20).

Nevertheless, Jesus says, “Do not rejoice in this” (v.20). Rather than being so enthralled with extraordinary manifestations such as power over demons and the ability to work miracles, they should have realized that the greatest wonder of all is the reality of salvation—the whole point of the gospel message and the central issue to which all the miracles pointed—“because your names are written in heaven.”

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Prov. 26:28 ESV

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.


Taking up the Sword in Vain

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52).

It is wrong to violently take justice into our own hands, even to defend or promote the name of Christ.

The Body of Christ does not grow and strengthen itself by physical warfare. Every time it has endeavored to do so, the name and cause of Jesus Christ have been harmed. Such wars as the Crusades in the Holy Land or later religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe served no scriptural purpose. As Jesus taught many times, and as Paul reiterated to the Corinthians, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor. 10:4).

Peter, in his usual headstrong fashion, had not yet understood this principle the night of Jesus’ arrest. That’s when Peter used his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s prominent slaves. But the impulsive disciple’s reaction was all wrong. Peter no doubt took Christ’s earlier statement, “Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one” (Luke 22:36) much too literally. Our Lord was actually speaking of preparedness for spiritual, not physical, warfare.

Jesus therefore had to instruct Peter to put away his weapon. In effect, He was saying, “Peter, no matter how unjust My arrest is, you must not respond with vigilante action. If you do that and kill someone else, your own life will justly be forfeited as punishment.”

Christ’s power has been demonstrated many times—in person to Peter and through Scripture to us. It is incredible that any of us should think He needs the puny help of a sword, a gun, or any other human device. Christ’s battles are won in the strength of His sovereign power alone, as He pointed out to Peter: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions [72,000] of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God’s forgiveness for times when you’ve been too quick to seek your own justice during arguments or conflicts.

For Further Study

Read 2 Kings 19:14-37.

  • How did King Hezekiah respond when God’s people and land were threatened?
  • How did the prophet Isaiah support Hezekiah’s actions?
  • How did God finally respond to the Assyrians’ threat?


Inheriting the Earth

"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).

Someday God will reverse the curse and return the earth to His people.

God said to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Gen. 1:28). But their sin cost them their sovereignty and brought a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-18).

The apostle Paul said, "The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption" (Rom. 8:19-21). Someday that curse will be reversed and God's people will once again inherit the earth.

The Greek word translated "inherit" (Matt. 5:5) means "to receive an allotted portion." The earth is the allotted portion of believers, who will reign with the Lord when He comes in His kingdom (Rev. 20:6). That's an emphatic promise in Matthew 5:5, which literally reads, "Blessed are the gentle, for only they shall inherit the earth."

Many Jewish people of Christ's day thought the kingdom belonged to the strong, proud, and defiant. But Jesus said the earth will belong to the gentle, meek, and humble. Proud, self-righteous people don't qualify (cf. Luke 1:46- 53). Jesus said, "Unless you are converted and become [humble and submissive] like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).

As a recipient of God's promises, you should be thrilled knowing that you will inherit the earth and reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom. Be encouraged to know that even when evil people and godless nations seem to prosper, God is in complete control and will someday establish His righteous kingdom on earth.

Rejoice in that assurance, and seek to be all He wants you to be until that great day.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that all of creation will someday be freed from sin's corrupting influences.
  • Praise Him for His mighty power, which will bring it all to pass.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

  • What issue did Paul address?
  • How does the future reign of Christians apply to that issue?


Warning against External Righteousness

“‘For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:20).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were entirely concerned with a mere external observance of God’s law, giving almost no consideration to motives or attitude. In Matthew 23:25, Jesus gives a descriptive view of such useless religion: “You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Because of that terrible condition, our Lord labeled the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites.” They thought God would judge them only for what they did, not for what they thought.

But Jesus considers this sort of righteousness to be of the worst kind. Anybody who practices such “religion” is guilty of a large array of vile sins (Matt. 23:25–31). At another time Jesus warned the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Christ’s next teachings in this sermon would declare that God’s first concern is with people’s hearts. He condemns attitudes of anger, hatred, and lust, not merely their outward manifestations in murder and adultery (Matt. 5:2227–28). Similarly, anyone’s deeds of righteousness, such as prayer, giving, or fasting—if not done with a humble, loving attitude—are worthless (cf. 6:5–18). Hypocrisy and externalism cannot substitute for genuine righteousness.

Ask Yourself

Where has hypocrisy slipped into your life? Confess every example of it today—not the temptation itself, but rather every time you have gone on to mask pride and impurity with self-righteous appearances. Deal directly with these and repent, experiencing again the freedom of living whole, genuine lives of faith.


Reading for Today:


Joshua 7:9 what will You do for Your great name? The main issue is the glory and honor of God (see Daniel’s prayer in Dan. 9:16–19).

Psalm 43:3 Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me. These are bold personifications for divine guidance. The psalmist desired that these “messenger-attributes” divinely direct (see such “leading” and “guiding” in Gen. 24:48Pss. 78:145372107:30Is. 57:18) so as to bring him successfully to his destination, i.e., Israel’s designated place for worship.

Luke 9:51 steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. This begins a major section of Luke’s Gospel. From here to 19:27, Christ’s face was set toward Jerusalem, and Luke’s narrative is a travelogue of that long journey to the Cross. This was a dramatic turning point in Christ’s ministry. After this, Galilee was no longer His base of operation. Although 17:11–37 describes a return visit to Galilee, Luke included everything between this point and that short Galilean sojourn as part of the journey to Jerusalem. We know from a comparison of the Gospels that, during this period of Christ’s ministry, He made short visits to Jerusalem to celebrate feasts. Nonetheless, those brief visits were only interludes in this period of ministry that would culminate in a final journey to Jerusalem for the purpose of dying there. Thus Luke underscored this turning point in Christ’s ministry more dramatically than any of the other Gospels, by showing Christ’s determination to complete His mission of going to the Cross.

DAY 9: How should we respond to all forms of religious persecution?

Luke 9:51–56 show us Jesus’ response to persecution. The Samaritans were descendants of Jewish mixed marriages from the days of captivity. They were rivals of the Jewish nation and had devised their own worship, a hybrid of Judaism and paganism, with a temple of their own on Mt. Gerizim. They were considered unclean by the Jews and were so hated that most Jewish travelers from Galilee to Judah took the longer route east of the Jordan to avoid traveling through Samaria.

The fact that Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem for worship implied rejection of the temple on Mt. Gerizim and a contempt for Samaritan worship. This was a strong point of contention between Jews and Samaritans (see John 4:20–22), and the Samaritan village would not take Him in (v. 53). James and John, whom Jesus nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), then suggested they call down fire from heaven as Elijah once did (v. 54). To which Christ “rebuked them” (v. 55).

Christ’s response to the Samaritans exemplifies the attitude the church ought to have with regard to all forms of religious persecution. The Samaritans’ worship was pagan at heart, plainly wrong. Compounding that was their intolerance. Yet, the Lord would not retaliate with force against them. Nor did He even revile them verbally. He had come to save, not to destroy, and so His response was grace rather than destructive fury (v. 56). Nonetheless, Christ’s words of disapproval here must not be taken as condemnation of Elijah’s actions in 1 Kings 18:38–40 or 2 Kings 1:10–12. Elijah was commissioned to a special ministry as prophet in a theocracy, and it was his God-ordained task to confront an evil monarch (Ahab) who was attempting to usurp God’s authority. Elijah acted with an authority comparable to that of modern civil authorities (see Rom. 13:4)—not in a capacity that parallels that of ministers of the gospel.

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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


Judas the Traitor

“He who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ And immediately he came to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for’” (Matthew 26:48-50).

Judas Iscariot, in his attitudes and actions, is a classic example of the false believer.

As one of the Twelve, Judas was extremely disappointed at the kind of Messiah Jesus turned out to be. Instead of teaching the disciples how to conquer and control, Jesus taught them how to submit and serve. Any ambitions Judas might have had for gaining wealth, power, or prestige by being a close follower of Jesus were frustrated.

Judas’ compulsive unbelief, combined with his relentless greed and ambition, found a perverse, temporal fulfillment when Satan entered him, and he struck a deal with the Jewish leaders to betray Jesus for money (Luke 22:36). As one possessed by the Devil, Judas’s evil actions were no longer his own, though he was still responsible for them.

Judas could have chosen any of several ways to identify Jesus to the mob, but under Satan’s direction he selected a kiss. This kiss was normally given as a sign of affection between close friends or between pupil and teacher. In the context of Judas’ scheme, however, the kiss could hardly have been more despicable because he twisted its meaning so cynically. It is hard to imagine what grief Jesus must have felt when the one who had been treasurer for the Twelve brashly came forward, said “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed his Master.

Judas’ situation was unique, but his basic attitude is typical of all false believers. The church has always had those who hypocritically profess allegiance to Christ but at heart are really His enemies. Whether it is to advance their business or profession, gain social acceptance, or salve a guilty conscience, hypocrites identify with the church for various reasons. But like Judas, their basic motivation is sinful self-interest.

May God give us the courage to examine our hearts and repent of such traits, and the discernment to deal biblically with false believers in the church.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to graciously protect the integrity and purity of your local church.

For Further Study

  • Read the Epistle of Jude, and list the key traits of false teachers.
  • What should you know and do regarding such people (vv. 17-23)?


Controlling Yourself

"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5).

Gentleness is power under control.

The Greek word translated "gentle" in Matthew 5:5 speaks of humility, meekness, and non-retaliation—traits that in our proud society are often equated with weakness or cowardice. But in reality they are virtues that identify kingdom citizens.

The same word was used by the Greeks to describe a gentle breeze, a soothing medicine, or a domesticated colt. Those are examples of power under control: a gentle breeze brings pleasure, but a hurricane brings destruction; a soothing medicine brings healing, but an overdose can kill; a domesticated colt is useful, but a wild horse is dangerous.

Christ Himself is the epitome of gentleness. Even when officially announcing His messiahship to Jerusalem, He humbly entered the city astride a donkey (Matt. 21:5). His behavior amid persecution was exemplary: "Christ . . . suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats" (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

Despite His humility and restraint, Jesus wasn't weak or cowardly. He never defended Himself, but when His Father's house was being desecrated, He made a whip and beat those who were defiling it (John 2:13-16Matt. 21:12-13). He never shirked from pronouncing judgment on unrepentant sinners, and never compromised His integrity or disobeyed His Father's will.

The hypocritical Jewish religious leaders expected that when Israel's Messiah came He would commended them for their wonderful spirituality. Instead, Jesus condemned them and called them children of the devil (John 8:44). In retaliation they had Him murdered. His power was always under control; theirs wasn't.

Our society has little use for gentleness. The macho, do-your-own-thing mentality characterizes most of our heroes. But you are called to a higher standard. When you pattern your life after Jesus, you will have a significant impact on society and will know true happiness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the virtue of gentleness, which He is producing in you by the power of His Spirit. Follow Christ's example today so that gentleness will mark your character.

For Further Study

Read the following passages, noting the responsibilities and blessings that accompany self-restraint: Proverbs 16:32Ephesians 4:1-2Colossians 3:12, and Titus 3:1-2.


Our Responsibility Clarified

“‘Whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

The New Testament presents a paradox concerning God’s law. On one hand, it is abolished; on the other, responsibilities to it remain. Regarding Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes that Christ “is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace” (Eph. 2:14–15). With the church’s emergence, the “dividing wall” of civil ordinances disappeared.

The ceremonial law also has terminated. While Christ was on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). With Jesus’ death the Old Testament sacrifices became invalid and unnecessary.

In a certain sense God’s moral law seems no longer binding on His children (Rom. 10:46:12–15Gal. 5:17–18). Paul harmonizes this notion when he speaks of being “without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ” (1 Cor. 9:21). In Christ, believers are anything but without the law. Whereas His law is totally different from the Old Testament moral law with its penalties for disobedience, it is not different at all from the righteous standards which that law taught.

Whenever we look at the moral law with humility and a sincere desire to obey, the law will invariably point us to Jesus Christ—as was always its ultimate intention.

Ask Yourself

What benefits do the teachings of the law continue to deposit in the life of the believer? If not for its guidance and its setting of boundaries, where would our human nature choose to live and operate?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 5:2 circumcise. God commanded Joshua to see that this was done to all males under 40. These were sons of the generation who died in the wilderness, survivors (see vv. 6, 7) from the new generation God spared in Numbers 13 and 14. This surgical sign of a faith commitment to the Abrahamic Covenant (see Gen. 17:9-14) had been ignored during the wilderness trek. Now God wanted it reinstated, so the Israelites would start out right in the land they were possessing.

Psalm 42:8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness. This statement of confidence interrupts the psalmist’s laments (see their continuance in vv. 9, 10), providing a few gracious gulps of divine “air” under the cascading inundations of his trials and tormentors.

Proverbs 13:20 walks...companion. This speaks of the power of association to shape character. See 1:10, 18; 2:124:1416:2922:24, 25; 23:20; 28:7, 19; Psalm 1.

Luke 9:23 cross. Self-denial was a common thread in Christ’s teaching to His disciples (see 14:26, 27; Matt. 10:3816:24Mark 8:34John 12:24–26). The kind of self-denial He sought was not a reclusive asceticism, but a willingness to obey His commandments, serve one another, and suffer—perhaps even die—for His sake.

Luke 9:29 As He prayed. As at Jesus’ baptism, while He was praying, the Father’s voice came from heaven. glistening. Literally, “emitting light.” This word is used only here in the New Testament. It suggests a brilliant flashing light, similar to lightning.

DAY 8: Why did God bless Rahab the prostitute?

Rahab’s life was not spared because of her lie. It was spared because she put her faith in God. Rahab was given a gracious opportunity to side with God by protecting the two Israelite spies, and she acted within her circumstances. She lied daringly and elaborately. Perhaps her initial response was simply a habit of her profession. From the perspective of the king of Jericho, Rahab would have been guilty of treason, not just lying. She had a new allegiance, and she didn’t yet know that the God she now wanted to trust had a rule about lying.

While those around her feared what the God of Israel might do, Rahab feared enough to boldly trust Him as the one true God, “for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (2:11b). She understood that God wasn’t a local or a national god. She knew enough to act. The spies were impressed and indebted. When Rahab asked them for protection, they recognized their obligation. They were exact in promising to preserve the lives of those in her house, indicated by the scarlet cord from the window.

The radical change that came into Rahab’s life when those spies knocked on her door can be seen in several ways. She risked her life to trust God. The Book of Ruth, along with Matthew 1:5, also reveals that Rahab married and became the great-great-grandmother of King David and one of the ancestors of Jesus. Centuries later, Rahab was one of the women listed in Hebrews 11 because of her faith. 

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Ephesians 1

18 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,
19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might
20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,
21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.


How can I have victory in overcoming sin?

Christians should all have overcoming sin as one of our goals. Although we will never be perfectly victorious over sin in this life (1 John 1:8), we must recognize that overcoming sin is part of the battle which is the Christian life. God has not left us to battle sin on our own, however. He has given us clear instructions and several resources to aid in the struggle.

The first resource, and the most important, is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, without whom victory over sin is impossible. Not only must we have the presence of the Spirit, but we must also be "filled" with the Spirit in order to overcome sin (Ephesians 5:18-21). We should be so completely yielded to the Holy Spirit that He can possess us fully and, in that sense, fill us. Romans 8:9 and Ephesians 1:13-14 state that He dwells within every believer, but He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and His activity within us can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19). When we allow this to happen, we do not experience the fullness of the Spirit's working and His power in and through us. Therefore, the presence and the filling of the Holy Spirit are essential to overcoming sin.

Another resource God has given to us to overcome sin and live for Him is the Word of God, which is sufficient to equip us for every good work and to make us "complete" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If it is able to make us complete, that would include the power to have victory over sin. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is living and powerful, able to penetrate straight to our hearts to root out and overcome the deepest sins of heart and attitude. Psalm 119:9 (NIV) refers to the power of the Word: "How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word." Joshua 1:8 further exhorts "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

The Bible will help us to overcome sin, but not if it sits on the shelf until Sunday. We are to memorize it, meditate on it, or apply it to our lives. When it comes to the Word of God, we can't simply take in just enough to keep us alive spiritually. We must ingest enough of it to be healthy, thriving Christians, which involves feeding on it and meditating on its truths enough to derive its spiritual nutrition. The Bible is an essential and major part of the armor that God gives us to fight our spiritual battles (Ephesians 6:12-18). Without it, we have no hope of overcoming sin.

Prayer is the third crucial resource in our battle against sin. If Jesus had to pray diligently to prepare for the ordeal He was about to suffer, how much more do we who are weak and sinful have to rely on prayer to overcome temptation? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus exhorted the disciples to "Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation" (Matthew 26:41). When they failed to heed His warning, they fell into the sin of fear and unbelief (Mark 14:50). God has given us wonderful promises concerning prayer (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:1-8; John 6:23-27; 1 John 5:14-15), and Paul includes prayer in his passage on preparing for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer acknowledges that we recognize our own limitations and God's inexhaustible power and it allows us to tap into that power as we "approach God's throne of grace with confidence" (Hebrews 4:16 NIV) with our petitions and supplications.

A fourth resource in our war to conquer sin is the fellowship of other believers, particularly in the local church. Overcoming sin with the help and encouragement of others in love and good works (Hebrews 10:24) is much easier than going it alone. James tells us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16) and pray for one another because just as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). There is strength and comfort to be found among a body of believers whose hearts are inclined toward God and one another (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).

Accountability partners who can come alongside a struggling brother and render help in overcoming stubborn sins is another resource provided by the local church. Temptation is part of the Christian life (1 Corinthians 10:13), but God has promised not to test us beyond our ability to bear it and having an accountability partner or an accountability group can help us to overcome even the most stubborn of sins.

Sometimes victory over sin comes quickly; other times, victory comes more slowly. God has not left us helpless in our battle against sin. He has promised that as we make use of His resources, He will progressively bring about change in our lives. We can persevere in our efforts to overcome sin because we know that "The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does" (Psalm 145:13b NIV).

Comfort Food

Be Fed to the Full on God's Word

People often use food to relieve their woes. Stress, sadness, loneliness and frustration are often "fixed" with cookies, chocolate, an extra helping of macaroni and cheese, or a Big Mac with super-size fries and a Coke.

Or, if digestibles don't soothe the blues, then we'll try over-stuffing ourselves with reality TV, Facebook or Twitter, busyness, gossip, shopping, clubbing, drinking (or worse), and sex.

Now, all such "comfort foods" — except of course substance abuse — can have their calming benefits in the right contexts and with proper moderation and balance. But even then, do they really comfort us deep down where it's needed the most? If so, then for how long? Do they really relieve a hungry heart, or are they merely temporary fixes that feed the flesh more than they feed the Spirit?

Oh, how we need to be reminded that no so-called "comfort food" hits the spot quite like the precious Word of God! "How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" the psalmist says at Psalm 119:103. And the Prophet Jeremiah proclaimed, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts" (Jeremiah 15:16). Amen! and Hallelujah!

Notice the context of Jeremiah's statement here. He is languishing over God's rejection of an impending judgment on His wayward people. But he also says that God's Word was "found" by him and that it brought his heart joy in spite of the anguish.

Often what has been found and enjoyed must first have been sought for. So maybe if Jeremiah had been searching for God's Word more than anything else he could have tried to comfort and satisfy his distraught soul. Verse 16 really stands out as a promise even in the midst of threatened woe — a savory morsel of hope for anguishing souls hungry for real relief.

What a vivid, practical picture these Scriptures give us, a picture for us to live by, of God's wonderful Word as something to consume like food to satisfy our spiritual "hunger pangs." 

A similar picture is given at Ezekiel 2:8 to 3:4 where the Lord says, "Open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee...cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll [i.e., Word] that I give thee." To which Ezekiel says, "Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness." The psalmist adds a sense of urgency to this sort of imagery: "I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for Thy commandments" (Psalm 119:130).

Jesus said at John 15:11: "These things have I spoken unto thee, that My joy might remain in thee, and that your joy might be full." Read the surrounding verses. 

Couple that with such verses as, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4); and "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Such Scriptures remind us that God's Word, everything He has said to us, is intended to feed us to the full with His Joy that enriches. Joy that remains. Joy that tastes so good to the longing soul. Joy that sticks to the ribs, so to speak, so that like Jeremiah's, our hunger pangs can be quieted even in the midst of our trials.

Let's feast on the sweet and savory words of the Lord. Let's taste that He is gracious. Take His Word in, chew on it, swallow it, digest it. Savor its richness. Absorb its goodness deep down into your spiritual bowels. Be fed to the full with the joy of the Lord. Yes, the Word of God really does hit the spot. 

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Ephesians 1
15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints,
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,


The Sinful Captors

“. . . A great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people” (Matthew 26:47).

The crowd that captured Jesus at Gethsemane illustrates the world’s sinful, hateful rejection of Jesus Christ.

A crowd can have a positive, uplifting influence, as when a large group of neighbors bands together to help someone in need. But crowds can also have a negative impact, such as when they incite riots or heckle someone who is trying to give a speech.

The multitude that came to the Garden of Gethsemane to capture Jesus is a prime example of a crowd that formed for an evil purpose. That throng was not at all like the spontaneous groups of admirers that often sought the Lord. Instead, it was a carefully selected group whose only purpose was to arrest Jesus and ensure that He was executed.

Judas most likely rushed away from the upper room and informed the Jewish leaders that now was the time they had long waited for—an opportunity to seize Jesus, convict Him of rebellion against Rome, and force the Romans to put Him to death. By now the conspiracy against Jesus had grown very large and involved the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the entire Sanhedrin. In their desire to guarantee Jesus’ capture, the leaders gathered perhaps a thousand men that night.

This evil group was a prophetic portrait of the world’s opposition to Christ through the ages. The crowd illustrated sinful disobedience by falsely accusing Him of crimes, by mindlessly and selfishly participating in His arrest (even without an informed opinion about Him), and by cowardly using the cover of darkness and the safety of an obscure location to implement the leaders’ plot.

The unbelieving world has always disdained God’s kingdom and the mission of His Son. Instead of coming in repentance and faith and reverently embracing Christ’s work on the cross, the world wants to find any excuse to do away with the Savior. In contrast, believers are called to stand apart from any unbelieving crowd and defend the name of Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for the discernment and courage not to follow the mind-set of the world’s crowd, but to rather be obedient to the Lord Jesus.

For Further Study

  • The large crowds that followed Jesus earlier in His ministry were not always sincere. Read John 6, and note the various ways the people misunderstood Jesus’ message.
  • How did He answer their objections and grumblings?


Maintaining Spiritual Sensitivity

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

Sin is a serious issue with God. He never winks at it or takes it lightly.

Satan desires to desensitize Christians to the heinousness of sin. He wants you to stop mourning over sin and start enjoying it. Impossible? Many who once thought so have fallen prey to its power. It usually doesn't happen all at once. In fact, the process can be slow and subtle— almost imperceptible. But the results are always tragic.

How can you remain alert to the dangers of sin and protect yourself from compromise? First, be aware of your sin. David said, "My sin is ever before me" (Ps. 51:3). Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips" (Isa. 6:5). Peter said to Jesus, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" (Luke 5:8). Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Those men shared a common awareness of their own sinfulness and it drove them to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

Second, remember the significance of the cross. If you allow a pattern of sin to develop in your life, you've forgotten the enormous price Christ paid to free you from its bondage.

Third, realize the effect sin has on others. The psalmist said, "My eyes shed streams of water, because they do not keep Thy law" (Ps. 119:136). Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, saying, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Matt. 23:37). Your heart should ache for those enslaved to sin.

Finally, eliminate anything that hinders your sensitivity to sin, such as deliberately sinning, rejecting God's forgiveness, being proud, presuming on God's grace, or taking sin lightly. Such things will quickly dull your spiritual senses and give Satan the opportunity to lead you into greater sin.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He brings comfort and happiness to those who mourn over their sin.
  • Ask Him to guard your heart from anything that will diminish your sensitivity to the awfulness of sin.

For Further Study

Read 1 Samuel 15.

  • What was Saul's sin?
  • Did he mourn over his sin? Explain.


Positive Response to God’s Law

“‘Whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

Those saints who uphold every part of God’s Word in their lives and in what they teach exhibit a most positive response to His law and receive from Him the commendation “great.” They see Paul as their pattern, when he told the Thessalonians, “You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:10–12; cf. 1 Tim. 4:11–126:11–12).

The apostle kept and taught the entire purpose of God (Acts 20:27) and therefore ranks among the greatest in God’s kingdom. If we do the same, we too will be among the greatest in heaven.

One key to our positive response to God’s moral law is knowing that it’s changeless and eternal. In heaven, the traits it requires will not need to be commanded, for they will simply be manifested as part of God’s own character. But we do not naturally reflect those characteristics while still on earth. Thus His moral standards must continue to be taught and heeded so that we might bear Spirit-produced fruit while we wait for its ultimate fulfillment (cf. Rom. 8:2–4).

Greatness does not come by gifts, success, or popularity but by our reverence for, respect of, and obedience to the Word in daily life and how we encourage those attitudes in others.

Ask Yourself

What specific, noticeable things are “great” about a person who deliberately pursues obedience to the Word? How do they distinguish themselves from others in expression, attitude, and outlook?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 3:10 Canaanite people to be killed or defeated were sinful to the point of extreme (see Gen. 15:16Lev. 18:2425). God, as moral judge, has the right to deal with all people, as at the end (Rev. 20:11–15) or any other time when He deems it appropriate for His purposes. The question is not why God chose to destroy these sinners, but why He had let them live so long and why all sinners are not destroyed far sooner than they are. It is grace that allows any sinner to draw the breath of life (see Gen. 2:17Ezek. 18:20Rom. 6:23).

Joshua 3:16 rose in a heap. The God of all power, who created heaven, earth, and all else according to Genesis 1, worked miracles here. The waters were dammed up at Adam, a city 15 miles north of the crossing, and also in tributary creeks. Once the miracle was completed, God permitted the waters to flow again (4:18) after all the people had walked to the other side on dry ground (3:17). As the Exodus had begun (see Ex. 14), so it ended.

Psalm 42:4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul. Such language also characterizes Jeremiah’s Lamentations, indicating a heavy dirge. On “pouring out one’s soul” or “heart,” see 1 Samuel 1:15Psalm 62:8Lamentations 2:19. These are attempts at trying to unburden oneself from intolerable pain, grief, and agony.

Luke 9:3 Take nothing. Slight differences between Matthew, Mark, and Luke have troubled some. Matthew 10:910 and this text say the disciples were not to take staffs, but Mark 6:8 prohibited everything “except a staff.” Mark 6:9 also instructed them to “wear sandals,” but in Matthew 10:10 sandals were included in the things they were not to carry. Actually, however, what Matthew 10:10 and this verse prohibited was the packing of extra staffs and sandals. The disciples were not to be carrying baggage for the journey, but merely to go with the clothes on their backs.

DAY 7: How do the Proverbs apply to specific life decisions and experiences?

Proverbs are divine guidelines and wise observations that teach underlying principles of life (24:3, 4). They are not inflexible laws or absolute promises. This is because they are applied in life situations that are rarely clear-cut or uncomplicated by other conditions. The consequences of a fool’s behavior as described in Proverbs apply to the complete fool. Most people are only occasionally foolish and therefore experience the occasional consequences of foolish behavior. It becomes apparent that the proverbs usually do have exceptions due to the uncertainty of life and the unpredictable behavior of fallen people.

The marvelous challenge and principle expressed in 3:5, 6 puts a heavy emphasis on trusting the Lord with “all your heart” and “in all your ways [acknowledging] Him.” Even partly practicing the conditions of those phrases represents a major challenge. Because of God’s grace, we don’t have to perfectly carry out the conditions in order to experience the truth that “He shall direct your paths.”

God does not guarantee uniform outcome or application for each proverb. By studying them and applying them, a believer is allowed to contemplate God’s mind, character, attributes, works, and blessings. In Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are only partly expressed in Proverbs (Col. 2:3).

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2 Peter 1: 5-11
5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,
6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,
7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
8 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.
9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.
11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Jesus' Admonition in Gethsemane

“He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41).

The need for spiritual vigilance by Christians is constant, but it can’t be achieved in the power of the flesh.

Jesus must have been terribly disappointed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He found the three disciples sleeping. As He labored diligently in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John began their desertion of Jesus. They could not even stay awake and offer Him support during His time of greatest need.

Given all that was happening, the Lord’s question, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” was not a harsh rebuke. In the spirit of a mentor, Jesus exhorted the three about their need for divine help: “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation.”

The phrase “keep watching and praying” indicates that all believers must have vigilance. Jesus wants all of us to anticipate temptation and seek God’s help to resist the adversary, just as He did during His vigilant prayer in the Garden.

Our own best efforts to overcome Satan will certainly fail. The only way to deal with the Devil is to flee immediately from him into God’s presence and prayerfully leave matters with Him.

But even when we know and seek to practice what Jesus told the disciples, it is often difficult to do what is right. Jesus saw His three dearest friends’ reaction and was in the midst of His own spiritual struggle, so He acknowledged, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The apostle Paul also knew the spiritual battle was real and very difficult (Rom. 7:15-23). But Paul was confident, too, that the only source of victory in our most intimidating spiritual challenges is obedience to the power of Jesus Christ: “Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vv. 24-25).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord’s forgiveness for any recent times when you have failed to be alert and diligent when praying.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 5:6-11.

  • What is the first key to spiritual success?
  • Why must we be alert for Satan?
  • What makes faithfulness in suffering worthwhile?


Mourning Over Your Sin

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

When your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

Human sorrow is mourning over some tragic or disappointing turn of events. At such times believers are assured of God's sustaining and comforting grace (2 Cor. 1:3-4). But when Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4), He was referring to godly sorrow, which is mourning over your sin.

"Mourn" in Matthew 5:4 translates the strongest Greek word used in the New Testament to express grief. It is often used of the passionate lament expressed over the loss of a loved one (e.g., Mark 16:10). David was expressing that kind of sorrow over his sin when he wrote, "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer" (Ps. 32:3-4). His grief and despair made him physically ill.

At that point David wasn't a happy person, but the blessing godly sorrow brings isn't found in the sorrow itself, but in God's response to it. As Paul said to the Corinthians, "I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God. . . . For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death" (2 Cor. 7:9-10, emphasis added). Godly sorrow is the path to repentance and forgiveness.

After David confessed his sin he proclaimed with great joy, "How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit!" (vv. 1-2). When you understand that your sins are forgiven, you are a happy person!

How do you deal with your sins? Do you deny and try to hide them, or do you mourn over them and confess them (cf. Prov. 28:13)?

Suggestions for Prayer

If you have allowed some sin to rob you of your happiness, don't let it continue a moment longer. Like David, confess your sin and know the joy of forgiveness.

For Further Study

Read Luke 15:11-24. How did the prodigal son deal with his sin?


How to Be Least in Christ’s Kingdom

“‘Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

The result of a believer’s practicing or teaching disobedience of any part of Scripture is to “be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” “Called” does not refer merely to what people say about us, but what God says about us. Others usually know nothing of or don’t care about our disobedience, but God always knows and cares.

It is completely God’s prerogative to determine rank in His kingdom (cf. Matt. 20:23). Therefore He has a perfect right to hold those in lowest esteem who have a low esteem for the Word. This does not mean the Lord will take away the offender’s salvation; they are still “in the kingdom of heaven.” But it does mean they will forfeit certain blessing and reward to whatever extent they are disobedient and disrespectful. The apostle John warned his readers, “Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 8).

If we ignore or reject even the most minor aspect of God’s law, we devalue all of it (James 2:10) and join the ranks of God’s least. It should be the highest concern of us who profess to love our Savior and Lord never to prompt Him to call us the least.

Ask Yourself

Few of us would admit to devaluing the Word of God, but perhaps that’s because we limit to one or two the number of ways this is done. How might a person show disrespect for the Scripture’s authority and teaching beyond the most obvious offenses?


Reading for Today:


Joshua 1:8 This Book of the Law. A reference to Scripture, specifically Genesis through Deuteronomy, written by Moses (see Ex. 17:14Deut. 31:9–1124). meditate in it. To read with thoughtfulness, to linger over God’s Word. The parts of Scripture they possessed have always been the main spiritual food of those who served Him, e.g., Job (Job 23:12); the psalmist (Ps. 1:1–3); Jeremiah (Jer. 15:16); and Jesus (John 4:34). prosperous,...good success. The promise of God’s blessing on the great responsibility God has given Joshua. The principle here is central to all spiritual effort and enterprise, namely the deep understanding and application of Scripture at all times.

Joshua 1:9 LORD...is with you. This assurance has always been the staying sufficiency for God’s servants such as Abraham (Gen. 15:1), Moses and his people (Ex. 14:13), Isaiah (Is. 41:10), Jeremiah (Jer. 1:78), and Christians through the centuries (Matt. 28:20Heb. 13:5).

Joshua 2:1 two men...to spy. These scouts would inform Joshua on various features of the topography, food, drinking water, and defenses to be overcome in the invasion. house of a harlot. Their purpose was not impure; rather, the spies sought a place where they would not be conspicuous. Resorting to such a house would be a good cover, from where they might learn something of Jericho. Also, a house on the city wall (v. 15) would allow a quick getaway. In spite of this precaution, their presence became known (vv. 2, 3). God, in His sovereign providence, wanted them there for the salvation of the harlot. She would provide an example of His saving by faith a woman at the bottom of social strata, as He saved Abraham at the top (see James 2:18–25). Most importantly, by God’s grace she was in the messianic line (Matt. 1:5).

Psalm 41:13 Blessed be. The essence of the Hebrew root of “amen” is “it is true,” i.e., reliable, confirmed, verified. Note that Book I of the Psalms (Pss. 1–41) closes with a doxology; see the endings of the other 4 books (Pss. 72:181989:52106:48150:6).

DAY 6: What prepared Joshua for leading the nation of Israel?

1. Exodus 17:9101314—Joshua led the victorious battle against the Amalekites.

2. Exodus 24:13—Joshua, the servant of Moses, accompanied the Jewish leader to the mountain of God (see 32:17).

3. Numbers 11:28—Joshua was the attendant of Moses from his youth.

4. Numbers 13:16—Moses changed his name from Hosea (“salvation”) to Joshua (“the Lord saves”).

5. Numbers 14:6–103038—Joshua, along with Caleb, spied out the land of Canaan with 10 others. Only Joshua and Caleb urged the nation to possess the land and, thus, only they of the 12 actually entered Canaan.

6. Numbers 27:18—Joshua was indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

7. Numbers 27:18–23—Joshua was commissioned for spiritual service the first time, to assist Moses.

8. Numbers 32:12—Joshua followed the Lord fully.

9. Deuteronomy 31:23—Joshua was commissioned a second time, to replace Moses.

10. Deuteronomy 34:9—Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom.

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10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
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.
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
Philippians 3:10-17


Supplication Before the Father

“He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt’” (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is a perfect model of perseverance in seeking God’s will.

By humbly and submissively raising the option, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me,” Jesus was not questioning the validity of God’s plan of redemption or the Son’s responsibility in it. The thought of His becoming sin for us was weighing heavier and heavier on Jesus, and He simply wondered aloud to God if there could be a way other than the cross to deliver men from sin. But as always, Jesus made it clear that the deciding factor in what was done would be the Father’s will, not the Son’s.

In contrast, while Jesus was wrestling earnestly in prayer before the Father, Peter, James, and John were oblivious to the struggle because they slept. The need for sleep was natural at such a late hour (after midnight), and their emotions—confused, frustrated, depressed—concerning Jesus’ death may have induced sleep as an escape (Luke 22:45 says they were “sleeping from 

But even those “legitimate reasons” are inadequate to excuse the disciples’ lack of vigilance in prayer. As is often true of us, the disciples did not accept Jesus’ instructions and warnings at face value. His repeated predictions of His suffering and death, His forecast of the disciples’ desertion, and His anticipation of the anguish in Gethsemane should have been more than enough incentive for the three men to stay alert and support Christ. But the disciples failed to heed Jesus’ words or follow His prayerful example at a time of crisis.

For us today, the record of Scripture is the great motivation to follow the Lord’s example. We can meditate on the written narrative of Gethsemane and rejoice in something the disciples didn’t yet have before Jesus’ death— the presence of the Holy Spirit, who continually helps us pray as we ought (Rom. 8:26-27).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to grant you both sensitivity and perseverance as you seek His will during times of prayer.

For Further Study

Read Luke 11:5-10 and 18:1-8.

  • What is the common theme of these two parables?
  • What does Jesus’ teaching suggest about the challenging nature of prayer?


Dealing with Sorrow

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matt. 5:4).

Human sorrow is a natural and healthy emotion, but beware of mourning over unfulfilled sinful desires.

Most people in our society have an amusement-park mentality. They spend much of their time and money on entertainment, wanting to enjoy life and avoid problems whenever possible. To them, Matthew 5:4 is a paradox. How can someone who mourns be happy? The answer lies in the difference between godly sorrow and human sorrow. Godly sorrow is sorrow over sin; human sorrow is sorrow over some tragic or disappointing turn of events (2 Cor. 7:8-11).

In Matthew 5:4 Jesus is referring to godly sorrow, which is our topic for tomorrow. But we all face human sorrow, so I want to discuss it briefly today.

Human sorrow is a natural emotion. Our Lord Himself was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). Many things can cause it: we might mourn out of love, disappointment, loneliness, or physical illness. There is nothing wrong with that kind of mourning. It is a God- given relief valve for the pain and sorrow in this fallen world, and promotes the healing process.

Scripture gives many examples of human sorrow. Abraham wept when his wife, Sarah, died (Gen. 23:2). Through tears Jeremiah preached God's message of judgment (Jer. 9:1). Paul expressed his concern for the church with his tears (Acts 20:31). Those are natural, healthy expressions of human sorrow.

However, sorrow can also be caused by evil desires or a lack of trust in God. King Ahab mourned to the point of sulking and not eating when he couldn't have another man's property (1 Kings 21:4). Some Christians mourn excessively when they lose a loved one. Forsaking the comfort of the Spirit, they focus only on their own grief. Extreme or prolonged manifestations of sorrow are sinful and must be confessed rather than comforted.

God is gracious to His children amid times of human sorrow. Ultimately He will do away with mourning and pain forever (Rev. 21:4). Rejoice in that promise and be comforted by His wonderful grace!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the ministry of the Spirit, who is the great Comforter or Helper (John 14:16-17). When sorrow occurs, lean on the Spirit, feed your soul on God's Word, and commune with Him in prayer.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 55. How did David express his desire to escape his difficult situation? What was his final resolve?


God's Law Not up for Annulment

“‘Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 5:19).

People resent prohibitions and demands on their behavior. Even believers, out of ignorance, misunderstanding, or blatant disregard, sometimes want to water down God’s standards. But when anyone “annuls” (breaks, sets loose) any part of God’s Word, he or she is not following Christ’s example.

Jesus did acknowledge that not all of God’s commands are of equal importance. He told a pharisaical lawyer that one divine commandment is above all others and that another is second (Matt. 22:37–39). Thus all the other commandments fall somewhere below those two and vary in significance.

Our Lord’s point here in the sermon, however, is that we must not annul—by ignoring, modifying, or disobeying—even the smallest aspect of God’s law. Some commands might be greater than others, but none should be disregarded. Paul did not pick and choose what he would teach. He did emphasize some issues more than others, but he omitted nothing (Acts 20:27). And we certainly must not teach others to disregard or disobey any portion of the law. To do so shows that our disobedience is conscious and intentional.

Jesus does not restrict His warning to formal teachers. By example, every Christian teaches those around him to be more obedient or more disobedient. Our words of respect for God’s Word present a guide for others. To speak disparagingly of the Word or to ignore its requirements presents testimony to others of the law’s unimportance to us. This ought to be the furthest thing from our agenda.

Ask Yourself

On what subject matters do you find yourself most tempted to comment, “I know what the Bible says, but . . .”?


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 33:5 King in Jeshurun. Since Moses is nowhere else in Scripture referred to as king, most interpret this as a reference to the Lord as King over Israel. However, Moses is the closest antecedent of the pronoun “he” in this clause, and the most natural understanding is that Moses is being referred to as a king. Moses certainly exercised kingly authority over Israel and could be viewed as a prototype of the coming King. Thus, united in the figure of Moses, the coming Prophet like unto Moses (18:15) would be the Prophet-King.

Luke 8:2 certain women. Rabbis normally did not have women as disciples. Mary called Magdalene. Her name probably derives from the Galilean town of Magdala. Some believe she is the woman described in 7:37–50, but it seems highly unlikely that Luke would introduce her here by name for the first time if she were the main figure in the account he just completed. Also, while it is clear that she had suffered at the hands of “demons,” there is no reason whatsoever to think that she had ever been a prostitute.

Luke 8:3 Joanna. This woman is also mentioned in 24:10, but nowhere else in Scripture. It is possible that she was a source for some of the details Luke recounts about Herod (see 23:8, 12). Susanna. Aside from this reference, she is nowhere mentioned in Scripture. She is probably someone Luke knew personally. from their substance. It was a Jewish custom for disciples to support rabbis in this way. (See 10:7; 1 Cor. 9:4–11Gal. 6:61 Tim. 5:1718.)

DAY 5: How is Moses described at the end of his life?

He is called “the man of God” in Deuteronomy 33:1. This is the first use of this phrase in Scripture. Subsequently, some 70 times in the Old Testament, messengers of God (especially prophets) are called “a man of God “ (1 Sam. 2:279:61 Kin. 13:117:182 Kin. 4:7). The New Testament uses this title for Timothy (1 Tim. 6:112 Tim. 3:17). Moses was viewed among such prophets in this conclusion to the book (see 34:10).

In Deuteronomy 34:1–4, he went to the top of Pisgah where “the LORD showed him” the panorama of the land the Lord had promised to give (the land of Canaan) to the patriarchs and their seed in Genesis 12:713:1515:18–2126:428:1314. Remarkably, it adds that “He buried him” (v. 6).The context indicates that the Lord is the One who buried Moses, and man did not have a part in it. See Jude 9, which recounts Michael’s and Satan’s dispute over Moses’ body.

At the end, Moses’ physical vision and physical health were “not dim...diminished” (v. 7). It was not death by natural causes that kept Moses from leading Israel into the Promised Land. It was his unfaithfulness to the Lord at Meribah (see Num. 20:12). Before he passed on, Moses “laid his hands” on Joshua (v. 9), which was a confirmation of the military and administrative ability necessary to the task the Lord had given Joshua. It also confirmed that Joshua had the spiritual wisdom to rely on and to be committed to the Lord.

Moses was the greatest of all the Old Testament prophets (v. 10), one whom the Lord knew intimately. Not until John the Baptist was there another prophet greater than Moses (see Matt. 11:11). After John, the Prophet came of whom Moses wrote (see John 1:21256:14 with Deut. 18:1518Acts 3:227:37). Moses next appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration together with Elijah and Jesus Christ (Matt. 17:3Mark 9:4Luke 9:3031).

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praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,


Struggle in Gethsemane

“Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me’” (Matthew 26:38).

In His time of greatest distress, Jesus realized His human weakness and His need to depend on the Father.

As Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James, and John, He experienced a more profound anguish over sin and death than ever before. His deep and desolate distress was made more severe when He considered the many personal disappointments that confronted Him. First, there was the betrayal by Judas, one of His own disciples. Then there would be the desertion by the Eleven and Peter’s threefold denial of his Master. Jesus would also be rejected by His own people, Israel, whose leaders would subject Him to all kinds of injustices before His death.

It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that Christ tells His three trusted disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death.” A person can die from such heavy sorrow, which in God’s providence did not happen to Jesus. However, the magnitude of Jesus’ sorrow apparently caused the blood capillaries right under His skin to burst. As more and more capillaries burst from the extreme emotional pressures Jesus endured, blood escaped through His pores, “and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). Such sweating was just one outward result of what our Lord felt at the excruciating prospect of His having to become sin for us. His holiness was completely repulsed by such a thought.

It was because Jesus did keep watch and look to His Father in prayer that He endured and passed this test in the Garden. Right up to the end, Christ lived His earthly life in total, sinless submission to the Father. As a believer, you also will face times of severe testing and trial when only direct communion with God will give you the strength to prevail. And you also have the added encouragement of Jesus’ example in Gethsemane, the climax of His experiences through which He became a High Priest who can fully “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God today that Jesus was divinely enabled to withstand the trials and temptations that assaulted Him at Gethsemane.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 4:1-11.

  • Write down several key differences between Jesus’ encounter in the wilderness and His experience in Gethsemane.
  • What similarities do you see in Christ’s response to the two situations?


Being Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).

If you are poor in spirit, certain characteristics will mark your life.

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson listed seven ways to determine if you are poor in spirit (The Beatitudes[Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 45-48):

  1. You will be weaned from selfPsalm 131:2says, "Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me." When you are poor in spirit you will focus not on yourself but on glorifying God and ministering to others.
  2. You will focus on ChristSecond Corinthians 3:18 says that believers are "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, [and] are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit." When you are poor in spirit, the wonder of Christ captivates you. To be like Him is your highest goal.
  3. You will never complain—If you are poor in spirit you accept God's sovereign control over your circumstances, knowing you deserve nothing anyway. Yet the greater your needs, the more abundantly He provides.
  4. You will see good in others—A person who is poor in spirit recognizes his own weaknesses and appreciates the strengths of others.
  5. You will spend time in prayer—It is characteristic of beggars to beg. Therefore you will constantly be in God's presence seeking His strength and blessing.
  6. You will take Christ on His terms—Those who are poor in spirit will give up anything to please Christ, whereas the proud sinner wants simply to add Christ to his sinful lifestyle.
  7. You will praise and thank God—When you are poor in spirit, you will be filled with praise and thanks for the wonder of God's grace, which He lavishes on you through Christ (Eph. 1:6).

Do those principles characterize your life? If so, you are poor in spirit and the kingdom of heaven is yours (Matt. 5:3). If not, you must seek God's forgiveness and begin to live as His humble child.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart, revealing any attitudes or motives that displease Him. Seek His grace in changing them.

For Further Study

Read 3 John. Would you characterize Gaius as poor in spirit? Diotrephes? Explain.


We Must Defend and Proclaim the Word

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

In considering our obligations to the divine Scripture, two other major obligations are crucial for the Christian. First, he or she must defend the Word of God. We should strive for the integrity, authority, and purity of the Bible. As Jude exhorts us, we must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). Charles Spurgeon wrote this about defending the Word:

The everlasting gospel is worth preaching even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowds from a pulpit of flames. The truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for and they are worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy, to bear reproach for the sake of the faith.

Lastly, those who love the Lord live to proclaim God’s Word. Spurgeon is again relevant:

I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message, especially to repeat such a word as this: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press, but everywhere let this be your great motive and warrant.

Ask Yourself

If you’re not a preacher, you may feel somewhat excluded from this biblical mandate. But in what ways can proclamation be a part of your life? What opportunities are available for you to inject God’s truth into discourse or conversation?


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 31:6–8 Be strong and of good courage. The strength and courage of the warriors of Israel would come from their confidence that their God was with them and would not forsake them. In vv. 7,8, Moses repeated the substance of his exhortation, this time addressing it specifically to Joshua in the presence of the people to encourage him and to remind the people that Joshua’s leadership was being assumed with the full approval of God. This principle for faith and confidence is repeated in 31:23; Josh. 1:5–72 Sam. 10:122 Kin. 2:21 Chr. 22:11–132 Chr. 32:1–8Ps. 27:14. The writer of Hebrews quotes vv. 6, 8 in 13:5.

Deuteronomy 32:43 Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people. As a result of the execution of God’s vengeance, all nations will be called upon to praise with Israel the Lord who will have provided redemptively for them in Christ and also provided a new beginning in the land. This atonement for the land is the satisfaction of God’s wrath by the sacrifice of His enemies in judgment. The atonement for the people is by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (see Ps. 79:9). Paul quotes this passage in Romans 15:10, as does the writer of Hebrews (1:6).

Psalm 40:6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire. David is not negating the commandment to offer sacrifices, but is emphasizing their being offered with the right attitude of heart (contra. Saul, 1 Sam. 15:2223; note the emphases on proper spiritual prerequisites for sacrifices in Pss. 19:1450:7–1551:15–1769:30–31Is.1:10–15Jer.7:21–26Hos.6:6Amos 5:21–24Mic. 6:6–8Matt. 23:23). My ears You have opened. Literally, “ears” or “two ears You have dug for me.” This pictures obedience and dedication.

Luke 7:32 like children. Christ used strong derision to rebuke the Pharisees. He suggested they were behaving childishly, determined not to be pleased, whether invited to “dance” (a reference to Christ’s joyous style of ministry, “eating and drinking” with sinners—v. 34) or urged to “weep”(a reference to John the Baptist’s call to repentance and John’s more austere manner of ministry—v. 33).

DAY 4: How is God characterized in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32?

The Song of Moses is a call to Israel to always “ascribe greatness to our God” (v. 3). This command refers to the greatness of God revealed in His acts of omnipotence. Read through the song and note the descriptions of God.

“The Rock” (v. 4). This word, representing the stability and permanence of God, was placed at the beginning of the verse for emphasis and was followed by a series of phrases which elaborated the attributes of God as the Rock of Israel. It is one of the principle themes in this song (see vv. 15, 18, 30, 31), stressing the unchanging nature of God in contrast with the fickle nature of the people. “Your Father” (v. 6). The foolishness and stupidity of Israel would be seen in the fact that they would rebel against God who as a Father had brought them forth and formed them into a nation. As Father, He was the progenitor and originator of the nation and the One who had matured and sustained it. This idea of God as Father of the nation is emphasized in the Old Testament (see 1 Chr. 29:10Is. 63:1664:8Mal. 2:10) while the idea of God as Father of individual believers is developed in the New Testament (see Rom. 8:15Gal. 4:6).

“The Most High” (vv. 8, 9). This title for God emphasized His sovereignty and authority over all the nations (see Gen. 11:910:3214:18Num. 24:16) with the amazing revelation that, in the whole plan for the world, God had as His goal the salvation of His chosen people. God ordained a plan where the number of nations (70, according to Gen. 10) corresponded to the number of the children of Israel (70, according to Gen. 46:27). Further, as God gave the nations their lands, He established their boundaries, leaving Israel enough land to sustain their expected population.

“Hovers over its young” (v. 11). The Lord exercised His loving care for Israel like an eagle caring for its young, especially as they were taught to fly. As they began to fly and had little strength, they would start to fall. At that point, an eagle would stop their fall by spreading its wings so they could land on them. So the Lord has carried Israel and not let the nation fall. He has been training Israel to fly on His wings of love and omnipotence.

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And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).


The Start of Jesus' Final Challenge

“Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane” (Matthew 26:36)

The agony of Jesus’ death, beginning with His ordeal in the Garden of Gethsemane, is something finite believers will never fully comprehend.

C.H. Spurgeon, in an 1880s sermon, said this to his congregation: “It will not be enough for you to hear, or read [about Christ]; you must do your own thinking and consider your Lord for yourselves. . . . Shut yourself up with Jesus, if you would know him.” However, even those who most conscientiously follow Spurgeon’s admonition to meditate on Jesus’ Person and ministry find the effort reveals much about Him that is beyond human understanding.

As we continue our study of the events leading up to the Lord’s sacrificial death, we also realize that it’s difficult to grasp the full meaning of many of them. Even with the aid of the Spirit’s illumination, we find the weight of Jesus’ agony and suffering more than our minds can completely fathom. As the sinless God-man, He could perceive the full scope of sin’s horror in a way we never can.

Like every other aspect of Jesus’ life, though, His agony in Gethsemane was part of God’s foreordained plan of redemption. Christ’s intense sorrow and mental wrestling in the face of His mission to take away the sin of the world fit perfectly with Scripture’s portrait of Him. The prophet Isaiah predicted that He would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). In John 11:35 “Jesus wept” at Lazarus’ grave. Luke 19:41tells us that at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “He saw the city and wept over it.”

The Lord Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane was the final accumulation of all the hardships, sorrows, and griefs He had to deal with in His earthly ministry. And our Lord, through His dark struggle in the Garden, is the best role model we will ever have of a godly response to trials and temptations. In view of His sacrificial death for us, His response to adversity should cause us to stand in awe of our great Savior and desire to follow His example.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the Lord would strengthen your resolve to follow His example in dealing with trials.

For Further Study

Read John 11:1-46, and list some parallels you see in verses 30-44 between Jesus’ reactions to Lazarus’s death and how He would respond to His own suffering and death.


Relying on God's Grace

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:3).

Poverty of spirit is a prerequisite to salvation and to victorious Christian living.

In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells of two men who went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee boasted to God about his self- righteous efforts; the tax collector humbly acknowledged his sin. The Pharisee was proud and went away still in sin; the tax collector was poor in spirit and went away forgiven.

The Greek word translated "poor" in Matthew 5:3 was used in classical Greek to refer to those reduced to cowering in dark corners of the city streets begging for handouts. Because they had no personal resources, they were totally dependent on the gifts of others. That same word is used in Luke 16:20 to describe Lazarus the poor man.

The spiritual parallel pictures those who know they are spiritually helpless and utterly destitute of any human resources that will commend them to God. They rely totally on God's grace for salvation, and they also rely on His grace for daily living. Jesus called them happy people because they are true believers and the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

The word translated "theirs" in Matthew 5:3 is emphatic in the Greek text: the kingdom of heaven definitely belongs to those who are poor in spirit. They have its grace now and will fully enjoy its glory later (1 John 3:1-2). That's cause for great joy!

Isaiah 57:15 says, "Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, 'I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.'" David added, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17).

Like the humble tax collector, recognize your weaknesses and rely totally on God's resources. Then He will hear your prayers and minister to your needs. That's where happiness begins!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that when you come to Him in humility and contrition, He hears you and responds.
  • Prayerfully guard your heart from the subtle influences of pride.

For Further Study

Read the following verses, noting God's perspective on pride: Proverbs 6:16-178:1311:216:518-19.


We Must Receive, Honor, and Obey the Word

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to accept what He says about Scripture and to wholeheartedly echo Peter’s sentiment: “You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The privilege of knowing Christ and His Word also carries with it certain essential obligations.

First, we must receive God’s Word exactly for what it is, “the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We should be completely receptive because the Word is the highest standard of truth, joy, and blessing, and it tells us of the way to salvation.

Second, we are obliged to honor the Scripture. The psalmist wrote, “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103; cf. Jer. 15:16). The great Reformer Martin Luther did not fear his human opponents. However, when he stood in the pulpit to expound Scripture, his knees often knocked under a sense of awe and duty to honor the Word.

Third, we must obey God’s Word. The apostle Paul commanded Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). A key to genuine obedience in the Christian walk is to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” (Col. 3:16).

Ask Yourself

In what ways is the Scripture honored in your home? If this is an area in your family life that has been allowed to slip, what could you begin doing right away to restore the Bible to a place of regular reflection, instruction, and prominence?


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 29:4 the LORD has not given you...eyes to see. In spite of all they had experienced (vv. 2, 3), Israel was spiritually blind to the significance of what the Lord had done for them, lacking spiritual understanding, even as Moses was speaking. This spiritual blindness of Israel continues to the present day (Rom. 11:8), and it will not be reversed until Israel’s future day of salvation (see Rom. 11:25–27). The Lord had not given them an understanding heart, simply because the people had not penitently sought it (see 2 Chr. 7:14).

Deuteronomy 29:29 The secret things…those things which are revealed. That which is revealed included the law with its promises and threats. Consequently, that which is hidden only can refer to the specific way in which God will carry out His will in the future, which is revealed in His Word and completed in His great work of salvation, in spite of the apostasy of His people.

Deuteronomy 30:4, 5 The gathering of Jews out of all the countries of the earth will follow Israel’s final redemption. Restoration to the land will be in fulfillment of the promise of the covenant given to Abraham (see Gen. 12:713:1515:18–2117:8) and so often reiterated by Moses and the prophets.

Deuteronomy 30:6 the LORD...will circumcise your heart. This work of God in the innermost being of the individual is the true salvation that grants a new will to obey Him in place of the former spiritual insensitivity and stubbornness (see Jer. 4:49:25Rom. 2:2829). This new heart will allow the Israelite to love the Lord wholeheartedly and is the essential feature of the New Covenant (see 29:4, 18; 30:10, 17; Jer. 31:31–3432:37–42Ezek. 11:1936:26).

Luke 7:14 touched the open coffin. A ceremonially defiling act, normally. Jesus graphically illustrated how impervious He was to such defilements. When He touched the coffin, its defilement did not taint Him; rather, His power immediately dispelled the presence of all death and defilement. This was the first of 3 times Jesus raised people from the dead (see 8:49–56; John 11). Verse 22 implies that Christ also raised others who are not specifically mentioned.

DAY 3: Why are our choices in life so important?

In Deuteronomy 30:11–14, after remembering the failures of the past and the prospects for the future, Moses earnestly admonished the people to make the right choice. The issue facing them was to enjoy salvation and blessing by loving God so wholeheartedly that they would willingly live in obedience to His word. The choice was simple, yet profound. It was stated in simple terms so that they could understand and grasp what God expected of them (v. 11). Although God had spoken from heaven, He had spoken through Moses in words every person could understand (v. 12). Neither did they have to search at some point beyond the sea (v. 13). The truth was there, through Moses, now in their hearts and minds (v. 14). All the truth necessary for choosing to love and obey God and thus avoid disobedience and cursing, they had heard and known (v. 15).

In v. 15, Moses pinpoints the choice—to love and obey God is life and good; to reject God is death and evil. If they chose to love God and obey His word, they would enjoy all God’s blessings (v. 16). If they refused to love and obey Him, they would be severely and immediately punished (vv. 17, 18). Paul, in speaking about salvation in the New Testament, makes use of this appeal made by Moses (Rom. 10:1–13). Like Moses, Paul is saying that the message of salvation is plain and understandable.

So “choose life” (v. 19). Moses forces the decision, exhorting Israel on the plains of Moab before God (heaven) and man (earth) to choose, by believing in and loving God, the life available through the New Covenant (see v. 6). Sadly, Israel failed to respond to this call to the right choice (see 31:16–18, 27–29). Choosing life or death was also emphasized by Jesus. The one who believed in Him had the promise of eternal life, while the one who refused to believe faced eternal death (see John 3:1–36). Every person faces this same choice.

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What ever you do,
Do it for the Honor and Glory of God. 

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.


Peter's Impulsive Self-Confidence

“Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away’” (Matthew 26:33).

Prior to Jesus’ death, Peter’s trust in himself rather than God distorted his judgment concerning loyalty to Jesus.

Like a self-willed child, Peter often heard and believed only what he wanted to. He failed to grasp the Lord’s warning that his faith would be severely tested. At the Last Supper Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat” (Luke 22:31). But Peter was unfazed by these words. Instead, he boasted, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (v. 33).

Christ in His divine wisdom knew that Peter’s claim would not hold true. Therefore, He went further and soberly predicted during the Supper that Peter would soon not only desert His Lord but also deny Him three times. Now in Matthew 26, following Peter’s latest outburst of overconfidence, Jesus is constrained to repeat His prediction. Amazingly, Peter did not believe the thrust of Jesus’ words. He would rather fool himself and believe that Jesus was mistaken about his faithfulness and loyalty.

In reality, Peter’s pride deceptively told him it was impossible for him to deny the Lord. It also deceived him by filling him with a sense of superiority over others and a supreme confidence in his own strength.

Like Peter, we often display our pride and ignorance when we brashly claim great self-confidence about something that turns out just the opposite a short time later. For example, we might presumptuously assert to Christian friends that we always maintain our testimony, no matter what the situation. Then, to our shame, the very next week we lie, cheat, or shade the truth to get ourselves out of a difficult circumstance.

But what a reassurance to know that Jesus was willing to die for proud, thoughtless disciples such as Peter and careless followers such as us. Furthermore, our Lord is constantly in the business of forgiving and restoring those who stumble: “He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that today and every day God would make you more confident in His grace and power and less reliant on your own wisdom.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 16:13-28. What important principle in verses 24-26 can help you avoid Peter’s impulsive mistakes?


Happiness is . . . 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit . . . those who mourn . . .the gentle . . . those who hunger and thirst for righteousness . . . the merciful . . . the pure in heart . . . the peacemakers . . . [and] those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" (Matt. 5:3-10).

By the world’s standards, Christ’s definition of happiness is shocking and contradictory!

A quiz in a popular magazine characterized happy people as those who enjoy other people but aren't self-sacrificing, who refuse to participate in negative feelings or emotions, and who have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

But Jesus described happy people quite differently. In fact, He characterized them as spiritual beggars who realize they have no resources in themselves. He said they are meek rather than proud, mournful over their sin, self- sacrificing, and willing to endure persecution to reconcile men to God.

By the world's standards, that sounds more like misery than happiness! But the people of the world don't understand that what is often thought of as misery is actually the key to happiness.

Follow the Lord's progression of thought: true happiness begins with being poor in spirit (v. 3). That means you have a right attitude toward sin, and that leads you to mourn over it (v. 4). Mourning over sin produces a meekness that leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness (vv. 5-6), which results in mercy, purity of heart, and a peaceable spirit (vv. 7-9)—attitudes that bring true happiness.

When you display those attitudes you can expect to be insulted, persecuted, and unjustly accused (vv. 10-11) because your life will be an irritating rebuke to worldly people. But despite the persecution, you can "rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great" (v. 12).

You are one of God's lights in a sin-darkened world (v. 14), and while most people will reject Christ, others will be drawn to Him by the testimony of your life. Be faithful to Him today so He can use you that way.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the grace enabling you to have Beatitude attitudes.
  • Ask Him to make you a bright light in someone's life today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Peter 2:19-23.

  • How did Jesus respond to persecution?
  • How should you respond?


Jesus’ Reliance on Scripture

“‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

Repeatedly during His earthly ministry, Jesus referred to the Old Testament as authoritative truth (e.g., Matt. 19:424:38–39Mark 12:26Luke 11:5117:29John 3:148:56), always confirming its accuracy and authenticity. On one occasion, in defending His messiahship before the unbelieving Jewish leaders, He declared, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

For Jesus, it was clear that God gave His Word to lead people to salvation. In His parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham tells the rich man that if his brothers, whom he did not want to follow him to hell, “do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Scripture is more than sufficient to bring sinners to salvation.

More than once, Christ used Scripture’s authority to establish His own. At a Sabbath service in the Nazareth synagogue, He appealed to the book of Isaiah: “‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’… And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:18–1921; cf. Isa. 61:1Matt. 11:3–5Mark 11:17).

Scripture’s authority is Jesus’ authority, and to obey Him is to obey His Word (John 6:688:47).

Ask Yourself

What argues against our confidence in the convicting, converting power of the Word of God? What could we do to ensure that our hearts aren’t blinded to this truth, to put ourselves in positions where we can see God at work through the Scriptures?


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 28:1, 2 diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God. “Diligently obey” stressed the need for complete obedience on the part of Israel. The people could not legally or personally merit God’s goodness and blessing; but their constant desire to obey, worship, and maintain a right relation to Him was evidence of their true faith in and love for Him (see 6:5). It was also evidence of God’s gracious work in their hearts.

Deuteronomy 28:1 high above all nations. If Israel obeyed the Lord, ultimate blessing would be given in the form of preeminence above all the nations of the world (see 26:19).The indispensable condition for obtaining this blessing was salvation, resulting in obedience to the Lord in the form of keeping His commandments. This blessing will ultimately come to pass in the millennial kingdom, particularly designed to exalt Israel’s King, the Messiah, and His nation (see Zech. 13:1–14:21Rom. 11:25–27).

Proverbs 13:8 ransom...riches,...poor...rebuke. Riches deliver some from punishment, while others suffer, because they will not heed the rebuke of laziness, which keeps them poor.

Luke 6:41 speck...plank. The humor of the imagery was no doubt intentional. Christ often employed hyperbole to paint comical images (see 18:25Matt. 23:24).

Luke 6:46 you call Me ‘Lord, Lord.’ It is not sufficient to give lip service to Christ’s lordship. Genuine faith produces obedience. A tree is known by its fruits (v. 44). See Matthew 7:21–23.

DAY 2: What did God promise would happen to Israel if they disobeyed the law?

Their obedience centers around “this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD,” as described in Deuteronomy 28:58 and would lead to fearing the Lord, whose “name” represents His presence and character. The title “LORD (Yahweh)” revealed the glory and greatness of God (see Ex. 3:15). Significantly, the phrase “the LORD your God” is used approximately 280 times in the Book of Deuteronomy. The full measure of the divine curse would come on Israel when its disobedience had been hardened into disregard for the glorious and awesome character of God. In vv. 15, 45, Moses described curses for disobedience; hence, the worst of the curses come when disobedience is hardened into failure to fear God. Only God’s grace would save a small remnant (v. 62), thus keeping Israel from being annihilated (see Mal. 2:2). In contrast to the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15:5, the physical seed of Abraham under God’s curse would be reduced. As God had multiplied the seed of the patriarchs in Egypt (see Ex. 1:7), He would decimate their numbers to make them as nothing until His restoration of the nation in a future day (see 30:5).

In v. 64, it warns that “the LORD will scatter you.” The Jews remaining after the curses fall would be dispersed by the Lord ultimately to serve false gods, restlessly and fearfully throughout all the nations of the earth (see Neh. 1:89Jer. 30:11Ezek. 11:16). This dispersion began with the captivity of the northern kingdom, Israel (722 B.C.), then the southern kingdom, Judah (586 B.C.), and is still a reality today. In the future earthly kingdom of Messiah, Israel will experience its regathering in faith, salvation, and righteousness. (See Is. 59:19–21Jer. 31:31–34Ezek. 36:8–37:14Zech. 12:10–14:21.)

In fact, Israel would be so abandoned by God that she would not even be able to sell herself into slavery (v. 68). The curse of God would bring Israel into a seemingly hopeless condition (see Hos. 8:139:3). The specific mention of Egypt could be symbolic for any lands where the Jews have been taken into bondage or sold as slaves. But it is true that after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was a judgment on the apostasy of Israel and their rejection and execution of the Messiah, this prophecy was actually fulfilled. The Roman general Titus, who conquered Jerusalem and Israel, sent 17,000 adult Jews to Egypt to perform hard labor there and had those who were under 17 years old publicly sold. Under the Roman emperor Hadrian, countless Jews were sold and suffered such bondage and cruelty.

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Hebrew 3:5-6
5 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.


Anticipating Jesus' Death

“‘After two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be delivered up for crucifixion’” (Matthew 26:2).

Jesus adhered perfectly to God’s timetable for His death, which was part of the Father’s larger plan of redemption.

The history of redemption most definitely centers on the cross of Jesus Christ. Hymn writer John Bowring expressed this fact well:

In the cross of Christ I glory,
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time.
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime.

The apostle Paul was so convinced of the central importance of Christ’s death on the cross that he told the Corinthians, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul knew that without the cross of Christ there is no salvation and no true Christianity.

Jesus Himself knew the length of His earthly life was determined by God’s sovereign timetable and that the time of His death could not be altered or thwarted. Concerning control over His life, He declared, “I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18). As the Son of God, Jesus was able to look forward to His death and even predict that it would be in Jerusalem and that He would rise on the third day (Matt. 16:21).

During Jesus’ ministry, people such as the Jewish leaders unknowingly threatened God’s timetable when they sought to kill Him. But all premature attempts to murder Christ failed because they did not fit into God’s sovereign plan for how, when, and why Jesus should die on the cross (John 1:29Acts 2:23-24).

But Jesus’ reference to the Passover in Matthew 26:2 did fit into God’s plan; our Lord’s suffering and death was perfectly timed to coincide with that celebration. Passover was known by the Jews as the festival in which sacrificial lambs were slain, but now the death of the Lamb of God would forever replace Passover’s importance. We can take great comfort in all this, knowing “Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7) and that Jesus the Lamb was “foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of [us]” (1 Peter 1:19-20).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that His sovereign plan for Christ’s sacrificial death could not be changed by man’s will.

For Further Study

Read John 10:1-18, and select several verses for meditation and memorization. What does the passage say about the nature of salvation?


Cultivating Beatitudes Attitudes  

"When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  And opening His mouth He began to teach them" (Matt. 5:1-2).

Only Christians know true happiness because they know Christ, who is its source.

Jesus' earthly ministry included teaching, preaching, and healing. Wherever He went He generated great excitement and controversy. Usually great multitudes of people followed Him as He moved throughout the regions of Judea and Galilee. Thousands came for healing, many came to mock and scorn, and some came in search of truth.

On one such occasion Jesus delivered His first recorded message: the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). In it He proclaimed a standard of living diametrically opposed to the standards of His day—and ours. Boldly denouncing the ritualistic, hypocritical practices of the Jewish religious leaders, He taught that true religion is a matter of the heart or mind. People will behave as their hearts dictate (Luke 6:45), so the key to transformed behavior is transformed thinking.

At the beginning of His sermon Jesus presented the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12): a list of the godly attitudes that mark a true believer and insure true happiness. The Greek word translated "blessed" in those verses speaks of happiness and contentment. The rest of the sermon discusses the lifestyle that produces it.

Jesus taught that happiness is much more than favorable circumstances and pleasant emotions. In fact, it doesn't necessarily depend on circumstances at all. It is built on the indwelling character of God Himself. As your life manifests the virtues of humility, sorrow over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peace, you will experience happiness that even severe persecution can't destroy.

As we study the Beatitudes, I pray you will be more and more conformed to the attitudes they portray and that you will experience true happiness in Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Holy Spirit to minister to you through our daily studies. Be prepared to make any attitude changes that He might prompt.

For Further Study

Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).

  • What issues did Christ address?
  • How did His hearers react to His teaching? How do you?


Jesus and the  Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished’” (Matthew 5:18).

Jesus’ teachings are not only unqualifiedly authoritative (“truly I say to you”), they are permanent. He implicitly equated His words of instruction with God’s eternal Word: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). As such, Jesus’ words are on a par with the Old Testament and are timeless.

In view of that reality, how foolish of us ever to wonder about the relevancy of God’s Word for us. The Bible is God’s eternal Word, and even though completed nearly two millennia ago, it has much to say to us today. Scripture is and always has been “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Jesus reveals that the permanence of God’s Word extends to the smallest letters and the smallest parts of printed letters—neither will be erased or modified.

No other statement by the Lord more clearly states His absolute confidence in the enduring nature and inerrant quality of the Bible. It is God’s own Spirit-inspired Word, down to every single word, letter, and part of letter.

Ask Yourself

Not necessarily by time percentages, to what extent does the Word factor into your usual day? When and why do you turn to its wisdom and instruction? What have you found to be the best ways to keep the Scriptures alive and active within you?


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 26:13, 14 you shall say before the LORD your God. The confession to be made in connection with the offering of this first tithe consisted of a statement of obedience (vv. 13, 14) and a prayer for God’s blessing (v. 15). In this manner, the Israelite confessed his continual dependence on God and lived in obedient expectance of God’s continued gracious blessing.

Deuteronomy 26:15 Look down from…heaven. This was the first reference to God’s dwelling place being in heaven. From His abode in heaven, God had given the Israelites the land flowing with milk and honey as He had promised to the patriarchs. His continued blessing on both the people and the land was requested.

Psalm 39:11 like a moth. The moth normally represented one of the most destructive creatures, but here the delicacy of the moth is intended (see Job 13:28Is. 50:951:8Matt. 6:19ff.).

Luke 6:11 filled with rage. A curious response in the face of so glorious a miracle. Such irrational hatred was the scribes’ and Pharisees’ response to having been publicly humiliated—something they hated worse than anything (see Matt. 23:67). They were unable to answer His reasoning (vv. 9, 10). And furthermore, by healing the man only with a command, He had performed no actual “work” that they could charge Him with. Desperately seeking a reason to accuse Him (v. 7), they could find none. Their response was blind fury.

Luke 6:12 continued all night in prayer. Luke frequently shows Jesus praying—and particularly before major events in His ministry. See 3:215:169:18, 28, 29; 11:1; 22:32, 40–46.

DAY 1: How similar is the sermon in Luke 6:17–49 to the Sermon on the Mount?

The similarity of the Sermon on the Plateau in Luke to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:1–7:29) is remarkable. It is possible, of course, that Jesus simply preached the same sermon on more than one occasion. (It is evident that He often used the same material more than once—e.g., 12:58, 59; see Matt. 5:2526.) It appears more likely, however, that these are variant accounts of the same event. Luke’s version is abbreviated somewhat, because he omitted sections from the sermon that are uniquely Jewish (particularly Christ’s exposition of the law). Aside from that, the two sermons follow exactly the same flow of thought, beginning with the Beatitudes and ending with the parable about building on the rock. Differences in wording between the two accounts are undoubtedly owing to the fact that the sermon was originally delivered in Aramaic. Luke and Matthew translate into Greek with slight variances. Of course, both translations are equally inspired and authoritative.

Luke tells us the sermon was given on “a level place”(v. 17), after coming down from a mountain. In Matthew 5:1, it says “on a mountain.” These harmonize easily if Luke is referring to either a plateau or a level place on the mountainside. Indeed, there is such a place at the site near Capernaum where tradition says this sermon was delivered.

Luke’s account of the Beatitudes (vv. 20–23) is abbreviated (see Matt. 5:3–12). He lists only 4, and balances them with 4 parallel woes (vv. 24–26). One example of the difference in wording is in v. 20, “Blessed are you poor.” Christ’s concern for the poor and outcasts is one of Luke’s favorite themes. Luke used a personal pronoun (“you”) where Matthew 5:3 employed a definite article (“the”). Luke was underscoring the tender, personal sense of Christ’s words. A comparison of the two passages reveals that Christ was dealing with something more significant than mere material poverty and wealth, however. The poverty spoken of here refers primarily to a sense of one’s own spiritual impoverishment.

My Royal Family



"Redeemed sinners not only became heavenly citizens but also members of God's own family.  The Father bestows, on believers the same love He gives his Son."


The Summation of Humility

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).

If believers fulfill their constant debt of love, they will have a continual attitude of sacrificial humility.

Origen, the early church father, wisely said, “The debt of love remains with us permanently and never leaves us. This is a debt which we pay every day and forever owe.” The primary reason you and I can pay that debt is that “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). God’s own love to us and every other believer is the bottomless well from which we can draw and then share with others.

If we have this wonderful, supernatural resource of love through the Holy Spirit, it only follows that we must submit to the Spirit. When we do so, all the enemies and impediments to humility—pride, unjustified power-grabbing, selfish ambition, partisanship, hatred—will melt away. What an overwhelming thought to consider that such humility can be ours because God Himself, through His Spirit, is teaching us to love as we yield to Him (1 Thess. 4:9).

At every turn we see humility going hand in hand with godly love. Genuine love never turns its “freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). It will not do anything to cause another Christian to fall into sin or even be offended in his conscience (Rom. 14:21). Love that is from God will “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven [us]” (Eph. 4:32).

The greatest test of love and humility is the willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. As we have already seen in our study of humility, Jesus was the ultimate example of this (Phil. 2:5-8). Our supreme demonstration of humility is when we imitate Him: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for an occasion today to show some facet of biblical love to another person.
  • If nothing develops today, keep praying that the Lord would make you alert for future opportunities.

For Further Study

  • First John 4 is a wonderful chapter on God’s love and its meaning for believers. According to the apostle, how can we know truth from error?
  • What benefits derive from God’s love?


Applying the Disciples' Prayer

"Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (Matt. 6:13).

The Disciples’ Prayer is a pattern to follow for life.

The implications of the Disciples' Prayer are profound and far-reaching. An unknown author put it this way:

I cannot say "our" if I live only for myself in a spiritual, watertight compartment. I cannot say "Father" if I do not endeavor each day to act like His child. I cannot say "who art in heaven" if I am laying up no treasure there.

I cannot say "hallowed be Thy name" if I am not striving for holiness. I cannot say "Thy kingdom come" if I am not doing all in my power to hasten that wonderful day. I cannot say "Thy will be done" if I am disobedient to His Word. I cannot say "in earth as it is in heaven" if I will not serve Him here and now. 

I cannot say "give us . . . our daily bread" if I am dishonest or an "under the counter" shopper. I cannot say "forgive us our debts" if I harbor a grudge against anyone. I cannot say "lead us not into temptation" if I deliberately place myself in its path. I cannot say "deliver us from evil" if I do not put on the whole armor of God.

I cannot say "thine is the kingdom" if I do not give to the King the loyalty due Him as a faithful subject. I cannot attribute to Him "the power" if I fear what men may do. I cannot ascribe to Him "the glory" if I am seeking honor only for myself. I cannot say "forever" if the horizon of my life is bounded completely by the things of time.

As you learn to apply to your own life the principles in this marvelous prayer, I pray that God's kingdom will be your focus, His glory your goal, and His power your strength. Only then will our Lord's doxology be the continual song of your heart: "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen" (v. 13).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to use what you've learned from the Disciples' Prayer to transform your prayers.

For Further Study

Read John 17, noting the priorities Jesus stressed in prayer.


Jesus Christ Is Superior to the Ceremonial Law

“‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).

The ceremonial law governed the form of Israel’s worship. When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled that law as well as the judicial. Sacrifice was the heart of all Old Testament worship, and as the perfect sacrifice, Jesus brought all the other sacrifices to an end. While He was on the cross, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). Christ Himself became the new and perfect way into the Holy of Holies, into which any man could come by faith.

In this way, the Levitical, priestly, sacrificial system ended. Though the temple was not destroyed until A.D. 70, every offering made on its altar after Jesus died was needless. Symbolically, they had no more significance. Of course, the Tabernacle and Temple sacrifices that were offered even before Christ’s death never had power to cleanse from sin. They were only pictures of the Messiah-Savior’s work of cleansing, pictures that pointed to that supreme manifestation of God’s mercy and grace.

The ceremonial law ended because it was fulfilled. Since the reality had come, the pictures and symbols had no more place or purpose. From Genesis 1:1through Malachi 4:6, the Old Testament is Jesus Christ. It was inspired by Christ, it points to Christ, and it is fulfilled by Christ.

Ask Yourself

What does the magnificence of God’s story stir in you as you consider it again—the signs and fulfillments created by God’s design before the foundation of the world and forged through long centuries of human history? Sit at His feet again today in awe-filled worship.


Reading for Today:


Psalm 39:5 handbreadths. He measures the length of his life with the smallest popular measuring unit of ancient times (1 Kin. 7:26); see “four fingers” (i.e., about 2.9in.) in Jeremiah 52:21. and my age is as nothing before You. On “measuring” God’s age, see Psalm 90:2. vapor. For the same Hebrew word, see Ecclesiastes 1:2ff., “vanity” (a total of 31 occurrences of this term are in Eccl.); Psalm 144:4. On the concept in the New Testament, see James 4:14.

Luke 5:26 strange things. The response is curiously noncommittal—not void of wonder and amazement, but utterly void of true faith.

Luke 5:30 eat and drink. Consorting with outcasts on any level—even merely speaking to them—was bad enough. Eating and drinking with them implied a level of friendship that was abhorrent to the Pharisees (7:34; 15:2; 19:7).

Luke 5:33 fast often. Jesus did fast on at least one occasion (Mat. 4:2)—but privately, in accordance with His own teaching (Matt. 6:16-18). The law also prescribed a fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-3123:27)—but all other fasts were supposed to be voluntary, for specific reasons such as penitence and earnest prayer. The fact that these Pharisees raised this question shows that they thought of fasting as a public exercise to display one’s own spirituality. Yet, the Old Testament also rebuked hypocritical fasting (Is. 58:3-6).

DAY 31: What does Deuteronomy 24:1–4say about divorce and remarriage?

This passage does not command, commend, condone, or even suggest divorce. Rather, it recognizes that divorce occurs and permits it only on restricted grounds. The case presented here is designed to convey the fact that divorcing produced defilement. Notice the following sequence:

  1. if a man finds an uncleanness (some impurity or something vile, see 23:14) in his wife, other than adultery, which was punished by execution (see 22:22);
  2. if he legally divorces her (although God hates divorce, as Mal. 2:16 says; He has designed marriage for life, as Gen. 2:24declares; and He allowed divorce because of hard hearts, as Matt. 19:8 reveals);
  3. if she then marries another man;
  4. if the new husband then dies or divorces her, then that woman could not return to her first husband (v. 4). This is so because she was “defiled” with such a defilement that is an abomination to the Lord and a sinful pollution of the Promised Land.

What constitutes that defilement? Only one thing is possible—she was defiled in the remarriage because there was no ground for the divorce. So when she remarried, she became an adulteress (Matt. 5:3132) and is thus defiled so that her former husband can’t take her back. Illegitimate divorce proliferates adultery.

My Royal Family



Phil. 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,


God Centered Teamwork 

“He who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow-workers” (1 Corinthians 3:8-9).

Humble teamwork in ministry gives God all the glory and promotes humility.

Paul’s agricultural illustration of planting and watering makes it clear that the ministry works best in a team concept and that all credit for results must go to God. Paul (the one planting) and Apollos (the one watering) had done their God-appointed work faithfully and well, but they had to wait on the Lord for whatever was accomplished.

Paul mentions just two kinds of ministry in today’s passage: planting the seed of the gospel by evangelism and watering it by further teaching. However, the apostle’s point applies to every kind of ministry you might engage in. You might be tempted to think that your ministry is glamorous or significant and that everything revolves around your efforts. Or you could be envious of another believer who has a more public ministry than you. But all God’s work is important, and Paul is reminding us that whatever work He has called us to is the most important ministry we can have.

First Corinthians 3 also reminds us that all believers who minister are one in the Body of Christ. If you recognize and accept this fact, it is a sure guarantee that humility will be present as you serve God. Humility simply leaves no place for fleshly competitiveness or selfish jealousy toward other Christians.

God will be certain to recognize your individual, faithful work—“according to [your] own labor”—in His day of rewards. But Jesus also taught His disciples and us the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16) to keep our perspectives balanced regarding the corporate nature of ministry in God’s kingdom. None of us should look with pride at our own service and see ourselves as deserving more reward than someone who worked less time or in a less prominent position. It is not our ministry, any more than it was Paul’s or Apollos’s. It is God’s, and all the glory goes to Him, not us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would give you a greater sense of humble gratitude for whatever type of ministry opportunity you have.

For Further Study

Compare Matthew 19:27-30 with 20:1-16.

  • Why could the disciples have been tempted to feel superior?
  • What does the landowner’s behavior in the parable suggest about the character of God?


Avoiding Temptations

"Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matt. 6:13).

Don’t let your trials turn into temptations.

When we hear the English word temptation, we usually think of a solicitation to evil. But "temptation" in Matthew 6:13 translates a Greek word that can refer either to a trial that God permits to refine your spiritual character (James 1:2-4), or a temptation that Satan or your flesh brings to incite you to sin (Matt. 4:1James 1:13- 15). Both are valid translations.

I believe "temptation" in Matthew 6:13 refers to trials. Even though we know God uses trials for our good, it's still good to pray that He won't allow us to be caught in a trial that becomes an irresistible temptation. That can happen if we're spiritually weak or ill-prepared to deal with a situation.

God will never test you beyond what you're able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13), but resisting temptation requires spiritual discipline and divine resources. Praying for God to deliver you from trials that might overcome you is a safeguard against leaning on your own strength and neglecting His power.

God tested Joseph by allowing him to be sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by an adulterous woman, and unjustly imprisoned by a jealous husband. But Joseph knew that God's hand was on his life. That's why he could say to his brothers, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to . . . preserve many people" (Gen. 50:20). Joseph was ready for the test and passed it beautifully!

Jesus Himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt. 4:1). God wanted to test Him to prove His virtue, but Satan wanted to tempt Him to destroy His virtue. Jesus, too, was victorious.

When you experience trials, don't let them turn into temptations. Recognize God's purposes and seek His strength. Learn from the example of those who have successfully endured the same trials. Be assured that God is in control and is using each trial to mold your character and teach you greater dependence on Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the trials He brings your way.
  • Ask Him to help you see your trials as means by which He strengthens you and glorifies Himself.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:11Matthew 26:41Ephesians 6:10-18, and James 4:7. What do those verses teach you about dealing with temptation?


How Jesus Fulfilled the Law—Moral and Judicial

“‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill’” (Matthew 5:17).

The moral law was God’s foundational code. Jesus fulfilled that law by His perfect righteousness. He obeyed every commandment, met every requirement, and lived up to every standard.

But most important, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament by being its fulfillment. He did not simply teach it fully and exemplify it fully—He was it fully. He did not come simply to teach righteousness and to model righteousness; He came as divine righteousness. What He said and what He did reflected who He is.

God’s judicial law was given to provide unique identity for Israel as a nation that belonged to Jehovah. The laws relating to agriculture, settlement of disputes, diet, cleanliness, dress, and such things were special standards by which His chosen people were to live before the Lord and apart from the world. This judicial law Jesus fulfilled on the cross.

Jesus’ crucifixion marked Israel’s ultimate apostasy in the final rejection of her Messiah and the interruption of God’s dealing with that people as a nation. With that, the judicial law passed away because Israel no longer served as His chosen nation.

Praise God, He will someday redeem and restore Israel (Rom. 9–11), but in the meanwhile the church is His chosen body of people on earth (1 Peter 2:9–10). All the redeemed—those who receive the work of the cross—are His chosen ones.

Ask Yourself

There is no way, of course, for us to duplicate the perfect performance of Jesus, but by surrendering in daily, ongoing ways to His Holy Spirit, we can see Christ’s character exuding from us in steady practice. Have your own failures and experiences caused you to deny this truth? Submit to Him afresh today.


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 22:5 anything that pertains to a man…woman’s garment. Found only here in the Pentateuch, this statute prohibited a man from wearing any item of feminine clothing or ornamentation or a woman from wearing any item of masculine clothing or ornamentation. The same word translated “abomination” was used to describe God’s view of homosexuality (Lev. 18:2220:13). This instance specifically outlawed transvestism. The creation order distinctions between male and female were to be maintained without exception (Gen. 1:27).

Deuteronomy 22:22–29 Adultery was punished by death for the two found in the act. If the adulterous persons were a man with a woman who was pledged to be married to someone else, this consensual act led to the death of both parties (vv. 23, 24). However, if the man forced (i.e., raped) the woman, then only the man’s life was required (vv. 25–27). If the woman was a virgin not pledged in marriage, then the man had to pay a fine, marry the girl, and keep her as his wife as long as he lived (vv. 28, 29).

Luke 5:4 let down your nets. Normally, the fish that were netted in shallow water at night would migrate during the daylight hours to waters too deep to reach easily with nets, which is why Peter fished at night. Peter may have thought Jesus’ directive made no sense, but he obeyed and was rewarded for his obedience (v. 6).

DAY 30: What specific crimes were listed in the Old Testament as deserving the death penalty?



1. Premeditated Murder

Genesis 9:6Exodus 21:12–142223

2. Kidnapping

Exodus 21:16Deuteronomy 24:7

3. Striking or Cursing Parents

Exodus 21:15Leviticus 20:9Proverbs 20:20Matthew 15:4Mark 7:10

4. Magic and Divination

Exodus 22:18

5. Bestiality

Exodus 22:19Leviticus 20:1516

6. Sacrificing to False Gods

Exodus 22:20

7. Profaning the Sabbath

Exodus 35:2Numbers 15:32–36

8. Offering Human Sacrifice

Leviticus 20:2

9. Adultery

Leviticus 20:10–21Deuteronomy 22:22

10. Incest

Leviticus 20:111214

11. Homosexuality

Leviticus 20:13

12. Blasphemy

Leviticus 24:11–141623

13. False Prophecy

Deuteronomy 13:1–10

14. Incorrigible Rebelliousness

Deuteronomy 17:1221:18–21

15. Fornication

Deuteronomy 22:2021

16. Rape of Betrothed Virgin

 Deuteronomy 22:23–27

My Royal Family



“Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” -Matthew 9:1–2

The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.  Prov15.29.ESV
(Believe this with all your heart, mind and soul) 


by John MacArthur

You may have heard stories of immediate answers to prayer. A destitute family thanks the Lord for a non-existent meal, and someone knocks at the door with food. A man with an empty bank account prays for help, and immediately finds an unexpected check in the mail.

Christ’s second utterance from the cross marks the first and immediate, glorious fulfillment of His prayer for His killers’ forgiveness. It shows how generously that forgiveness was bestowed, even on the most unlikely of recipients.

From Mockery to Penitence

As the hours of agony passed on the cross, one of the two thieves who had mocked Christ earlier now had a change of heart. What prompted the change is not mentioned. Perhaps the thief heard and was touched by Jesus’ prayer for mercy, realizing that it applied to him. Whatever prompted his turnaround, it was a tremendous miracle.

The man was undoubtedly one of the most thoroughly degenerate people on the scene. He and his confederate were career criminals, men whose lives had been devoted to thievery and mayhem. The deep-down bad-to-the-bone wickedness of their character was shown by the fact that they used their dying strength to join in the taunting of Christ. They obviously knew of His innocence because the repentant thief finally rebuked his cohort, saying, “This man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). Yet until one of them repented, they both were heaping ridicule and scorn on Him anyway.

But there came a point when one thief’s taunting turned to silence, and the silence turned to repentance, and the thief’s heart was utterly changed. As he studied Jesus, suffering all that abuse so patiently—never reviling or insulting His tormentors—the thief began to see that this Man on the center cross was indeed who He claimed to be. The proof of his repentance is seen in his immediate change of behavior, as his derisive insults turned to words of praise for Christ.

First he rebuked his partner in crime: “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” (vv. 40–41). In saying that much, he confessed his own guilt, and he also acknowledged the justice of the penalty he had been given. He affirmed the innocence of Christ as well.

Then he turned to Jesus and confessed Him as Lord: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (v. 42).

That confession of Jesus as Lord and King was immediately followed by the second of Jesus’ seven last sayings: “And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’” (v. 43).

Blessed Assurance

No sinner was ever given more explicit assurance of salvation. This most unlikely of saints was received immediately and unconditionally into the Savior’s kingdom. The incident is one of the greatest biblical illustrations of the truth of justification by faith. This man had done nothing to merit salvation. Indeed, he was in no position to do anything meritorious. Already gasping in the throes of his own death agonies, he had no hope of ever earning Christ’s favor. But realizing that he was in an utterly hopeless situation, the thief sought only a modest token of mercy from Christ: “Remember me.”

His request was a final, desperate, end-of-his-rope plea for a small mercy he knew he did not deserve. It echoes the plaintive cry of the publican, who “was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’” (Luke 18:13). For either man to be granted eternal life and received into the kingdom, it had to be on the merits of another. And yet in both cases, Jesus gave full and immediate assurance of complete forgiveness and eternal life. Those are classic proofs that justification is by faith alone.

Jesus’ words to the dying thief conveyed to him an unqualified promise of full forgiveness, covering every evil deed he had ever done. He wasn’t expected to atone for his own sins, do penance, or perform any ritual. He wasn’t consigned to purgatory—though if there really were such a place, and if the doctrines that invariably accompany belief in purgatory were true, this man would have been assured a long stay there. But instead, his forgiveness was full, and free, and immediate: “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

That was all Christ said to him. But it was all the thief needed to hear. He was still suffering unspeakable physical torment, but the misery in his soul was now gone. For the first time in his life, he was free from the burden of his sin. The Savior, at his side, was bearing that sin for him. And the thief was now clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness. Soon they would be in Paradise together. The thief had Christ’s own word on it.

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Enemies of Humility: Partisanship

“. . . That no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Genuine humility among Christians will leave no room for arrogant partisanship.

The Corinthian church was a notorious illustration of the sin of partisanship among believers. Its partisanship—some members claimed allegiance to Paul, some to Apollos, and some to Cephas (Peter)—was essentially caused by pride. Paul, as author of 1 Corinthians, vigorously opposed such pride of divisions, as Apollos and Peter would have.

The Corinthian believers did have reason to be thankful to God for sending them such quality leaders. And it was right for those in Corinth to respect and honor their spiritual elders. Scripture says, “Appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12). However, the Corinthians went far beyond God’s Word and exalted the leaders for the prideful sake of themselves, the followers, thus creating partisan sects.

Such partisan spirit, even on behalf of godly leaders, always leads to hostility toward other faithful servants of God. And the motivation behind all this is pride, which is essentially having an inflated (arrogant) view of yourself, one that says “I’m for me.” When pride rules the operations of any church, humility is forgotten, and fellowship and harmony are inevitably torn apart.

You can help prevent or counteract partisanship simply by considering that all the daily benefits you take for granted—food, housing, clothing, job, family— are yours because of God’s kind providence. And if you’re a Christian, you have eternal life, God’s Word, spiritual gifts, and many other blessings that are all of grace. The apostle James reminds us, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

So again we see that God gives us every reason to be humble and leaves no place for pride and partisanship. If you have a good pastor and good elders or deacons, humbly thank God for them. You and your leaders are all stewards of God, entrusted for a short while to serve Him with His resources.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that the Lord would help you be a positive influence for humility and harmony, rather than for pride and partisanship.

For Further Study

Read Acts 14:8-18.

  • How did the people of Lystra react to Paul and Barnabas?
  • How difficult was it for Paul and Barnabas to correct the people’s errors?


Forgiving As You Are Forgiven

"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . . . For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions" (Matt. 6:1214-15).

An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms.

It's possible to confess your sins and still not know the joy of forgiveness. How? Failure to forgive others! Christian educator J. Oswald Sanders observed that Jesus measures us by the yardstick we use on others. He didn't say, "Forgive us because we forgive others," but "Forgive us even as we have forgiven others."

An unforgiving Christian is a contradiction in terms because we are the forgiven ones! Ephesians 4:32says, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." God forgave us an immeasurable debt, saving us from the horrors of eternal hell. That should be motivation enough to forgive any offense against us, yet some Christians still hold grudges.

Here are three practical steps to dealing with the sin of unforgiveness. First, confess it and ask the Lord to help you mend the relationship in question. Second, go to the person, ask for forgiveness, and seek reconciliation. You might discover that he or she wasn't even aware of the offense. Third, give the person something you highly value. This is a very practical approach based on our Lord's teaching that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). Whenever I've given a book or other gift to someone who has wronged me, I've felt a great sense of liberty in my spirit. In addition, my joy is compounded because I feel the joy of giving as well as the joy of forgiving.

Don't ever let a grudge stand between you and another person. It will rob you of the full joy of God's forgiveness.

Suggestions for Prayer

Before praying, examine your heart. If you harbor bitterness toward another person, follow the procedure given above. Then pray, thanking the Lord for the joy of reconciliation.

For Further Study

Read the parable of the servant in Matthew 18:21-35.

  • What question prompted the parable?
  • How did the king respond to his servant's pleading?
  • What did the servant do later on? Why was that wrong?


Shining the Light

“‘Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’” (Matthew 5:16).

Letting our “light shine before men” allows them to see our “good works,” the beauty the Lord has worked in us. To see good works by us is to see Christ in us. That’s why Jesus says, “Let your light shine.” It is not something we create or make up, but something we allow the Lord to do through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.

We allow God’s light to shine through us so God will receive the praise. Our intent should be that in what we are and what we do, others may see God and “glorify [our] Father who is in heaven.”

Our good works should magnify God’s grace and power. That is the supreme calling of life: glorifying God. Everything we do is to cause others to give praise to God, the source of all that is good. The way we live ought to lead those around us to glorify our heavenly Father.

However, when what we do causes people to be attracted to us rather than to God, to see our human character rather than His divine character, we can be sure that what they see is not His light. Make sure your deeds point people to God, the author of those deeds.

Ask Yourself

As we’ve seen before, some will respond to your good deeds with derision and persecution, but others will shower praise on you for your acts of Christian character. How do you respond to those who give you credit for your servant’s heart and faithful obedience? How do you deflect that praise to God so it doesn’t nestle down in your own heart?


Reading for Today:


Deuteronomy 17:16, 17 multiply…multiply…multiply. Restrictions were placed on the king: 1) he must not acquire many horses; 2) he must not take multiple wives; and 3) he must not accumulate much silver and gold. The king was not to rely on military strength, political alliances, or wealth for his position and authority, but he was to look to the Lord. Solomon violated all of those prohibitions, while his father, David, violated the last two. Solomon’s wives brought idolatry into Jerusalem, which resulted in the kingdom being divided (1 Kin. 11:1–43).

Luke 4:21 this Scripture is fulfilled. This was an unambiguous claim that Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled the prophecy. His hearers correctly understood His meaning but could not accept such lofty claims from One whom they knew so well as the carpenter’s son (v. 22; Matt. 13:55).

Luke 4:28 filled with wrath. This is Luke’s first mention of hostile opposition to Christ’s ministry. What seems to have sparked the Nazarenes’ fury was Christ’s suggestion that divine grace might be withheld from them yet extended to Gentiles.

Luke 4:30 passing through the midst of them. The implication is that this was a miraculous escape—the first of several similar incidents in which Jesus escaped a premature death at the hands of a mob (John 7:308:5910:39).

DAY 28: Who is the Prophet that Moses refers to in Deuteronomy 18:15–19?

Read through 18:15–19 again where Moses promises that “the LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst.” The singular pronoun emphasizes the ultimate Prophet who was to come. Both the Old Testament (34:10) and the New Testament (Acts 3:22237:37) interpret this passage as a reference to the coming Messiah, who, like Moses, would receive and preach divine revelation and lead His people (John 1:2125,43–456:147:40). In fact, Jesus was like Moses in several other ways: 1) He was spared death as a baby (Ex. 2;Matt. 2:13–23); 2) He renounced a royal court (Phil. 2:5–8Heb. 11:24–27); 3) He had compassion on His people (Num. 27:17Matt. 9:36); 4) He made intercession for the people (Deut. 9:18Heb. 7:25); 5) He spoke with God face-to-face (Ex. 34:29302 Cor. 3:7); and 6) He was the mediator of a covenant (Deut. 29:1Heb. 8:67).

In contrast to the true Prophet, Moses predicted there would be false prophets who would come to Israel, speaking not in the name of the Lord, but in the name of false gods (vv. 20–22). How could the people tell if a prophet was authentically speaking for God? Moses said, “If the thing does not happen,” it was not from God. The characteristic of false prophets is the failure of their predictions to always come true. Sometimes false prophets speak and it happens as they said, but they are representing false gods and trying to turn people from the true God—they must be rejected and executed (13:1–5). Other times, false prophets are more subtle and identify with the true God but speak lies. If ever a prophecy of such a prophet fails, he is shown to be false (Jer. 28:15–1729:30–32).

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19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.
22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22


Enemies of Humility: Partisanship

“. . . That no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of