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Jeremiah 31:3

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; 

Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.


Integrity Brings True Success

“So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius [even] in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Daniel 6:28).

True success is more a matter of character than of circumstances.

By anyone’s standards Daniel was a remarkably successful man. After entering Babylon as one of King Nebuchadnezzar’s young Hebrew hostages, he quickly distinguished himself as a person of unusual character, wisdom, and devotion to his God. Within a few years Nebuchadnezzar had made him ruler over the province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men. Many years later Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, promoted him to third ruler in his kingdom, and later King Darius made him prime minister over the entire Medo-Persian Empire.

As successful as Daniel was, being successful in the world’s eyes was never his goal. He wanted only to be faithful to God. And because he was faithful, God honored and exalted him in Babylon. But God’s plans for Daniel extended far beyond Babylon. Daniel’s presence in Babylon opened the door for the Hebrew people to return to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-3), and it also paved the way for the Magi’s visit to Bethlehem centuries later (Matt. 2:1-12). Those wise men heard of the Jewish Messiah through Daniel’s prophecies (Daniel 9).

God used Daniel in marvelous ways, but Daniel was just one part of a much bigger picture. Similarly, God will use you and every faithful believer in marvelous ways as He continues to paint the picture of His redemptive grace. As He does, He may exalt you in ways unimaginable, or He may use you in humble ways. In either case, you are truly successful if you remain faithful to Him and use every opportunity to its fullest for His glory.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and for the principles we have learned this month from their lives. Pray daily that your life, like theirs, will be characterized by godly integrity and that God will use you each day for His glory.

For Further Study

Memorize Joshua 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 4:1-2.

  • What key to success did God give Joshua?
  • How does the apostle Paul describe a successful servant of Christ?
  • Would your friends and relatives characterize you as a truly successful person?


Sacrificial Faith on Display

"In the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead" (James 2:25-26).

True faith willingly makes whatever sacrifices God requires.

It's understandable that James would use Abraham as an illustration of living faith—especially to his predominately Jewish readers. Rahab, however, is a different story. She was a Gentile, a prostitute, a liar, and lived in the pagan city of Jericho. How could such a person illustrate true faith?

Rahab knew very little about the true God but what she knew, she believed, and what she believed, she acted on. She believed that God had led His people out of Egypt and defeated the Amorite kings (Josh. 2:9-10). She openly confessed that the Lord "is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (v. 11). Her faith was vindicated when she aided the Hebrew spies who entered Jericho just prior to Joshua's invasion.

Both Abraham and Rahab valued their faith in God above all else. Both were willing to sacrifice what mattered most to them: for Abraham it was Isaac; for Rahab it was her own life. Their obedience in the face of such great sacrifice proved the genuineness of their faith.

James calls each of us to examine ourselves to be sure we have a living faith. The acid test is whether your faith produces obedience. No matter what you claim, if righteousness doesn't characterize your life, your faith is dead, not living. James likened that kind of faith to hypocrites who offer pious words to the needy but refuse to meet their needs; to demons, who believe the truth about God but are eternally lost; and to a lifeless, useless corpse. Those are strong analogies, but God does not want you to be deceived about the quality of your own faith.

I pray that you are rejoicing in the confidence that your faith is genuine. God bless you as you live each day in His wonderful grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for the grace and courage to face any sacrifice necessary as you live out your faith.

For Further Study

Read Joshua 2:1-246:1-27; and Matthew 1:1-5.

  • How did Rahab protect the spies?
  • How did God bless Rahab?


Two Groups

“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13–14).

“Many” and “few” describe two groups of people. Those who enter through the wide gate and travel the broad way, toward the destination of destruction, are many. They include pagans and nominal Christians, atheists and religionists, theists and humanists, Jews and Gentiles—every person from every age, background, persuasion, and circumstance who has not come to saving obedience in Jesus Christ.

In the day of judgment many will claim to be followers of Christ: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:22–23). Those who are excluded will not be just atheists or rank pagans, but nominal Christians who professed to know and trust Christ but who refused to come to Him on His terms.

The group that goes through the narrow gate and travels the narrow way and is destined for life are few in number. Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14).

Make sure you are numbered with the few and not with those who will receive Jesus’ shocking declaration at the day of judgment.

Ask Yourself

What are some of the greatest lies that lead the mildly religious into believing they have accepted Christ into their hearts? In what ways do our churches today accommodate these? How can we work against this devious scheme of the enemy?


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 25:1 the captains of the army. David relied on his mighty men for help (11:10). Asaph…Heman…Jeduthun. David’s 3 chief ministers of music (6:31–48). prophesy. This is not necessarily to be taken in a revelatory sense, but rather in the sense of proclamation and exhortation through the lyrics of their music (25:2, 3). Prophesying is not necessarily predicting the future or even speaking direct revelation. It is proclaiming truth (v. 5) to people (1 Cor. 14:3), and music is a vehicle for such proclamation in praise (v. 3). David and the leaders selected those most capable (v. 7) of leading the people to worship God through their music.

Psalm 78:41 limited the Holy One. The Israelites did this by doubting God’s power.

Psalm 78:42 did not remember His power. The generations of Israelites which left Egypt and eventually died in the wilderness were characterized by ignoring God’s previous acts of power and faithfulness. The following verses (vv. 42–55) rehearse the plagues and miracles of the Exodus from Egypt, which marvelously demonstrated God’s omnipotence and covenant love.

Acts 9:30 Caesarea. An important port city on the Mediterranean located 30 miles north of Joppa. As the capital of the Roman province of Judea and the home of the Roman procurator, it served as the headquarters of a large Roman garrison. sent him out to Tarsus. Paul disappeared from prominent ministry for several years, although he possibly founded some churches around Syria and Cilicia (15:23Gal. 1:21).

DAY 30: How were the duties of the temple divided up?

Administrative Duties


1 Chronicles 23:45


1 Chronicles 23:45


1 Chronicles 23:45

Public administrators

1 Chronicles 26:2930

Ministerial Duties


1 Chronicles 24:12


1 Chronicles 25:1

Assistants for sacrifices

1 Chronicles 23:29–31

Assistants for purification ceremonies

1 Chronicles 23:2728

Service Duties

Bakers of the Bread of the Presence

1 Chronicles 23:29

Those who checked the weights and measures

1 Chronicles 23:29


1 Chronicles 23:28

Financial Duties

Those who cared for the treasury

1 Chronicles 26:20

Those who cared for dedicated items

1 Chronicles 26:26–28

Artistic Duties


1 Chronicles 25:6


1 Chronicles 25:7

Protective Duties

Temple guards

1 Chronicles 23:5

Guards for the gates and storehouses

1 Chronicles 26:12–18

Individual Assignments

Recording secretary

1 Chronicles 24:6

Chaplain to the king

1 Chronicles 25:4

Private prophet to the king

1 Chronicles 25:2

Captain of the guard

1 Chronicles 26:1

Chief officer of the treasury

1 Chronicles 26:2324

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Integrity Draws Men to God

“Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: ‘May your peace abound! I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions’” (Daniel 6:25-27).

It doesn’t take a lot of people to make an impact for Christ; it merely takes the right kind.

Today’s passage proclaims the sovereignty and majesty of the living God and calls on everyone throughout the nation to fear and tremble before Him. Those verses could have been written by King David or one of the other psalmists, but they were written by a pagan king to a pagan nation. His remarkable tribute to God’s glory was the fruit of Daniel’s influence on his life.

God doesn’t really need a lot of people to accomplish His work; He needs the right kind of people. And Daniel shows us the impact one person can have when he or she is sold out to God. That’s how it is throughout Scripture. For example, Noah was God’s man during the Flood, Joseph was God’s man in Egypt, Moses was God’s man in the Exodus, and Esther was God’s woman in the days of King Ahasuerus. So it continues right down to the present. When God puts His people in the right place, His message gets through.

As a Christian, you are God’s person in your family, school, or place of employment. He has placed you there as His ambassador to influence others for Christ. That’s a wonderful privilege and an awesome responsibility.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His marvelous grace in your life and for the opportunities He gives you each day to share His love with others.

For Further Study

The key to Daniel’s fruitfulness, and to yours as well, is given in Psalm 1. Memorize that psalm, and recite it often as a reminder of God’s promises to those who live with biblical integrity.


Enjoying Friendship with God

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:21-24).

You are a friend of God if you love Him and obey His Word.

Can you imagine life without friends—those precious people who love you despite your failings and who stand by you through joys and sorrows—those to whom you've committed yourself and whose companionship you treasure? They are without question one of God's greatest gifts, yet there is an even greater gift: friendship with God Himself.

Jesus spoke of such a friendship in John 15:13-16, describing it as one of intimacy, mutual love, sacrifice, and commitment. In verse 14 He says, "You are My friends, if you do what I command you." That's the kind of friendship Abraham demonstrated when he obeyed God and prepared to offer Isaac as a sacrifice (Gen. 22:3-10). Isaac was the son through whom God's covenant to Abraham would be fulfilled. Killing him would violate that covenant and call into question the character of God, whose Word forbids human sacrifice (Deut. 18:10). It took unquestioning trust for Abraham to obey God's command. When he did, his faith was on display for all to see.

The Greek word translated "justified" in James 2:21 has two meanings: "to acquit" (treat as righteous) or "to vindicate" (demonstrate as righteous). James emphasized the second meaning. When Abraham believed God, he was justified by faith and acquitted of sin (Gen. 15:6). When he offered up Isaac, he was justified by works in that his faith was vindicated.

Faith is always the sole condition of salvation, but saving faith never stands alone—it is always accompanied by righteous works. That's the test of true salvation and of friendship with God.

As a friend of God, treasure that relationship and be careful never to let sin rob you of its fullest joy.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for the privilege of being His friend.

For Further Study

Read Genesis 22:1-19, noting the faith and obedience of Abraham.


Two Destinations

“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13–14).

Both the broad and narrow ways point to the good life, to salvation, heaven, God, the kingdom, and blessing—but only the narrow way actually leads there. The broad way doesn’t have a road sign on it with hell as the destination. Jesus’ point is that this way is marked “heaven” but it doesn’t lead there.

That is the great lie of all false religions. The Lord makes clear the ultimate destinations of these two ways: the broad way leads to destruction; the narrow way leads to life. Every religion except Christianity follows the same spiritual way and leads to the same spiritual end, to hell.

There are many of those roads, and most of them are attractive, appealing, and crowded with travelers. But not a single one leads where it promises, and not a single one fails to lead where Jesus says it leads—to destruction, to total ruin and loss. It is a complete loss of well-being and the destination of all religions except the way of Jesus Christ.

But God’s way—the way that is narrow—leads to eternal life, to everlasting heavenly fellowship with God, His angels, and His people. Everlasting life is a quality of life, which is the life of God in the soul of man (see Ps. 17:15).

Ask Yourself

Celebrate today the eternal life promised to those who embrace the call of the narrow gate and the narrow way. Be grateful that none of the carry-ons and extras will ever give us the satisfaction we hope to find in them, but that in the wake of their emptiness we will be drawn ever deeper into the One whose way is both single and secure.


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan…moved. Second Samuel 24:1 reports that it was God who moved David. This apparent discrepancy is resolved by understanding that God sovereignly and permissively uses Satan to achieve His purposes. God uses Satan to judge sinners (Mark 4:152 Cor. 4:4), to refine saints (Job 1:8–2:10Luke 22:3132), to discipline those in the church (1 Cor. 5:1–51 Tim. 1:20), and to further purify obedient believers (2 Cor. 12:7–10). Neither God nor Satan forced David to sin (James 1:13–15), but God allowed Satan to tempt David and he chose to sin. The sin surfaced his proud heart and God dealt with him for it. number Israel. David’s census brought tragedy because, unlike the census in Moses’ time (Num. 1; 2) which God had commanded, this census by David was to gratify his pride in the great strength of his army and consequent military power. He was also putting more trust in his forces than in his God. He was taking credit for his victories by the building of his great army. This angered God, who moved Satan to bring the sin to a head.

1 Chronicles 22:5 young. Solomon was born early in David’s reign (ca. 1000–990 B.C.) and was at this time 20 to 30 years of age. The magnificent and complex challenge of building such a monumental edifice with all its elements required an experienced leader for preparation. magnificent. David understood that the temple needed to reflect on earth something of God’s heavenly majesty, so he devoted himself to the collection of the plans and materials, tapping the vast amount of spoils from people he had conquered and cities he had sacked (vv. 14–16).

1 Chronicles 22:11–13 David’s spiritual charge to Solomon resembles the Lord’s exhortation to Joshua (Josh. 1:6–9). Solomon asked God for and received the very wisdom and understanding his father, David, desired for him (2 Chr. 1:7–121 Kin. 3:3–14). He learned the value of such spiritual counsel and passed it on in Ecclesiastes 12:113.

1 Chronicles 22:14 one hundred thousand…gold. Assuming a talent weighed about 75 pounds, this would be approximately 3,750 tons, a staggering amount of gold. one million. This would be approximately 37,500 tons of silver.

Proverbs 20:1 Wine…strong drink. This begins a new theme of temperance (23:20, 21, 29–35; 31:4, 5). Wine was grape juice mixed with water to dilute it, but strong drink was unmixed. While the use of these beverages is not specifically condemned (Deut. 14:26), being intoxicated always is (Is. 28:7). Rulers were not to drink, so their judgment would not be clouded nor their behavior less than exemplary (31:4, 5). mocker…brawler. “Mocker”is the same word as “scoffer” in 19:25, 29; a brawler is violent, loud, and uncontrolled. Both words describe the personality of the drunkard.

DAY 29: How did the apostle Paul come to faith in Jesus Christ?

The apostle Paul was originally named Saul, after the first king of Israel. He was born a Jew, studied in Jerusalem under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), and became a Pharisee (23:6).He was also a Roman citizen, a right he inherited from his father (22:8). Acts 9:1–19 records the external facts of his conversion (see also 22:1–22; 26:9–20). Philippians 3:1–14 records the internal spiritual conversion.

At the time of his conversion Saul was “still breathing threats and murder” against Christians (Acts 9:11 Tim. 1:12131 Cor. 15:9). He was in Damascus, the capital of Syria, which apparently had a large population of Jews, including Hellenist believers who fled Jerusalem to avoid persecution (Acts 9:2). He had letters authorizing him to seek out those “who were of the Way.” This description of Christianity, derived from Jesus’ description of Himself (John 14:6), appears several times in Acts (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).

The “light…from heaven” (v. 3) that struck him was the appearance of Jesus Christ in glory (22:6; 26:13) and was visible only to Saul (26:9).The voice that asked him, “Why are you persecuting Me?” was that of Jesus (v. 5). An inseparable union exists between Christ and His followers. Saul’s persecution represented a direct attack on Christ. Saul arose from that encounter, blinded by the light, and went in obedience to await the next step (v. 6).

Meanwhile, Ananias was being given divine instructions concerning Paul and Paul’s ministry. He is told that Saul is a “chosen vessel,” literally “a vessel of election” (v. 15). There was perfect continuity between Paul’s salvation and his service; God chose him to convey His grace to all men (Gal. 1:11 Tim. 2:72 Tim. 1:11). Paul used this same word 4 times (Rom. 9:21232 Cor. 4:72 Tim. 2:21). “Before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Paul began his ministry preaching to Jews (13:14; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4; 19:8), but his primary calling was to Gentiles (Rom. 11:1315:16). God also called him to minister to kings such as Agrippa (25:23–26:32) and likely Caesar (25:10–12; 2 Tim. 4:1617).

Ananias went to Paul and “laying his hands on him,” he prayed for Paul’s healing and that he would “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v. 17). He was then filled with the Spirit and empowered for service (2:4, 14; 4:8, 31; 6:5, 8).

My Royal Family




Integrity Will Be Vindicated

“Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.’ Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children, and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones” (Daniel 6:21-24).

God will always vindicate His people.

One of the challenges of the Christian life is to react properly when being unjustly accused. Our natural inclination is to defend ourselves, which is appropriate at times. But there are other times when we must remain silent and trust the Lord to defend us.

Apparently Daniel said nothing in his own defense when he was charged with disregarding the king’s decree to stop praying. Of course the charge itself was true, but his motives were righteous, and he knew he was innocent before God. Therefore, like Jesus Himself before His accusers, Daniel chose to remain silent and entrust himself to God, who “judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:22-23).

Vindication doesn’t always come quickly, but in Daniel’s case it did. God affirmed his innocence by protecting him from the hungry lions. King Darius affirmed his innocence by putting his accusers to death. That was swift and decisive judgment.

Never lose heart or feel that God has abandoned you when evil people seem to prevail. The day will come when God will vindicate you. When He does, His judgment will also be swift and decisive.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for a loving attitude toward those who unjustly accuse you.

For Further Study

Read James 5:7-11.

  • What encouragement does James give to those who suffer at the hands of evil people?
  • Who does he use as an example of someone who suffered with patience?
  • At what point in time will God’s people be vindicated?


Dead Faith Versus Demonic Faith

"Someone may well say, 'You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.' You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:18-20).

Even demonic faith is better than dead faith!

In recent years there has been an alarming rise in the number of professing Christians who believe that there's no necessary relationship between what they believe and what they do. They say you can't judge a person's spiritual condition by what he or she does because salvation is a matter of faith alone—as if requiring works violates the principle of faith.

It was that kind of reasoning that prompted James to issue this challenge: "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). The Greek word translated "show" means "to exhibit," "demonstrate," or "put on display." His point is simple: it's impossible to verify true faith apart from holy living because doctrine and deed are inseparable.

Can you know if someone is a Christian by watching his behavior? According to James, that's the only way to know! In verse 19 he says, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." In other words, affirming orthodox doctrine isn't necessarily proof of saving faith. Demons believe in the oneness of God, and its implications fill them with fear, but they aren't saved. The phrase "you do well" is intentionally sarcastic. The implication is that demonic faith is better than non-responsive faith because at least the demons shudder, which is better than no response at all.

You can't be a Christian in creed only—you must be one in conduct as well! James makes that very clear. Don't be confused or deceived by those who teach otherwise. Continually aim your life at bringing glory to God through obedient application of biblical truth.

Suggestions for Prayer

Reaffirm to the Lord your commitment to abide by His Word.

For Further Study

Read John 8:12-47. Make a list of doctrines and deeds that characterize dead faith and a corresponding list of those that characterize true faith.


The Way to Life: Simple, but Not Easy

“‘For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:14).

God’s way of salvation is remarkably simple, but it is not easy. Nothing we can give or give up can earn us entrance into the kingdom. But if we long to hold on to forbidden things, it can keep us out of the kingdom.

Even though we can pay nothing for salvation, coming to Jesus Christ costs us everything we have. Jesus says, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).

The person who says yes to Christ must say no to the things of the world, because to be in Christ is to rely on His power rather than our own and to be willing to forsake our own way for His. It can cost persecution, ridicule, and tribulation.

When we identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, we declare war on the devil, and he declares war on us. The one whom we formerly served now becomes our great enemy, and the ideas and ways we once held dear now become our great temptations and pitfalls.

Along with warnings of suffering, the Lord also gives promises that our hearts will rejoice (John 16:22) and that we are to take courage because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). He promises to enable us to prevail over those times of suffering, not to escape them.

Ask Yourself

Looking back, how have you experienced growth in your total dependence upon the Lord? Though we are often so hard on ourselves and perhaps weighed down with undue guilt, our hearts should rejoice to see the Spirit taking up residence in our attitudes and practices. Worship with this in mind today.


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 20:1–3 The chronicler was not inspired by God to mention David’s sin with Bathsheba and subsequent sins recorded in 2 Samuel 11:2–12:23. The adultery and murder occurred at this time, while David stayed in Jerusalem instead of going to battle. The story was likely omitted because the book was written to focus on God’s permanent interest in His people, Israel, and the perpetuity of David’s kingdom.

1 Chronicles 20:4–8 See 2 Samuel 21:15–22.The chronicler chose not to write of some of the darker days in David’s reign, especially the revolt of David’s son Absalom, for the same reason the iniquity of the king with Bathsheba was left out. This section describes the defeat of 4 Philistine giants at the hands of David and his men. Though these events cannot be located chronologically with any certainty, the narratives of victory provide a fitting preface to David’s song of praise, which magnifies God’s deliverance (2 Sam. 22:1–51).

1 Chronicles 20:4 the giant. The Hebrew term is rapha. This was not the name of an individual, but a term used collectively for the Rephaim who inhabited the land of Canaan and were noted for their inordinate size (Gen. 15:19–21Num. 13:33Deut. 2:113:1113). The term “Rephaim” was used of the people called the “Anakim” (Deut. 2:10112021), distinguished for their size and strength. According to Joshua 11:2122, the “Anakim” were driven from the hill country of Israel and Judah, but remained in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. Though the Philistines had succumbed to the power of Israel’s army, the appearance of some great champion revived their courage and invited their hope for victory against the Israelite invaders.

How did Philip bring the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch?

Philip, who had been involved with the evangelization of the Samaritans, was told by an angel of the Lord to go to an undisclosed location along the road that went down from Jerusalem to Gaza (Acts 8:26). Gaza was one of 5 chief cities of the Philistines. The original city was destroyed in the first century B.C. and a new city was built near the coast.

There Philip met an Ethiopian eunuch. Ethiopia in those days was a large kingdom located south of Egypt. A eunuch can refer to one who had been emasculated or generally, to a government official. It is likely he was both since Luke refers to him as a eunuch and as one who held a position of authority in the queen’s court—that of treasurer, much like a Minister of Finance or Secretary of the Treasury. As a physical eunuch, he would have been denied access to the temple (Deut. 23:1) and the opportunity to become a full proselyte to Judaism.

The eunuch was reading Isaiah (Acts 8:28). He knew the importance of seeking God through the Scripture. And the verses he was reading were found in Isaiah 53:7,8. The eunuch’s question to Philip was “of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” (v. 34). His confusion was understandable. Even the Jewish religious experts were divided on the meaning of this passage. Some believed the slaughtered sheep represented Israel, others thought Isaiah was referring to himself, and others thought the Messiah was Isaiah’s subject.

Philip preached Jesus to the eunuch, who immediately responded with the wish to be baptized. After the baptism, it says that “the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away” (v. 39). Elijah (1 Kin. 18:122 Kin. 2:16) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 3:12148:3) were also snatched away in a miraculous fashion. This was a powerful confirmation to the caravan that Philip was God’s representative.

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Integrity Accepts God's Will

“Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. Then the king arose with the dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. And when he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me’” (Daniel 6:18-22a).

When circumstances seem darkest, we can see God’s hand most clearly.

It is obvious that King Darius cared deeply for Daniel and that he had some degree of faith in Daniel’s God. Although he believed that God could deliver Daniel (v. 16), he spent a distressing and sleepless night anxiously awaiting dawn, so he could see if his belief was true. At the crack of dawn he hurried to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel. Imagine his relief to hear Daniel’s voice and to learn about how the angel had shut the lions’ mouths.

Why did Darius think God would deliver Daniel? I’m sure he learned of God from Daniel himself. Surely Daniel talked about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s deliverance from the fiery furnace and about other marvelous things God had done for His people. The king’s response shows that Daniel’s testimony was effective and that his integrity had lent credibility to his witness.

But suppose God hadn’t delivered Daniel from the lions. Would He have failed? No. Isaiah also believed God, but he was sawn in half. Stephen believed God but was stoned to death. Paul believed God but was beheaded. Trusting God means accepting His will, whether for life or death. And for Christians, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for those Christian leaders today who influence kings and presidents throughout the world. Ask the Lord to give them boldness and blameless integrity.

For Further Study

How does God view the death of His children (see Ps. 116:15 and John 21:18-19)?


Exposing Dead 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).

Dead faith is hypocritical, shallow, and useless.

Jesus said, "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). Your righteous deeds illuminate the path to God by reflecting His power and grace to others. That brings Him glory and proves your faith is genuine.

Your deeds also serve as the basis of divine judgment. If you practice righteousness, you will receive eternal life; if you practice unrighteousness, you will receive "wrath and indignation" (Rom. 2:6-8). God will judge you on the basis of your deeds because what you do reveals who you really are and what you really believe. That's why any so-called faith that doesn't produce good works is dead and utterly useless!

James illustrates that point in a practical way. If someone lacks the basic necessities of life and comes to you for help, what good does it do if you simply wish him well and send him away without meeting any of his needs? It does no good at all! Your pious words are hypocritical and without substance. If you really wished him well, you would do what you can to give him what he needs! Your unwillingness to do so betrays your true feelings. Similarly, dead faith is hypocritical, shallow, and useless because it doesn't put its claims into action—indeed, it has no divine capacity to do so.

I pray that your life will always manifest true faith and that others will glorify God because of your good works.

Suggestions for Prayer

Perhaps you know someone whose claim to Christianity is doubtful because his or her life doesn't evidence the fruit of righteousness. If so, pray for that person regularly and set an example by your own good works.

For Further Study

Read John 15:1-8.

  • What illustration did Jesus use for spiritual fruitfulness?
  • What is the prerequisite for fruitfulness?


The Two Ways

“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13–14).

Two gates lead to two different ways. The wide gate leads to a way that is broad; the narrow gate leads to a way that is narrow. The narrow way is the way of the godly, and the broad way is the way of the ungodly—the only two ways people can travel.

The way that is broad is the easy, attractive, inclusive, indulgent, permissive, and self-oriented way of the world. It has few rules, few restrictions, and few requirements. All you need to do is profess Jesus, or at least seem religious, and you’ll be accepted into that group.

The narrow way is the hard and demanding way—the way of self-denial and the cross. When Jesus was asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” He replied, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:23–24). The Greek word for “strive” (agonizomai) indicates that entering the door to God’s kingdom takes conscious, purposeful, and intense effort.

The narrow way is for those who want God’s kingdom at any cost. Make sure that you’re following Christ as Lord along that narrow way.

Ask Yourself

We certainly live amid a “broad way” mentality—a mind-set that can worm itself into our own ways of thinking. But what has God taught and shown you during those times when you’ve been most devoid of worldly restraints, when your life has been most wholly devoted to His Word and His ways?


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 17:27 The Davidic Covenant in Chronicles


1 Chr. 17:7–27

God to Nathan to David


1 Chr. 22:6–16

David to Solomon


1 Chr. 28:67

David to Solomon


2 Chr. 6:891617

Solomon to the nation


2 Chr. 7:1718

God to Solomon


2 Chr. 13:45

Abijah to Jeroboam


2 Chr. 21:7

Chronicler’s commentary

Psalm 78:18 the food of their fancy. Instead of being grateful for God’s marvelous provisions of manna, the Israelites complained against God and Moses. God sent them meat, but also judged them (Num. 11).

Proverbs 19:25 scoffer…simple…understanding.Three classes of people are noted: 1) scoffers are rebuked for learning nothing; 2) simpletons are warned by observing the rebuke of the scoffer; and 3) the understanding deepen their wisdom from any reproof.

Acts 8:1 consenting. Paul’s murderous hatred of all believers was manifested here in his attitude toward Stephen (1 Tim. 1:13–15). scattered. Led by a Jew named Saul of Tarsus, the persecution scattered the Jerusalem fellowship and led to the first missionary outreach of the church. Not all members of the Jerusalem church were forced to flee; the Hellenists, because Stephen was likely one, bore the brunt of the persecution (11:19,20). except the apostles. They remained because of their devotion to Christ, to care for those at Jerusalem, and to continue evangelizing the region (9:26, 27).

Acts 8:3 he made havoc of the church. “Made havoc” was used in extrabiblical writings to refer to the destruction of a city or mangling by a wild animal.

Acts 8:1011 the great power of God. Simon claimed to be united to God. The early church fathers claimed he was one of the founders of Gnosticism, which asserted there were a series of divine emanations reaching up to God. They were called Powers, and the people believed he was at the top of the ladder.

DAY 27: Is the Holy Spirit received subsequent to salvation?

In Acts 8:15, Peter and John were sent to Samaria to pray for those who had responded to the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:4–13) that they might receive the Holy Spirit. “For as yet He had fallen upon none of them” (v. 16). This verse does not support the false notion that Christians receive the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. This was a transitional period in which confirmation by the apostles was necessary to verify the inclusion of a new group of people into the church. Because of the animosity that existed between Jews and Samaritans, it was essential for the Samaritans to receive the Spirit in the presence of the leaders of the Jerusalem church, for the purpose of maintaining a unified church. The delay also revealed the Samaritans’ need to come under apostolic authority. The same transitional event occurred when the Gentiles were added to the church (11:44–46; 15:6–12; 19:6).

So “they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit” (v. 17). This signified apostolic affirmation and solidarity. That this actually occurred likely demonstrated that believers also spoke in tongues here, just as those who received the Spirit did on the Day of Pentecost, as the Gentiles did when they received the Spirit (10:46), and as those followers of John did (19:6). As Samaritans, Gentiles, and believers from the Old Covenant were added to the church, the unity of the church was established. No longer could one nation (Israel) be God’s witness people, but the church made up of Jews, Gentiles, half-breed Samaritans, and Old Testament saints who became New Testament believers (19:1–7). To demonstrate the unity, it was imperative that there be some replication in each instance of what had occurred at Pentecost with the believing Jews, such as the presence of the apostles and the coming of the Spirit manifestly indicated through speaking in the languages of Pentecost (2:5–12).

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Integrity Enjoys Divine Resources

“Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, ‘Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?’ The king answered and said, ‘The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’ Then they answered and spoke before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.’ Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, ‘Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.’ Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.’ And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel” (Daniel 6:12-17).

When human resources have been exhausted, God has only begun to work.

The ink had barely dried on Darius’ decree when Daniel’s enemies reappeared to accuse him of disregarding the order. Only then did Darius realize the grave consequences of his actions.

In his deep distress the king exhausted every legal effort to save Daniel, but to no avail. Even he could not revoke the death sentence he had unwittingly placed on his loyal and trusted servant. In his grief and humility he confessed that God Himself would deliver Daniel. He was right!

Suggestions for Prayer

What are you praying for that only God can do, so that when He does it, He alone will get the glory?

For Further Study

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. What was the apostle Paul’s attitude toward his own weaknesses?


Having a Faith That Work

"What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? . . . You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:1424).

True faith produces good works.

Many false teachers claim that you can earn your own salvation by doing good works. Most Christians understand the heresy of that teaching, but some become confused when they read that "a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). That seems to conflict with Paul's teaching on salvation by grace through faith.

But when properly understood, James' teaching on salvation is perfectly consistent with Paul's. Paul clearly taught salvation by grace. In Ephesians 2:8-9 he says, "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast." But Paul also taught that true salvation results in good works, for in the next verse he says, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

In Titus 3:5 he says that God "saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy"; but Titus 2:11-12 clarifies that God's grace leads us "to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age." That's the proper balance between faith and works.

James also taught salvation by grace. He said that God redeems sinners by the Word of truth and implants His Word within them to enable them to progress in holiness (James 1:1821). That's a divine work, not a human effort. James 2:14-24 follows that up by telling us how we can know that work has taken place: there will be more than just a proclamation of faith but a faith that does good works.

Don't be confused by how faith relates to good works. Put the two together by being a living testimony to God's saving grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the righteousness He is producing in your life. Look for specific ways to demonstrate your faith to those around you today.

For Further Study

Read John 8:31-32.

  • What is the mark of a true disciple?
  • What effect does God's Word have on those who heed what it says?


The Narrow Gate, Part 2

“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13–14).

Entering through the narrow gate makes a few demands on the person passing through. First, he must enter alone. You can bring no one else and nothing else with you. Some have suggested that the gate is like a turnstile: only one person can get through at a time, and with no baggage.

The narrow gate also demands we must go through naked. This is a gate of self-denial—you can’t carry the baggage of sin and self-will. The way of Christ is the way of the cross, and the way of the cross is self-denial: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24–25).

The narrow gate also demands repentance. Many Jews believed that merely being a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham, was sufficient for entrance into heaven. Many people today believe that being in a church, or even being a good human being, qualifies them. But the way of repentance, of turning from their own way and their own righteousness to God’s, is the only way to enter His kingdom and therefore the only way to keep from perishing.

Ask Yourself

What are the various pieces of baggage that people want to hold on to as they enter from death to life? What are the pieces that you still have a tendency to long for, even on this side of the narrow gate?


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 15:1 David built houses for himself. He was able by the alliance and help of Hiram (18:1) to build a palace for himself and separate houses for his wives and their children. While the ark remained near Jerusalem at the home of Obed-Edom for 3 months (13:13, 14), David constructed a new tabernacle in Jerusalem to fulfill God’s word in Deuteronomy 12:5–7 of a permanent residency.

1 Chronicles 15:11 Zadok…Abiathar. These two high priests, heads of the two priestly houses of Eleazar and Ithamar, were colleagues in the high priesthood (2 Sam. 20:25). They served the Lord simultaneously in David’s reign. Zadok attended the tabernacle in Gibeon (1 Chr. 16:39), while Abiathar served the temporary place of the ark in Jerusalem. Ultimately, Zadok prevailed (1 Kin. 2:2627).

Psalm 78:13 waters stand up like a heap. The parting of the Red Sea at the beginning of the Exodus, which allowed Israel to escape from the Egyptian armies, was always considered by the Old Testament saints to be the most spectacular miracle of their history (Ex. 14).

Psalm 78:15 split the rocks. Twice in the wilderness, when Israel desperately needed a great water supply, God brought water out of rocks (Ex. 17:6Num. 20:11).

Acts 7:44–50 To counter the false charge that he blasphemed the temple (6:13, 14), Stephen recounted its history to show his respect for it.

Acts 7:4950 Quoted from Isaiah 66:12. Stephen’s point is that God is greater than the temple, and thus the Jewish leaders were guilty of blaspheming by confining God to it.

DAY 26: Why was Stephen martyred?

In the climax of Stephen’s sermon (Acts 7:51–53), he indicted the Jewish leaders for rejecting God in the same way that their ancestors had rejected Him in the Old Testament. He told the members of the esteemed Sanhedrin that they were “stiff-necked” like their fathers (Ex. 32:933:5) and “uncircumcised in heart and ears!” Thus they were as unclean before God as the uncircumcised Gentiles (Deut. 10:16Jer. 4:4Rom. 2:2829). “You always resist the Holy Spirit” by rejecting the Spirit’s messengers and their message. And when he spoke of the “Just One,” Stephen reminds them that they betrayed and murdered Him (v. 52). His words were reminiscent of those from Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 23:13–39.

The reaction of the Sanhedrin was that they “gnashed at him with their teeth” (v. 54).That is the fullness of anger and frustration and was in contrast to Stephen, who “being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (v. 55). Isaiah (Is. 6:1–3), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:26–28), Paul (2 Cor. 12:2–4), and John (Rev. 1:10) also received visions of God’s glory in heaven.

Stephen’s words were so appalling that they took him out of the city and “stoned him.” This was the punishment prescribed in the law for blasphemy (Lev. 24:16); however, this was not a formal execution but an act of mob violence. And those who participated “laid down their clothes…Saul” (v. 58). Paul’s first appearance in Scripture. That he was near enough to the action to be holding the clothes of Stephen’s killers reflects his deep involvement in the sordid affair. And Paul heard those marvelous words of Stephen, “do not charge them with this sin” (v. 60). As had Jesus before him (Luke 23:34), Stephen prayed for God to forgive his killers.

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Integrity Is Devoted to Prayer

“Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God” (Daniel 6:10-11).

There is a direct link between prayer and integrity.

It is no coincidence that those whom God uses most effectively are those who are most fervent in prayer. David, for example, called upon the Lord in the morning, at noon, and at night, and the Lord heard his prayers (Ps. 55:17). Daniel followed the same pattern, praying three times a day from his roof chamber, where he could look out above the rooftops of Babylon toward Jerusalem.

Houses in Babylon often had latticework over their windows to allow ventilation, and Daniel would be visible through that latticework as he faced Jerusalem, prayed for its restoration, and gave thanks to God. He knew that Darius had issued a decree making it illegal to pray and that violating the decree would give his enemies opportunity to accuse him, but he would not forsake prayer or compromise his convictions. He would continue to call upon the Lord and leave any consequences to Him.

That was a bold decision for Daniel to make, especially in light of the punishment he would face. Would you be as bold if you knew that your prayers would lead to persecution and possible death? Perhaps more important, are you that committed to prayer even when you aren’t facing persecution? I trust that you are. The seriousness of the spiritual battles you face requires faithfulness in prayer. That’s why Paul said, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).

Suggestions for Prayer

Are you devoted to prayer? If not, begin today to set aside a specific time daily to commune with the Lord and meditate on His Word. You might try keeping a written record of your prayer requests, noting the specific ways God answers them.

For Further Study

What was our Lord’s pattern of prayer, and how did He instruct His disciples to pray (see Luke 5:166:12Matt. 6:5-13)?


Showing Mercy

"So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:12-13).

Showing mercy is characteristic of a regenerate person.

Divine judgment has never been a popular topic of conversation. Godly people throughout history have been ridiculed, persecuted, and even killed for proclaiming it. In their efforts to win the approval of men, false teachers question or deny it. But James 2:12-13reminds us that judgment will come, so we'd better live accordingly.

The basis for divine judgment is God's Word, which James called "the law of liberty" (v. 12). It is a liberating law because it frees you from sin's bondage and the curse of death and hell. It is the agency of the Spirit's transforming work, cutting deep into your soul to judge your thoughts and motives (Heb. 4:12). It gives you the wisdom that leads to salvation, and equips you for godly living (2 Tim. 3:15-17). It imparts truth and discernment, freeing you from error and spiritual deception. It is in every sense a law of freedom and liberation for those who embrace it.

The law liberates believers but condemns unbelievers. The phrase "judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy" (v. 13) speaks of unrelieved judgment in which every sin receives its fullest punishment. That can only mean eternal hell! If the Word is at work in you, its effects will be evident in the way you speak and act. If you are impartial and merciful to people in need, that shows you are a true Christian and have received God's forgiveness and mercy yourself. If you show partiality and disregard for the needy, the law becomes your judge, exposing the fact that you aren't truly redeemed.

Are you a merciful person? Do you seek to provide for others without favoritism? When you fail to do so, do you confess your sin and seek forgiveness and restoration? Those are marks of true faith.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for His great mercy toward you, and be sure to show mercy to those around you.

For Further Study

Read Luke 1:46-55 and 68-79. Follow Mary's and Zacharias's example by rejoicing over God's mercy toward His people.


The Narrow Gate, Part 1

“‘Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it’” (Matthew 7:13–14).

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has been heading toward the appeal found in these two verses. Here is His call to people to make a decision about becoming a citizen of God’s kingdom and inheriting eternal life, or remaining a citizen of this fallen world and receiving damnation. Every person eventually comes to this crossroads in life, where he’ll need to decide on which gate to enter and which way to follow.

“Enter” is in a mood that demands a definite and specific action. Jesus pleads for people to enter the narrow gate, God’s gate, the only gate that leads to life and to heaven. Throughout the sermon Jesus had contrasted the narrowness of God’s internal standard of righteousness to the broad and external standards of Jewish tradition. The path to that narrow way of kingdom living is through the narrow gate of the King Himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). We proclaim a narrow gospel because that is the only gospel God has given and therefore the only gospel there is.

Make sure you are proclaiming to others the narrow gospel God has given us.

Ask Yourself

We needn’t apologize that the way to Christ is narrow and exclusive. For if it weren’t for this narrow way, there would be no way. Try to avoid presenting the gospel to others in an apologetic manner, one that accommodates more human choice and preference than God’s Word allows. Invite them to the true gospel alone, knowing that the Spirit of God will draw others only to the truth.


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 13:3 the ark of our God. Not only had the ark been stolen and profaned by the Philistines (1 Sam. 5–6), but when it was returned, Saul neglected to seek God’s instruction for it. Scripture records only one occasion when Saul sought God’s ark after its return (1 Sam.14:18).

1 Chronicles 14:8–17 The Philistines desired to ruin David before the throne was consolidated. Their plan was to kill David, but God gave him victory over the Philistines (unlike Saul) and thus declared both to the Philistines and Israel His support of Israel’s new king.

Psalm 78:2 parable. The word is used here in the broader sense of a story with moral and spiritual applications. dark sayings. Puzzling, ambiguous information. The lessons of history are not easily discerned correctly. For an infallible interpretation of history, there must be a prophet. The specific puzzle in Israel’s history is the nation’s rebellious spirit in spite of God’s grace.

Acts 7:23 he was forty years old. Moses’ life may be divided into three 40-year periods. The first 40 years encompassed his birth and life in Pharaoh’s court; the second, his exile in Midian (vv. 29, 30); and the third revolved around the events of the Exodus and the years of Israel’s wilderness wandering (v. 36).

Acts 7:43 BabylonAmos wrote Damascus (Amos 5:27), while Stephen said Babylon. Amos was prophesying the captivity of the northern kingdom in Assyria, a deportation beyond Damascus. Later, the southern kingdom was taken captive to Babylon. Stephen, inspired to do so, extended the prophecy to embrace the judgment on the whole nation summarizing their idolatrous history and its results. 

DAY 25: What does it mean that God “gave them up” in Acts 7:42? 

“Then God turned and gave them up to worship the host of heaven.” Here Stephen quoted from Amos 5:25–27. It means that God judicially abandoned the people to their sin and idolatry (Hos. 4:17).The worship of the sun, moon, and stars began in the wilderness and lasted through the Babylonian captivity (Deut. 4:1917:32 Kin. 17:1621:3–523:42 Chr. 33:35Jer. 8:219:13Zeph. 1:5).

Similarly, in Romans 1:24, it states that “God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts.” The Greek word used is for handing over a prisoner to his sentence. When men consistently abandon God, He will abandon them (Judg. 10:132 Chr. 15:224:20Ps. 81:1112Matt. 15:14). He accomplishes this 1) indirectly and immediately, by removing His restraint and allowing their sin to run its inevitable course and 2) directly and eventually, by specific acts of divine judgment and punishment. “Uncleanness” is a general term often used of decaying matter, like the contents of a grave. It speaks here of sexual immorality (2 Cor. 12:21Gal. 5:19–23Eph. 5:31 Thess. 4:7), which begins in the heart and moves to the shame of the body.

And “God gave them up to vile passions” (Rom. 1:26). This is identified in vv. 26, 27 as homosexuality, a sin roundly condemned in Scripture (Gen. 19; Lev. 18:221 Cor. 6:9–11Gal. 5:19–21Eph. 5:3–51 Tim. 1:910Jude 7). Rather than the normal Greek term for “women,” this is a general word for female. Paul mentions women first to show the extent of debauchery under the wrath of abandonment, because in most cultures women are the last to be affected by moral collapse.

And “God gave them over to a debased mind” (v. 28).This translates a Greek word that means “not passing the test.” It was often used to describe useless, worthless metals, discarded because they contained too much impurity. God has tested man’s minds and found them worthless and useless (Jer. 6:30).

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Integrity Triumphs over Deception

“Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: ‘King Darius, live forever! All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’ Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction” (Daniel 6:6-9).

Integrity is more precious than flattery.

King David once prayed:

O Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness because of my foes; make Thy way straight before me. There is nothing reliable in what they say; their inward part is destruction itself; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God . . . for they are rebellious against Thee. But let all who take refuge in Thee be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and mayest Thou shelter them, that those who love Thy name may exult in Thee. For it is Thou who dost bless the righteous man, O LORD, Thou dost surround him with favor as with a shield.

—PSALM 5:8-12

That could have been Daniel’s prayer as well, being surrounded by men who were rebellious against God who and flattered Darius so they could have Daniel put to death. By their own devices they would fall, but not before Daniel’s integrity was tested.

Darius yielded to deceitful flattery, decreeing that he alone could grant petitions. (His ego is reminiscent of Nebuchadnezzar’s [Dan. 3:12].) Daniel, on the other hand, was unyielding in his convictions, and God literally surrounded him with favor as with a shield.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that when your faith is tested, you will stand firm and have the assurance that God is surrounding you with His favor.

For Further Study

Psalm 5:12 says that God blesses the righteous man. According to Psalm 64:10 and Psalm 92:12-15, what are some of those blessings?


Transgressing the Royal Law

"If you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not commit murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:9-11).

You sin when you fall short of God’s holy standard or go beyond the limits of His law.

Many people attempt to justify their sinfulness by categorizing sins according to their apparent severity. For example, telling a "little white lie" isn't as serious to them as committing perjury; cheating on their income tax isn't as serious as robbing a bank. Others see God's law as a series of detached injunctions, and assume they can gain credit with God by keeping one law even if they break the others. In the final analysis, if the laws they don't break outweigh the laws they do, they think everything will be OK.

Apparently some of those to whom James wrote had the same misconceptions, believing sins like prejudice, partiality, and indifference to the poor weren't as serious as sins like murder and adultery. Or perhaps they believed they could make up for their favoritism by keeping God's law in other areas.

Both of those views are erroneous and potentially damning because God's law isn't a series of detached injunctions or a way of gaining credit with God. It's a unified representation of His holy nature. Even though all sins aren't equally heinous or damaging, from God's perspective every sin violates His standard. When you break one law, you break them all and are characterized as a sinner and transgressor.

"Sin" in verse 9 speaks of missing the mark and falling short of God's holy standard. "Transgressors" refers to going beyond the accepted limits. One says you've fallen short; the other says you've gone too far. Both are equal violations of God's holiness. You must see all sin as an affront to Him and never compound your sin by attempting to hide it, justify it, or counterbalance it with good works.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Memorize 1 John 1:9 and always confess your sin whenever you violate God's holy law.
  • Praise God for pitying our plight as sinners and providing a Savior.

For Further Study

Read Galatians 3:10-29, noting the purpose of God's law.


The Golden Rule Summarized

“‘In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets’” (Matthew 7:12).

The perfect love of the heavenly Father is most reflected in His children when they treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. This verse is a summary of the Law and the Prophets. It’s also a paraphrase of the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). How we treat others is not determined by how we expect them to treat us or by how we think they should treat us, but by how we want them to treat us.

Man’s basic problem is preoccupation with self. In the final analysis, every sin results from that preoccupation. We sin because we are totally selfish, totally devoted to ourselves rather than to God and to others. Unregenerate humanity can never reach the standard of selfless love on its own.

So the dynamic for living this supreme ethic must come from outside our fallen nature. It can come only from the indwelling Holy Spirit, whose firstfruit is love (Gal. 5:22). In Jesus Christ “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Only Christ’s own Spirit can empower us to love each other as He loves us (John 13:34).

Selfless love serves for the sake of the one being served, and serves in the way it likes being served—whether it receives such service or not. This level of love is the divine level, and can be achieved only by divine help.

Ask Yourself

Sometimes we find ourselves grappling with such deep biblical matters that we overlook the most simple—like the Golden Rule. Try being more deliberate in the coming day to heeding this basic teaching of Jesus. See how it alters the way you approach even your routine interactions with others.


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 12:18 the Spirit. A temporary empowerment by the Holy Spirit to assure David that the Benjamites and Judahites were loyal to him and that the cause was blessed by God.

Acts 7:2–53 Stephen’s response does not seem to answer the high priest’s question. Instead, he gave a masterful, detailed defense of the Christian faith from the Old Testament and concluded by condemning the Jewish leaders for rejecting Jesus.

Acts 7:2 The God of glory. A title used only here and in Psalm 29:3.God’s glory is the sum of His attributes (Ex. 33:1819). Abraham…Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran. Genesis 12:1–4 refers to the repeat of this call after Abraham had settled in Haran (ca. 500 miles northwest of Ur). Evidently, God had originally called Abraham while he was living in Ur (Gen. 15:7Neh. 9:7), then repeated that call at Haran (Gen. 11:31–12:3). 

DAY 24: What were the sources for the writer of the Chronicles? 

The inspiration of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) was sometimes accomplished through direct revelation from God without a human writer, e.g., the Mosaic Law. At other times, God used human sources, as mentioned in Luke 1:1–4. Such was the experience of the chronicler as evidenced by the many contributing sources. Whether the material came through direct revelation or by existing resources, God’s inspiration through the Holy Spirit prevented the original human authors of Scripture from any error (2 Pet. 1:19–21). Although relatively few scribal errors have been made in copying Scripture, they can be identified and corrected. Thus, the original, inerrant content of the Bible has been preserved.

1. Book of the Kings of Israel/Judah (1 Chr. 9:12 Chr. 16:1120:3425:2627:728:2632:3235:2736:8)

2. The Chronicles of David (1 Chr. 27:24)

3. Book of Samuel (1 Chr. 29:29)

4. Book of Nathan (1 Chr. 29:292 Chr. 9:29)

5. Book of Gad (1 Chr. 29:29)

6. Prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (2 Chr. 9:29)

7. Visions of Iddo (2 Chr. 9:29)

8. Records of Shemaiah (2 Chr. 12:15)

9. Records of Iddo (2 Chr. 12:15)

10. Annals of Iddo (2 Chr. 13:22)

11. Annals of Jehu (2 Chr. 20:34)

12. Commentary on the Book of the Kings (2 Chr. 24:27)

13. Acts of Uzziah by Isaiah (2 Chr. 26:22)

14. Letters/Message of Sennacherib (2 Chr. 32:10–17)

15. Vision of Isaiah (2 Chr. 32:32)

16. Words of the Seers (2 Chr. 33:18)

17. Sayings of Hozai (2 Chr. 33:19)

18. Written instructions of David and Solomon (2 Chr. 35:4)

19. The Laments (2 Chr. 35:25)

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"What is the key to victory when struggling with sin?"

The key to victory in our struggles with sin lies not in ourselves, but in God and His faithfulness to us: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth (Psalm 145:18; see also Psalm 46:1).

There’s no getting around it: we all struggle with sin (Romans 3:23). Even the great apostle Paul lamented over his ongoing struggle with sin in his life: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20). Paul’s struggle with sin was real; so much so that he cried out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24).

Yet in the next breath, he answers his own question, as well as ours: “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a). In this passage, Paul not only provides us with the very key to victory when struggling with sin, but explains the never-ending conundrum between our sinful nature and spiritual nature: “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25b).

Earlier, Paul said, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). Paul is comparing our sinful nature, our flesh, to a slave. Just as a slave obeys his master, so our flesh obeys sin. However, as believers in Christ, we have become spiritual beings under the law of Christ; our inner selves are under the influence and ownership of God’s grace and the life of Christ (Romans 5:21). As long as we are living in this world, our sinful nature and fleshly desire will remain with us. But we also have a new nature in Christ. This leads to a struggle between what we want to do and what we actually do, as sin continues to assault our earthly nature. This struggle is a normal part of living the Christian life.

It’s interesting to note that Paul, the greatest of the apostles, declared that, of all sinners, “I am the worst!” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul affirms the struggles we all have as we battle with sin and temptation in our lives. The struggles are real, and they’re debilitating. We grow weary from the never-ending temptations and in falling short of God’s glory. Paul, in essence, is telling us that we need not pretend that we’re untouched by our struggles. He’s been there. He understands. Though our efforts to do right seem desperate, we do have hope “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25Hebrews 4:15). And He, in fact, is the key to our victory over sin.

A true Christian will war with Satan and his daily efforts to undermine us. The devil is the ruler of this world, and we are living “behind enemy lines” (Ephesians 2:2Ephesians 6:12John 12:31). With our focus on Christ, however, we will be able to cultivate a mindset that proclaims we’d rather die than do anything to hurt God. When we give ourselves to Christ totally (Matthew 16:24), Satan will flee from us. When we draw near to God, He, in turn, will draw near to us (James 4:7-8).

Our key to victory in our struggle with sin lies in the very promise of God Himself: “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).

As true believers in Christ, even when we “face trials far beyond our ability to endure” (2 Corinthians 1:8), we can echo the reassuring words of Paul, who declares, “God has delivered us and will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Finally, the psalmist gives us these words of encouragement: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act” (Psalm 37:3-5).

"Why can't I stop sinning?

Every believer has, at one time or another, lamented his or her inability to stop sinning. While we tend to think the problem stems from weakness in ourselves, the inability to stop sinning usually indicates a deficiency in our understanding of God’s strength. When we do not understand His power to save, forgive, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9), we can get caught in a destructive cycle of sin, guilt, and fear, which leads to a lack of joy in our salvation, which leads to more sin.

In Psalm 51:12, David pleads with God, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” He wrote this after he had fallen into the grievous sins of adultery and murder. It is interesting to notice that he asks God for a return of the joy of his salvation. Joy is key in our victory over sin. It is also important that we understand that God sustains us “with a willing spirit.” God takes joy in saving us, and we take joy in being saved.

God has saved us willingly, to display His grace, love, and strength. Our salvation does not depend on how much or how little we sin, how much or how little we evangelize or repent or do good works, how loving or unloving we are, or anything else about us. Our salvation is entirely a product of God’s grace, love, and purpose (Ephesians 2:8–9). This is important to understand, because (ironically) believing that we are responsible to keep the law leads inevitably to the inability to stop sinning.

Paul explains this in Romans 7:7–10. When we understand a law, like “do not covet,” our sin nature inevitably rebels against that law, and we covet. This is the plight of man—it is simply how we are. The law aggravates our sin nature. John Bunyan illustrates this truth in The Pilgrim’s Progress. In the Interpreter’s House, Christian sees a very dusty room that had never been swept. First, a man with a broom tries to clean the floor, but the broom’s only effect is to raise choking clouds of dust. The more he sweeps, the more the dust is stirred up; this is a picture of the law, Bunyan says, which cannot clean a sinful heart but only stirs up the sin. However, Christian watches as the broom is set aside and a young girl sprinkles the whole room with water. After that, the room is quickly cleaned; this is a picture of the gospel of grace and its ability to purify the heart. The grace of God can do what the law could never do: cleanse us from sin.

So, the way to stop sinning is not to add more rules. God knew this. In fact, He gave us the law so that we would be aware of our sin and turn to Him (Romans 3:19-20Galatians 3:23-26). The law is good. It is a reflection of God’s nature and His perfection. But it was not given to us for our salvation. Christ fulfills the law for us (Matthew 5:17). 

When we disagree with God and hang onto the idea that we must fulfill the law, we lose our joy in salvation and set ourselves up for failure. We labor under a terrible burden. We feel pressured to do something to secure salvation, but, at the same time, our sin nature renders us unable to obey the law. The more we focus on the law, the more our sin nature rebels. The more our sin nature rebels, the more frightened we become that we are not saved. The more frightened and joyless we become, the more tempting sin’s promise of happiness is. 

The only way to break the cycle and stop sinning is to accept the fact that we cannot stop sinning. This may seem contradictory, but if a person does not stop trying to save himself, he will never rest in the knowledge that God has saved him. The joy of salvation comes from accepting the fact that God’s grace covers us, that He will change us and conform us to the image of Christ, and that it is His work, not ours (Romans 8:29Philippians 1:6Philippians 2:13Hebrews 13:20-21). Once this reality is truly grasped, sin loses its power. We no longer feel the impulse to turn to sin as a means of temporary relief from anxiety, because the anxiety and pressure has been relieved once for all by Christ (Hebrews 10:1014). Then, the good works we accomplish in faith are done because of love and joy rather than out of fear or duty.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58).

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Integrity Is Consistent

“It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they should be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom” (Daniel 6:1-3).

Nations come and go, but God’s plans continue through people of biblical integrity.

As we come to Daniel 6, King Nebuchadnezzar is gone; Belshazzar, his son and successor to the throne, has been slain; the great Babylonian Empire has fallen to the Medo-Persians; and a king identified only as “Darius” (probably another name for Cyrus) is ruling the Medo-Persian Empire. But amidst all those changes, two things remain constant: Daniel distinguishes himself among his peers, and God exalts him.

Daniel served in Babylon for seventy years under three kings, each of whom recognized him as a man of unique wisdom and integrity. King Nebuchadnezzar “made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). King Belshazzar “clothed [him] with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom” (Dan. 5:29).

Now King Darius is about to appoint Daniel as prime minister over the entire kingdom, and within a year the king will issue a decree for the Jews to return to Judah, thereby ending the seventy-year Babylonian captivity (Ezra 1:1-3). I believe Cyrus made that decree because of Daniel’s wisdom and influence.

Through Daniel’s faithfulness we learn that God is sovereign and will accomplish His plans regardless of human authorities. So despite any political, social, or economic changes that may come, remain faithful to Christ and He will use you in ways that are exceeding abundantly beyond all you ask or think (Eph. 3:20).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that true Christianity will flourish in America and that our nation’s leaders will come to love the Lord and govern with biblical wisdom.

For Further Study

According to Isaiah 40:7-815-17, how does God view the nations?


Siding with God's Enemies

"Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?" (James 2:6-7).

You can’t accomplish God’s purposes by siding with His enemies.

Favoritism has a way of blinding its victims to reality. James wrote of Christians who were trying to impress a rich man so they could benefit from his wealth and social status (vv. 2-3). The rich man represented the enemies of Christ, yet they gave him preferential treatment anyway. The poor man represented those whom God chose to be rich in faith and heirs of His kingdom, yet they treated him badly and dishonored him (v. 6). That's not only inconsistent, it's foolish! You can't accomplish God's purposes by siding with His enemies.

Some ungodly rich people tyrannized Christians by withholding their wages and even putting some to death (James 5:4-6). They forcibly dragged Christians to court to exploit them by some injustice or inequity. They blasphemed the fair name of Christ. The phrase "by which you have been called" (v. 7) speaks of a personal relationship. Typically new converts made a public proclamation of their faith in Christ at their baptism. From then on they were called "Christians," meaning, "Christ's own," "Christ's ones," or "belonging to Christ." So when people slandered Christians, they were slandering Christ Himself!

That anyone could overlook those evils and show favoritism to the enemies of Christ shows the subtle and devastating power of partiality. Today, the circumstances may be different, but the principles are the same. So for the sake of Christ and His people, remember the three reasons James gives for not showing partiality: You and your brothers and sisters in Christ are one with the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the glory of God revealed (v. 1); God has chosen the poor to eternal riches (v. 5); and God has called you by His name (v. 7). If you desire to be like Christ, you cannot be partial. Be fair and impartial in all your interactions with others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there a personal or business relationship in which you are showing favoritism to gain some advantage for yourself? If so, confess it to the Lord and correct it right away.

For Further Study

Read Romans 15:5-7.

  • How should Christians treat one another?
  • What impact will we have if we obey Paul's admonition?


Qualifications to Receive God’s Wisdom

“‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened’” (Matthew 7:7–8).

The promises in these verses are limited only to believers who meet certain qualifications. First, “everyone” refers to those who belong to the Father. Those who are not God’s children can’t come to Him as their Father.

Second, the one who claims this promise must be living in obedience to his Father. “Whatever we ask we receive from Him,” John says, “because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

Third, our motive in asking must be right. “You ask and do not receive,” explains James, “because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3). God does not obligate Himself to answer selfish, carnal requests from His children.

Finally, we must be submissive to His will. If we are trying to serve both God and mammon (Matt. 6:24), we can’t claim this promise. “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:7–8).

Another possible qualification is perseverance, as indicated by the Greek imperatives ask, seek, and knock. The idea is continuance and constancy: “Keep on asking; keep on seeking; and keep on knocking.”

If you meet these qualifications, be sure you’re taking advantage of your access to God.

Ask Yourself

None of us can entirely attain to these lofty ideals, but God knows when our hearts are tender and sincere before Him, genuinely seeking His glory over our personal gain. In whatever situation you’re most in need of His guidance and provision today, ask in faith while surrendering yourself.


Reading for Today:


Psalm 77:4 hold my eyelids open. The psalmist was so upset that he could neither sleep nor talk rationally.

Psalm 77:6 my song in the night. The remembrance of happier times only deepened his depression. spirit makes diligent search. His spirit continually meditated on possible solutions to his problems.

Proverbs 19:13 continual dripping. An obstinate, argumentative woman is literally like a leak so unrelenting that one has to run from it or go mad. Here are two ways to devastate a man: an ungodly son and an irritating wife.

Proverbs 19:14 One receives inheritance as a family blessing (a result of human birth), but a wise wife (31:10–31) is a result of divine blessing.

DAY 22: How was the church in Jerusalem spared initially from persecution?

In Acts 5:28, the high priest reminds Peter and the other apostles, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” The gospel of Jesus Christ (2:14–40; 4:12, 13). “And intend to bring this Man’s blood on us.” The Sanhedrin had apparently forgotten the brash statement its supporters had made before Pilate that the responsibility for Jesus’ death should be on them and their children (Matt. 27:25).

The apostles’ response was so fearlessly delivered that the Jews were infuriated and plotted to kill them. Then Gamaliel stood up in the Sanhedrin. Like his grandfather, the prominent rabbi Hillel, Gamaliel was the most noted rabbi of his time and led the liberal faction of the Pharisees. His most famous student was the apostle Paul (22:3). He argued that they needed to take heed as to what they were plotting. He mentioned Theudas (v. 36), an otherwise unknown individual who led a revolt in Judea in the early years of the first century, not to be confused with a later Theudas cited in Josephus as a revolutionary.

And Gamaliel reminded them of how Judas of Galilee rose up (v. 37). He was the founder of the Zealots who led another revolt in Palestine early in the first century. Zealots, a party of Jews who were fanatical nationalists, believed that radical action was required to overthrow the Roman power in Palestine. They even sought to take up arms against Rome.

Gamaliel’s counsel was to “let them alone” (v. 38); for if it was the work of men, it would come to nothing. But if it was of God, none could overcome it. Fortunately, the members of the Sanhedrin heeded Gamaliel’s words concerning the apostles and restricted their punishment to beating them.

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Integrity Glorifies God

God is Honored When You Are Faithful 

"Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’ Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:28-30).

When a well-known National Football League coach was asked why he always had a Christian minister on the sideline with his team, he explained, “I’m not even sure if I believe in God, but in case there is one, I want Him on my side.” King Nebuchadnezzar seems to have had a similar attitude when he blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and decreed that anyone speaking an offense against Him would be torn to pieces and have their homes reduced to rubbish.

Nebuchadnezzar believed that certain peoples or nations had their own gods, and even though he didn’t believe that the God of the Hebrews was the one true God, he had just witnessed dramatic proof that He was more powerful than the gods of Babylon. Therefore, he acknowledged Him as the supreme God and took steps to ensure that no one would offend Him. No doubt he also reasoned that having a God like that on his side would be a definite advantage.

Regardless of Nebuchadnezzar’s motives, his decree glorified God by exalting Him over Babylon’s false gods. More important, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s integrity glorified God by demonstrating the power and influence of an uncompromising life. When the king caused them to prosper in Babylon, the name of the Lord prospered with them.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray daily to live as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lived and to be used as they were used.

For Further Study

According to Ephesians 3:20, what is God able to accomplish through you when you live with integrity? Are you trusting Him to do so?


God's Choice of the Poor

"Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man" (James 2:5-6).

Showing favoritism to the rich is inconsistent with God’s choice of the poor.

Wealth and poverty are not necessarily spiritual issues. Many wealthy people are godly Christians and many poor people are unbelievers. But generally speaking, God has chosen poor people to populate His kingdom. Jesus said, "It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easer for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matt. 19:23-24). That's because rich people tend to be bound to this world and have a false sense of security. Many of them not only reject Christ, but also persecute believers (cf. James 2:6-7).

Regardless of your financial status, if you love God, you are rich in faith and an heir of His kingdom (James 2:5). That means you're saved and will inherit the fullness of your salvation and the richness of God's eternal blessing. That's a marvelous truth!

Don't let riches cloud your good judgment. God expects Christians to honor and care for their poorer brothers and sisters in Christ. You can't do that if you're showing partiality to the rich.

Suggestions for Prayer

If God has blessed you with more resources than you need, be grateful and ready always to share with those in need (1 Tim. 6:19). If you struggle to get by, thank Him for what He does provide and for teaching you greater dependence on Him.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19.

  • What is God's standard of contentment?
  • What pitfalls await those who desire wealth?
  • What constitutes true riches?


Asking for Wisdom

“‘Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened’” (Matthew 7:7–8).

Our heavenly Father is generous to us and promises we have access to His eternal and unlimited treasure to meet our own needs as well as the needs of others. Even when we have been cleansed of our own sin, we need divine wisdom to know how to help a brother remove the speck from his eye.

God’s wisdom is one of our greatest needs. We can’t be discerning and discriminating without divine counsel from our heavenly Father; and the primary means for achieving that wisdom is prayer: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Along with God’s perfect and infallible Word, we need His Spirit to interpret and illumine, to encourage and to strengthen. He does not want us to have all the answers; He wants us to be students who search the Scriptures. The Bible is a limitless store of divine truth. But apart from God Himself we can’t begin to fathom its depths or mine its riches. God gives enough truth for us to be responsible, but enough mystery for us to be dependent. He gives us His Word not only to direct our lives but to draw our lives to Him.

So when you need God’s wisdom to make spiritual decisions, ask God for it.

Ask Yourself

Part of feeling as though God isn’t providing us wisdom is that we don’t know how to receive it or what’s required in listening for it. How has God most often supplied you with the wisdom you need to handle a certain situation?


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 6:8 Zadok. By the time of David’s reign, the high priestly line had wrongly been shifted to the sons of Ithamar as represented by Abiathar. When Abiathar sided with Adonijah rather than Solomon, Zadok became the ruling high priest (1 Kin. 2:26,27) and restored the high priesthood to the Levitical line through Phinehas (Num. 25:10–13).

1 Chronicles 6:2728 Samuel’s name in this Levitical lineage validates his acceptance into the priesthood (1 Sam. 1:24–282:24–3:1). The fact that Elkanah was from Ephraim (1 Sam. 1:1) indicates where he lived, not his family history (Num. 35:6–8).

Acts 5:11 church. This is the first use of “church” in Acts, although it is the most common word used to describe the assembly of those who had believed (cf. 4:32).

Acts 5:15 shadow of Peter. The people truly believed he had divine healing power and that it might even extend to them through his shadow. But Scripture does not say Peter’s shadow ever healed anyone; in fact, the healing power of God through him seemed to go far beyond his shadow (v. 16, “multitude…were all healed”). This outpouring of healing was an answer to the prayer in 4:29, 30.

Acts 5:16 unclean spirits. They are demons, fallen angels (Rev. 12:3) who are so designated because of their vile wickedness. They frequently live inside unbelievers, particularly those who vent their wicked nature.

Acts 5:20 the words of this life. The gospel (Phil. 2:161 John 1:1–4). Jesus Christ came into this world to provide abundant and eternal life to spiritually dead people (John 1:411:251 John 5:20).

DAY 21: Why the severity of judgment upon Ananias and Sapphira?

The account of Ananias and Sapphira as shown in Acts 5 represents the classic example of hypocrisy among Christians who faked their spirituality to impress others (Matt. 6:1–6,16–1815:723:13–36). They were in the “multitude of those who believed” (4:32) and were involved with the Holy Spirit (v. 3), but remained hypocrites. They sold a possession and “kept back part of the proceeds” (v. 2). This was not a sin in and of itself. However, they had promised, perhaps publicly, that they were giving the full amount received to the Lord. Their outward sin was lying about how much they were giving to the church, but the deeper, more devastating sin was their spiritual hypocrisy based on selfishness.

Peter addressed Ananias with the words: “Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” (v. 3). Ananias and Sapphira were satanically inspired in contrast to Barnabas’s Spirit-filled gesture (4:37). Ananias must have promised the Lord he would give the whole amount. He lied to the ever-present Holy Spirit in him (1 Cor. 6:1920) and in the church (Eph. 2:2122). And hearing Peter’s words, Ananias fell down and died. The Jews did not embalm, but customarily buried the dead the same day, especially someone who died by divine judgment (see Deut. 21:2223).

“So great fear came upon all those who heard these things” (v. 5). They were afraid about the seriousness of hypocrisy and sin in the church. The people learned that death can be the consequence of sin (1 Cor. 11:30–321 John 5:16). That fear extended beyond those present to all who heard about the divine judgment (v. 11).

Then the same judgment fell upon Sapphira. Peter said that they had “agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord” (v. 9). Sapphira had gone too far in presuming upon God’s forbearance. The folly of such blatant human resumption had to be shown as a sin, hence the ultimate divine chastening that followed.

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Integrity Is a Powerful Witness

“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!’ Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them” (Daniel 3:26-27).

A righteous life attracts people to God.When Jesus said, “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; compare v. 14), He was teaching that what we believe as Christians must be evident in the way we live. When it is, others will be drawn to God and honor Him.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were powerful witnesses for God because they lived according to their convictions. Nebuchadnezzar had done everything he could to intimidate them into compromise, and when that failed he called for their death. But God’s protection of them was so thorough that the intense flames didn’t even singe their hair or scorch their clothing. In fact, they emerged from the furnace without so much as the smell of smoke on them.

So powerful was the integrity of these young men and the hand of God upon their lives that within just a few short verses Nebuchadnezzar went from defying God to exulting Him as “the Most High God.” That phrase doesn’t mean he had abandoned his traditional worship of many gods (apparently that comes in Daniel 4), but he was placing the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego at the top of the list.

So it is when your life impacts others for Christ. They may not yet fully believe, but God uses your faithfulness as a foundation for His future work in their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to use you to witness to someone today.

For Further Study

We have seen the impact of a consistently godly life, but according to Romans 2:17-24, what is the impact of a hypocritical life?


Guarding Your Motives

"If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?" (James 2:2-4).

Favoritism is motivated by an evil desire to gain some advantage for yourself.

The story is told of a pastor who never ministered to an individual or family in his church without first checking a current record of their financial contributions. The more generous they were with their money, the more generous he was with his time. That's an appalling and flagrant display of favoritism, but in effect it's the same kind of situation James dealt with in our text for today.

Picture yourself in a worship service or Bible study when suddenly two visitors enter the room. The first visitor is a wealthy man, as evidenced by his expensive jewelry and designer clothes. The second visitor lives in abject poverty. The street is his home, as evidenced by his filthy, smelly, shabby clothing.

How would you respond to each visitor? Would you give the rich man the best seat in the house and see that he is as comfortable as possible? That's a gracious thing to do if your motives are pure. But if you're trying to win his favor or profit from his wealth, a vicious sin has taken hold of you.

Your true motives will be revealed in the way you treat the poor man. Do you show him equal honor, or simply invite him to sit on the floor? Anything less than equal honor reveals an evil intent.

Favoritism can be subtle. That's why you must be in prayer and in the Word, constantly allowing the Spirit to penetrate and purify your deepest, most secret motives.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for His purity.
  • Ask Him always to control your motives and actions.

For Further Study

Some Christians confuse honor with partiality. Giving honor to those in authority is biblical; showing partiality is sinful. Read 1 Peter 2:17 and Romans 13:1, noting the exhortations to honor those in authority over you.


Of Dogs and Swine

“‘Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces’” (Matthew 7:6).

It is clear from this verse that Jesus doesn’t exclude every kind of judgment—here He commands a specific type. But to obey His command, you need to know who the dogs and swine represent.

In biblical times dogs were largely half-wild mongrels that acted as scavengers. They were dirty, greedy, snarling, and often vicious and diseased. No responsible Jew would ever throw to a dog a piece of holy meat that had been consecrated as a sacrifice in the temple. Since no man was allowed to eat this meat, how much less should it have been thrown to wild, filthy dogs.

Swine were considered by the Jews to be the epitome of uncleanness. Like the scavenging dogs, those swine were greedy, vicious, and filthy.

Dogs and swine represent those who, because of their great perversity and ungodliness, refuse to have anything to do with the holy and precious things of God except to trample them under their feet, turning and tearing God’s people to pieces.

Jesus’ point is that certain truths and blessings of our faith are not to be shared with people who are totally antagonistic to the things of God. Such people have no appreciation for what is holy and righteous. They will take that which is holy, the pearls of God’s Word, as foolishness and an insult. We need not waste God’s holy Word on those who both reject it and mock it.

Ask Yourself

What are some specific situations in your own daily experience where the wisdom of this statement really comes into play? What should you watch for in others to see whether they’re perhaps becoming receptive to Christ and His Word? Until then, what’s the best way to stay true to your faith in their presence?


Reading for Today:


1 Chronicles 3:1 David. The chief reason for such detailed genealogies is that they affirm the line of Christ from Adam (Luke 3:38) through Abraham and David (Matt. 1:1), thus emphasizing the kingdom intentions of God in Christ.

Psalm 76:10 wrath of man shall praise You. The railings against God and His people are turned into praise to God when God providentially brings the wicked down (Is. 36:4–20Acts 2:23Rom. 8:28).

Psalm 76:12 cut off the spirit of princes. God shatters the attitude of proud governmental leaders who rebel against Him.

Acts 4:24–30 Peter and John’s experience did not frighten or discourage the other disciples, but exhilarated them. They took confidence in God’s sovereign control of all events, even their sufferings. Furthermore, they were comforted that the opposition whom they were facing was foreseen in the Old Testament (vv. 25, 26).

Acts 4:32–35 all things in common. Believers understood that all they had belonged to God; and therefore, when a brother or sister had a need, those who could meet it were obligated to do so (James 2:15161 John 3:17). The method was to give the money to the apostles who would distribute it (vv. 35, 37).

Acts 4:33 great grace. This means favor and carries a twofold meaning here: 1) favor from the people outside the church. Because of the believers’ love and unity, the common people were impressed (2:47); and 2) favor from God who was granting blessing.

Acts 4:36 Barnabas…a Levite. Luke introduces Barnabas as a role model from among those who donated property proceeds. Barnabas was a member of the priestly tribe of the Levites and a native of the island of Cyprus. He becomes an associate of Paul and a prominent figure later in the book (9:26, 27; 11:22–24, 30; chaps. 13–15). Cyprus. The third largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily and Sardinia, located some 60 miles west off the Syrian coast.

DAY 20: List the major sermons in Acts.




Peter to crowds at Pentecost

Peter’s explanation of the meaning of Pentecost

Acts 2:14–40

Peter to crowds at the temple

The Jewish people should repent

Acts 3:12–26

Peter to the Sanhedrin

Testimony that a helpless man was healed

Acts 4:5–12

Stephen to the Sanhedrin

Stephen accuses the Jews of killing the Messiah

Acts 7:2–53

Peter to Gentiles

Gentiles can be saved in the same manner as Jews

Acts 10:28–47

Peter to church at Jerusalem

A defense of Peter’s ministry to the Gentiles

Acts 11:4–18

Paul to synagogue at Antioch

Jesus was the Messiah of Old Testament prophecies

Acts 13:16–41

Peter to Jerusalem Council

Salvation by grace available to all

Acts 15:7–11

James to Jerusalem Council

Gentile converts do not require circumcision

Acts 15:13–21

Paul to Ephesian elders

Remain faithful in spite of persecution

Acts 20:17–35

Paul to crowd at Jerusalem

Paul’s conversion and mission to the Gentiles

Acts 22:1–21

Paul to Sanhedrin

Paul’s defense of the gospel

Acts 23:1–6

Paul to King Agrippa

Paul’s conversion and zeal for the gospel

Acts 26:2–23

Paul to Jewish leaders at Rome

Paul’s statement about his Jewish heritage

Acts 28:17–20

My Royal Family




Integrity Never Stands Alone

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he responded and said to his high officials, ‘Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’” (Daniel 3:24-25).

God will never leave His children alone.

King Nebuchadnezzar was livid with rage when he had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego bound and cast into the fiery furnace. But his rage quickly turned to astonishment when he saw four men loosed and walking around unharmed by the flames. Clearly something supernatural and beyond his control was occurring.

Although he described the fourth person as being “like a son of the gods,” he did not have the Son of God in mind. As a pagan he would not have understood an Old Testament appearance of Christ, such as occurred to Abraham in Genesis 18. But he understood enough to believe that God had “sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him” (v. 28).

I believe Nebuchadnezzar was correct. God sent an angelic messenger to comfort those young men and to explain that they would not be harmed by the fire. God would turn their darkest hour into their greatest triumph. Others in Scripture have been similarly encouraged by special angels from the Lord. God honored Elijah, for example, by having angels personally serve him food at an especially discouraging time in his life (1 Kings 19:4-7).

If you are a Christian, God has promised never to leave you or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). He will be with you in every circumstance. When necessary, He will dispatch His angels to minister to you in special ways (Heb. 1:14). Let that truth encourage you today, especially if you are undergoing a trial.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for the protection and encouragement He has given you in the past and for His promise of similar blessings in the future.

For Further Study

According to 1 Peter 2:18-23 and 4:12-16, how should Christians respond to persecution?


Ministering to the Poor

"If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' and you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,' have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?" (James 2:2-4).

You must show equal respect to poor and rich alike

Partiality is an age-old problem that exists in almost every area of life. Perhaps its most common manifestations are racial, religious, and socio-economic discrimination. By implication James denounced partiality in any form, but in James 2:2-4 he specifically mentions preferential treatment of the rich over the poor. He knew such favoritism was devastating not only because it is sinful, but also because the majority of believers in the early church were poor, common people. Discriminating against them would have struck a blow at the very heart of the church!

From its inception the church has upheld the priority of ministering to the poor. Acts 2:44-45 says, "All those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need." Paul organized a relief fund for the needy saints in Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4), and during one severe famine, "in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders" (Acts 11:29-30).

God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, but some of James's readers were dishonoring them (vv. 5-6). That had to stop! We too must honor the poor by treating them with dignity rather than prejudice, and meeting their needs whenever possible. Be alert to those around you whom you might help in some practical way.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to keep you sensitive to those around you, and for wisdom to know how to respond to their needs.

For Further Study

Read 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, noting the kinds of people God uses to accomplish His purposes.


Challenging a Brother

“‘Then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye’” (Matthew 7:5).

Here is Jesus’ corrective to erroneous judgment: first of all we confess our own sin, which is often the sin of self-righteousness and of a condemning spirit toward others, and ask for God’s cleansing. When our sin is cleansed, when the log is removed from our eye, then we can see our brother’s sin clearly and be able to help him. We will also see everything more clearly—God, others, and ourselves. We will see God as the only Judge, others as needy sinners who are just like us. We will see our brother as a brother on our own level and with our own frailties and needs.

David reflects the right balance of humility and helpfulness in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. . . . Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You” (vv. 10, 12–13). Jesus told Peter that after he had recovered from his moral defection, he could then “strengthen [his] brothers” (Luke 22:32).

All confrontation of sin in others must be done out of meekness, not pride. We can’t play the role of judge—passing sentence as if we were God. We can’t play the role of superior—as if we were exempt from the same standards we demand of others. We must not play the hypocrite—blaming others while we excuse ourselves.

Ask Yourself

When have you seen this interchange done in a way that honored God, considered self, and truly benefited others? What were the key factors that contributed to the purity and peace of it? How was the rebuke handled by the one being confronted? What would make the difference if that person were you?


Reading for Today:


Acts 4:1 priests. The office of priest in the Old Testament began with Aaron and his sons (Lev. 8). They became the human intermediaries between holy God and sinful humanity. They were characterized by 3 qualities: 1) they were chosen and set apart for priestly service by God; 2) they were to be holy in character; and 3) they were the only ones allowed to come near to God on behalf of the people with the high priest being the chief go-between on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16). the captain of the temple. Chief of the temple police force (composed of Levites) and second-ranking official to the high priest. The Romans had delegated the temple-policing responsibility to the Jews.

Acts 4:2 preached in Jesus the resurrection. This part of the apostles’ message was the most objectionable to the Jewish leaders. They had executed Christ as a blasphemer and now Peter and John were proclaiming His resurrection.

Acts 4:8 filled with the Holy Spirit. Because Peter was under the control of the Spirit, he was able to face persecution and preach the gospel with power (Luke 12:1112).

Acts 4:12 no other name. This refers to the exclusivism of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. There are only two religious paths: the broad way of works salvation leading to eternal death, and the narrow way of faith in Jesus, leading to eternal life (Matt. 7:1314John 10:7814:6). Sadly, the Sanhedrin and its followers were on the first path.

Acts 4:13 uneducated and untrained men. Peter and John were not educated in the rabbinical schools and had no formal training in Old Testament theology.

DAY 19: List the ministries of the Holy Spirit.

Baptismal Medium

1 Corinthians 12:13

Calls to Ministry

Acts 13:2–4

Channel of Divine Revelation

2 Samuel 23:2Nehemiah 9:30Zechariah 7:12John 14:17


Exodus 31:12Judges 13:25Acts 1:8


Luke 4:1Acts 2:4Ephesians 5:18


2 Corinthians 1:225:5Ephesians 1:14


2 Timothy 1:14


John 14:162615:2616:7


1 Corinthians 2:10–13


Romans 8:9–111 Corinthians 3:166:19


Romans 8:2627

Produces Fruit

Galatians 5:2223

Provides Spiritual Character

Galatians 5:161825


John 3:568

Restrains/Convicts of Sin

Genesis 6:3John 16:8–10Acts 7:51


Romans 15:161 Corinthians 6:112 Thessalonians 2:13


2 Corinthians 1:22Ephesians 1:144:30

Selects Overseers

Acts 20:28

Source of Fellowship

2 Corinthians 13:14Philippians 2:1

Source of Liberty

2 Corinthians 3:1718

Source of Power

Ephesians 3:16

Source of Unity

Ephesians 4:34

Source of Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:4–11


My Royal Family




Integrity Triumphs Under Fire

“Then [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego] were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up” (Daniel 3:21-23).

When God doesn’t deliver you from a trial, He refines you through the trial.

When facing excommunication at the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther wrote to the Elector Frederick, “You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor. I will go down if I am too sick to stand on my feet. If Caesar calls me, God calls me. If violence is used, as well it may be, I commend my cause to God. He lives and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king of Babylon, and if He will not save me, my head is worth nothing compared with Christ. This is no time to think of safety. I must take care that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood.”

Luther was willing to risk even death for the sake of Christ. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego before him, he valued integrity above his own life, and in his loneliest hour drew encouragement from their experience.

Often we pray to avoid trials when God wants to use them for our greater good. But trials test the genuineness of our faith and purge us of sin and shallowness like a refiner’s fire purges gold. The process may be painful, but the result is more precious than the purest gold (1 Peter 1:7).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that you might face each trial with wisdom, patience, and a clear sense of the Lord’s presence.

For Further Study

Read Acts 20:22-24.

  • What was the apostle Paul’s perspective on the persecution that awaited him in Jerusalem?
  • What was his ultimate goal?


Looking Beyond Externals

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism" (James 2:1).

Your true worth is based on the value of your soul, not on external considerations.

Jesus is "our glorious Lord" (James 2:1)—the Sovereign One who rules over all His creation, and the One in whom the fullness of God's glory is revealed. John said, "The Word [Jesus] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Paul said, "In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form" (Col. 2:9).

As God, Jesus shares the impartiality of the Father. He knows that a person's worth is based on the value of his soul, not on external considerations. That's why He always looks on the heart and never judges on externals alone.

That was evident in the way Jesus dealt with sinners when He was still on earth. He never hesitated to confront them—whether they were influential Jewish religious leaders or common folks. Even His enemies acknowledged His impartiality when they said, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any" (Matt. 22:16).

Like the Father, Jesus also extended the offer of salvation to men and women of every race, social class, and moral standing. That's illustrated by the parable He told in Matthew 22:1-14 about the marriage of a king's son (an illustration of Himself). The invited guests (Israel) didn't show up, so the king commanded his servants to go out and gather everyone they could find to furnish the wedding with guests. As a result, people of every station in life attended the wedding, just as people of every station in life are called to salvation.

As you have opportunities to minister to others today, don't be influenced by externals such as looks, clothing, or economic level. Do as Jesus did: treat them with compassion and speak the truth without compromise.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise the Lord for His impartiality, and ask Him for special grace as you reach out to others today.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 20:1-16. How does that parable illustrate the impartiality of God?


June 18 - Wrong Judgment: An Erroneous View of Ourselves

“‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” and behold, the log is in your eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your eye’” (Matthew 7:3–5).

When we judge critically we also manifest an erroneous view of ourselves. The “speck” Jesus refers to is not something insignificant—it was likely a twig or splinter. Though small in comparison to a log, it was not a good thing to have in your eye. Jesus’ comparison is not between a very small sin or fault and one that is large, but between one that is large and one that is gigantic. His primary point is that the sin of the critic is much greater than the sin of the person he is criticizing.

The wretched and gross sin that is always blind to its own sinfulness is self-righteousness. It looks directly at its own sin and still imagines it sees only righteousness.

The very nature of self-righteousness is to justify self and condemn others. Self-righteousness is the worst of all sins because it trusts in self rather than God. It trusts in self to determine what is right and wrong and to determine who does what is right or wrong.

Too, the term “notice” conveys serious, continual meditation. Until you have thought long and hard about your own sin, how can you confront another with his shortcomings?

Ask Yourself

Again, the thought conveyed here is not that we are forbidden from ever pointing out the sins of another, aiding him toward repentance and a desire for God’s forgiveness. But our hearts are so suspect, we must regularly keep our sins confessed and to the surface. How do you practice this discipline in your own life?


Reading for Today:


Psalm 75:1 Your name is near. God’s name represents His presence. The history of God’s supernatural interventions on behalf of His people demonstrated that God was personally immanent. But Old Testament saints did not have the fullness from the permanent, personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit (John 14:116171 Cor. 3:166:19).

Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. A description of God familiar to Peter’s Jewish audience (Ex. 3:6151 Kin. 18:361 Chr. 29:182 Chr. 30:6Matt. 22:32). He used this formula, which stressed God’s covenant faithfulness, to demonstrate that he declared the same God and Messiah whom the prophets had proclaimed. His Servant Jesus. Peter depicted Jesus as God’s personal representative. This is an unusual New Testament title for Jesus, used only 4 other places (v. 26; 4:27, 30; Matt. 12:18), but a more familiar Old Testament name for Messiah (Is. 42:1–41949:5–752:13–53:12Matt. 20:28John 6:388:2813:1–7). Pilate…determined to let Him go. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor at Jesus’ trial, came from a national tradition that strongly supported justice. He knew Jesus’ crucifixion would be unjust and therefore declared Him innocent 6 times (Luke 23:4141522John 18:3819:46) and repeatedly sought to release Him (Luke 23:13–22John 19:1213).

Acts 3:15 killed…God raised…we are witnesses. Peter’s confident and forceful declaration (1 Cor. 15:3–7) was a clear defense of and provided further evidence for Christ’s resurrection. Peter’s claim was undeniable; the Jews never showed any evidence, such as Jesus’ corpse, to disprove it. Prince of life. The Greek word for “prince” means originator, pioneer, or beginner of something. Both Hebrews 2:10 and 12:2 translate it “author.” It describes Jesus as the Divine Originator of life (Ps. 36:9Heb. 2:1012:21 John 5:1120).

Acts 3:19 Repent…be converted. “Converted” is a frequent New Testament word that relates to sinners turning to God (9:3514:15; 26:18, 20; Luke 1:16172 Cor. 3:161 Pet. 2:25). your sins…blotted out. Ps. 51:9Is. 43:2544:22. Blotted out compares forgiveness to the complete wiping away of ink from the surface of a document (Col. 2:14).

DAY 18: How did Judah and Jerusalem finally fall?

Responding to King Zedekiah’s rebellion in 2 Kings 24:20, Nebuchadnezzar sent his whole army to lay siege against the city of Jerusalem (2 Kin. 25:1).The siege began in January 588 B.C. and lasted until July 586 B.C. In August 586 B.C., one month after the Babylonian breakthrough of Jerusalem’s walls (vv. 2–4), Nebuzaradan, the commander of Nebuchadnezzar’s own imperial guard, was sent by the king to oversee the destruction of Jerusalem. The dismantling and destruction of Jerusalem was accomplished by the Babylonians in an orderly progression (v. 8).

First, Jerusalem’s most important buildings were burned (v. 9). Second, the Babylonian army tore down Jerusalem’s outer walls, the city’s main defense (v. 10).Third, Nebuzaradan organized and led a forced march of remaining Judeans into exile in Babylon (vv. 11,12). The exiles included survivors from Jerusalem and those who had surrendered to the Babylonians before the capture of the city. Only poor, unskilled laborers were left behind to tend the vineyards and farm the fields. Fourth, the items made with precious metals in the temple were carried away to Babylon (vv. 13–17). Fifth, Nebuzaradan took Jerusalem’s remaining leaders to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar had them executed. This insured that they would never lead another rebellion against Babylon (vv. 18–21).

“Thus Judah was carried away captive from its own land” (v. 21). Exile was the ultimate curse brought upon Judah because of her disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant (Lev. 26:33Deut. 28:3664). The Book of Lamentations records the sorrow of Jeremiah over this destruction of Jerusalem.

My Royal Family




Integrity Incurs the World's Wrath

“Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:19-20).

Persecution is the world’s futile attempt to silence the voice of godly integrity.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant and powerful man who had built an enormous empire by bringing entire nations under his control. Yet when three youths refused to compromise their devotion to God, he lost rational control and flew into such an intense rage that his face became visibly distorted.

Wanting to vent his wrath upon Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. You might expect him to have turned the fire down, thereby punishing them more severely by prolonging their pain. But the king was reacting emotionally, not logically, which often is the case when sinful people are confronted by righteousness.

We see the same pattern throughout Scripture. For example, King Herod’s wife hated John the Baptist and had him beheaded for confronting her sinful marriage to the king (Mark 6:19 ff.). Those who couldn’t cope with the wisdom and spirit of Stephen stirred up the Jews against him, which eventually led to his death by stoning (Acts 6:9 ff.). The Old Testament prophets and the Lord Himself were killed by those who were hostile to God. Similarly, the Thessalonian and Judean Christians endured angry persecution from their own countrymen (1 Thess. 2:14-15).

The opposition we face today may be more subtle, but it all has its source in Satan, who “was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). So don’t be surprised if subtle opposition suddenly erupts into murderous wrath. But be encouraged, knowing that even when it does, it can never thwart God’s plans or overcome His sustaining grace.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for boldness to speak the truth in love and never to fear the world’s reaction.

For Further Study

Read 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.

  • Why does God allow Christians to suffer persecution?
  • When and how will God deal with those who persecute His children?


The Impartiality of God

"My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism" (James 2:1).

Because God is impartial, we as Christians must be impartial too.

People are prone to treat others differently based upon external criteria such as looks, possessions, or social status, but God is utterly impartial. He never shows favoritism and always judges righteously.

Favoritism can be defined as a preferential attitude and treatment of a person or group over another having equal claims and rights. It is unjustified partiality. James 2:1-13 confronts it as sin and admonishes us to avoid it at all costs.

God's impartiality is seen throughout Scripture. For example, Moses said to the people of Israel, "The Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt" (Deut. 10:17-19). Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, warned his judges to rule without partiality because God Himself has "no part in unrighteousness, or partiality" (2 Chron. 19:7).

God's impartiality is also seen in His gracious offer of salvation to people of every race. In Acts 10:34-35 Peter says, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him."

God is also impartial in judgment. Romans 2:9-11 says that God will bring "tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil . . . but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good. For there is no partiality with God."

Our text is a timely admonition because prejudice, discrimination, and bigotry are ever-present evils in our society—both inside and outside the church. I pray that God will use these studies to guard you from favoritism's subtle influences and strengthen your commitment to godly living.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to reveal any partiality you might be harboring. As He does, confess it and turn from it.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:5-9 and 1 Timothy 5:17-21. How does God's impartiality apply to how you should respond to your co- workers and your church leaders?


Wrong Judgment: An Erroneous View of Others

“‘For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you’” (Matthew 7:2).

Most people feel free to judge other people harshly because they erroneously think they are somehow superior. The Pharisees considered themselves exempt from judgment because they believed they perfectly measured up to the divine standards. The problem was that these weren’t divine standards—they were mere human standards they had established far short of God’s holy and perfect law.

When we assume the role of final, omniscient judge, we imply that we are qualified to judge—that we know and understand all the facts, all the circumstances, and all the motives involved. Therefore, when we assert our right to judge, we will be judged by the same standard of knowledge and wisdom we claim is ours. If we set ourselves up as judge over others, we cannot plead ignorance of the law in reference to ourselves when God judges us. We are especially guilty if we do not practice what we ourselves teach and preach.

Other people are not under us, and to think so is to have the wrong view of them. To be gossipy, critical, and judgmental is to live under the false illusion that those whom we so judge are somehow inferior to us.

This kind of judgment is a boomerang that will come back on the one who judges. Self-righteous judgment becomes its own gallows, just as the gallows Haman erected to execute the innocent Mordecai was used instead to hang Haman (Esther 7:10).

Ask Yourself

One of the more notable qualities of our sinful human nature is that the sins we seem quickest to judge in others are the ones we struggle the hardest with ourselves. Why do you think this is the case? What brings about this touchy sensitivity and indignance?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 22:8 the Book of the Law. A scroll containing the Torah (the Pentateuch), the revelation of God through Moses to Israel (23:2; Deut. 28:61). Manasseh may have destroyed all the copies of God’s Law that were not hidden. This could have been the official copy laid beside the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place (Deut. 31:2526). It may have been removed from its place under Ahaz, Manasseh, or Amon (2 Chr. 35:3), but was found during repair work.

2 Kings 23:25 no king like him. Of all the kings in David’s line, including David himself, no king more closely approximated the royal ideal of Deuteronomy 17:14–20 than Josiah (Matt. 22:37). Yet, even Josiah fell short of complete obedience because he had multiple wives (vv. 31, 36). However, even this righteous king could not turn away the Lord’s wrath because of Manasseh’s sin (vv. 26, 27).

2 Kings 24:1 Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar II was the son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon from 626 to 605 B.C. As crown prince, Nebuchadnezzar had led his father’s army against Pharaoh Necho and the Egyptians at Carchemish on the Euphrates River in northern Syria (605 B.C.). By defeating the Egyptians, Babylon was established as the strongest nation in the ancient Near East. Egypt and its vassals, including Judah, became vassals of Babylon with this victory. Nebuchadnezzar followed up his victory at Carchemish by invading the land of Judah. Later, in 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar took some captives to Babylon, including Daniel and his friends (Dan. 1:1–3). Toward the end of 605 B.C., Nabopolassar died and Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him as king of Babylon, 3 years after Jehoiakim had taken the throne in Judah (Jer. 25:1).Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605 to 562 B.C. three years. Nebuchadnezzar returned to the west in 604 B.C. and took tribute from all of the kings of the west, including Jehoiakim of Judah. Jehoiakim submitted to Babylonian rule from 604 to 602 B.C. In 602 B.C., Jehoiakim rebelled against Babylon, disregarding the advice of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 27:9–11).

2 Kings 24:14–16 In 597 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar took an additional 10,000 Judeans as captives to Babylon, in particular the leaders of the nation. This included the leaders of the military and those whose skills would support the military. Included in this deportation was the prophet Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1–3). Only the lower classes remained behind in Jerusalem. The Babylonian policy of captivity was different from that of the Assyrians, who took most of the people into exile and resettled the land of Israel with foreigners (17:24). The Babylonians took only the leaders and the strong, while leaving the weak and poor, elevating those left to leadership and thereby earning their loyalty. Those taken to Babylon were allowed to work and live in the mainstream of society. This kept the captive Jews together, so it would be possible for them to return, as recorded in Ezra.

Acts 2:42 apostles’ doctrine. The foundational content for the believer’s spiritual growth and maturity was the Scripture, God’s revealed truth, which the apostles received and taught faithfully. fellowship. Literally, “partnership” or “sharing.” Because Christians become partners with Jesus Christ and all other believers (1 John 1:3), it is their spiritual duty to stimulate one another to righteousness and obedience (Rom. 12:1013:815:5Gal. 5:13Eph. 4:2255:21Col. 3:91 Thess. 4:9Heb. 3:1310:2425;1 Pet. 4:910). breaking of bread. A reference to the Lord’s Table, or Communion, which is mandatory for all Christians to observe (1 Cor. 11:24–29). prayers. Of individual believers and the church corporately (see 1:14, 24; 4:24–31; John 14:1314).

DAY 17: In response to Peter’s sermon, what instructions were given on how to become a Christian?

Those who listened to that powerful sermon were “cut to the heart” (v. 37).The Greek word for cut means “pierce” or “stab,” and thus denotes something sudden and unexpected. In grief, remorse, and intense spiritual conviction, Peter’s listeners were stunned by his indictment that they had killed their Messiah.

“Repent” (v. 38).This refers to a change of mind and purpose that turns an individual from sin to God (1 Thess. 1:9). Such change involves more than fearing the consequences of God’s judgment. Genuine repentance knows that the evil of sin must be forsaken and the Person and work of Christ totally and singularly embraced. Peter exhorted his hearers to repent; otherwise, they would not experience true conversion.

“Be baptized.” This Greek word means “be dipped” or “immersed” in water. Peter was obeying Christ’s command from Matthew 28:19 and urging the people who repented and turned to the Lord Christ for salvation to identify, through the waters of baptism, with His death, burial, and resurrection (19:5; Rom. 6:341 Cor. 12:13Gal. 3:27). This is the first time the apostles publicly enjoined people to obey that ceremony. Prior to this, many Jews had experienced the baptism of John the Baptist and were also familiar with the baptism of Gentile converts to Judaism (proselytes).

“In the name of Jesus Christ.” For the new believer, it was a crucial but costly identification to accept. “For the remission of sins.” This might better be translated “because of the remission of sins.” Baptism does not produce forgiveness and cleansing from sin. The reality of forgiveness precedes the rite of baptism (v. 41). Genuine repentance brings from God the forgiveness (remission) of sins (Eph. 1:7); and because of that, the new believer was to be baptized.

“Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The one-time act by which God places His Spirit into the believer’s life.


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Integrity Trusts God Unconditionally

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Unconditional obedience is the trademark of mature faith.

In Matthew 13 Jesus speaks of people who hear the gospel and initially respond with joy, only to turn away when persecution arises. Tragically, that’s a common occurrence today that is caused by preachers who promise health, wealth, prosperity, and special miracles to all who believe. People who embrace such error are not prepared for the cost of discipleship (cf. Matt. 16:24John 15:20).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego understood what it meant to serve God unconditionally. They knew He could move in their defense if it pleased Him to do so, but their faith was not dependent on miracles or any other special benefits they might receive from Him. They stood on convictions and deferred to His will even when doing so brought the threat of a fiery death. Their attitude was that of Christ Himself as He faced the agony of the cross and prayed, “Father . . . not as I will, but as Thou wilt’” (Matt. 26:39).

Their response to King Nebuchadnezzar’s ultimatum may sound arrogant or disrespectful, but they were simply acknowledging that they had nothing to say in their own defense. They had served him faithfully as far as they could, but serving his gods and bowing down to his image was out of the question. God forbids any form of idolatry, and they would not be coerced or intimidated into disobeying Him.

Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, your faith in God isn’t measured by whether or not He rescues you from a difficult situation, but by your willingness to trust and obey Him unconditionally.

Suggestions for Prayer

Express your love to the Lord and your desire to serve Him faithfully despite the circumstances.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 13:1-23. What response does each soil represent?


Taking Spiritual Inventory

"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father . . . to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).

God doesn’t tolerate compromise with the world.

Keeping yourself unstained by the world is an important test of your spiritual condition. The apostle John said, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). At first glance that might sound contradictory since God Himself so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for it (John 3:16). But John 3:16refers to the inhabited earth—the people for whom Christ died. First John 2:15 refers to the evil world system in which we live, which includes the life-styles, philosophies, morality, and ethics of our sinful culture. That world and everything it produces is passing away (1 John 2:16-17).

James 4:4 says, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Those are strong words but compromise is intolerable to God. You can't be His friend and a friend of the world at the same time!

Separation from the world is the final element of true religion mentioned in James chapter one. Before progressing to chapter two, take a final spiritual inventory based on the checklist provided in verses 26-27: (1) Do you control your tongue? Review the quality of your conversation often. What does it reveal about the condition of your heart? Are there speech habits you need to change? (2) Do you demonstrate love for others? Do you have a sincere desire to help those in need? When you do help, are your motives pure, or are you simply trying to sooth your conscience or make others think more highly of you? (3) Do you remain unstained by the world? What is your attitude toward the world? Do you want to win it for Christ and remain unstained by its evil influences, or do you want to get as much out of it as you possibly can?

Suggestions for Prayer

If your spiritual inventory reveals any sinful motives or practices, confess them and begin to change today.

For Further Study

Reread James 1:19-27, reviewing the principles you've learned from those verses.


Wrong Judgment: An Erroneous View of God

“‘Do not judge so that you will not be judged’” (Matthew 7:1).

Believers are not to make unrighteous and unmerciful judgment on others because it manifests a wrong view of God. With the phrase “so that you will not be judged,” Jesus reminds the scribes and Pharisees that they are not the final court. To judge another person’s motives or to stand in the place of condemnation is to play God. “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). During the millennial kingdom Christ will share some of that judgment with us (Matt. 19:28), but until that time we blaspheme God whenever we take the role of judge on ourselves.

“Who are you to judge the servant of another?” asks Paul. “To his own master he stands or falls” (Rom. 14:4). Paul was little concerned about how other people judged him, nor was he concerned about how he judged himself. “I am conscious of nothing against myself,” he says, “yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4).

Except as they may be continually teaching false doctrine or following standards that are clearly unscriptural, we are never to judge a person’s ministry, teaching, or life—and certainly not his motives—by some self-styled standard.

Whenever we assign people to condemnation without mercy, we pass judgment that only God is qualified to make. Our Lord does not call for men to cease to be examining and discerning, but to renounce the presumptuous temptation to try to be God.

Ask Yourself

Why is the desire to judge and size up such an alluring appetite of ours? What does our tendency to enjoy it tell us about ourselves? What would need to occur inside before we saw an increased resistance to practice it?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 20:16, 17 word of the LORD…carried to Babylon. Isaiah predicted the Babylonian captivity that would come over a century later (586 B.C.), another prophecy historically fulfilled in all of its expected detail.

2 Kings 20:17 nothing shall be left. Hezekiah’s sin of parading his wealth before the visitors backfired, though this sin was only symptomatic of the ultimate reason for the captivity. The major cause was the corrupt leadership of Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son (21:11–15).

2 Kings 21:13 the plummet. These were weighted lines dropped from walls to see whether they were structurally straight (Is. 28:17Amos 7:78). Walls out of line were torn down. The Lord had measured Jerusalem by the standard of His word and had determined that the fate of Samaria (Israel) was also to befall Jerusalem. wipe Jerusalem. As one would wipe food off a dish, the Lord would wipe Jerusalem clean off the earth, i.e., obliterate her, and leave her turned upside down, empty, and useless.

Acts 2:3 The disciples could not comprehend the significance of the Spirit’s arrival without the Lord sovereignly illustrating what was occurring with a visible phenomenon. tongues, as of fire. Just as the sound, like wind, was symbolic, these were not literal flames of fire but supernatural indicators, like fire, that God had sent the Holy Spirit upon each believer. In Scripture, fire often denoted the divine presence (Ex.3:2–6). God’s use of a firelike appearance here parallels what He did with the dove when Jesus was baptized (Matt. 3:11Luke 3:16).

Acts 2:7 Galileans. Inhabitants of the mostly rural area of northern Israel around the Sea of Galilee. Galilean Jews spoke with a distinct regional accent and were considered to be unsophisticated and uneducated by the southern Judean Jews. When Galileans were seen to be speaking so many different languages, the Judean Jews were astonished. 

DAY 16: What can we learn about the Holy Spirit’s special role from the Book of Acts? 

One of the cautions we must exercise in studying and teaching from the Book of Acts has to do with the difference between description and prescription. The difference plays an important role in interpreting the historical biblical books. The Bible’s description of an event does not imply that the event or action can, should, or will be repeated.

The role of the Holy Spirit in His arrival as the promised Helper (John 14:17), which Acts describes as a startling audiovisual event (2:1–13),had some partial and selected repetitions (8:14–19; 10:44–48; 19:1–7).These were special cases in which believers are reported to have received or been filled with the Holy Spirit. In each of these cases, the sound of a rushing mighty wind and the tongues as of fire that were present in the original event (2:1–13) were absent, but the people spoke in tongues they did not know (but others recognized).These events should not be taken as the basis for teaching that believers today should expect the same tongue-evidence to accompany the filling of the Holy Spirit. Even in Acts itself, genuine conversions did not necessarily lead to extraordinary filling by the Holy Spirit. For example, a crowd of three thousand people believed and were baptized on the same Day of Pentecost (2:41) that started so dramatically, yet there is no mention of tongues. So, why in some cases did tongues accompany the confirmation of faith? That this actually occurred likely demonstrated that believers were being drawn from very different groups into the church. Each new group received a special welcome from the Holy Spirit. Thus, Samaritans (8:14–19), Gentiles (10:44–48), and believers from the old covenant (19:1–7) were added to the church, and the unity of the church was established. To demonstrate that unity, it was imperative to have some replication in each instance of what had occurred at Pentecost with the believing Jews, such as the presence of the apostles and the coming of the Spirit, manifestly indicated through speaking in the languages of Pentecost.

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Integrity Walks in Humility

“Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?’” (Daniel 3:13-15).

God humbles the proud but gives grace to the humble.

When King Nebuchadnezzar asked Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego “What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” he showed the extent to which a person can be blinded by sinful pride and arrogance. It is sheer folly to pit one’s power against God’s, but that’s precisely what he did.

Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude reflects that of Satan himself, who boasted that he would ascend into Heaven and make himself like the Most High God (Isa. 14:13-14). God is quick to correct such foolish notions. Later in his life Nebuchadnezzar learned that “everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Prov. 16:5). After being severely chastened by God, the king came to his senses and proclaimed, “I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37).

Although they may not be as openly defiant as Nebuchadnezzar was, everyone who willfully disobeys God’s Word is following his example by exalting their own will over God’s and challenging His authority in their lives.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to keep you humble and to forgive any subtle pride you may be harboring in your heart.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 31:23-24 and James 4:13-16.

  • How does the psalmist encourage the humble?
  • What is James’s caution to those who live as if they are not accountable to God?


Demonstrating Sacrificial Love

"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27).

Sacrificial love is the hallmark of true Christianity.

Recently a local newspaper reported the story of a young woman who had been brutally beaten, sexually assaulted, repeatedly stabbed, then dumped down a hillside and left for dead. Miraculously she survived the attack and crawled up the hill to a spot along the road where several people were parked enjoying the panoramic view of the city.

Covered with blood from head to foot, she went from car to car pleading for help, only to have one person after another roll up their windows and drive away. No one wanted to get involved. Finally someone came to her rescue and took her to a hospital where she was treated for her wounds. The article went on to describe the anger of her rescuer toward those who turned their backs on the woman's cries for help.

That tragic story illustrates the lack of compassion that is so prevalent in our society. Many people won't become involved—even when the lives of others are at stake. They're unwilling to risk personal injury or inconvenience, or perhaps they're just complacent and insensitive.

That should never be true of Christians! Jesus showed great compassion to those with special needs, and He expects us to do the same.

Just as James used the tongue to represent a pure heart (v. 26), so he uses widows and orphans to represent pure love. "To visit" means to bring love, pity, and care to them. Widows and orphans are an especially needy segment within the church. As such, they represent all who are destitute and unable to repay your kindness.

Let your love be sacrificial. Give with no intention of receiving anything in return. Generously invest your time and resources in ministering to those who have no resources of their own. That's the essence of true religion!

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there someone in your neighborhood or church whom you can help today? Ask God for wisdom and discernment on how you might best demonstrate His love to that person.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 22:22-24Deuteronomy 14:28-29Psalm 68:5Acts 6:1-6, and 1 Timothy 5:3-16, noting God's provisions for widows and orphans.


Jesus’ Definition of Judging

“‘Do not judge so that you will not be judged’” (Matthew 7:1).

One of the central messages of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to His followers is for them to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and what they do. All Christians need to make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and the external, between reality and sham, and between true righteousness and false righteousness.

Every message we hear is to be judged for the soundness of its doctrine. Paul told the Galatians, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8).

Not to rebuke sin is a form of hatred, not love. Refusing to warn a person about his sin is just as unloving as refusing to warn him about a serious disease he may have. The writer of Hebrews calls for a level of spiritual maturity wherein Christians “because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).

So in Matthew 7:1, Jesus is not telling us never to think or make value judgments. He is referring to the self-righteous, egotistical judgment and unmerciful condemnation of others practiced by the scribes and Pharisees. Their primary concern was not to help others from sin to holiness, but to condemn them to eternal judgment because of actions and attitudes that did not square with their own worldly, self-made traditions.

Jesus is referring to the judgment of motives that no human being can know of another—judgment of external form. What Jesus is forbidding is self-righteous, hasty, unmerciful, prejudiced, and unwarranted condemnation based on human standards and human understanding.

Ask Yourself

This is one Bible verse our culture feels good about knowing—and thrusting into the faces of Christians at every opportunity. But how do you see this concept twisted in people’s dealings with others and in matters of morality?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 18:5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel. The most noble quality of Hezekiah (in dramatic contrast to his father, Ahaz) was that he relied on the Lord as his exclusive hope in every situation. What distinguished him from all other kings of Judah (after the division of the kingdom) was his firm trust in the Lord during a severe national crisis (18:17–19:34). Despite troublesome events, Hezekiah clung tightly to the Lord, faithfully following Him and obeying His commands (v. 6). As a result, the Lord was with him and gave him success (v. 7).

Proverbs 18:24 must himself be friendly. The best text says “may come to ruin” and warns that the person who makes friends too easily and indiscriminately does so to his own destruction. On the other hand, a friend chosen wisely is more loyal than a brother. friend. This is a strong word meaning one who loves and was used of Abraham, God’s friend (2 Chr. 20:7Is. 41:81 Sam. 18:12 Sam. 1:26).

Acts 1:3 presented Himself…by many infallible proofs. John 20:301 Corinthians 15:5–8. To give the apostles confidence to present His message, Jesus entered a locked room (John 20:19), showed His crucifixion wounds (Luke 24:39), and ate and drank with the disciples (Luke 24:41–43). forty days. The time period between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension during which He appeared at intervals to the apostles and others (1 Cor. 15:5–8) and provided convincing evidence of His resurrection. kingdom of GodHere this expression refers to the sphere of salvation, the gracious domain of divine rule over believers’ hearts (1 Cor. 6:9Eph. 5:5Col. 1:1314Rev. 11:1512:10). This was the dominant theme during Christ’s earthly ministry (Matt. 4:239:35Mark 1:15Luke 4:439:2John 3:3–21).

Acts 1:8 The apostles’ mission of spreading the gospel was the major reason the Holy Spirit empowered them. This event dramatically altered world history, and the gospel message eventually reached all parts of the earth (Matt. 28:1920). receive power. The apostles had already experienced the Holy Spirit’s saving, guiding, teaching, and miracle-working power. Soon they would receive His indwelling presence and a new dimension of power for witness (2:4; 1 Cor. 6:1920Eph. 3:1620). witnesses. People who tell the truth about Jesus Christ (John 14:261 Pet. 3:15). The Greek word means “one who dies for his faith” because that was commonly the price of witnessing. JudeaThe region in which Jerusalem was located. SamariaThe region immediately to the north of Judea.

DAY 15: When and why did the northern kingdom of Israel come to an end?

In 2 Kings 17:6, it says that the “king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria.” The capture of Samaria by Sargon II marked the end of the northern kingdom in 722 B.C. According to Assyrian records, the Assyrians deported 27,290 inhabitants of Israel to distant locations. The relocation of populations was characteristic of Assyrian policy during that era. The Israelites were resettled in the upper Tigris-Euphrates Valley and never returned to the Promised Land. “Halah” was a city northeast of Nineveh. The “Habor” River was a northern tributary of the Euphrates. The “cities of the Medes” were northeast of Nineveh. Samaria was resettled with foreigners (v. 24).God did what He said He would do in Deuteronomy 28.The Jews were carried as far east as Susa, where the Book of Esther later took place.

In vv. 7–23, the writer departs from quoting his written sources and gives his own explanation for the captivity of Israel. Judah is included, though her captivity did not occur until 605/604–586 B.C. at the hands of the Babylonians. Her sins were the same. Here is a very full and impressive vindication of God’s action in punishing His privileged but rebellious and apostate people. In v. 7, he begins by stating that the Israelites had sinned against the Lord who had redeemed them from Egypt. Gross perversion of the worship of God and national propensity to idolatry finally exhausted divine patience. The idolatry of Israel is described in vv. 7–12. In response to Israel’s actions, the Lord sent His prophets to Israel and Judah with a message of repentance (v. 13). However, the people failed to respond to the prophets’ messages, because, like their fathers, they did not have faith in the Lord (v. 14). Their lack of faith resulted in disobedience to the Lord’s commands and the further pursuit of idolatry (vv. 15–17). The idolatry of Israel (and Judah) brought forth the anger of the Lord, which resulted in exile (v. 18).The “great sin” of both Israel and Judah was their continual following of the sinful pattern of Jeroboam I, departing from the Lord and practicing idolatry, thus bringing down the judgment of captivity predicted by the prophets (vv. 19–23).

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Integrity Endures Criticism

“For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. . . . ‘There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up’” (Daniel 3:8-12).

Expect spiritual opposition.

Have you noticed that whenever you take a public stand for righteousness you feel the reaction of the world more strongly? Even something as noble as doing your work with integrity and diligence can bring ridicule, rejection, or even open hostility. But that shouldn’t surprise you.
Jesus said, “‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). The apostle Paul warns that “indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were well-acquainted with spiritual opposition, and in today’s passage they are targets of envious Chaldeans who want to see them put to death. The accusations brought against them were not entirely true because they had not disregarded the king. On the contrary, they were model citizens and exemplary leaders. They had attended the king’s ceremony and fulfilled all their other civil duties insofar as those duties did not violate their responsibility to God.

Their accusers weren’t motivated by loyalty to the king or by their personal allegiance to his religious views. They were jealous and resentful because they hated having Jewish captives ruling over them (see Dan. 2:49).

Sometimes Christians today will do their work excellently and be promoted over their peers, only to incur the displeasure of jealous workmates who criticize or bring false and discrediting accusations against them. If ever you are in that situation, you need to be especially diligent to do your work as unto the Lord (Col. 3:23), to guard your own attitude, and to let the Lord be your defender.

Suggestions for Prayer

In obedience to the Lord, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 6.

  • What parallels do you see between Daniel’s situation and our current passage?
  • How did God prove Himself faithful in each?


Defining True Religion

"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world" (James 1:27).

True religion produces holiness and sacrificial love.

In this verse James continues his practical and penetrating assessment of true faith. So far he has said in effect, "Don't just study the Bible—obey it! Don't just dabble in external religion—have pure speech!" Now he adds, "Don't just say you're religious—demonstrate sacrificial love! Don't just claim to love God—live a pure life!" Shallow claims to Christianity meant nothing to him. He wanted to see godly attitudes and righteous deeds.

The apostle John used the same approach when he wrote, "The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. . . . The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:610-11). "Light" in that passage represents truth and righteousness; "darkness" speaks of error and sin. If you are truly saved, you are in the light and show it by your love for others.

In our society, the definition of religion is very broad. Almost any belief system qualifies. But to God, any religion that doesn't produce holiness and sacrificial love is not true religion. That narrows the field considerably because anyone who isn't saved through faith in Jesus Christ remains in bondage to sin and has no capacity to live a holy and selfless life.

How about you? Do you flee from sin and reach out to those in need? If so, you have true religion. If not, receive Christ now. He alone is the source of holiness and love.

Suggestions for Prayer

If you are a believer, God's love is already shed abroad in your heart through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Ask God to increase your capacity to love others as Christ loves you.

For Further Study

Read 1 John 3:10-18, noting John's comparison of the children of God with the children of the devil.


Don’t Worry about Tomorrow

“‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’” (Matthew 6:34).

Making reasonable provisions for the future is sensible, but to “worry about tomorrow” is foolish and unfaithful. God is the God of tomorrow as well as the God of today and eternity. “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22–23).

People are so committed to worrying that, if they can’t find anything in the present to worry about, they think about possible problems in the future. So Jesus assures us, “Tomorrow will care for itself.” This is not the careless philosophy of the hedonist who lives only for his present enjoyment. It is the conviction of the child of God who knows tomorrow will care for itself because it is in his heavenly Father’s hands.

“Each day has enough trouble of its own” is not a call to worry about that trouble—it’s an invitation to concentrate on meeting the temptations, trials, opportunities, and struggles we have today, relying on our Father to protect and provide as we have need. There is enough trouble in each day without adding the distress of worry to it.

God promises His grace for tomorrow and for every day thereafter and through eternity. But He does not give us grace for tomorrow now—He gives His grace only a day at a time as it is needed, not as it may be anticipated.

So begin today to focus on the issues of today. Don’t start dwelling on tomorrow until it becomes today.

Ask Yourself

What else might Jesus have in mind by commanding us to maintain our full attention on the day, the hour, the moment we’re currently living in? What do we lose by living in either the past or the future?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 16:3 walked in the way of the kings of Israel. This does not necessarily mean that Ahaz participated in the calf worship introduced by Jeroboam I at Bethel and Dan, but that he increasingly brought pagan, idolatrous practices into the worship of the Lord in Jerusalem. These are specified in vv.10–16 and parallel those of Jeroboam I in the northern kingdom. This included idols to Baal (2 Chr. 28:2). made his son pass through the fire. As a part of the ritual worship of Molech, the god of the Moabites, children were sacrificed by fire (3:27). This horrific practice was continually condemned in the Old Testament (Lev. 18:2120:2–5;Deut. 18:10Jer. 7:3119:532:35).

2 Kings 16:10 the altar. When Ahaz traveled to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser III, he saw a large altar (v. 15) which was most likely Assyrian. Ahaz sent a sketch of this altar to Urijah the high priest in Jerusalem, and Urijah built an altar just like it. The serious iniquity in this was meddling with and changing, according to personal taste, the furnishings of the temple, the design for which had been given by God (Ex. 25:4026:3027:1–81 Chr. 28:19). This was like building an idol in the temple, done to please the pagan Assyrian king, whom Ahaz served instead of God.

Proverbs 18:21 Death and life. The greatest good and the greatest harm are in the power of the tongue (James 3:6–10).

John 21:18,19 A prophecy of Peter’s martyrdom. Jesus’ call of devotion to Him would also mean that Peter’s devotion would entail his own death (Matt. 10:37–39).Whenever any Christian follows Christ, he must be prepared to suffer and die (Matt. 16:24–26). Peter lived 3 decades serving the Lord and anticipating the death that was before him (2 Pet. 1:12–15), but he wrote that such suffering and death for the Lord brings praise to God (1 Pet. 4:14–16). Church tradition records that Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (ca. A.D. 67–68), being crucified upside down, because he refused to be crucified like his Lord.

DAY 14: How does Jesus deal with Peter’s denial of Him during the trial?

In John 21:15–17, the meaning of this section hinges upon the usage of two synonyms for love. In terms of interpretation, when two synonyms are placed in close proximity in context, a difference in meaning, however slight, is emphasized. When Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He used a word for love that signified total commitment. Peter responded with a word for love that signified his love for Jesus, but not necessarily his total commitment. This was not because he was reluctant to express that greater love, but because he had been disobedient and denied the Lord in the past. He was, perhaps, now reluctant to make a claim of supreme devotion when, in the past, his life did not support such a claim. Jesus pressed home to Peter the need for unswerving devotion by repeatedly asking Peter if he loved Him supremely. The essential message here is that Jesus demands total commitment from His followers. Their love for Him must place Him above their love for all else. Jesus confronted Peter with love because He wanted Peter to lead the apostles (Matt. 16:18), but in order for Peter to be an effective shepherd, his overwhelming drive must exemplify supreme love for his Lord.

In v. 15, when Jesus asked him if he loved Him “more than these,” He probably refers to the fish (v. 11) representing Peter’s profession as a fisherman, for he had gone back to it while waiting for Jesus (v. 3). Jesus wanted Peter to love Him so supremely as to forsake all that he was familiar with and be exclusively devoted to being a fisher of men (Matt. 4:19).The phrase may refer to the other disciples, since Peter had claimed he would be more devoted than all the others (Matt. 26:33).“Feed My lambs.” The word “feed” conveys the idea of being devoted to the Lord’s service as an undershepherd who cares for His flock (1 Pet. 5:1–4).The word has the idea of constantly feeding and nourishing the sheep. This served as a reminder that the primary duty of the messenger of Jesus Christ is to teach the word of God (2 Tim. 4:2).Acts 1–13 records Peter’s obedience to this commission.

In v. 17, “Peter was grieved.” The third time Jesus asked Peter, He used Peter’s word for love that signified something less than total devotion, questioning even that level of love Peter thought he was safe in claiming. The lessons driven home to Peter grieved his heart, so that he sought for a proper understanding of his heart, not by what he said or had done, but based on the Lord’s omniscience (2:24, 25).

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Integrity Resists Intimidation

“Then the herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up” (Daniel 3:4-7).

The choices you make reveal the convictions you embrace.

After King Nebuchadnezzar had gathered all his leaders to the dedication of his golden image, he issued a proclamation that at the sound of his orchestra they were to fall down and worship the image. Those leaders were the most influential and respected people in Babylon, so you might expect them to be people of strong convictions and personal integrity. Sadly, that was not the case, and with only three exceptions they all lacked the courage to say no.

Granted, punishment for disobeying the king’s decree would be severe indeed. But even the threat of a fiery death could not intimidate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Instead, it simply revealed the depth of their commitment to God. That’s what makes them such remarkable role models. As young men barely twenty years old, they demonstrated tremendous courage and conviction.

Each day Christians face considerable pressure to compromise spiritual integrity and to adopt standards of thought and behavior that are displeasing to the Lord. Young people especially are vulnerable to negative peer pressure and intimidation. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego show us that young people can be spiritual leaders who are strong in their faith and exemplary in their obedience. May that be true of you as well, regardless of your age.

Suggestions for Prayer

Remember to pray often for the young people in your church, and do what you can to encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

For Further Study

Read Joshua 1:1-9. How did God encourage Joshua as he faced the intimidating task of leading the nation of Israel?


Speaking from a Pure Heart

"If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless" (James 1:26).

Your speech reveals the condition of your heart.

In verse 22 James talked about the delusion of hearing the Word without obeying it. Here he talks about the deception of external religious activity without internal purity of heart.

That's a common deception. Many people confuse love of religious activity with love for God. They may go through the mechanics of reading the Bible, attending church, praying, giving money, or singing songs, but in reality their hearts are far from God. That kind of deception can be very subtle. That's why James disregards mere claims to Christianity and confronts our motives and obedience to the Word. Those are the acid tests!

James was selective in the word he used for "religious." Rather than using the common Greek word that speaks of internal godliness, he chose a word that refers to external religious trappings, ceremonies, and rituals— things that are useless for true spirituality.

He focuses on the tongue as a test of true religion because the tongue is a window to the heart. As Jesus said, "The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" (Matt. 12:34). Corrupt speech betrays an unregenerate heart; righteous speech demonstrates a transformed heart. It doesn't matter how evangelical or biblical your theology is, if you can't control your tongue, your religion is useless!

You can learn much about a person's character if you listen long enough to what he says. In the same way, others learn much about you as they listen to what you say. Do your words reveal a pure heart? Remember Paul's admonition to "let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). Make that your goal each day so you can know the blessing and grace of disciplined speech!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your tongue from speaking anything that might dishonor Him. Be aware of everything you say.

For Further Study

Read James 3:1-12.

  • What warning does James give?
  • What analogies does he use for the tongue?


Seeking God’s Kingdom First

“‘But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’” (Matthew 6:33).

When Christians think like the world and crave things in the world, they will worry like the world, because a mind not focused on God is a mind that has cause to worry. The faithful, trusting, and reasonable Christian is “anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving [let his] requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).

The antidote to worry that results in contentment is to make God and His kingdom your priority. Jesus is saying, “Rather than seeking and worrying about food, drink, and clothing like unbelievers do, focus your attention and hopes on the things of the Lord, and He will take care of all your needs.”

Seeking God’s kingdom means losing ourselves in obedience to the Lord and pouring out our lives in the eternal work of our heavenly Father. To seek God’s kingdom is to seek to win people into that kingdom that they might be saved and God might be glorified.

We are also to seek His righteousness. Instead of longing after the things of this world, we ought to hunger and thirst for the things of the world to come, which are characterized above all else by God’s perfect righteousness and holiness. We not only are to have heavenly expectations but also holy lives: “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11–12).

Ask Yourself

Seeking first the kingdom can be little more than a mental slogan for us until we define what this means in real-life, everyday terms. Spend some time today focusing on what a kingdom priority looks like at home, at work, at church, at the gym, at the market, in all the places your routine takes you.


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 14:1–15:38 This section quickly surveys the kings and selected events of the northern and southern kingdoms from 796 to 735 B.C. In contrast to the previous 19 chapters (1 Kin. 17:12 Kin. 13:25), which narrated 90 years of history (885–796 B.C.) with a concentration on the ministries of Elijah and Elisha during the final 65 years of that period (860–796 B.C.), 62 years are covered in these two chapters. The previous section concluded with a shadow of hope: officially sanctioned Baal worship had been eradicated in both Israel (10:18–28) and Judah (11:17,18); the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem had been repaired (12:9–15); and the Syrian threat to Israel had been overcome (13:25). However, this section emphasizes that the fundamental problems still remained: the false religion established by Jeroboam I continued in Israel even with the change of royal families (14:24–5:9, 18, 24, 28), and the high places were not removed in Judah even though there were only good kings there during those years (14:4; 15:4, 35).

2 Kings 14:25 restored the territory of Israel. Jeroboam II’s greatest accomplishment was the restoration of Israel’s boundaries to approximately their extent in Solomon’s time, excluding the territory belonging to Judah. The northern boundary was the entrance of Hamath, the same as Solomon’s (1 Kin. 8:65) and the southern boundary was the Sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea (Josh. 3:1612:3). Jeroboam II took Hamath, a major city located on the Orontes River, about 160 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. He also controlled Damascus, indicating that the Transjordan territory south to Moab was also under his authority. These victories of Jeroboam II were accomplished because the Syrians had been weakened by attacks from the Assyrians, while Assyria herself was weak at this time, suffering from threats on her northern border, internal dissension, and a series of weak kings. Jonah. The territorial extension of Jeroboam II was in accordance with the will of the Lord as revealed through the prophet Jonah. This was the same Jonah who traveled to Nineveh with God’s message of repentance for the Assyrians.

Proverbs 18:19 There are no feuds as difficult to resolve as those with relatives; no barriers are so hard to bring down. Hence, great care should be taken to avoid such conflicts.

John 20:9 did not know the Scripture. Neither Peter nor John understood that Scripture said Jesus would rise (Ps. 16:10). This is evident by the reports of Luke (24:25–27, 32, 44–47). Jesus had foretold His resurrection (2:19Matt. 16:21Mark 8:319:31Luke 9:22), but they would not accept it (Matt. 16:22Luke 9:4445). By the time John wrote this Gospel, the church had developed an understanding of the Old Testament prediction of Messiah’s resurrection.

DAY 13: Describe the resurrection appearances of Jesus to His followers.

John 20 records the appearances of Jesus to His own followers: 1) the appearance to Mary Magdalene (vv. 1–18); 2) the appearance to the 10 disciples (vv. 19–23); and 3) the appearance to Thomas (vv. 24–29). Jesus did not appear to unbelievers (see 14:1916:16, 22) because the evidence of His resurrection would not have convinced them as the miracles had not (Luke 16:31). The god of this world had blinded them and prevented their belief (2 Cor. 4:4). Jesus, therefore, appears exclusively to His own in order to confirm their faith in the living Christ. Such appearances were so profound that they transformed the disciples from cowardly men hiding in fear to bold witnesses for Jesus (e.g., Peter; see 18:27Acts 2:14–39). Once again John’s purpose in recording these resurrection appearances was to demonstrate that Jesus’ physical and bodily resurrection was the crowning proof that He truly is the Messiah and Son of God who laid down His life for His own (10:17, 18; 15:13Rom. 1:4).

In particular, His appearance to Thomas, who has already been portrayed as loyal but pessimistic, is insightful (vv. 24–26). Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for his failure, but instead compassionately offered him proof of His resurrection. Jesus lovingly met him at the point of his weakness (2 Tim. 2:13).Thomas’s actions indicated that Jesus had to convince the disciples rather forcefully of His resurrection, i.e., they were not gullible people predisposed to believing in resurrection. The point is they would not have fabricated it or hallucinated it, since they were so reluctant to believe even with the evidence they could see.

With the words “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28),Thomas declared his firm belief in the resurrection and, therefore, the deity of Jesus the Messiah and Son of God (Titus 2:13). This is the greatest confession a person can make. Thomas’s confession functions as the fitting capstone of John’s purpose in writing (vv. 30, 31).

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Integrity Worships the True God

 “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (Daniel 3:1-3). 

People are incurably religious and will worship either the true God or a false substitute.

Scripture teaches that a double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). That certainly was true of King Nebuchadnezzar, who shortly after declaring that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods and a Lord of kings” (Dan. 2:47), erected a huge image of himself and assembled all his leaders for its dedication.

The image was ninety feet tall and was probably constructed of wood overlaid with gold. Because the plain of Dura was flat, the statue would have been visible for a great distance. The gold idol was a magnificent sight as it reflected the bright sunlight of that region.

The king’s plan was to have all his leaders bow down to the image, thereby bringing glory to himself, verifying their loyalty, and unifying the nation under one religion. But he was soon to learn that three young men with spiritual integrity would never abandon worship of the true God, regardless of the consequences.

Worshiping the true God or a false substitute is the choice that everyone must make. Sadly, millions of people who wouldn’t think of bowing to a tangible image nevertheless worship useless gods of their own imaginations. Even Christians can be lured into self-love and covetousness, which are forms of idolatry (Col. 3:5). That’s why you must always guard your heart diligently.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for the privilege of knowing and worshiping the true God.

For Further Study

According to Romans 1:18-32, what are the spiritual and moral consequences of idolatry?


Persevering in the Word

"One who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25).

Doers of the Word are persevering learners.

The phrase "and abides by it" in James 1:25 demands our close attention. "Abide" translates a Greek word that means "to stay beside," "remain," or "continue." The idea is that a doer of the Word continually and habitually gazes into God's perfect law. In other words, he is a persevering learner.

When you have that level of commitment to the Word, you will be an effectual doer—one who is in union with God's will and seeks to obey it above all else. As you do, God will bless you. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll be successful in the eyes of the world, but your priorities and perspectives will be right and the Lord will honor what you do.

This verse is a call to carefully examine yourself in light of God's standards. That's not a popular thing in our society because many people have an aversion to serious spiritual thought and self-examination. I believe that's why Christian television, music, and other forms of entertainment are so popular. Escaping reality through entertainment is far more appealing to most people than gazing into the mirror of God's Word and having their spiritual flaws and blemishes exposed. But if you desire to be like Christ, you must see yourself for what you are and make any needed corrections. To do that, you must continually examine your life in the light of Scripture.

Can you imagine what the church would be if every Christian did that? Can you imagine the changes in your own life if you did it more consistently? Only the Holy Spirit can enable you to be a doer of the Word. So yield to His leading through prayer and confession as you continue to study and apply God's Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Whenever you study Scripture, ask the Spirit to illuminate your mind and heart, and to use the Word to transform you more and more into the image of Christ.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:16-17, noting what Paul says about responding to the Word.


Worry Is Not a Trivial SiN

“‘But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!’” (Matthew 6:30).

It seems odd, does it not, that we who have freely put our eternal destiny into Christ’s hands would at times refuse to believe that He will provide what we need to eat, drink, and wear. Faith should extend to the ordinary, just as it extends to the extraordinary.

Worry is not a trivial sin because it strikes a blow both at God’s love and integrity. Worry declares our heavenly Father to be untrustworthy in His Word and His promises. To claim belief in the inerrancy of Scripture yet in the next moment express worry is to deny that very belief. Worry reveals that we are mastered by our circumstances and by our own finite perspective and understanding rather than God’s Word. Worry is therefore not only debilitating and destructive but also maligns and impugns God.

When a believer is not fresh in the Word every day so that God is in his mind and heart, then Satan moves into the vacuum and plants worry. And worry pushes the Lord even further from our minds.

Paul counsels us as he did the Ephesians, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Eph. 1:18–19).

Ask Yourself

Have you ever seriously considered the unspoken statement you make when worry defines your reaction to life’s uncertainties? If you understood the root beliefs that fuel the fires of anxiety, what effect would this knowledge have on your level of fretfulness?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 11:17 a covenant. The renewal of the agreement between the people and the Lord and between the house of David and the people was appropriate because of the disruption under Athaliah. A similar ceremony was held later, during the reign of Josiah (23:1–3).

2 Kings 13:21 he revived. A dead man returned to life after touching Elisha’s bones. This miracle was a sign that God’s power continued to work in relationship to Elisha even after his death. What God had promised to Jehoash through Elisha when he was alive would surely come to pass after the prophet’s death (vv. 19,25) in the defeat of the enemy, the recovery of the cities that had been taken, and their restoration to the kingdom of Israel (vv. 22–25).

Proverbs 18:16 man’s gift. This is not the word for a bribe (17:23), but rather the word for a present given to someone (Jacob’s gift, Gen. 32:2021; Joseph’s gift, Gen. 43:11; David’s gift, 1 Sam. 17:1718; and Abigail’s gift, 1 Sam. 25:27).

John 19:23 His garments...and also the tunic. By custom, the clothes of the condemned person were the property of the executioners. The division of the garments suggests that the execution squad was made up of 4 soldiers (Acts 12:4). The tunic was worn next to the skin. The plural garments probably refers to other clothes, including an outer garment, belt, sandals, and head covering.

John 19:24 John cites Psalm 22:18. In the psalm, David, beset by physical distress and mockery by his opponents, used the symbolism of the common practice in an execution scene in which the executioner divided the victim’s clothes to portray the depth of his trouble. It is notable that David precisely described a form of execution that he had never seen. The passage was typologically prophetic of Jesus, David’s heir to the messianic throne (Matt. 27:46Mark 15:34).

DAY 12: Was there any question as to whether Jesus died or not?

In His death on the cross, Jesus finally cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).The verb here carries the idea of fulfilling one’s task and, in religious contexts, has the idea of fulfilling one’s religious obligations. The entire work of redemption had been brought to completion. The single Greek word here (translated “it is finished”) has been found in the papyri being placed on receipts for taxes meaning paid in full (Col. 3:13,14).“He gave up His spirit.” The sentence signaled that Jesus handed over His spirit as an act of His will. No one took His life from Him, for He voluntarily and willingly gave it up (10:17, 18).

It was “Preparation Day” (v. 31)This refers to Friday, the day before or the preparation day for the Sabbath. “Bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath.” The normal Roman practice was to leave crucified men and women on the cross until they died (and this could take days) and then leave their rotting bodies hanging there to be devoured by vultures. The Mosaic Law insisted that anyone being impaled (usually after execution) should not remain there overnight (Deut. 21:2223). Such a person was under God’s curse, and to leave him exposed would be to desecrate the land in their minds. So “the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken.” In order to hasten death for certain reasons, soldiers would smash the legs of the victim with an iron mallet. Not only did this action induce shock and additional loss of blood, but it prevented the victim from pushing with his legs to keep breathing, and thus the victim died due to asphyxiation.

However, the soldier’s stabbing of Jesus’ side caused significant penetration because of the sudden flow of blood and water (v. 34). Either the spear pierced Jesus’ heart or the chest cavity was pierced at the bottom. In either event, John mentioned the outflow of blood and water to emphasize that Jesus was unquestionably dead.

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Integrity Results in Fruitful Ministry

“And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king” (Daniel 1:21).

People of integrity are people of significant spiritual influence.

When King Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel as one of his personal servants, it was just the beginning of a ministry that would last for seventy years. Daniel 2:48 records that soon afterward “the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.” At Daniel’s request, the king also appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to positions of authority, thereby providing an even stronger voice for righteousness in Babylon.

Years later, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, “clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom” (Dan. 5:29). Following Belshazzar’s death and the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians, Darius the Mede appointed Daniel as one of only three men in the kingdom to have oversight over all his governors (Dan. 6:1-2). As the Lord continued to bless Daniel, and as he distinguished himself among Darius’ leaders, the king appointed him as prime minister over the entire kingdom. Daniel therefore “enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Dan. 6:28).

Daniel’s life was one of enormous influence, which began when he was a youth who chose commitment over compromise. He was faithful with little, and the Lord gave him much. Perhaps few Christians will have the breadth of influence Daniel enjoyed, but every Christian should have his commitment. Remember, the choices you make for Christ today directly impact the influence you will have for Him tomorrow. So live each day to hear the Lord’s “Well done, good and faithful [servant]; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:23).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to guard your integrity, so that your influence for Him will be strong and ever-increasing.

For Further Study

Read the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

  • What did Jabez request of God?
  • What was God’s response?


Gazing into the Perfect Law

"One who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does" (James 1:25).

God blesses you when you obey His Word.

James 1:21-24 contrasts hearers of the Word and doers of the Word. Hearers don't respond to Scripture or benefit from its truths—though they may study it in depth. Doers receive it in humility and obey its commands. James 1:25 adds that they are blessed in what they do. That means there is blessing in the very act of obedience.

James calls Scripture "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (v. 25). It is "law" because it's God's obligatory behavioral code. Grace doesn't eliminate God's moral law—it gives us the spiritual resources to obey it, and forgiveness when we fail. That's how Jesus fulfills the law in us (cf. Matt. 5:17).

Scripture is "the perfect law" because it is complete, sufficient, comprehensive, and without error. Through it God meets every need and fulfills every desire of the human heart. In addition, it is "the law of liberty." That may sound paradoxical because we tend to think of law and freedom as opposites. But as you look intently into the Word, the Holy Spirit enables you to apply its principles to your life, thereby freeing you from the guilt and bondage of sin, and enabling you to live to God's glory. That's true freedom!

"Look intently" translates a Greek word that pictures bending down to examine something with care and precision. Stooping implies humility and a desire to see clearly what Scripture reveals about your own spiritual condition. It's an attitude as well as an action.

As you study Scripture, let this be your underlying attitude: "Lord, as I gaze intently into your Word, reveal the things in my life that need to be changed. Then grant me the grace to make those changes so I can live more fully to your glory."

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Psalm 139:23-24 and make it your sincere prayer.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 4:12-13.

  • To what is God's Word compared?
  • What effect does the Word have on those who are exposed to it?


Example of the Flower

“‘And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrowis thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!’” (Matthew 6:28–30).

Many of the people Jesus spoke to likely had little clothing to their name. So He pointed again to their surroundings, this time to flowers, to assure them of God’s concern and provision.

“The lilies of the field” may have been a general term used for the beautiful wild-flowers that graced the fields and hillsides of Galilee. Such decorations of nature make no effort to grow and have no part in designing or coloring themselves. The naked eye can see much of the amazing detail, shading, and coloring of a flower, yet under a microscope it shows itself to be even more marvelous and intricate than people in Jesus’ day could ever have imagined.

The simple point is that not even Solomon, one of most resplendent kings the world has ever known, could clothe himself like one of those little flowers growing abundantly on the hillside.

If Jesus told those who had but one simple garment not to worry about their clothing, what would He say to us? If God bothers to array the grass of the field with beautiful but short-lived flowers, how much more is He concerned to clothe and care for His very own children?

Ask Yourself

Nature is indeed a constant reminder not only of the wonder and splendor of God, but also of His daily provision. Perhaps the radical policies of today’s green generation—a fervor that borders on and often becomes an idolatrous worship of the earth—can make us wary of learning from the world around us. But creation is a gift of God to us, designed to help us look to Him as our source.


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 9:2 Jehu. The Lord had previously told Elijah that Jehu would become king over Israel and kill those involved in the worship of Baal (1 Kin. 19:16,17). The fulfillment of the prophecy is recorded from 9:1–10:31inner room. A private room that could be closed off to the public. Elisha commissioned one of the younger prophets to anoint Jehu alone behind closed doors. The rite was to be a secret affair without Elisha present so that Jehoram would not suspect that a coup was coming.

2 Kings 9:3 anointed you king over Israel. The anointing with olive oil by a prophet of the Lord confirmed that God Himself had earlier chosen that man to be king (1 Sam. 10:116:13). This action of anointing by a commissioned prophet indicated divine investiture with God’s sovereign power to Jehu. flee, and do not delay. The need for haste by the young prophet underscored the danger of the assignment. A prophet in the midst of Israel’s army camp would alert the pro-Jehoram elements to the possibility of the coup.

2 Kings 9:30 paint on her eyes. The painting of the eyelids with a black powder mixed with oil and applied with a brush, darkened them to give an enlarged effect. Jezebel’s appearance at the window gave the air of a royal audience to awe Jehu.

John 19:12 not Caesar’s friend. This statement by the Jews was loaded with irony, for the Jews’ hatred of Rome certainly indicated they too were no friends of Caesar. But they knew Pilate feared Tiberius Caesar (the Roman emperor at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion) since he had a highly suspicious personality and exacted ruthless punishment. Pilate had already created upheaval in Palestine by several foolish acts that had infuriated the Jews, and so was under the scrutiny of Rome to see if his ineptness continued. The Jews were intimidating him by threatening another upheaval that could spell the end of his power in Palestine, if he did not execute Jesus.

John 19:18 crucified Him. Jesus was made to lie on the ground while His arms were stretched out and nailed to the horizontal beam that He carried. The beam was then hoisted up, along with the victim, and fastened to the vertical beam. His feet were nailed to the vertical beam to which sometimes was attached a piece of wood that served as a kind of seat that partially supported the weight of the body. The latter, however, was designed to prolong and increase the agony, not relieve it. Having been stripped naked and beaten, Jesus could hang in the hot sun for hours if not days. To breathe, it was necessary to push with the legs and pull with the arms, creating excruciating pain. Terrible muscle spasms wracked the entire body; but since collapse meant asphyxiation, the struggle for life continued. two others. Matthew (27:38) and Luke (23:33) use the same word for these two as John used for Barabbas, i.e., guerrilla fighters.

DAY 11: Describe the abuse that Christ endured during the trial?

In John 19:1, it says that “Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” Pilate appears to have flogged Jesus as a strategy to set Him free (vv. 4–6). He was hoping that the Jews would be appeased by this action and that sympathy for Jesus’ suffering would result in their desire that He be released (Luke 23:13–16).Scourging was a horribly cruel act in which the victim was stripped, tied to a post and beaten by several torturers, i.e., soldiers who alternated when exhausted. For victims who were not Roman citizens, the preferred instrument was a short wooden handle to which several leather thongs were attached. Each leather thong had pieces of bones or metal on the end. The beatings were so savage that sometimes victims died. The body could be torn or lacerated to such an extent that muscles, veins, or bones were exposed. Such flogging often preceded execution in order to weaken and dehumanize the victim (Is. 53:5). Apparently, however, Pilate intended this to create sympathy for Jesus.

Then there was the “crown of thorns” (v. 2). This crown was made from the long spikes (up to 12 inches) of a date palm formed into an imitation of the radiating crowns which oriental kings wore. The long thorns would have cut deeply into Jesus’ head, adding to the pain and bleeding. The use of the “purple robe” represented royalty. The robe probably was a military cloak flung around Jesus’ shoulders, intended to mock His claim to be King of the Jews.

Pilate declared to the people, “I find no fault in Him” (v. 4), and when he brought Jesus out, he cried, “Behold the Man!” (v. 5). Pilate dramatically presented Jesus after His torturous treatment by the soldiers. Jesus would have been swollen, bruised, and bleeding. Pilate displayed Jesus as a beaten and pathetic figure, hoping to gain the people’s choice of Jesus for release. Pilate’s phrase is filled with sarcasm since he was attempting to impress upon the Jewish authorities that Jesus was not the dangerous man that they had made Him out to be.

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Integrity Proves God's Faithfulness

“Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. And as for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm” (Daniel 1:18-20).

God always equips you for the tasks He requires of you.

Daniel and the other young men deported in 606 B.C. received three years of intense training under the watchful eye of the commander of King Nebuchadnezzar’s officials. At the conclusion of their training, they were presented to the king for his personal evaluation. The results were impressive indeed. Of all those who were trained, none compared to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Beyond that, they were found to be ten times better than all the wise men in the entire kingdom of Babylon! Consequently, at the age of only seventeen or eighteen, they were made the king’s personal servants.

Why were these young men so superior to their peers? It wasn’t simply their training, because each man had received the same education. The difference was their character and the faithful provisions of their God, who granted them special knowledge, intelligence, and wisdom (v. 17). They were so righteous and wise that even those who did not believe in their God were compelled to acknowledge the quality of their lives. That’s the impact every believer should have on those around them!

God wants you to live the kind of life that silences those who would seek to malign you or your God (1 Peter 2:15), and He has provided every spiritual resource for you to do so (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore, when you live with integrity, you prove to others that God really does accomplish His work in those who love Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of spiritual resources that are yours in Christ, then praise Him for each of them.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 119:97-104.

  • What are the psalmist’s attitudes toward God’s Word (His “law”)?
  • What steps did he take to ensure that godliness would be evident in his life?


Applying the Word Without Delay

"If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was" (James 1:23-24).

Always respond immediately to what you know to be God’s will for you.

Men, have you ever been at work and touched your face, only to realize that you forgot to shave? Perhaps you were distracted by your wife's call to breakfast or by one of the kids. Ladies, have you ever been out in public and suddenly realized that you forgot to apply some of your makeup? Those are common occurrences that illustrate what it means to hear God's Word but fail to respond.

James 1:23 says, "If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror." "Looks" doesn't refer to a casual glance but to a careful, cautious, observant stare. This person is taking a good, long look at himself. Hearers of the Word are not necessarily superficial or casual in their approach to Scripture. They can be serious students of the Word. The fact is, some seminary professors or Sunday School teachers are not true believers. Some even write commentaries and other Bible reference works. Your response to the Word—not your depth of study alone—is the issue with God.

Despite the hearer's lingering look, he failed to respond and the image reflected in the mirror soon faded. That's reminiscent of Jesus saying, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart" (Matt. 13:19). The Word was sown but it bore no fruit. The man looked into the mirror but he made no corrections.

Perhaps there's something God's Word is instructing you to do that you've been putting off. If so, delay no longer. Don't be a forgetful hearer!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to teach you to be more disciplined in responding to the dictates of His Word.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 13:1-23, noting the various soils and what they represent.


Example of the Birds
“‘Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns,and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?’” (Matthew 6:26).

Many birds live in northern Galilee, and it’s likely some flew by as Jesus was teaching. As an object lesson, Jesus called attention to the fact that birds do not have intricate and involved processes for acquiring food.

Like every creature, birds receive their life from God. And He provides them with an abundance of food resources and the instinct to find those resources for themselves and their offspring. The Lord asked Job, “Who prepares for the raven its nourishment when its young cry to God?” (Job 38:41). The obvious answer is: God does.

If God is so careful to provide for such relatively insignificant creatures as birds, how much more will He take care of those He created in His own image and who have become His children through faith?

This doesn’t mean Jesus is suggesting that birds do nothing to feed themselves. But they never worry about where their next meal is going to come from. They gather food until they have enough, and then go about whatever other business they may have until time for the next meal.

Use this example of a bird’s worry-free life and adopt the same attitude for yourself.

Ask Yourself

It really is worth reiterating that birds don’t sit around waiting for their needs to be met. Keep your eye to an open window one morning, and you’ll see just how industrious they are. How does this help you understand Jesus’ words better? In what ways have laziness and other lacks of good character increased your worry quotient?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 7:6 the Hittites and…Egyptians. Sometime before the arrival of the lepers, the Lord had made the Syrians hear the terrifying sound of a huge army approaching. They thought the Israelite king had hired two massive foreign armies to attack them. The Hittites were descendants of the once-great Hittite Empire who lived in small groups across northern Syria (1 Kin. 10:29). Egypt was in decline at this time, but its army would still have represented a great danger to the Syrians.

2 Kings 8:10 recover…die. Ben-Hadad wanted to know whether or not he would recover from his present illness. In response, Elisha affirmed two interrelated things: 1) Ben-Hadad would be restored to health; his present sickness would not be the means of his death. 2) Ben-Hadad would surely die by some other means.

2 Kings 8:11 he was ashamed. With a fixed gaze, Elisha stared at Hazael because it had been revealed to him what Hazael would do, including the murder of Ben-Hadad (v. 15). Hazael was embarrassed, knowing that Elisha knew of his plan to assassinate the Syrian king.

Psalm 72:10 Tarshish…Seba. Countries near and far which brought tribute to Solomon (1 Kin. 4:2110:12324Is. 60:4–7Jer. 6:20). Tarshish is probably in Spain; Sheba, a kingdom in southern Arabia (modern Yemen); and Seba, a North African nation.

John 18:36 My kingdom is not of this world. By this phrase, Jesus meant that His kingdom is not connected to earthly political and national entities, nor does it have its origin in the evil world system that is in rebellion against God. If His kingdom was of this world, He would have fought. The kingships of this world preserve themselves by fighting with force. Messiah’s kingdom does not originate in the efforts of man but with the Son of Man forcefully and decisively conquering sin in the lives of His people and someday conquering the evil world system at His Second Coming when He establishes the earthly form of His kingdom. His kingdom was no threat to the national identity of Israel or the political and military identity of Rome. It exists in the spiritual dimension until the end of the age (Rev.11:15).

DAY 10: Why was the trial of Jesus conducted by the Romans rather than the Sanhedrin?

Jesus was led from the trial before Caiaphas to the Praetorium in John 18:28.This was the headquarters of the commanding officer of the Roman military camp or the headquarters of the Roman military governor (i.e., Pilate). Pilate’s normal headquarters was in Caesarea, in the palace that Herod the Great had built for himself. However, Pilate and his predecessors made it a point to be in Jerusalem during the feasts in order to quell any riots. Jerusalem became his praetorium or headquarters. It was “early morning.” The word is ambiguous. Most likely, it refers to around 6:00 a.m. since many Roman officials began their day very early and finished by 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. Those who brought Jesus did not go into the Praetorium “lest they should be defiled.” Jewish oral law gives evidence that a Jew who entered the dwelling places of Gentiles became ceremonially unclean. Their remaining outside in the colonnade avoided that pollution. John loads this statement with great irony by noting the chief priests’ scrupulousness in the matter of ceremonial cleansing, when all the time they were incurring incomparably greater moral defilement by their proceedings against Jesus.

“What accusation…?” (v. 29). This question formally opened the Roman civil phase of proceedings against Jesus. The fact that Roman troops were used at the arrest proves that the Jewish authorities communicated something about this case to Pilate in advance. Although they most likely had expected Pilate to confirm their judgment against Jesus and order His death sentence, Pilate ordered instead a fresh hearing in his presence.

When Pilate told them to take Jesus back and try Him themselves, the Jews objected on the basis that “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death” (v. 31). When Rome took over Judea and began direct rule through a prefect in A.D. 6, capital jurisdiction (i.e., the right to execute) was taken away from the Jews and given to the Roman governor. Capital punishment was the most jealously guarded of all the attributes in Roman provincial administration.

By a Roman crucifixion, it also fulfilled “the saying of Jesus” (v. 32) that He would die by being lifted up (3:14; 8:28; 12:32, 33). If the Jews had executed Him, it would have been by throwing Him down and stoning Him. But God providentially controlled all the political procedures to assure that, when sentence was finally passed, He would be crucified by the Romans and not stoned by the Jews, as was Stephen (Acts 7:59).

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How does the Holy Spirit seal us? What is the seal of the Holy Spirit?

In biblical times, a seal was a guarantee. Ephesians 1:13-14 shares regarding the Holy Spirit, "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." According to this passage, the seal of the Holy Spirit takes place at the point of salvation. It is a promise or guarantee of the Christian's future, eternal inheritance with Jesus Christ.

The Greek word translated as "seal" is shragizo that means "to set a seal upon, mark with a seal." A seal could be used to guarantee a document or letter (Esther 3:12), indicate ownership (Song of Songs 8:6), or protect against tampering (Matthew 27:66Revelation 5:1). The Holy Spirit is our seal in every sense of this word.

First, the Holy Spirit in the believer's life helps to guarantee he or she is a child of God. Romans 8:16shares, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God."

Second, the seal of the Holy Spirit serves as a mark that we truly belong to Christ. Romans 8:9-10 teaches, "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. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." First Corinthians 6:19-20 also notes, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."

Third, the seal of the Holy Spirit helps protect against tampering or attack. Romans 8:13 declares, "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." In a very real sense, God's Spirit protects us and guarantees our eternity with the Lord.

At what point does the sealing of the Holy Spirit take place? It takes place when a person believes the gospel (Ephesians 1:13John 7:37-39). At that point, God's seal offers the promise of eternal life (John 3:16) because of salvation based on God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The seal of the Holy Spirit offers a wonderful glimpse of God's role in salvation. When we receive salvation in Christ, we are given a guarantee, exchange our ownership for His, and are protected against forces of evil. This seal should provide wonderful encouragement for the believer against the spiritual battles in this life (Ephesians 6:12) and anticipation for the life to come.

How can I walk in the Spirit?

Galatians 5:16teaches, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." What does it mean to walk by or in the Spirit? 

Romans 8:3-5helps to answer this question, stating, "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, 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. 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." In contrast with those who live by the flesh or human sinful nature, believers are called to live by the Spirit and the ways of God.

Part of the idea of walking in the Spirit is to set our minds on the things of the Spirit. This includes ending sinful practices (Romans 8:13), being led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14), knowing the Father through Jesus (Romans 8:15), and prayer (Romans 8:26). A person committed to holy living, fellowship with God, and an intimate prayer life is the kind of person who is walking in the Spirit.

Again, Galatians 5:16contrasts walking by the Spirit with gratifying the desires of the flesh. To walk by the Spirit, then, is to turn from sin and walk with God in holy living. There is a clear command to turn from the flesh and to pursue the fruit of the Spirit. These include, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23). 

Further, walking in the Spirit includes to "keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). This includes, "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (Galatians 5:26). In other words, an additional mark of walking in the Spirit is by loving others. Instead of conceit, provoking, and envy, we are called to humility, encouragement, and love.

In fact, the first verse of the next chapter reveals the extent to which this love must grow: "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted" (Galatians 6:1-2). Walking in the Spirit involves loving others to the extent of helping other people out of sin. This includes carefully watching one's own life to avoid falling to temptation. 

Finally, in Galatians 6:16Paul notes, "And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God." He called for peace and mercy upon those who would walk according to God's ways. We are to walk in the Spirit, helping others in need, and receive peace and mercy in the process.

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Integrity Reflects Godly Wisdom 

“As for [Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego], God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17)

Godly wisdom guards against the influences of a godless society.

From the beginning of human history Satan has tried to confuse and confound God’s purposes by corrupting man’s thinking. In the Garden of Eden he succeeded by calling God’s character into question and convincing Eve that her disobedience would have no consequences. To this day he continues to deceive entire civilizations by blinding “the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Daniel and his friends were captives of a pagan king who wanted to dilute their allegiance to God by reprogramming their thinking. However, unlike Eve, they were determined not to be overcome by the evil influences around them. God honored their integrity and taught them everything they needed to know to be productive in Babylonian society and to influence it for righteousness.

Babylon was the center of learning in its day, boasting of advanced sciences, sophisticated libraries, and great scholars. God gave these young men the ability to learn and retain that level of knowledge, and the wisdom to apply it to their lives. Furthermore, He gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams and receive visions—gifts that would prove crucial later in his life as God elevated him to a position of prominence in Babylon and revealed the plan of history to him (see chapters 7—12).

Surely Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego didn’t understand all that God had in store for them or why He would allow them to be tested so severely at such a young age. But when they chose to love and trust Him despite their circumstances, they demonstrated the kind of wisdom that protects God’s children from the influences of a godless society. As we do the same, God uses us in significant ways. Also, we find that God never calls us to a challenge that He won’t equip us to handle.

Suggestions for Prayer

King David prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Make that your prayer as well.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 1:9-12. What are the results of being filled with “spiritual wisdom and understanding”?


Avoiding Spiritual Delusion

"Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (James 1:22)

It’s a delusion to think you can hear God’s Word, then disobey it without cost.

Matthew 7:21-23 records the tragic results of spiritual delusion. Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

Jesus made a clear distinction between those who merely claim to be Christians and those who truly are. The difference is, true believers do the will of the Father. In the words of James, they are doers of the Word, not merely hearers who delude themselves.

"Hearers" in James 1:22 translates a Greek word that speaks of auditing a class. Auditing students attend class and listen to the instructor but don't do any work. Consequently, they don't receive credit for the course. The phrase "delude themselves" speaks of being victimized by one's own faulty reasoning.

People who listen to God's Word but never obey it are spiritual auditors who delude themselves by thinking that hearing the Word is all God requires of them. Unfortunately, many churches are full of such people. They attend services and hear the sermons but their lives never seem to change. They're content to hear the Word but never apply it. Like those whom Jesus condemned in Matthew 7, they've chosen religious activities over true faith in Christ.

How tragic to think you're saved, only to hear, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matt. 7:23). That will never happen if you're a doer of the Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Take advantage of every opportunity to respond to the Word in specific ways. Ask God for His grace to keep you faithful to that goal.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 7:13-29.

  • How did Jesus describe false prophets?
  • How can you discern a false from a true prophet?
  • To what did Jesus liken those who hear His words and act on them? Why?


Reasons to Be Content

“‘For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eator what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?’” (Matthew 6:25).

Worry is the opposite of contentment, which should be a believer’s normal and consistent state of mind. You should be able to say with Paul, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Phil. 4:11–12).

A Christian’s contentment is found only in God—in His ownership, control, and provision of everything we possess and will ever need. Since God owns everything, what we now have and what we will ever have belongs to Him.

Daniel understood the Lord’s control of everything: “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding” (Dan. 2:20–21).

And if we hadn’t heard it from Daniel, we should know it from one of the ancient names of God—Jehovah-Jireh, which means, “the Lord who provides.”

Whatever the Lord gives us belongs to Him. Therefore, it is our responsibility to thank Him for it and to use it wisely and unselfishly for as long as He entrusts us with it.

Ask Yourself

What keeps “enough” from being enough for us? How do we define the level of property or possessions we need in order to feel satisfied with our supply? Why are these measurements so often faulty and skewed away from sound biblical understanding?


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 5:17 two mule-loads of earth. In the ancient Near East, it was thought that a god could be worshiped only on the soil of the nation to which he was bound. Therefore, Naaman wanted a load of Israelite soil on which to make burnt offerings and sacrifices to the Lord when he returned to Damascus. This request confirmed how Naaman had changed—whereas he had previously disparaged Israel’s river, now he wanted to take a pile of Israel’s soil to Damascus.

2 Kings 5:27 leprosy…shall cling to you. Gehazi’s greed had cast a shadow over the integrity of Elisha’s prophetic office. This made him no better in the people’s thinking than Israel’s false prophets, who prophesied for material gain, the very thing he wanted to avoid (vv. 15, 16). Gehazi’s act betrayed a lack of faith in the Lord’s ability to provide. As a result, Elisha condemned Gehazi and his descendants to suffer Naaman’s skin disease forever. The punishment was a twist for Gehazi, who had gone to take something from Naaman (v. 20), but what he received was Naaman’s disease.

2 Kings 6:5 iron…borrowed. Iron was expensive and relatively rare in Israel at that time, and the student-prophet was very poor. The ax head was loaned to the prophet since he could not have afforded it on his own and would have had no means to reimburse the owner for it.

John 18:4–8 Whom are you seeking? By twice asking that question (vv. 4,7), to which they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth” (vv. 5,7), Jesus was forcing them to acknowledge that they had no authority to take His disciples. In fact, He demanded that they let the disciples go (v. 8). The force of His demand was established by the power of His words. When He spoke, “I am He” (v. 6), a designation He had used before to declare Himself God (8:28, 58; 6:358:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5), they were jolted backward and to the ground (v. 6). This power display and the authoritative demand not to take the disciples was of immense significance, as the next verse indicates.

John 18:13 Annas first. Annas held the high priesthood office from A.D. 6–15 when Valerius Gratus, Pilate’s predecessor, removed him from office. In spite of this, Annas continued to wield influence over the office, most likely because he was still regarded as the true high priest and also because no fewer than 5 of his sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, held the office at one time or another. Two trials occurred: one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish phase began with the informal examination by Annas (vv. 12–14, 19–23), probably giving time for the members of the Sanhedrin to hurriedly gather together. A session before the Sanhedrin was next (Matt. 26:57–68) at which consensus was reached to send Jesus to Pilate (Matt. 27:12). The Roman phase began with a first examination before Pilate (vv. 28–38a; Matt. 27:11–14) and then Herod Antipas (“that fox”—Luke 13:32) interrogated Him (Luke 23:6–12). Lastly, Jesus appeared again before Pilate (vv. 38b–19:16; Matt. 27:15–31).

DAY 9: Who was Naaman, and what does he teach us about obedience to God?

In 2 Kings 5:1, four phrases describe the importance of Naaman: 1) he was the supreme commander of the army of Syria as indicated by the term “commander,” used of an army’s highest ranking officer (Gen. 21:221 Sam. 12:91 Chr. 27:34); 2) he was a great man, a man of high social standing and prominence; 3) he was an honorable man in the eyes of his master, a man highly regarded by the king of Syria because of the military victories he had won; and 4) he was a mighty man of valor, a term used in the Old Testament for both a man of great wealth (Ruth 2:1) and a courageous warrior (Judg. 6:1211:1). Severely mitigating against all of this was the fact that he suffered from leprosy, a serious skin disease (v. 27). Naaman’s military success was attributable to the God of Israel, who is sovereign over all the nations (Is. 10:13Amos 9:7).

Because of his personal greatness (v. 1), his huge gift of ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold (about 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold in v. 5), and diplomatic letter (v. 6), Naaman expected that Elisha would “surely come out to me” (v.11). He expected personal attention to his need. However, Elisha did not even go out to meet him. Instead, he sent his instructions for healing through a messenger (v. 10). Naaman was angry because he anticipated a personal cleansing ceremony from the prophet himself. Besides, if Naaman needed to wash in a river, two Syrian rivers were superior to the muddy Jordan. However, it was obedience to God’s word that was the issue, not the quality of the water.

Fortunately, Naaman had a servant who pointed out to him that he had been willing to do anything, no matter how hard, to be cured. He should be even more willing, therefore, to do something as easy as washing in a muddy river. Naaman’s healing restored his flesh to that “of a little child” (v. 14). Upon his healing, Naaman returned from the Jordan River to Elisha’s house in Samaria to give confession of his new belief: “there is no God…except in Israel” (v. 15).

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Integrity Conquers Fear 

“The commander of the officials said to Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.’ But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence, and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.’ So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days” (Daniel 1:10-14)

People of biblical integrity tend also to be people with unashamed boldness.

I love to read the biographies of great missionaries and other godly people whose lives reflect an uncommon commitment to Christ and whose boldness in the face of difficulties sets them apart from their peers. Daniel was such a man. From his youth he delighted in doing God’s will and proclaiming God’s Word with boldness. He shared David’s perspective in Psalm 40:89, “I delight to do Thy will, O my God; Thy Law is within my heart. I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord.”

In stark contrast to Daniel’s boldness was Ashpenaz’s fear. Although he thought kindly of Daniel, Ashpenaz feared for his life if Daniel and his friends were to appear pale and malnourished after he granted them exemption from the king’s special diet. So with characteristic wisdom and boldness, Daniel suggested a simple test designed to relieve Ashpenaz’s fears and prove God’s faithfulness. Tomorrow we will see the results of that test (v. 15). But for today I pray that you will have the boldness of Daniel as you take every opportunity to proclaim God’s Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Like Daniel you may be facing a situation that requires a special measure of boldness. If so, ask the Lord to strengthen you as you set your heart on doing His will.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 6:19-20Philippians 1:19-20. What was the source of Paul’s boldness?


Receiving the Word in Humility

"In humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:21).

A humble heart is a teachable heart.

Scripture speaks of a past, present, and future aspect of salvation. You have been saved from the penalty of sin (salvation), are being saved from the power of sin (sanctification), and will ultimately be saved from the presence of sin (glorification). At first glance James 1:21may sound like it's written to unbelievers, urging them to receive the Word, which is able to redeem them. But the phrase "save your souls" carries the idea that the implanted Word has the ongoing power to continually save one's soul. It's a reference to the present and ongoing process of sanctification, which is nurtured by the Spirit-energized Word of God.

The Word was implanted within you by the Holy Spirit at the time of your salvation. It is the source of power and growth for your new life in Christ. Your responsibility is to receive it in purity and humility so it can do its sanctifying work.

"Humility" in James 1:21 could be translated "meek," "gentle," or "having a willing spirit"; but I prefer "teachable." If your heart is pure and humble, you will be teachable and will set aside all resentment, anger, and pride to learn God's truth and apply it to your life.

When Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15), He was addressing this very issue. If you love Him, you will desire to obey Him and will receive His Word so you can know His will for your life. As you receive the Word, the Holy Spirit empowers you to live according to its principles.

Paul said, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another . . . and whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:16-17). That's the essence of a biblical lifestyle and the fruit of receiving the Word in humility. May God bless you with a teachable spirit and an ever-increasing love for His truth.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to keep your heart tender towards Christ and His Word.

For Further Study

Read Nehemiah 8.

  • Who read God's Word to the people?
  • How did the people respond?
  • Would you characterize them as receivers of the Word? Explain.


Serving Only One Master

“‘No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth’” (Matthew 6:24).

Just as we cannot have our treasures both in earth and in heaven or our bodies both in light and in darkness, we cannot “serve two masters.” The Greek word for “masters” is often translated “lord,” and often refers to a slave owner.

By definition, a slave owner has total control of the slave. For a slave there is no such thing as partial or part-time obligation to his master. He owes full-time service to his master. He is owned and totally controlled by and obligated to his master. To give anything to anyone else would make his master less than his master. It is impossible to “serve two masters” and fully or faithfully be the obedient slave of each.

In this way we can’t claim Christ as Lord if our allegiance is to anything or anyone else, including ourselves. And when we know God’s will but resist obeying it, we give evidence that our loyalty is to someone or something other than Him. But the person whose master is Jesus Christ can say that when he eats or drinks or does anything else, he does “all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Make your allegiance to Christ your priority each and every day.

Ask Yourself

What alternative “masters” compete the hardest for your devotion? How has the inviolable truth of this “no man can serve two masters” statement been proven true in your life and in your observation of others? But why do we seem so intent on trying to have it that way anyway


Reading for Today:


2 Kings 2:1 by a whirlwind. Literally, “in the whirlwind.” This was a reference to the specific storm with lightning and thunder in which Elijah was taken to heaven (v. 11). The Lord’s presence was connected with a whirlwind in Job 38:140:6Jer. 23:1925:3230:23Zech. 9:14Elisha. The record of this prophet, who was the successor to Elijah, begins in 1 Kings 19:16 and extends to his death in 2 Kings 13:20.

2 Kings 2:3 the sons of the prophets. See 1 Kings 20:35take away. The same term was used of Enoch’s translation to heaven in Genesis 5:24. The question from the sons of the prophets implied that the Lord had revealed Elijah’s imminent departure to them. Elisha’s response that he didn’t need to hear about it (keep silent) explicitly stated that Elijah’s departure had been revealed by the Lord to him also (v. 5). from over you. I.e., from supervising you, an allusion to the habit of students sitting beneath the feet of their master, elevated on a platform. Elisha would soon change from being Elijah’s assistant to serving as the leader among the prophets.

2 Kings 2:11 chariot of fire…with horses of fire. The horse-drawn chariot was the fastest means of transport and the mightiest means of warfare in that day. Thus, the chariot and horses symbolized God’s powerful protection, which was the true safety of Israel (v. 12). As earthly kingdoms are dependent for their defense on such military force as represented by horses and chariots, one single prophet had done more by God’s power to preserve his nation than all their military preparations.

2 Kings 2:24 pronounced a curse. Because these young people of about 20 years of age or older (the same term is used of Solomon in 1 Kin. 3:7) so despised the prophet of the Lord, Elisha called upon the Lord to deal with the rebels as He saw fit. The Lord’s punishment was the mauling of 42 youths by two female bears. The penalty was clearly justified, for to ridicule Elisha was to ridicule the Lord Himself. The gravity of the penalty mirrored the gravity of the crime. The appalling judgment was God’s warning to any and all who attempted to interfere with the newly invested prophet’s ministry.

John 16:25 in figurative language. The word means a veiled, pointed statement that is pregnant with meaning, i.e., something that is obscure. What seemed hard to understand for the disciples during the life of Jesus would become clear after His death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit (vv. 13, 14; 14:2615:26, 27). They would actually understand the ministry of Christ better than they had while they were with Him, as the Spirit inspired them to write the Gospels and Epistles and ministered in and through them.

DAY 7: What very specific ministry does the Holy Spirit have on people’s lives?

In John 16:8, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was approximately 40 or more days away at this point (Acts 2:1–13). Jesus says that the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to “convict” people. This word has two meanings: 1) the judicial act of conviction with a view toward sentencing (i.e., a courtroom term—conviction of sin) or 2) the act of convincing. Here the second idea is best, since the purpose of the Holy Spirit is not condemnation but conviction of the need for the Savior. The Son does the judgment, with the Father (5:22, 27, 30). In v. 14, it is said that He will reveal the glories of Christ to His people. He will also inspire the writing of the New Testament, guiding the apostles to write it (v. 13), and He will reveal things to come, through the New Testament prophecies (v. 13).

The Holy Spirit convicts of “sin” (v. 9).The singular indicates that a specific sin is in view; i.e., that of not believing in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. This is the only sin, ultimately, that damns people to hell. Though all men are depraved, cursed by their violation of God’s law, and sinful by nature, what ultimately damns them to hell is their unwillingness to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior (8:24).

He convicts of “righteousness” (v. 10). The Holy Spirit’s purpose here is to shatter the pretensions of self-righteousness (hypocrisy), exposing the darkness of the heart. While Jesus was on the earth, He performed this task especially toward the shallowness and emptiness of Judaism that had degenerated into legalistic modes without life-giving reality. With Jesus gone to the Father, the Holy Spirit continues His convicting role.

And of “judgment” (v. 11).The judgment here in context is that of the world under Satan’s control. Its judgments are blind, faulty, and evil as evidenced in their verdict on Christ. The world can’t make righteous judgments (7:24), but the Spirit of Christ does (8:16). All Satan’s adjudications are lies (8:44–47), so the Spirit convicts men of their false judgment of Christ. Satan, the ruler of the world (14:30Eph. 2:1–3) who, as the god of this world, has perverted the world’s judgment and turned people from believing in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God (2 Cor. 4:4), was defeated at the Cross. While Christ’s death looked like Satan’s greatest victory, it actually was Satan’s destruction (Col. 2:15Heb. 2:1415Rev. 20:10).The Spirit will lead sinners to true judgment.

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Integrity Enjoys God's Favor

“Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” (Daniel 1:9).

God’s favor is the rich reward of obedience.

God delights in granting special grace and favor to those whose hearts are set on pleasing Him. For example, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” and was spared the ravages of the Flood (Gen. 6:8). Joseph found favor in His sight and was elevated to prominence in Egypt (Gen. 39—41). God granted Moses and the children of Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and they were able to plunder Egypt in the Exodus (Ex. 11:312:36).

When Daniel chose to obey God by not defiling himself with the king’s special diet (Dan. 1:8), he demonstrated great courage and integrity. God responded by granting him favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, the commander of the king’s officials. The Hebrew word translated “favor” speaks of goodness or kindness. It can also include a strong affection from deep within. “Compassion” means a tender, unfailing love. Together these words tell us that God established a special relationship between Ashpenaz and Daniel that not only protected Daniel from harm in this instance, but also helped prepare him for his future role as a man of enormous influence in Babylon.

Today God’s favor is the special grace He grants His children in times of need. It is especially evident when their obedience brings persecution. The apostle Peter wrote, “This finds favor [grace], if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. . . . If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor [grace] with God” (1 Peter 2:19-20).

Daniel knew that refusing the king’s special diet could lead to serious consequences, but he was more interested in obeying God’s Word than avoiding man’s punishment. He had the right priorities, and God honored his obedience, just as He will honor yours.

Suggestions for Prayer

Let the prayer of Moses be yours today: “Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight” (Ex. 33:13).

For Further Study

Read Genesis 39. What were the results of God’s favor upon Joseph?


Receiving the Word in Purity

"Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness . . . receive the word" (James 1:21).

You cannot receive God’s Word and harbor sin at the same time.

When the psalmist said, "I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word" (Ps. 119:101), he was acknowledging a key principle of spiritual growth: you must set aside sin if you expect to benefit from God's Word. Peter was expressing the same thought when he said, "Putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:1-2). Likewise, James admonished us to put off sin and receive the Word (James 1:21).

Neither James nor Peter were addressing unbelievers, because without Christ, people have no capacity to set sin aside or receive God's Word. But we as Christians are characterized by our ability to do both, and must continually purify our lives through confession of sin, repentance, and right choices. That's why Paul said, "Just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification" (Rom. 6:19).

The Greek word translated "putting aside" in James 1:21 originally meant taking off dirty, soiled clothes. "Filthiness" translates a Greek word that was used of moral vice as well as dirty clothes. Its root word was sometimes used of ear wax, which impedes a person's hearing. Similarly, sin impedes reception of the Word. "Wickedness" speaks of any evil intent or desire. Together they stress the importance of setting aside all evil actions and intentions.

Simply stated, you should never presume on God's grace by approaching His Word with unconfessed sin. David prayed, "Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous [deliberate] sins; let them not rule over me; then I shall be blameless" (Ps. 19:13). He wanted to be pure before the Lord. I pray that you share his desire and will always receive the Word in purity.

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Psalm 19:14. Make it your prayer as you study God's Word.

For Further Study

Read Colossians 3:5-17.

  • What does Paul admonish you to put off? Put on?
  • Why is it important to heed his admonitions?


Wealth and Heart Attitudes

“‘The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!’” (Matthew 6:22–23).

Expanding on the previous three verses, Jesus uses the eye as an illustration of the heart. The lamp, or lens, of the body is the eye; that’s how we receive light. The heart is the eye of the soul, and it is through our hearts that God’s truth, love, peace, and every spiritual blessing comes to us.

Words closely related to the word for “clear” include liberality and generosity. So the implication is that if our heart is generous (clear), our spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding.

However, if our eye is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and our “whole body will be full of darkness.” If our hearts are burdened with material concerns, we’ll become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns. The eye is our window—when it’s clear, light shines through; but when it’s corrupt, it prevents light from entering.

The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he doesn’t. It’s because he’s self-deceived that Jesus says, “How great is the darkness!”

This principle is both simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.

Ask Yourself

Blind spots are certainly easy to develop in our hearts, whether about money or any other aspect of belief and practice. How can you safeguard yourself from letting your personal blind spots become ingrained attitudes, poisoning your ability to see clearly what God wants to do in your life?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 21:3 The LORD forbid. Naboth’s words implied that trading or selling his property would be a disregard of the law and thus displeasing in God’s eyes (1 Sam. 24:626:112 Sam. 23:17). The reason was that the vineyard was his ancestral property. The Lord, the owner of all of the land of Israel, had forbidden Israelite families to surrender ownership of family lands permanently (Lev. 25:23–28Num. 36:7–9). Out of loyalty to God, Naboth declined Ahab’s offer.

1 Kings 22:6 prophets. These 400 prophets of Ahab were not true prophets of the Lord. They worshiped at Bethel in the golden-calf center set up by Jeroboam (12:28, 29) and were supported by Ahab, whose religious policy also permitted Baal worship. Their words were designed to please Ahab (v. 8), so they refused to begin with the authoritative “thus says the LORD” and did not use the covenant name for Israel’s God, “LORD.”

John 15:14,15 friends. Just as Abraham was called the friend of God (2 Chr. 20:7James 2:23) because he enjoyed extraordinary access to the mind of God through God’s revelation to him which he believed, so also those who follow Christ are privileged with extraordinary revelation through the Messiah and Son of God and, believing, become friends of God also. It was for His friends that the Lord laid down His life (v. 13; 10:11, 15, 17).

What serious warning is sounded in the lesson of the vine and branches?

In John 15:1–17, Jesus used the extended metaphor of the vine and branches to set forth the basis of Christian living. Jesus used the imagery of agricultural life at the time, i.e., vines and vine crops (see also Matt. 20:1–1621:23–41Mark 12:1–9Luke 13:6–920:9–16). In the Old Testament, the vine is used commonly as a symbol for Israel (Ps. 80:9–16Is. 5:1–727:2–6Jer. 2:2112:10Ezek. 15:1–817:1–2119:10–14Hos. 10:12). He specifically identified Himself as the true vine and the Father as the vinedresser or caretaker of the vine.

The vine has two types of branches: 1) branches that bear fruit (vv. 2, 8), and 2) branches that do not (vv. 2, 6).The branches that bear fruit are genuine believers. Though in immediate context the focus is upon the 11 faithful disciples, the imagery also encompasses all believers down through the ages. The branches that do not bear fruit are those who profess to believe, but their lack of fruit indicates genuine salvation has never taken place and they have no life from the vine. Especially in the immediate context, Judas was in view, but the imagery extends from him to all those who make a profession of faith in Christ but do not actually possess salvation. The image of non-fruit-bearing branches being burned pictures eschatological judgment and eternal rejection (Ezek. 15:6–8).

“Abide in Me,” Jesus said (vv. 4–6).The word “abide” means to remain or stay around. The remaining is evidence that salvation has already taken place (1 John 2:19) and not vice versa. The fruit or evidence of salvation is continuance in service to Him and in His teaching (8:311 John 2:24Col. 1:23). The abiding believer is the only legitimate believer. Abiding and believing actually are addressing the same issue of genuine salvation (Heb. 3:6–19). “Abide in My love” (vv. 9, 10; Jude 21). This is not emotional or mystical, but defined in v. 10 as obedience. Jesus set the model by His perfect obedience to the Father, which we are to use as the pattern for our obedience to Him.

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Integrity Stands on Principle

“And the king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. . . . But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself” (Daniel 1:5,8).

Godly integrity is built upon the foundation of biblical authority.

From the world’s perspective, King Nebuchadnezzar had much to offer his Hebrew captives: the best food, the best education, and high positions in his kingdom. But Daniel’s perspective was quite different. He did not object to receiving a pagan education because God had given no direct prohibition against that, and a Babylonian education had much to offer in the areas of architecture and science. But as with anyone receiving a secular education, Daniel would have to exercise discernment in sorting out the true from the false and the good from the bad.

It was when Daniel was asked to violate a direct command from God that he drew the line and took his stand on biblical principle. That’s the character of godly integrity. It bases decisions on the principles from God’s Word, not on mere preference, intimidation, or peer pressure. Seemingly Daniel had every reason to compromise: he was young, away from home, and facing severe consequences if he defied the king’s order. Yet he was unwavering in his obedience to God.

Although Daniel couldn’t obey the king’s order, he handled the situation in a wise and respectful manner by seeking permission to abstain from eating what God had forbidden. From his example we learn that standing on principle will sometimes put us at odds with those in authority over us, but even then we can love and respect them.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those in authority over you who may want you to do things that would displease the Lord.
  • Pray for wisdom and grace to maintain a loving attitude toward them while still standing on biblical principles.

For Further Study

Read Acts 5:17-29. How did the apostles respond to the authorities who commanded them to stop preaching the gospel?


Be Slow to Anger

"Let everyone be . . . slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).

If you resent God’s Word, you cannot grow in righteousness.

Have you ever started reading your Bible, thinking everything was fine between you and the Lord, only to have the Word suddenly cut deep into your soul to expose some sin you had neglected or tried to hide? That commonly happens because God seeks to purge sin in His children. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to penetrate the hidden recesses of the heart to do His convicting and purifying work. How you respond to that process is an indicator of the genuineness of your faith.

"Anger" in James 1:19-20 refers to a negative response to that process. It is a deep internal resentment accompanied by an attitude of rejection. Sometimes that resentment can be subtle. Paul described those who "will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires" (2 Tim. 4:3). They're the people who drift from church to church in search of someone who will tell them what they want to hear—or a congregation that wants a pastor who will make them feel good about themselves instead of preaching the Word and setting a high standard of holiness.

Sometimes resentment toward the Word ceases to be subtle and turns to open hostility. That happened when the crowd Stephen confronted covered their ears, drove him out of the city, and stoned him to death (Acts 7:57-60). Countless others throughout history have felt the fatal blows of those whose resentment of God's truth turned to hatred for His people.

Receiving the Word includes being quick to hear what it says and slow to anger when it disagrees with your opinions or confronts your sin. Is that your attitude? Do you welcome its reproof and heed its warnings, or do you secretly resent it? When a Christian brother or sister confronts a sin in your life, do you accept or reject their counsel?

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the power of His Word to convict you and drive you to repentance. Welcome its correction with humility and thanksgiving.

For Further Study

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5, noting the charge Paul gave to Timothy and his reason for giving it.


Using Wealth Wisely

“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’” (Matthew 6:19–21).

There is a great potential for your possessions to become idols when you accumulate them for yourself. But possessions that are wisely, willingly, and generously used for kingdom purposes can be a means of accumulating heavenly possessions. When they are hoarded and stored, they not only become a spiritual hindrance but also are subject to loss through moth, rust, and thieves.

In ancient times, wealth was frequently measured in part by clothing. The best clothes were made of wool, which the moths loved to eat. Wealth was also often held in grain. The Greek word for “rust” means “an eating.” That’s the application here, since grain was often ruined by rats, mice, worms, and insects. Also, almost any kind of wealth can be stolen. Many people in those days buried their nonperishable valuables in the ground, away from the house, often in a field.

Nothing we own is completely safe from destruction or theft. But when our time, energy, and possessions are used to serve others and to further the Lord’s work, they build up heavenly resources that are completely free from destruction or theft.

Make sure you are living by this principle: “Honor the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9–10).

Ask Yourself

How many of your worries revolve around financial issues? What kind of stress and strain does this place on your mind and spirit—whether your problem involves being anxious about the prospects of the money you have, or anxious about the money you don’t have?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 19:3 he saw. His hope shattered, Elijah fled as a prophet, broken by Jezebel’s threats (v. 2), her unrepentant Baalism, and her continuing power over Israel. Elijah expected Jezebel to surrender. When she did not capitulate, he became a discouraged man (vv. 4, 10, 14).

1 Kings 19:4 broom tree. A desert bush that grew to a height of 10 feet. It had slender branches featuring small leaves and fragrant blossoms. take my life. Since Israelites believed that suicide was an affront to the Lord, it was not an option, whatever the distress. So Elijah asked the Lord for death (Jon. 4:3,8) because he viewed the situation as hopeless. Job (Job 6:89), Moses (Num. 11:10–15), and Jeremiah (Jer. 20:14–18) had also reacted in similar fashion during their ministries.

1 Kings 19:11 the LORD passed by. The 3 phenomena, wind, earthquake, and fire, announced the imminent arrival of the Lord (Ex. 19:16–19Ps. 18:7–15Hab. 3:3–6). The Lord’s self-revelation to Elijah came in a faint, whispering voice (v. 12). The lesson for Elijah was that Almighty God was quietly, sometimes imperceptibly, doing His work in Israel (v. 18).

1 Kings 19:19 Elisha. This name means “my God is salvation” and belonged to Elisha, the successor to Elijah (2 Kin. 2:9–15). It was a common practice for several teams of oxen, each with his own plow and driver, to work together in a row. After letting the others pass, Elijah threw his mantle around the last man, Elisha, thus designating him as his successor.

John 14:6 This is the sixth I AM statement of Jesus in John (6:358:12; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 15:1, 5). In response to Thomas’s query (v. 4), Jesus declared that He is the way to God because He is the truth of God (1:14) and the life of God (1:4; 3:1511:25). In this verse, the exclusiveness of Jesus as the only approach to the Father is emphatic. Only one way, not many ways, exist to God, i.e., Jesus Christ (10:7–9; Matt. 7:1314Luke 13:24Acts 4:12).

John 14:12 greater works than these he will do. Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent. They would become witnesses to all the world through the power of the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and would bring many to salvation because of the Comforter dwelling in them. The focus is on spiritual rather than physical miracles. The Book of Acts constitutes the beginning historical record of the impact that the Spirit-empowered disciples had on the world (Acts 17:6).

DAY 5: How is the role of the Holy Spirit explained in John 14?

Jesus said, “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (v. 16). The priestly and intercessory work of Christ began with the request that the Father send the Holy Spirit to indwell in the people of faith (7:3915:26; 16:7; 20:22Acts 1:82:433). The Greek word specifically means “another of the same kind,” i.e., someone like Jesus Himself who will take His place and do His work. The Spirit of Christ is the Third Person of the Trinity, having the same essence of Deity as Jesus and as perfectly one with Him as He is with the Father. A “Helper” literally means one called alongside to help and has the idea of someone who encourages and exhorts. Abiding has to do with His permanent residence in believers (Rom. 8:91 Cor. 6:192012:13).

He is the “Spirit of truth” (v. 17) in that He is the source of truth and communicates the truth to His own (v. 26; 16:12–15). Apart from Him, men cannot know God’s truth (1 Cor. 2:12–161 John 2:2027). He “dwells with you and will be in you.” This indicates some distinction between the ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers before and after Pentecost. While clearly the Holy Spirit has been with all who have ever believed throughout redemptive history as the source of truth, faith, and life, Jesus is saying something new is coming in His ministry. John 7:37–39 indicates this unique ministry would be like rivers of living water. Acts 19:1–7 introduces some Old Covenant believers who had not received the Holy Spirit in this unique fullness and intimacy.

He “will teach you all things”(v. 26).The Holy Spirit energized the hearts and minds of the apostles in their ministry, helping them to produce the New Testament scriptures. The disciples had failed to understand many things about Jesus and what He taught; but because of this supernatural work, they came to an inerrant and accurate understanding of the Lord and His work and recorded it in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament scriptures (2 Tim. 3:162 Pet. 1:2021).

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Integrity Triumphs over Personal Loss 

"Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed-nego” (Daniel 1:6-7).   

You can’t always prevent personal loss, but you can respond to it in ways that glorify God.

It was a quiet January morning in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California until suddenly and without warning the earth shook with such a violent force that many department stores, apartment houses, homes, and freeway overpasses crumbled under the strain. Within minutes the 1994 Northridge earthquake left scars upon lives and land that in some cases may never heal. Such catastrophic events remind us of just how difficult dealing with personal loss can be.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood personal loss. Perhaps in our day only those who have suffered as prisoners of war or as refugees from war’s ravages can fully appreciate the deep sense of loss those men must have felt after being cut off from family, friends, and homeland.

Their loss included even their own names. When taken captive, each of them had a Hebrew name that reflected his godly upbringing. But in an apparent effort to remove that influence and to exalt the pagan deities of Bel (or Baal) and Aku, Nebuchadnezzar’s commander changed their names from Daniel (which means “God is judge”) to Belteshazzar (“Bel provides” or “Bel’s prince”), from Hananiah (“the Lord is gracious”) to Shadrach (“under the command of Aku”), from Mishael (“Who is what the Lord is?”) to Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”), and from Azariah (“the Lord is my helper”) to Abed-nego (“the servant of Nebo [the son of Baal]”).

Daniel and his friends couldn’t prevent their losses, but they could trust God and refuse to let those losses lead to despair or compromise. That’s an example you can follow when you face loss.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord for the wisdom to see your losses through His loving eyes, and for the grace to respond appropriately.
  • Pray for those whom you know who have suffered loss recently.

For Further Study

Read Job 1:13-22.

  • How did Job respond to his losses?
  • What can you learn from his example?


Be Slow to Speak

"Let everyone be . . . slow to speak" (James 1:19).

Don’t rush into the role of a Bible teacher.

It is reported that when the Scottish Reformer John Knox was called to preach, he shed many tears and withdrew himself to the privacy of his room. He was grieved and greatly troubled at the prospect of such an awesome responsibility. Only the compelling grace of the Holy Spirit Himself enabled Knox to fulfill his calling.

John Knox understood the importance of being slow to speak. He knew that God holds teachers of the Word accountable for what they say, and will dispense a stricter judgment to them if they violate their ministry (James 3:1- 2).

In one sense, God holds everyone accountable for what they say. You are to "let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). But being slow to speak doesn't refer to vocabulary or opinions. It refers to teaching the Word. You are to pursue every opportunity to hear God's Word, but exercise reluctance in assuming the role of a teacher. Why? Because the tongue reveals the subtle sins of one's heart and easily offends others (James 2:2).

Does that mean you should never teach the Bible? No, because God commands every believer to "make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all" that Jesus taught (Matt. 28:19-20, emphasis added). And the Spirit gifts many believers to be preachers and teachers of the Word. Paul said, "I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:16).

You must take every opportunity to share the gospel with others, and if God has called and gifted you to teach the Word, be faithful to do so. But remember, those are serious and sacred responsibilities. Be sure your motives are pure and your teaching accurate. If someone is offended, let it be by the convicting power of the Word, not by something you said at an unguarded moment.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to teach you to guard your tongue and to speak only what is edifying to others.

For Further Study

Read Proverbs 10:1913:317:28, and 29:20, noting what each teaches about wise speech.


Jesus on Wealth

“‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’” (Matthew 6:19–21).

The focus of Jesus’ teaching here is this: “Do not lay up treasures for yourself.” The Greek word for “lay up” connotes the idea of stockpiling or hoarding—it pictures wealth that isn’t being used, things kept mainly to show off one’s plenty.

Be sure of this, though: Jesus is not advocating poverty as a means of spirituality. Both the Old and New Testaments recognize the right to material possessions, including money, land, animals, houses, clothing, and anything else acquired honestly. In fact, the foundational truth underlying the commands not to steal or covet is the right of possessing personal property.

God expects and commands His people to be generous. But He also expects and commands that we not only be thankful for the blessings He gives but also derive pleasure from them—including the material blessings. The Lord “richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). This verse is specifically directed to “those who are rich in this present world,” yet it does not command them to divest themselves of their wealth. Rather, it warns them not to be conceited about it or to trust in it. It’s how we use our possessions for kingdom purposes that counts.

Ask Yourself

How would you define your general attitudes toward money? What is its purpose in the believer’s life? How are we supposed to handle it? What are some of the greatest abuses or misunderstandings of money that have plagued your life or distorted your freedom with it?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 17:1 Elijah. His name means “the LORD is God.” The prophet Elijah’s ministry corresponded to his name: He was sent by God to confront Baalism and to declare to Israel that the Lord was God and there was no other. Tishbite. Elijah lived in a town called Tishbe, east of the Jordan River in the vicinity of the Jabbok River. not be dew nor rain. The autumn and spring rains and summer dew were necessities for the crops of Israel. The Lord had threatened to withhold these from the Land if His people turned from Him to serve other gods (Lev. 26:1819Deut. 11:161728:2324). Elijah had prayed for the drought (James 5:17) and God answered. It lasted 3 years and 6 months. The drought proved that Baal, the god of the rains and fertility, was impotent before the Lord.

1 Kings 18:3 Obadiah. His name means “servant of the LORD.” He was the manager of Ahab’s royal palace and a devout worshiper of the Lord, who had demonstrated his devotion to the Lord by protecting 100 of the Lord’s prophets from death by Jezebel (vv. 4, 13), which had put him on tenuous ground with Ahab.

1 Kings 18:12 the Spirit of the LORD will carry you. The servant had been asked to tell Ahab Elijah was present to speak with him (vv. 7, 18), but he was afraid because Ahab was seeking Elijah so intensely. Since Elijah had disappeared from sight earlier (17:5), Obadiah was afraid that the Holy Spirit would carry Elijah away again (2 Kin. 2:16) and the irrational Ahab would kill him for the false report of Elijah’s presence.

1 Kings 18:21 falter between two opinions. Literally, limp along on or between two twigs. Israel had not totally rejected the Lord, but was seeking to combine worship of Him with the worship of Baal. The issue posed by Elijah was that Israel had to choose who was God, the Lord or Baal, and then serve God wholeheartedly. Rather than decide by his message, Elijah sought a visible sign from heaven.

1 Kings 18:24 the God who answers by fire. Since Baal’s followers believed that he controlled the thunder, lightning, and storms, and the Lord’s followers declared the same (Ps. 18:1429:3–9104:3), this would prove to be a fair test to show who was God.

John 13:26 He gave it to Judas Iscariot. The host at a feast (whose role was filled by Jesus) would dip into a common bowl and pull out a particularly tasty bit and pass it to a guest as a special mark of honor or friendship. Because Jesus passed it so easily to Judas, it has been suggested that he was seated near the Lord in a place of honor. Jesus was demonstrating a final gesture of His love for Judas even though he would betray Him.

John 13:34 A new commandment...as I have loved you. The commandment to love was not new. Deuteronomy 6:5 commanded love for God and Leviticus 19:18 commanded loving one’s neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:34–40Rom. 13:8–10Gal. 5:14James 2:8). However, Jesus’ command regarding love presented a distinctly new standard for two reasons: 1) it was sacrificial love modeled after His love (as I loved you; 15:13), and 2) it is produced through the New Covenant by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit (Jer. 31:29–34Ezek. 36:24–26Gal. 5:22).

DAY 4: How do scholars conclude that the expression “whom Jesus loved” was John’s way of referring to himself?

Three obvious clues about John’s Gospel help identify the unnamed disciple who called himself the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (13:2319:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20).

Early church fathers invariably identify the apostle John as the author of this Gospel. John is frequently mentioned by the other Gospel writers as an active participant among the disciples of Jesus, yet John’s name is absent from the fourth Gospel.

If four people take a trip together and each carries a camera, the group-shots each person takes will naturally not include them. In fact, someone else could probably guess who took which pictures by which member of the group was absent. The Gospel of John functions this way—John’s absence by name shouts his presence.

As for his signature phrase, the words “whom Jesus loved” convey both a sense of the apostle’s humility and the depth of his relationship to Jesus. The phrase doesn’t mean that John thought of himself as the only disciple Jesus loved. It simply expresses with disarming honesty the wonder of this disciple over the fact that the Lord loved him!

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Integrity Triumphs over Pride

“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. . . . Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah” (Daniel 1:3-46).

Man values physical beauty and superior human capabilities, whereas God values spiritual character.

As King Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Jerusalem, he received word that his father had died. So he returned to Babylon, leaving Jehoiakim, king of Judah, in power. To ensure the king’s loyalty, Nebuchadnezzar instructed Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to take some hostages from among the royal families of Israel. Among those selected were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Nebuchadnezzar’s plan was to train these young hostages in the ways of the Babylonians (Chaldeans), then press them into service as his representatives among the Jews. There were an estimated fifty to seventy-five hostages, each of whom was young (probably in his early teens), handsome, and without physical defect. In addition, each had superior intellect, education, wisdom, and social graces.

Being among such a select group of people could have led to pride in Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But self-glorification meant nothing to them. Their priority was to serve their God with humility, integrity, and fidelity. Nebuchadnezzar could look on them favorably, train them in the ways of the Chaldeans, and offer them power and influence in his kingdom, but he could never incite their pride or diminish their allegiance to the Lord.

Like Babylon, our society is enamored with physical beauty and human capabilities. However, let your focus be on spiritual character and using for God’s glory the talents and abilities He has given you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for the special gifts He has given you.
  • Prayerfully guard your heart against subtle pride, which undermines spiritual character.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 4:28-36.

  • How did God deal with King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride?
  • What was the king’s response (see v. 37)?


Be Quick to Hear

"This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear" (James 1:19).

Being quick to hear involves a proper attitude toward God’s Word.

It has been well said that either God's Word will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from God's Word. Apparently some of James's readers were allowing sin to keep them from receiving the Word as they should. God was allowing them to experience various trials so their joy and spiritual endurance would increase, but they lacked wisdom and fell into temptation and sin. James called them back to the Word and to a godly perspective on their circumstances.

James 1:19 begins with the phrase "This you know," which refers back to verse 18. They had experienced the power of the Word in salvation, now James wants them to allow it to sanctify them. For that to occur, they must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath (v. 19).

Being quick to hear means you don't disregard or fight against God's Word. Instead, when trials or difficult decisions come your way, you ask God for wisdom and receive the counsel of His Word with a willingness to obey it. You're not like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, whom Jesus described as "foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25).

You should be quick to hear the Word because it provides nourishment for your spiritual life and is your weapon against all spiritual adversaries. It is the means by which you are strengthened and equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It delivers you from trials and temptations and engages you in communion with the living God. The Word should be your most welcome friend!

Be quick to hear, pursuing every opportunity to learn God's truth. Let the testimony of the psalmist be yours: "O how I love Thy law! It is my meditation all the day. . . . I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Thy word. . . . How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Ps. 119:97101103).

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His precious Word and for the marvelous transforming work it accomplishes in you.

For Further Study

Read Psalm 19:1-14.

  • What terms did the psalmist use to describe God's Word?
  • What benefits does the Word bring?


Proper Fasting and Prayer

“‘But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’” (Matthew 6:17–18).

Jesus’ statement “when you fast” indicates that fasting is normal and acceptable in the Christian life. He assumes His followers will fast on certain occasions, especially in times of testing, trial, or struggle.

Fasting is appropriate during times of sorrow. On occasions of deep grief, fasting is a natural human response. Most people don’t feel like eating at those times. Other things that motivate fasting have included overwhelming danger, penitence, and the receiving or proclaiming of a special revelation from God. And fasting often accompanied the beginning of an important task or ministry.

In every scriptural account, genuine fasting is linked with prayer. You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast biblically without praying. Fasting is an affirmation of intense prayer, a corollary of deep spiritual struggle before God. It is never an isolated act or ceremony or ritual that has some inherent efficacy or merit.

Fasting is also always linked with a pure heart and must be associated with obedient, godly living. This is the attitude that will motivate the one fasting not to attract attention to his deprivation and spiritual struggle. Fasting is not to be a display for anyone, including God. Genuine fasting is simply a part of concentrated, intense prayer and concern for the Lord, His will, and His work. Jesus’ point is that the Father never fails to notice fasting that is heartfelt and genuine, and He never fails to reward it.

Ask Yourself

Has fasting ever been a part of your life and relationship with God? If so, what have those experiences taught you about Him . . . and about yourself and your need for Him? If you’ve never actually participated in fasting, what might be some appropriate times and ways for you to practice it?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 15:11–15 Asa did 4 good things: 1) he removed the sacred prostitutes (v. 12); 2) he rid the land of all the idols made by his predecessors (v. 12); 3) he removed the corrupt queen mother and burned the idol she had made; and 4) he placed holy things, items that he and his father had dedicated to the Lord, back in the temple (v. 15). Though he never engaged in idolatry, Asa’s failure was his toleration of the high places (v. 14).

1 Kings 15:13 obscene image. This term is derived from the verb “to shudder” (Job 9:6). It suggests a shocking, perhaps even a sexually explicit, idol. Asa removed his grandmother, Maacah, the official queen mother, because of her association with this idol.

1 Kings 15:29 he killed all the house of Jeroboam. Baasha, the northern king, in a vicious practice too common in the ancient Near East, annihilated all of Jeroboam’s family. This act fulfilled Ahijah’s prophecy against Jeroboam (14:9–11). However, Baasha went beyond the words of the prophecy, since 14:10 specified judgment only on every male, while Baasha killed all men, women, and children.

1 Kings 16:30 evil…more than all who were before him. With Ahab, Israel’s spiritual decay reached its lowest point. He was even worse than his father, Omri, who was more wicked than all before him (v. 25). Ahab’s evil consisted of perpetuating all the sins of Jeroboam and promoting the worship of Baal in Israel (vv. 31, 32). Of all Israel’s kings, Ahab outraged the Lord most (v. 33).

Psalm 69:26 the ones You have struck. Those hostile to the psalmist were ridiculing him as one suffering from God’s chastisement. In its messianic application, the suffering of the Messiah was a part of God’s plan from eternity past (Is. 53:10).

Proverbs 17:26 punish…strike. Here is a clear statement on political and religious injustice, focusing on the equally bad mistreatment of the innocent and the noble.

DAY 3: Why was Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet so powerful a lesson?

The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for footwashing. Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing one another’s feet (John 13:4–17). This was because in the society of the time footwashing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love. Luke points out (22:24) that they were arguing about who was the greatest of them, so that none was willing to stoop to wash feet. When Jesus moved to wash their feet, they were shocked. His actions serve also as symbolic of spiritual cleansing (vv. 6–9) and a model of Christian humility (vv. 12–17). Through this action Jesus taught the lesson of selfless service that was supremely exemplified by His death on the cross.

These proceedings embarrassed all of the disciples (vv. 6–10). While others remained silent, Peter spoke up in indignation that Jesus would stoop so low as to wash his feet. He failed to see beyond the humble service itself to the symbolism of spiritual cleansing involved (v. 7; 1 John 1:7–9). Jesus’ response made the real point of His actions clear: Unless the Lamb of God cleanses a person’s sin (i.e., as portrayed in the symbolism of washing), one can have no part with Him. The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated—atonement is complete at that point. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Phil. 3:89), but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Phil. 3:12–14).

Jesus said, “I have given you an example” (v. 15). The word used here suggests both example and pattern. Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the model of loving humility.“ If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (v. 17). Joy is always tied to obedience to God’s revealed Word.

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Integrity Triumphs over Adversity

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god” (Daniel 1:1-2).

Integrity shines brightest against the backdrop of adversity.

Our passage today tells of the tragic time in Israel’s history when God chastened her severely by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar and the wicked nation of Babylon to march against her and take her captive. God never coddles His people, nor does He wink at their sin. Israel’s chastening illustrates the principle that “judgment [begins] with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). But as severe as His discipline can be, it is always aimed at producing greater righteousness and godly integrity in His children (Heb. 12:5-11).

The Babylonian captivity set the stage for a truly uncommon display of integrity from Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. In the days ahead we will examine their character in some depth. For now, however, be encouraged that adversity of any kind—even chastening for sin—is God’s way of providing the rich soil for nourishing and strengthening the spiritual fruit of integrity. Without the adversities of Babylon, Daniel’s integrity and that of his friends would not have shone as brightly as it did and would not have had the significant impact it had on King Nebuchadnezzar and his entire kingdom.

Perhaps you are currently experiencing adversities that are especially challenging, and you may not yet understand what God is accomplishing through them. But like Daniel and his friends, you can pray for the wisdom to understand His will and the faith to trust Him through the process. And you can be assured He will never fail you.

Suggestions for Prayer

Each day your integrity is tested in many ways. Ask the Lord to help you be aware of those times and to make choices that honor Him.

For Further Study

Read 1 Kings 9:3-5.

  • What kind of integrity did God require of Solomon?
  • What promises did He make if Solomon obeyed?


Receiving the Word

"This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (James 1:19-21)

True believers receive God’s Word.

The key word in today's passage is "receive" (James 1:21). Believers are to receive God's Word. That's what distinguishes them from unbelievers. Jesus said to a group of religious unbelievers, "Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. . . . He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God" (John 8:4347).

"Hear" in those verses doesn't refer to hearing with the ear only. Jesus' audience heard in that sense—even to the point of wanting to kill Him for what He said (v. 59)—but they didn't receive and obey His words. By rejecting the truth, they proved themselves to be children of the devil, who is the father of lies (v. 44).

Peter called God's Word the imperishable, living, and abiding seed that brings salvation (1 Peter 1:21). But receiving God's Word isn't limited to salvation alone. As a Christian, you have the Word implanted within you. Now you must nurture it by removing the weeds of filthiness and wickedness so it can produce the fruit of righteousness. That isn't a one-time effort, but a lifestyle of confession, looking into God's Word, desiring His message, and longing to obey it. That doesn't mean you'll be sinlessly perfect, but your life will be marked by ever-increasing spiritual maturity and obedience to the Word. When you are disobedient, you should feel an enormous tension in your spirit until you repent and make things right.

Are you hearing and receiving God's Word in that way? Do those who know you best see you as a person whose life is governed by biblical principles? Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine" (John 8:31). Receive His truth and abide in it continually!

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to keep you sensitive to His Word in every situation you face today.

For Further Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14, noting the Thessalonians' response to God's Word.


Jesus and Fasting

“‘Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full’” (Matthew 6:16)

The Greek word for “fast” literally means not to eat, to abstain from food. But by the time of Christ, fasting had been perverted and twisted beyond what was scriptural and sincere. Fasting had become a ritual to gain merit with God and attention before men—it was largely a hypocritical religious show.

Many Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12), usually on the second and fifth days of the week. They picked those days supposedly because on them Moses received the tablets of Law from God on Mount Sinai. But they also happened to be the two major Jewish market days, when cities and towns were crowded with farmers, merchants, and shoppers, where public fasting would have the largest audiences.

Those wanting to call attention to their fasting would “put on a gloomy face” and “neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men.” They would wear old clothes, sometimes purposely torn and soiled, mess up their hair, cover themselves with dirt and ashes, and even use makeup to look pale and sickly.

But this kind of fasting is a sham and mockery. Those whom Jesus condemned for fasting “in order to be seen by men” were pretentiously self-righteous. God was of little concern in their motives or their thinking, and so He had no part in their reward. The reward they wanted was recognition by men, and that’s what they got.

Ask Yourself

Are you sometimes guilty of feeling superior to others by the faithful way you observe various spiritual disciplines and religious expectations? What do these prideful feelings and comparisons take away from the purity of your times with God? How do they complicate your worship?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 13:18 He was lying to him. Why the old prophet deceived the man of God the text does not state. It may be that his own sons were worshipers at Bethel or perhaps priests, and this man wanted to gain favor with the king by showing up the man of God as an imposter who acted contrary to his own claim to have heard from God. Accustomed to receiving direct revelations, the Judean prophet should have regarded the supposed angelic message with suspicion and sought divine verification of this revised order.

1 Kings 14:15 Ahijah announced God’s stern judgment on Israel for joining Jeroboam’s apostasy. Struck by the Lord, Israel would sway like a reed in a rushing river, a biblical metaphor for political instability (Matt. 11:7Luke 7:24). One day, the Lord would uproot Israel from Palestinian soil and scatter it in exile east of the Euphrates. The fulfillment of this prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 17:23.

Psalm 69:21 gall…vinegar. Gall was a poisonous herb. Here it serves as a metaphor for betrayal. Friends who should provide sustenance to the psalmist had turned against him. Gall in vinegar was actually offered to Christ while He was on the cross (Matt. 27:34).

John 12:42, 43 The indictment of vv. 37–41 is followed by the exceptions of vv. 42, 43. While the people seemed to trust Jesus with much more candor and fervency, the leaders of Israel who believed in Him demonstrated inadequate, irresolute, even spurious faith. The faith of the latter was so weak that they refused to take any position that would threaten their position in the synagogue. This is one of the saddest statements about spiritual leadership, for they preferred the praises of men above the praises of God in their refusal to publicly acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.

DAY 2: As Jesus approached His death, what kept Him going?

In John 12:23, Jesus knew that “the hour” had come for His death. Considering what was ahead, He confessed, “Now My soul is troubled” (v. 27). The term used here is strong and signifies horror, anxiety, and agitation. Jesus’ contemplation of taking on the wrath of God for the sins of the world caused revulsion in the sinless Savior (2 Cor. 5:21).

What kept Him going was the principle that Jesus lived by and would die by: “Father, glorify Your name” (v. 28). See 7:18; 8:29, 50. The fact that the Father answered the Son in an audible voice signifies its importance: “I have both glorified it and will glorify.” This is only one of three instances during Jesus’ ministry when this took place (Matt. 3:17—His baptism; 17:5—His transfiguration).

Jesus acknowledged that “the ruler of this world” was involved (v. 31). This is a reference to Satan (see 14:30; 16:11; Matt. 4:8,9Luke 4:6,72 Cor. 4:4Eph. 2:26:12). Although the Cross might have appeared to signal Satan’s victory over God, in reality it marked Satan’s defeat (Rom. 16:20Heb. 2:14). This would occur as Jesus was “lifted up from the earth” (v. 32), referring to His crucifixion (v. 33; 18:32). This is a veiled prediction of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus referred to the story of Numbers 21:5–9 where the Israelite people who looked at the serpent lifted up by Moses were healed. The point of this illustration or analogy is in the “lifted up.” Just as Moses lifted up the snake on the pole so that all who looked upon it might live physically, those who look to Christ, who was lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world, will live spiritually and eternally.

The people’s response was to ask Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?” (v. 34). The term “law” was used broadly enough to include not only the 5 books of Moses but also the whole of the Old Testament (Rom. 10:4).Perhaps they had in mind Isaiah 9:7 which promised that Messiah’s kingdom would last forever or Ezekiel 37:25 where God promised that the final David would be Israel’s prince forever (Ps. 89:35–37). To their question, Jesus offered them a final invitation to focus on His theme of believing in the Messiah and Son of God (vv. 35, 36).

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Integrity Means No Compromise!

“O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart” (Psalm 15:1-2).

To love Christ and to be characterized by ever-increasing fidelity to biblical truth is the heart of true integrity.

Christian integrity has been defined as the absence of compromise and the presence of biblical convictions. In the words of the psalmist, it is to work righteousness and to speak truth from the heart (Ps. 15:2).

Many people in Scripture demonstrate exemplary integrity. For example, Jesus spoke of Nathanael as an Israelite “in whom is no guile” (John 1:47). To be without guile is to be truthful and unpretentious, which is another way of saying Nathanael had integrity. What a wonderful commendation!

Like Nathanael, Daniel was a man of uncompromising integrity, and in our studies this month Daniel’s example will demonstrate the power, characteristics, and blessings of biblical integrity. You will also see how God uses even the most difficult circumstances to test and refine your integrity.

This is an especially timely topic for our day because the spirit of compromise is flourishing all around us: in politics, in sports, in business, and sadly, even in the church. But Scripture calls us to an uncompromising standard that reflects the integrity of Christ Himself. As the Apostle John said, “The one who says he abides in [Christ] ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

This month you will see some of the challenges that await those who refuse to compromise their biblical convictions, as well as the blessings that come to them. As you do, I pray that the Lord will strengthen and encourage you, and that you will be one who truly “walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Make King David’s prayer yours today: “Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in Thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for Thee” (Psalm 25:20-21).

For Further Study

Read Daniel 1, 3, and 6 in preparation for our studies this month. Make a list of the character traits you see in Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego that are worthy of imitation.


Examining Your Faith 

"Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (James 1:22).

God wants you to know whether your faith is genuine or not.

Our studies this month center on James 1:19-2:26, which deals with the issue of true faith—a most important consideration indeed. Knowing your faith is genuine is a wonderful assurance, but thinking you're saved when you're not is the most frightening deception imaginable. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus speaks of those who call Him Lord and even do miracles in His name, but aren't redeemed. Second Timothy 3:5 speaks of those who have a form of godliness but deny its power. They're religious but lost. Sadly, many people today are victims of the same deception. They think they're Christians, but they're heading for eternal damnation unless they recognize their true condition and repent.

Deception of that magnitude is a tragedy beyond description, but you need never fall prey to it because James gives a series of tests for true faith. This month we'll be applying one of those tests: your attitude toward God's Word. That's an especially crucial test because the Word is the agency of both your salvation and sanctification. The Holy Spirit empowered it to save you, and He continually works through it to conform you to the image of Christ. That's why Peter said, "You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . [Therefore] like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 1:2-2:2).

Jesus Himself characterized believers as those who abide in His Word and obey His commandments. They receive the Word with an attitude of submission and humility. However, unbelievers resist and disobey the Word (John 8:3143-45). Psalm 119:155 says, "Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Thy statutes."

As you study this test of true faith, ask yourself, Do I pass the test? I pray that your answer will echo the words of the psalmist: "I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end" (Ps. 119:112).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God for clarity and confidence about your faith in Christ.

For Further Study

Read the book of James, noting the instructions he gives regarding Christian living


Postscript on Forgiveness

"If you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions’” (Matthew 6:14–15).

Believers should forgive others because they have received forgiveness from God themselves (cf. Eph. 1:17). We can’t claim to know God’s parental forgiveness—that which keeps our fellowship with the Lord rich and open—apart from forgiving others in heart and word.

Paul had this in mind when he wrote, “I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience” (1 Tim. 1:16). An unforgiving spirit not only is inconsistent for one who has been totally forgiven by God, but also brings the chastening of God rather than His mercy.

Jesus states the truth of verse 14 in a negative way when He says, “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” The sin of an unforgiving heart and a bitter spirit (Heb. 12:15) forfeits blessing and invites judgment.

We must seek to manifest the forgiving spirit of Joseph (Gen. 50:19–21) and of Stephen (Acts 7:60) as often as needed (Luke 17:3–4). To receive pardon from the perfectly holy God and then refuse to pardon others when we are sinful people is the epitome of abuse of mercy. “Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). So be sure you are practicing forgiveness of others.

Ask Yourself

What breaks down in your relationship with God when you withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged or mistreated you? How does it choke out your openness and freedom in the Lord’s presence?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 11:26 Jeroboam the son of Nebat. In contrast to Hadad and Rezon, who were external adversaries of Solomon, God raised up Jeroboam from a town in Ephraim as an internal adversary. Jeroboam was from Ephraim, the leading tribe of Israel’s northern 10 tribes. He was a young man of talent and energy who, having been appointed by Solomon as leader over the building works around Jerusalem, rose to public notice.

1 Kings 11:38 if you heed all that I command you. The Lord gave to Jeroboam the same promise that He had made to David—an enduring royal dynasty over Israel, the 10 northern tribes, if he obeyed God’s law. The Lord imposed on Jeroboam the same conditions for his kingship that He had imposed on David (2:3, 4; 3:14).

1 Kings 11:39 but not forever. This statement implied that the kingdom’s division was not to be permanent and that David’s house would ultimately rule all the tribes of Israel again (Ezek. 37:15–28).

1 Kings 12:26 return to the house of David. The Lord had ordained a political, not a religious, division of Solomon’s kingdom. The Lord had promised Jeroboam political control of the 10 northern tribes (11:31, 35, 37). However, Jeroboam was to religiously follow the Mosaic Law, which demanded that he follow the Lord’s sacrificial system at the temple in Jerusalem (11:38). Having received the kingdom from God, he should have relied on divine protection, but he did not. Seeking to keep his subjects from being influenced by Rehoboam when they went to Jerusalem to worship, he set up worship in the north (vv. 27, 28).

Psalm 69:9 has eaten me up. The psalmist has brought hatred and hostility on himself by his unyielding insistence that the behavior of the people measure up to their outward claim of devotion to God. Whenever God was dishonored, he felt the pain, because he loved God so greatly. Jesus claimed for Himself this attitude, as indicated in John 2:17Romans 15:3.

John 12:19 the world has gone after Him. The world means the people in general, as opposed to everyone in particular. Clearly, most people in the world did not even know of Him at that time, and many in Israel did not believe in Him. Often, world is used in this general sense (v. 47; 1:29; 3:17; 4:42; 14:22; 17:9, 21).

Day 1: What was Solomon’s main downfall?

“But King Solomon loved many foreign women” (1 Kin. 11:1). Many of Solomon’s marriages were for the purpose of ratifying treaties with other nations, a common practice in the ancient Near East. The practice of multiplying royal wives, prohibited in Deuteronomy 17:17 because the practice would turn the king’s heart away from the Lord, proved to be accurate in the experience of Solomon. His love for his wives (vv. 1,2) led him to abandon his loyalty to the Lord and worship other gods (vv. 3–6). No sadder picture can be imagined than the ugly apostasy of his later years (over 50), which can be traced back to his sins with foreign wives. Polygamy was tolerated among the ancient Hebrews, though most in the East had only one wife. A number of wives was seen as a sign of wealth and importance. The king desired to have a larger harem than any of his subjects, and Solomon resorted to this form of state magnificence. But it was a sin directly violating God’s law, and the very result which that law was designed to prevent happened.

“Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD” (v. 6). The particular evil of Solomon was his tolerance of and personal practice of idolatry. These same words were used throughout the Book of Kings to describe the rulers who promoted and practiced idolatry (15:26, 34; 16:19, 25, 30; 22:52; 2 Kin. 3:28:18 ,27; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:2; 21:2, 20; 23:32; 24:9, 19). Solomon became an open idolater, worshiping images of wood and stone in the sight of the temple which, in his early years, he had erected to the one true God.

The Lord appeared to him twice (vv. 9, 10).Once was at Gibeon (3:5), the next at Jerusalem (9:2). On both occasions, God had warned Solomon, so he had no excuses. “Because you have done this…I will surely tear the kingdom away from you” (v. 11). Solomon failed to obey the commandments to honor God (Ex. 20:3–6), which were part of the Mosaic Covenant. Obedience to that Covenant was necessary for receiving the blessings of the Davidic Covenant (2:3, 4).The Lord’s tearing of the kingdom from Solomon was announced in Ahijah’s symbolic action of tearing his garment in vv. 29–39.

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Our Ultimate Example

“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 2:23).

Jesus Christ, as the sinless sufferer, is the only model we need as we endure life’s trials.

Prior to his death in 1555, the English Reformer and martyr Hugh Latimer expressed his convictions this way: “Die once we must; how and where, we know not. . . . Here is not our home; let us therefore accordingly consider things, having always before our eyes that heavenly Jerusalem, and the way thereto in persecution.” Latimer knew much about how to face suffering, but he knew that Jesus Himself was the final model regarding how to deal with suffering and death.

That model is summarized in today’s verse, which is a quote from the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. All the horrible physical and verbal abuse Christ endured just prior to the cross, along with the evil tearing down of His perfectly virtuous character, was unjustified, and yet He did not strike back. As the Son of God, Jesus had perfect control of His feelings and powers.

Jesus found the strength to endure such an abusive final trial when He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Literally, Jesus kept handing Himself and all His circumstances, climaxing with His death on Calvary (Luke 23:46), over to the Father. The Son had complete trust in God, the just and fair Judge of the entire earth (see Gen. 18:25).

We can follow His example and endure persecution and unjust suffering without answering back, whether it be in the workplace, among relatives, or in any social setting. The key is simply entrusting our lives, by faith, to a righteous God who will make everything right and bring us safely into His glory (1 Peter 5:6-10).

Stephen and Paul are notable role models for how we can triumph over life’s persecutions and hardships, even death. But those great men were themselves merely “fixing [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). We must do the same.

Suggestions for Prayer

As you daily experience life’s normal difficulties and challenges, ask God to help you better remember the perfect example Jesus set in facing the worst of pain and suffering.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 1:1-2 and 4:14-16.

  • Compare and contrast what these passages tell us about Christ’s deity and humanity.
  • What do they reveal about the superiority of His example?


Making Worthless Things Valuable

"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).

In God’s hands you can be a precious and effective instrument.

The story is told of a great concert violinist who wanted to prove a point, so he rented a music hall and announced that he would play a concert on a $20,000 violin. On concert night the music hall was filled to capacity with music lovers anxious to hear such an expensive instrument played. The violinist stepped onto the stage, gave an exquisite performance, and received a thunderous standing ovation. When the applause subsided, he suddenly threw the violin to the ground, stomped it to pieces, and walked off the stage. The audience gasped, then sat in stunned silence.

Within seconds the stage manager approached the microphone and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, to put you at ease, the violin that was just destroyed was a $20 violin. The master will now return to play the remainder of his concert on the $20,000 instrument." At the conclusion of his concert he received another standing ovation. Few people could tell the difference between the two violins. His point was obvious: it isn't the violin that makes the music; it's the violinist.

The disciples were like $20 violins that Jesus transformed into priceless instruments for His glory. I trust you've been encouraged to see how God used them despite their weakness, and I pray you've been challenged by their strengths. You may not be dynamic like Peter or zealous like James and Simon, but you can be faithful like Andrew and courageous like Thaddaeus. Remember, God will take the raw material of your life and expose you to the experiences and teachings that will shape you into the servant He wants you to be.

Trust Him to complete what He has begun in you, and commit each day to the goal of becoming a more qualified and effective disciple.

Suggestions for Prayer

Make a list of the character traits you most admire in the disciples. Ask the Lord to increase those traits in your own life.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17, noting Paul's perspective on his own calling.


Trusting God for Protection

“‘“. . . but deliver us from evil”’” (Matthew 6:13).

If you realize the great danger that temptation poses to your soul, this petition will be a plea for God to provide a protection you can’t give for yourself. You will ask God to watch over your entire being so that in whatever you do or say, see or hear, and wherever you go, He will guard you from sin.

Joseph understood that even though ungodly forces intend certain things for our evil, God can use those things for good (Gen. 50:20). But we may not react to every such situation as Joseph did. Therefore we must seize the promise that “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13; cf. John 17:15).

When you sincerely pray “deliver us from evil,” you implicitly submit to your only protection from sin, God’s Word. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Submitting to God is in essence submitting to His Word. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11).

In a fallen world we are inadequate to deal with sin’s powerful effects. Therefore we must confess the weakness of our flesh and the absolute powerlessness of our own resources to rescue us from sin’s grasp.

Ask Yourself

Let this be a new day of triumph for you—a fresh start with God, knowing that His eternal might is greater than the allure of any sinful desire. Why continue on in ways that invariably lead to guilt, coldness, and defeat in your life? Choose the way that leads to unknown adventures with the Lord. Be delivered from evil as you take hold of the Father’s hand and just walk away.


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 9:3 consecrated. The Lord made the temple holy by being present in the cloud (8:10). As proof of the temple’s consecration, the Lord told Solomon that He had put His name there (3:2). forever. God was not saying He will dwell in that building forever, since in less than 400 years it was destroyed by the Babylonians (vv. 7–9). He was saying that Jerusalem and the temple mount are to be His earthly throne as long as the earth remains, through the millennial kingdom (Is. 2:1–4Zech. 14:16). Even during the new heaven and new earth, the eternal state, there will be the heavenly Jerusalem, where God will eternally dwell (Rev. 21:12). eyes…heart. These symbolized, respectively, the Lord’s constant attention toward and deep affection for Israel. By implication, He promised them access to His presence and answers to their prayers.

1 Kings 10:1 Sheba. Sheba was located in southwestern Arabia, about 1,200 miles from Jerusalem. concerning the name of the LORDThe primary motive for the queen’s visit was to verify Solomon’s reputation for wisdom and devotion to the Lord. hard questions. Riddles designed to stump the hearer (Judg. 14:12).

1 Kings 10:25 silver and gold…horses. The wisdom God had given to Solomon (v.24) caused many rulers, like the queen of Sheba (vv. 1–13), to bring presents to Solomon as they sought to buy his wisdom to be applied in their own nations. These gifts led Solomon to multiply for himself horses, as well as silver and gold, precisely that which God’s king was warned against in Deuteronomy 17:1617. Solomon became ensnared by the blessings of his own wisdom and disobeyed God’s commands.

John 11:50 one man should die for the people. He only meant that Jesus should be executed in order to spare their own positions and nation from Roman reprisals, but Caiaphas unwittingly used sacrificial, substitutionary language and prophesied the death of Christ for sinners.

John 11:51 he prophesied. Caiaphas did not realize the implications of what he spoke. While he uttered blasphemy against Christ, God parodied his statement into truth (Ps. 76:10). The responsibility for the wicked meaning of his words belonged to Caiaphas, but God’s providence directed the choice of words so as to express the heart of God’s glorious plan of salvation (Acts 4:27,28). He actually was used by God as a prophet because he was the high priest and originally the high priest was the means of God’s will being revealed (2 Sam. 15:27).

DAY 31: What so troubled Christ at the death of His friend Lazarus? 

Jesus was met by Mary, who fell brokenhearted at His feet and “the Jews who came with her weeping” (John 11:33).According to Jewish oral tradition, the funeral custom indicated that even a poor family must hire at least two flute players and a professional wailing woman to mourn the dead. Because the family may have been well-to-do, a rather large group appears present.

“He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The phrase here does not mean merely that Jesus was deeply touched or moved with sympathy at the sight. The Greek term “groaned” always suggests anger, outrage, or emotional indignation (v. 38; Matt. 9:30Mark 1:4314:5). Most likely Jesus was angered at the emotional grief of the people because it implicitly revealed unbelief in the resurrection and the temporary nature of death. The group was acting like pagans who had no hope (1 Thess. 4:13).While grief is understandable, the group was acting in despair, thus indicating a tacit denial of the resurrection and the Scripture that promised it. Jesus may also have been angered because He was indignant at the pain and sorrow in death that sin brought into the human condition.

“Jesus wept” (v. 35).The Greek word here has the connotation of silently bursting into tears in contrast to the loud lament of the group. His tears here were not generated out of mourning, since He was to raise Lazarus, but out of grief for a fallen world entangled in sin-caused sorrow and death. He was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (3:16Is. 53:3).

Jesus’ prayer in vv. 41,42 was not really a petition, but thanksgiving to the Father. The reason for the miracle was to authenticate His claims to be the Messiah and Son of God.

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Endurance: Look to the Future

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

It is far easier to endure trials when we value the future over the present.

A few years ago the popular Back to the Future movies dealt rather whimsically with the possibility of time travel, which always involved entering the future. The recurring theme was that with all the complications of tampering with the future, it was better to live in the present. Viewers could infer that, ultimately, it is not worth it to dwell a lot on the future.

That is just the opposite of the apostle Paul’s attitude about the future. He dealt with the profound certainties of what awaits all believers in the life to come. For Paul, the value of the future was another important reason he could endure life’s sufferings and trials. The temporal pain for him and us is inconsequential compared to what awaits us in Heaven (Rom. 8:18).

Trials are inevitable, and the pain associated with them can be very intense, but when compared to what we will enjoy in the future, they hardly matter. Paul saw them as light afflictions, or literally “weightless trifles.” He knew that their real significance is only in how they contribute to our eternal glory.

That contribution is anything but trivial. Rather, it produces “an eternal weight of glory.” Concerning this expression, it’s as if Paul envisioned an old-fashioned two-sided scale that was being tipped in favor of the future by the cumulative mass (“eternal weight of glory”) of his individual sufferings. Paul could endure the pain of present trials when he was certain that they contributed positively to his life in Heaven.

The amount of trials and suffering you and I endure now is also directly linked to our eternal rewards. Those rewards are not external bonuses such as fancier crowns, better robes, or bigger heavenly mansions. Instead they refer to our increased capacity to praise, serve, and glorify God. That fulfilled Paul’s greatest desire and enabled him to joyfully persevere in trials, and it should do the same for us.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you a perspective that sees every trial as trivial in light of eternal rewards.

For Further Study

Read Romans 8:18-25.

  • How far do the effects of sin and suffering extend?
  • What does Paul say about hope in this passage?


Learning from Judas (Judas Iscariot)

The twelve apostles included "Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him" (Matt. 10:4).

God can use even an apostate like Judas to teach us some important lessons.

Judas is history's greatest human tragedy. He had opportunities and privileges known only to the other disciples, but he turned from them to pursue a course of destruction. Yet even from his foolishness we can learn some important lessons.

Judas, for example, is the world's greatest example of lost opportunity. He ministered for three years with Jesus Himself but was content merely to associate with Him, never submitting to Him in saving faith. Millions of others have followed his example by hearing the gospel and associating with Christians, yet rejecting Christ. Tragically, like Judas, once death comes they too are damned for all eternity.

Judas is also the world's greatest example of wasted privileges. He could have had the riches of an eternal inheritance but instead chose thirty pieces of silver. In that respect he is also the greatest illustration of the destructiveness and damnation greed can bring. He did an unthinkable thing, yet he has many contemporary counterparts in those who place wealth and pleasure above godliness.

On the positive side, Judas is the world's greatest illustration of the forbearing, patient love of God. Knowing what Judas would do, Jesus tolerated him for three years. Beyond that, He constantly reached out to him and even called him "friend" after his kiss of betrayal (Matt. 26:50).

If you've ever been betrayed by a friend, you know the pain it can bring. But the Lord's pain was compounded many times over because He knew He would be betrayed and because the consequences were so serious. Yet He endured the pain because He loved Judas and knew that His own betrayal was a necessary part of the redemptive plan.

The sins that destroyed Judas are common sins that you must avoid at all costs! Use every opportunity and privilege God gives you, and never take advantage of His patience.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank Jesus for the pain he endured at the hands of Judas.
  • Pray that you will never cause Him such pain.

For Further Study

Read 1 Timothy 6:6-19.

  • What perils await those who desire wealth?
  • Rather than pursuing wealth, what should you pursue?
  • What attitude should wealthy people have toward their money?


Avoiding Temptation

“‘“And do not lead us into temptation”’” (Matthew 6:13).

By itself, the word rendered “temptation” here has a neutral connotation, unlike the English that usually indicates an inducement to sin. But in this context, with its parallel to the term “evil” at the end of the verse, Jesus likely used the word to mean an enticement to sin. Yet elsewhere Scripture tells us that God does not tempt believers to evil, while at the same time we should be thankful for various trials (James 1:2–313). So why did Jesus give us this expression as a pattern for prayer?

The answer to this paradox is not as difficult as it may seem. Jesus is concerned that we truly desire to avoid the danger and trouble sin creates. Saints should so despise sin and want to escape it at all costs that they pray in advance to avoid sin rather than waiting to defeat it when tempted.

Further, we know trials can promote our spiritual growth, yet we do not want to be in a place where we experience an increased possibility of sin. Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we should pray, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39). The prospect of taking sin upon Himself repulsed our Savior, but He was willing to do so to fulfill His Father’s will and secure the salvation of sinners. Whatever testing we might have to endure is nothing by comparison.

Ask Yourself

In addition to asking God not to “lead us into temptation,” we must be aware of instances in which we walk headlong into it ourselves. Ask God for the spiritual strength to avoid those very familiar forms of sin that we too often approach without fear. Aren’t you ready to start gaining victory over them?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 8:22–53 Solomon moved to the altar of burnt offering to offer a lengthy prayer of consecration to the Lord. First, he affirmed that no god could compare to Israel’s God, the Lord (vv. 23, 24). Second, he asked the Lord for His continued presence and protection (vv. 25–30). Third, he listed 7 typical Israelite prayers that would require the Lord’s response (vv. 31–54). These supplications recalled the detailed list of curses that Deuteronomy 28:15–68 ascribed for the breaking of the law. Specifically, Solomon prayed that the Lord would judge between the wicked and the righteous (vv. 31, 32); the Lord would forgive the sins that had caused defeat in battle (vv. 33, 34); the Lord would forgive the sins that had brought on drought (vv. 35, 36); the Lord would forgive the sins that had resulted in national calamities (vv. 37–40); the Lord would show mercy to God-fearing foreigners (vv. 41–43); the Lord would give victory in battle (vv. 44, 45); and the Lord would bring restoration after captivity (vv. 46–54).

Proverbs 17:17 The difference between a friend and a brother is noted here. A true friend is a constant source of love, while a brother in one’s family may not be close, but is drawn near to help in trouble. Friends are closer than brothers because they are available all the time, not just in the crisis.

John 11:17 in the tomb. The term “tomb” means a stone sepulcher. In Palestine such a grave was common.  Either a cave or rock area would be hewn out, the floor inside leveled and graded to make a shallow descent. Shelves were cut out or constructed inside the area in order to bury additional family members. A rock was rolled in front to prevent wild animals or grave robbers from entering. The evangelist made special mention of the fourth day in order to stress the magnitude of the miracle, for the Jews did not embalm and by then the body would have been in a state of rapid decomposition.

DAY 30: Why did Jesus delay when He heard that Lazarus was sick?

The resurrection of Lazarus in John 11 is the climactic and most dramatic sign in this Gospel and the capstone of Christ’s public ministry. Six miracles have already been presented (water into wine [2:1–11], healing of the nobleman’s son [4:46–54], restoring the impotent man [5:1–15], multiplying the loaves and fishes [6:1–14], walking on the water [6:15–21], and curing the man born blind [9:1–12]). Lazarus’s resurrection is more potent than all those and even more monumental than the raising of the widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7:11–16) or Jairus’s daughter (Luke 8:40–56) because those two resurrections occurred immediately after death. Lazarus was raised after 4 days of being in the grave with the process of decomposition already having started (v. 39).

Upon hearing that Lazarus is sick, Jesus’ immediate response is that it is “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). This phrase reveals the real purpose behind Lazarus’s sickness, i.e., not death, but that the Son of God might be glorified through his resurrection. So He stayed two more days. The decision to delay coming did not bring about Lazarus’s death, since Jesus already supernaturally knew his plight. Most likely by the time the messenger arrived to inform Jesus, Lazarus was already dead. The delay was because He loved the family (v. 5) and that love would be clear as He greatly strengthened their faith by raising Lazarus from the dead. The delay also ensured that Lazarus had been dead long enough that no one could misinterpret the miracle as a fraud or mere resuscitation.

Coming to Martha, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). This is the fifth in a series of 7 great “I AM” statements of Jesus (6:35; 8:12; 10:7,9; 10:11,14). With this statement, Jesus moved Mary from an abstract belief in the resurrection that will take place “at the last day”(see 5:28, 29) to a personalized trust in Him who alone can raise the dead. No resurrection or eternal life exists outside of the Son of God. Time (“at the last day”) is no barrier to the One who has the power of resurrection and life (1:4) for He can give life at any time.

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Endurance: The Value of the Spiritual

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Believers are far more blessed when they concentrate on the spiritual rather than physical aspects of life.

Concerning endurance, Paul is again our role model. One reason he was able to endure pain and trials was that he knew the physical was far less important and lasting than the spiritual. He realized that our physical bodies are naturally aging and therefore not permanent. He was probably aware of this more than most people because his rigorous ministry with its travel demands hastened his own aging process. And surely he also aged more rapidly than others because of all the physical and emotional persecution he endured from his enemies.

Paul was able to accept physical suffering and aging because he knew his inner man (his spiritual self, his new creation) was being renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). It’s not easy for us to follow Paul’s example; yet he urges believers to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2). Many of the trials and sufferings the Lord brings to us compel us to obey Paul’s words, look away from ourselves, and experience the spiritual growth that is so directly the result of suffering (see 1 Peter 5:10).

God’s Word assures us that He will provide all the strength we need to endure. In closing, consider the prophet’s words:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Suggestions for Prayer

As you go through this day, pray that the Lord would help you focus on the spiritual rather than the physical.

For Further Study

Read Hebrews 11:1-16. What common ingredient allowed those in this passage to look beyond the physical toward the spiritual?


The Characteristics of Hypocrisy (Judas Iscariot)

The twelve apostles included "Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him" (Matt. 10:4).

Hypocrisy is a spiritual cancer that can devastate lives and destroy ministries.

On a recent trip to New Zealand I learned that sheepherders there use specially trained castrated male sheep to lead other sheep from holding areas into the slaughtering room. Those male sheep are appropriately called "Judas sheep." That illustrates the commonness with which we associate Judas with deception and death. Pretending to be a friend of Jesus, Judas betrayed him with a kiss and became for all time and eternity the epitome of hypocrisy.

Several characteristics of spiritual hypocrisy are clearly evident in Judas's life. First, hypocritical people often seem genuinely interested in a noble cause. Judas probably didn't want the Romans to rule over Israel and he saw in Christ an opportunity to do something about it. He probably had the common misconception that Jesus was immediately going to establish His earthly kingdom and put down Roman oppression.

Second, hypocritical people demonstrate an outward allegiance to Christ. Many of those who followed Jesus in the early stages of His ministry deserted Him along the way (John 6:66). Not Judas. He stayed to the end.

Third, hypocritical people can appear to be holy. When Jesus told the disciples that one of them would betray Him, none of them suspected Judas. Even after Jesus identified Judas as His betrayer, the other disciples still didn't understand (John 13:27-29). Judas must have put on a very convincing act!

Fourth, hypocritical people are self-centered. Judas didn't love Christ—He loved himself and joined the disciples because he thought he could gain personal prosperity.

Finally, hypocritical people are deceivers. Judas was a pawn of Satan, whom Jesus described as a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Is it any wonder that his whole life was one deception after another?

Judas was an unbeliever, but hypocrisy can also thrive in believers if its telltale signs are ignored. That's why you must guard your motives carefully, walk in the Spirit each day, and immediately confess even the slightest hint of hypocrisy.

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to purify your love for Him and to protect you from the subtle inroads of hypocrisy.

For Further Study

Read John 12:1-8.

  • How did Mary demonstrate her love for Christ?
  • What objection did Judas raise?
  • What was his motive?


The Need to Forgive Others

“‘“. . . as we also have forgiven our debtors”’” (Matthew 6:12).

Even as we have been forgiven, we need to forgive. This is the character of righteousness. But because of our sinful flesh, we are often inconsistent with that duty and need constant exhortation (cf. Rom. 7:14–25).

The Lord Jesus’ own example is a powerful motivation for us to forgive others. Paul reminds us, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:321 John 2:6). In view of such divine graciousness, our forgiveness of another’s sin expresses one of humanity’s highest virtues: “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).

Extending genuine forgiveness to fellow believers benefits the entire body of Christ. Few other things have so weakened the church’s power than unforgiveness among believers. Notably, mutually unforgiven, unresolved sins such as conflicts among members can really hinder a church’s effectiveness. The psalmist warns us, “If [we] regard wickedness in [our] heart, the Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66:18; cf. Matt. 5:23–241 Cor. 1:10–133:1–9).

Harboring an unforgiving attitude is just plain sinful and invites God’s chastening, as does any sin (1 Cor. 11:30Heb. 12:5–13). But forgiving others brings God’s forgiveness to us, and nothing in the Christian life is more important than that. Puritan Thomas Manton said, “There is none so tender to others as they which have received mercy themselves, for they know how gently God hath dealt with them.”

Ask Yourself

Is there a relationship in your own life that continues to suffer from your unwillingness to forgive, from your deliberate decision to cling to your hurt and bitterness? This would be a good day to let this burden go, forgiving any who have wronged you—the same way God has forgiven you.


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 5:6 cedars…from Lebanon. The cedars of Lebanon symbolized majesty and might (Ps. 92:12Ezek. 31:3). Because cedar was durable, resistant to rot and worms, closely grained, and could be polished to a fine shine, its wood was regarded as the best timber for building. The logs were tied together and floated down the Mediterranean to Joppa (v. 9; 2 Chr. 2:16), from where they could be transported to Jerusalem, 35 miles inland.

1 Kings 6:16 the Most Holy PlaceThis inner sanctuary, partitioned off from the main hall by cedar planks, was a perfect cube about 30 feet on a side (v. 20) and was the most sacred area of the temple. The Most Holy Place is further described in vv. 19–28. The tabernacle also had a Most Holy Place (Ex. 26:3334).

Proverbs 17:13 evil for good. Solomon knew this proverb well since his father mistreated Uriah (2 Sam. 12:10–31). Contrast this with the man who repays evil with good (20:22; Matt. 5:43–481 Pet. 3:9).

John 10:38 believe the works. Jesus did not expect to be believed merely on His own assertions. Since He did the same things that the Father does (5:19), His enemies should consider this in their evaluation of Him. The implication is, however, that they were so ignorant of God that they could not recognize the works of the Father or the One whom the Father sent (see also 14:10, 11).

DAY 29: How secure is the believer in Christ?

In John 10:24, the Jews surrounded Him and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” In light of the context of vv. 31–39, the Jews were not seeking merely for clarity and understanding regarding who Jesus was, but rather wanted Him to declare openly that He was Messiah in order to justify attacking Him.

Jesus’ response is that He has told them and that His works confirm the truth of who He is. The problem is that they do not believe because they “are not of My sheep” (v. 26).This clearly indicates that God has chosen His sheep and it is they who believe and follow.

But for those who do believe and follow Christ, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (v. 28).The security of Jesus’ sheep rests with Him as the Good Shepherd, who has the power to keep them safe. Neither thieves and robbers (vv. 1,8) nor the wolf (v. 12) can harm them. Verse 29 makes clear that the Father ultimately stands behind the sheep’s security, for no one is able to steal from God, who is in sovereign control of all things (Col. 3:3Rom. 8:31–39). No stronger passage in the Old Testament or New Testament exists for the absolute, eternal security of every true Christian.

“I and My Father are one” (v. 30). Both Father and Son are committed to the perfect protection and preservation of Jesus’ sheep. The sentence, stressing the united purpose and action of both in the security and safety of the flock, presupposes unity of nature and essence (see 5:17–23; 17:22).

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Joy in Spite of Death

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In addition to Scripture, God has given us more than adequate spiritual resources to meet suffering and death.

Wall Street, the name synonymous with the American stock market and financial investing, is a place where confidence can rise and fall with great force and unpredictability, right along with the rising or sinking level of stock prices. Prices always seem to even out, but who can be certain about how they will behave in the future?

The apostle Paul’s spiritual confidence was not based on the changeableness of financial markets but on truths that are stable and reliable. Yesterday we saw his confidence in God’s Word, and today we’ll look at three more reasons Paul could confront death confidently.

First, Paul had confidence in the prayers of other believers. But it was not a presumptuous confidence because he believed in asking others to pray (see Rom. 15:30). Paul was convinced that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

Second, Paul was confident that the Holy Spirit would supply all necessary resources to sustain him through any suffering, even death. All Christians can have that same confidence: “The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).

Third, Paul had the utmost confidence in Christ’s promises. The apostle was sure that God had called him to a specific ministry (Acts 26:16) and that if he was faithful, he would never suffer shame (Mark 8:38). Jesus never abandons His sheep, no matter how bleak and frustrating their circumstances seem (John 10:27-28).

Our verse from Philippians summarizes Paul’s confidence and joy in spite of possible death. As long as he was serving Jesus Christ, he’d just as soon die because death frees the believer from the burdens of earth and lets him glorify Christ in eternity. We can rely on the same promises and provisions as Paul did and have his kind of joy. Jesus “is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Confess any ways in which you have a misplaced confidence.
  • Ask the Lord to reinforce in your heart a Pauline confidence that rejoices no matter what.

For Further Study

Read Romans 8, and list as many spiritual resources and reasons for rejoicing as you can from the chapter.


Jesus Purposely Selects a Traitor (Judas Iscariot)

The twelve apostles included "Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him" (Matt. 10:4).

God works all things together for His purposes.

At one time the little town of Kerioth was a relatively obscure Judean town, but all that changed when it produced the most hated man who ever lived: Judas Iscariot.

The first mention of Judas is here in Matthew's list of disciples. We have no record of his call, but we know Jesus did call him along with the others, and even gave him authority to minister in miraculous ways (Matt. 10:1). His first name, Judas, is despised today, but it was a common name in the days of Christ. It is the Greek form of Judah—the land of God's people. Iscariot literally means "a man from the town of Kerioth."

People commonly ask why Jesus would select such a man to be His disciple. Didn't He know how things would turn out? Yes He did, and that's precisely why He chose him. The Old Testament said the Messiah would be betrayed by a familiar friend for thirty pieces of silver, and Jesus knew Judas was that man (John 17:12).

Some people feel sorry for Judas, thinking he was simply misguided or used as some kind of pawn in a supernatural drama over which he had no control. But Judas did what he did by choice. Repeatedly Jesus gave him chances to repent, but he refused. Finally, Satan used him in a diabolical attempt to destroy Jesus and thwart God's plan of salvation. His attempt failed however, because God can use even a Judas to accomplish His purposes.

Undoubtedly there are people in your life who wish you harm. Don't be discouraged. They are as much a part of God's plan for you as those who treat you kindly. You must reach out to them just as Jesus reached out to Judas. God knows what He's doing. Trust Him and rejoice as you see His purposes accomplished even through your enemies.

Suggestions for Prayer

Praise God for His sovereign control over every circumstance and for the promise that His purposes will never be thwarted.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 26:14-50 and 27:1-10.

  • How did Jesus reveal that it was Judas who would betray Him?
  • What reaction did Judas have when he heard that Jesus had been condemned?


The Plea for Forgiveness

“‘“And forgive us our debts”’” (Matthew 6:12).

God will not forgive our sins if we do not confess them. John makes that condition clear when he declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Confession simply means we agree with God that our sins are evil and defiling and we do not want them to taint our walk with Christ.

Our sinful pride makes it difficult to confess sin, but it is the only way to the free and joyful Christian life (cf. Prov. 28:13). John Stott said, “One of the surest antidotes to the process of moral hardening is the disciplined practice of uncovering our sins of thought and outlook as well as word and deed and the repentant forsaking of the same.”

We must never take God’s promise of forgiveness as a license for sin or as an excuse to presume on His grace. Instead we must view forgiveness as an aid to our sanctification and be constantly thankful to the Lord for His loving forgiveness.

Your prayer ought to coincide with the Puritan one: “Grant me never to lose sight of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the exceeding righteousness of salvation, the exceeding glory of Christ, the exceeding beauty of holiness, and the exceeding wonder of grace. I am guilty but pardoned. I am lost but saved. I am wandering but found. I am sinning but cleansed. Give me perpetual broken-heartedness. Keep me always clinging to Thy cross.”

Ask Yourself

How can one walk in an awareness of his own wretchedness while also living in the confidence of Christ’s righteousness and salvation? Actually, it is only by realizing our great need for Him that we can enjoy the grace that overwhelms our sin. Seek this biblical balance in your own life.


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 3:7 little child. Since Solomon was probably only about 20 years of age, he readily admitted his lack of qualification and experience to be king (1 Chr. 22:529:1).

1 Kings 3:8 a great people. Based on the census, which recorded 800,000 men of fighting age in Israel and 500,000 in Judah (2 Sam. 24:9), the total population was over 4 million, approximately double what it had been at the time of the conquest (Num. 26:1–65).

1 Kings 3:9 an understanding heart. Humbly admitting his need, Solomon sought “a listening heart” to govern God’s people with wisdom.

1 Kings 3:10 pleased the Lord. The Lord was delighted that Solomon had not asked for personal benefits—long life, wealth, or the death of his enemies.

John 10:7–10 I am the door. This is the third of 7 “I AM” statements of Jesus (6:358:12). Here, He changes the metaphor slightly. While in vv. 1–5 He was the shepherd, here He is the gate. While in vv. 1–5, the shepherd led the sheep out of the pen, here He is the entrance to the pen (v. 9) that leads to proper pasture. This section echoes Jesus’ words in 14:6 that He is the only way to the Father. His point is that He serves as the sole means to approach the Father and partake of God’s promised salvation. As some Near Eastern shepherds slept in the gateway to guard the sheep, Jesus here pictures Himself as the gate.

John 10:17, 18 take it again. Jesus repeated this phrase twice in these two verses indicating that His sacrificial death was not the end. His resurrection followed in demonstration of His messiahship and deity (Rom. 1:4). His death and resurrection resulted in His ultimate glorification (12:23; 17:5) and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (7:37–39; Acts 2:16–39).

DAY 28: What does it mean to have Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”?

In John 10:1–39, Jesus’ discourse on Himself as the “Good Shepherd” flowed directly from chapter 9, as Jesus continued to talk to the very same people. The problem of chapter 9 was that Israel was led by false shepherds who drew them astray from the true knowledge and kingdom of Messiah (9:39–41). In chapter 10, Jesus declared Himself to be the “Good Shepherd” who was appointed by His Father as Savior and King, in contrast to the false shepherds of Israel who were self-appointed and self-righteous (Ps. 23:1Is. 40:11Jer. 3:15; see Is. 56:9–12Jer. 23:1–425:32–38Ezek. 34:1–31Zech. 11:16).

Jesus spoke in vv. 1–30 using a sustained metaphor based on first-century sheep ranching. The sheep were kept in a pen, which had a gate through which the sheep entered and left. The shepherd engaged a “doorkeeper” (v. 3) or “hireling” (v. 12) as an undershepherd to guard the gate. The shepherd entered through that gate. He whose interest was stealing or wounding the sheep would chose another way to attempt entrance. The words of Ezekiel 34 most likely form the background to Jesus’ teaching since God decried the false shepherds of Israel (i.e., the spiritual leaders of the nation) for not caring properly for the flock of Israel (i.e., the nation). The Gospels themselves contain extensive sheep/shepherd imagery (Matt. 9:36Mark 6:3414:27Luke 15:1–7).

The doorkeeper was a hired undershepherd who recognized the true shepherd of the flock, opened the gate for Him, assisted the shepherd in caring for the flock, and especially guarded them at night (v. 3). “The sheep hear his voice.” Near Eastern shepherds stand at different locations outside the sheep pen, sounding out their own unique calls which their sheep recognize. As a result, the sheep gather around the shepherd.“ He calls his own sheep by name.” This shepherd goes even further by calling each sheep by its own special name (see 3 John 15). Jesus’ point is that He comes to the fold of Israel and calls out His own sheep individually to come into His own messianic fold. The assumption is that they are already in some way His sheep even before He calls them by name (vv. 25–27; 6:37, 39, 44, 64, 65; 17:6, 9, 24; 18:9).

Unlike Western shepherds who drive the sheep from the side or behind, often using sheep dogs, Near Eastern shepherds lead their flocks, their voice calling them to move on (vv. 4, 5). This draws a remarkable picture of the master/disciple relationship. New Testament spiritual leadership is always by example, i.e., a call to imitate conduct (1 Tim. 4:121 Pet. 5:1–3).

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The Problem of Spiritual Debt

“‘“And forgive us our debts”’” (Matthew 6:12).

Sin dominates the hearts and minds of lost men and women, separates them from God, and is therefore their greatest enemy and problem. It is the common denominator for every crime, immorality, pain, and sorrow—and there is no natural cure: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer. 13:23). The natural individual does not even want his or her sin cured (John 3:19).

If sin is our greatest problem, our greatest need is the forgiveness God provides. Though forgiven from sin’s ultimate penalty (cf. Rom. 8:1), believers need God’s constant forgiveness for sins they still commit. The apostle John cautions us, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8–9).

Jesus’ act of washing the apostles’ feet (John 13:5–11) is more than a picture of humility; it also portrays God’s repeated, cleansing forgiveness to His disciples. The forgiveness that secures our saving position in Christ at regeneration does not need repeating; but we need God’s practical forgiveness every day to cleanse us from sin’s contamination as we live in this world. Out of God’s vast heart of forgiveness He is ever willing to continually pardon His children (cf. Neh. 9:17Rom. 5:20).

Ask Yourself

There are probably a small number of things in your life that are clearly in violation of what you know to be right—things that are top-of-mind as you consider again the depths of our sin and our need for God’s forgiveness. Deal with these in prayer today as you repent before the Father and receive His promised mercy.


From Terrorism to Discipleship (Simon the Zealot)

The twelve apostles included "Simon the Zealot" (Matt. 10:4).

Even people of vastly different backgrounds can minister together for Christ.

During the time between the Old and New Testaments, a fiery revolutionary named Judas Maccabaeus led the Jewish people in a revolt against Greek influences on their nation and religion. The spirit of that movement was captured in this statement from the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees: "Be ye zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant" (1 Maccabees 2:50). That group of politically-oriented, self-appointed guardians of Judaism later became known as the Zealots.

During the New Testament period, Zealots conducted terrorist activities against Rome in an effort to free Israel from Roman oppression. Their activities finally prompted Rome to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and slaughter people in 985 Galilean towns.

After the destruction of Jerusalem, the few remaining Zealots banded together under the leadership of a man named Eleazar. Their headquarters was at a retreat called Masada. When the Romans laid seige to Masada and the Zealots knew defeat was imminent, they chose to kill their own families and commit suicide themselves rather than face death at the hands of the Romans. It was a tragedy of monumental proportions, but such was the depth of their fiery zeal for Judaism and their hatred for their political enemies.

Before coming to Christ, Simon was a Zealot. Even as a believer, he must have retained much of his zeal, redirecting it in a godly direction. We can only imagine the passion with which he approached the ministry, having finally found a leader and cause that transcended anything Judaism and political activism could ever offer.

It's amazing to realize that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax-gatherer ministered together. Under normal circumstances Simon would have killed a traitor like Matthew. But Christ broke through their differences, taught them to love each other, and used them for His glory.

Perhaps you know believers who come from totally different backgrounds than yours. Do you have trouble getting along with any of them? If so, why? How can you begin to mend your differences? Be encouraged by the transformation Christ worked in Simon and Matthew, and follow their example.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray for the people in your church, asking the Lord to give everyone a spirit of unity.

For Further Study

According to Romans 12:9-21, what attitudes should you have toward others?


Reading for Today:


1 Kings 1:5 Adonijah. Adonijah was the fourth son of David (2 Sam. 3:4) and probably the oldest living son, since Amnon (2 Sam. 13:28,29) and Absalom (2 Sam. 18:14,15) had been killed, and Chileab apparently died in his  youth, since there is no mention of him beyond his birth. As David’s oldest surviving heir, Adonijah attempted to claim the kingship. chariots and horsemen. Like Absalom (2 Sam. 15:1), Adonijah sought to confirm and support his claim to kingship by raising a small army.

1 Kings 1:13 Did you not…swear…? This oath was given privately (unrecorded in Scripture) by David, perhaps to both Nathan and Bathsheba. Solomon’s choice by the Lord was implicit in his name Jedidiah, meaning “loved by the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:24,25) and explicit in David’s declaration to Solomon (1 Chr. 22:6–13).

1 Kings 2:4 His word. The unconditional Davidic covenant was made by God with David in 2 Samuel 7:4–17 and confirmed to Solomon in 1 Kings 9:5, promising the perpetuation of the Davidic dynasty over Israel. If your sons take heed to their way. David declared that the king’s obedience to the Law of Moses was a necessary condition for the fulfillment of divine promise. The Book of Kings demonstrates that none of the descendants of David remained faithful to God’s law; none of them met the conditions for the fulfillment of the divine promise. Rather, David’s words provided a basis for explaining the Exile. Thus, the ultimate and final King of Israel would appear at a later, undesignated time.

John 9:35 Do you believe…? Jesus invited the man to put his trust in Him as the One who revealed God to man. Jesus placed great emphasis on public acknowledgment of who He was and confession of faith in Him (Matt. 10:32Luke 12:8). Son of God. This should be Son of Man (see 1:513:13, 14; 5:276:27, 53, 62; 8:28).

John 9:41 your sin remains. Jesus had particular reference to the sin of unbelief and rejection of Him as Messiah and Son of God. If they knew their lostness and darkness and cried out for spiritual light, they would no longer be guilty of the sin of unbelief in Christ. But satisfied that their darkness was light and continuing in rejection of Christ, their sin remained. 

DAY 27: How did the simple logic of the healed man outwit the religious authorities? 

In John 9, the religious authorites wanted the man to own up and admit the truth that Jesus was a sinner because He violated their traditions and threatened their influence (see Josh.7:19). “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner” (v. 24). Enough unanimity existed among the religious authorities to conclude that Jesus was a sinner (8:46). Because of this already predetermined opinion, they refused to accept any of the testimony that a miracle had actually taken place.

In order to forcefully emphasize their hypocrisy, the healed man resorted to biting sarcasm when he suggested they desired to be Jesus’ disciples (v. 27).

“You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples” (v. 28). At this point, the meeting degenerated into a shouting match of insults. The healed man’s wit had exposed the bias of his inquisitors. As far as the authorities were concerned, the conflict between Jesus and Moses was irreconcilable. If the healed man defended Jesus, then such defense could only mean that he was Jesus’ disciple.

In vv. 30–33, the healed man demonstrated more spiritual insight and common sense than all of the religious authorities combined who sat in judgment of Jesus and him. His penetrating wit focused in on their intractable unbelief. His logic was that such an extraordinary miracle could only indicate that Jesus was from God, for the Jews believed that God responds in proportion to the righteousness of the one praying (Job 27:935:13Pss. 66:18109:7Prov. 15:29Is. 1:15; see 14:13,14; 16:23–27; 1 John 3:21,22). The greatness of the miracle could only indicate that Jesus was actually from God.

“You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (v. 34). The Pharisees were incensed with the man, and their anger prevented them from seeing the penetrating insight that the uneducated healed man had demonstrated. The phrase also revealed their ignorance of Scripture, for the Old Testament indicated that the coming messianic age would be evidenced by restoration of sight to the blind (Is. 29:1835:542:7;Matt. 11:45Luke 4:1819).

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Paul: Joy in Spite of Detractors

“Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).

It is possible to maintain your joy even while dealing with criticisms and irritating distractions.

The dictionary definition of detraction is “the uttering of material (as false or slanderous charges) that is likely to damage the reputation of another.” A detractor wants to undermine and destroy the good name and credibility of another. Great statesmen, such as President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, often have been the targets of contentious political opponents and stinging detractions by the press.

For the church, the most difficult criticism has arisen from within, from false professors who once claimed to support it and its leaders. Paul came to know the disappointment and distress of being torn down when his detractors at Philippi assailed him even while he sat in prison. But he is a model of how one can rise above such pain and discouragement.

Paul’s main detractors (Phil. 1:15) were his fellow preachers who proclaimed the same gospel as he did. They were not at odds with him over doctrine but over personal matters. Paul’s detractors were envious of his ministry gifts and the way God had blessed his efforts with many converts and numerous churches.

Contending with the detractors at Philippi was not a completely new trial for Paul. He had previously learned patience in dealing with the letdowns caused by other supposed supporters (see 2 Tim. 1:154:16). Now his opponents were testing his patience to the extreme as they sought to destroy his credibility with his supporters.

The detractors’ tactics might have unsettled the faith of some in the churches, but not Paul’s confidence. He stood up to all the unpleasantness with joy because, as our verse indicates, he knew the cause of Christ was still being advanced.

Paul’s exemplary behavior under fire provides an obvious lesson for us: no amount of false and unfair criticism should steal our joy in Christ and His gospel. And we can keep rejoicing if we, like Paul, stay devoted to our top priority, proclaiming and glorifying the name of Christ.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that the gospel and its power are strong enough to overcome any amount of jealous detraction. Pray that you would stay focused on gospel priorities.

For Further Study

Read Nehemiah 4—6.

  • How did Nehemiah deal with the detractors to his work?
  • What was the eventual outcome (6:16)?


Receiving Christ's Word (Thaddaeus)

The twelve apostles included "Thaddaeus" (Matt. 10:3).

If you love Christ, you will receive His Word and obey it.

Radio signals are fascinating. At any given moment every room in your house is filled with voices, music, and numerous other sounds—yet you can't hear them unless your radio is tuned to their frequency. That's a modern parallel to a spiritual truth Jesus taught in John 14:21, where He says, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him." In effect Jesus was saying, "I reveal Myself to those who love Me—those whose spiritual receivers are tuned to My frequency. They receive My Word and obey it."

In the biblical record Thaddaeus is a man of few words. His question in John 14:22 is the only thing he ever said that is recorded in Scripture. It was prompted by his perplexity over Jesus' statement in verse 21 to disclose Himself only to those who love Him. Thaddaeus asked, "Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?"

Thaddaeus didn't understand Christ's statement because it wasn't consistent with his concept of the Messiah. Like the other disciples, he expected Jesus imminently to vanquish Roman oppression, free God's people, and establish an earthly kingdom wherein He would sit on the throne of David, reigning as Lord and Savior. How could He do that without revealing who He was to everyone?

In verse 23 Jesus responds by reiterating that only those who love Him will be able to perceive Him, and they are the ones within whom He and the Father would dwell.

That brief conversation between the Lord and Thaddaeus addresses the very heart of Christianity. It isn't those who say they love God who are true believers, but those who receive Christ and obey His Word. As Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word" (v. 23).

Does obedience to the Word characterize your life? I pray it does. Remember, your obedience to Christ is the measure of your love for Him.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for His Word, by which the Spirit instructs and empowers you to live an obedient life.

For Further Study

Read John 8:31-47.

  • To whom was Jesus speaking?
  • Why were they seeking to kill Him?
  • How did Jesus characterize the devil?


Asking for God’s Provision

“‘“Give us this day our daily bread”’” (Matthew 6:11).

“Give” reminds us of our need to ask God for His provision. In recognition of His past and present provision we ask Him, and trust for His future furnishing of all our needs. We can ask confidently because God has richly promised. “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. . . . The humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity” (Ps. 37:411). God does not pledge to always meet the physical needs of everybody, but only of those who trust in Him. In Psalm 37:25, David is speaking about believers when he says, “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.”

It is clear that the “us” who can expect provision from the Father are believers. Paul echoes the same principle: “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9:10–11; cf. Luke 18:29–30).

God mercifully supplies our needs daily, meaning simply our ordinary, day-by-day provision of food, clothing, money, etc. The primary means by which we receive these things is through work, but isn’t it the Lord who provides even the strength for that? To accept God’s provision for today without undue concern for tomorrow is a testimony of our godly contentment (cf. Matt. 6:2532–33).

Ask Yourself

If the supply we have today isn’t satisfying to us and doesn’t seem like enough, is the problem with our Supplier or with our own measure of demand? Pray for a humble willingness to be thankful for every blessing, without focusing on the ones He seems to be withholding.


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 24:1 Again. A second outbreak of the divine wrath occurred after the 3-year famine recorded in 21:1. against Israel. The inciting of David to conduct a census was a punishment on Israel from the Lord for some unspecified sins. Perhaps sins of pride and ambition had led him to increase the size of his army unnecessarily and place heavy burdens of support on the people. Whatever the sin, it is clear God was dissatisfied with David’s motives, goals, and actions and brought judgment. He moved David. Satan incited David to take this census, and the Lord sovereignly and permissively used Satan to accomplish His will (1 Chr. 21:1). number Israel and Judah. A census was usually for military purposes, which seems to be the case here (v. 9). Numbering the potential army of Israel had been done in the past (Num. 1:1226:1–4). However, this census of Israel’s potential army did not have the sanction of the Lord and proceeded from wrong motives. David either wanted to glory in the size of his fighting force or take more territory than what the Lord had granted him. He shifted his trust from God to military power (this is a constant theme in the Psalms; see 20:7; 25:2; 44:6).

John 9:2 who sinned. While sin may be a cause of suffering, as clearly indicated in Scripture (5:14; Num. 12; 1 Cor. 11:30James 5:15), it is not always the case necessarily (see Job; 2 Cor. 12:7Gal. 4:13). The disciples assumed, like most Palestinians of their day, that sin was the primary, if not exclusive, cause of all suffering. In this instance, however, Jesus made it clear that personal sin was not the reason for the blindness (v. 3).

John 9:3 Jesus did not deny the general connection between sin and suffering, but refuted the idea that personal acts of sin were the direct cause. God’s sovereignty and purposes play a part in such matters, as is clear from Job 1 and 2.

John 9:17 He is a prophet. While the blind man saw clearly that Jesus was more than a mere man, the sighted but obstinate Pharisees were spiritually blind to that truth (v. 39). Blindness in the Bible is a metaphor for spiritual darkness, i.e., inability to discern God or His truth (2 Cor. 4:3–6Col. 1:12–14).

What does the healing of the blind man in John 9 teach us about unbelief?

In ancient times, severe physical deformities, such as congenital blindness (vv. 8, 9), sentenced a person to begging as the only means of support (Acts 3:1–7). The drastic change in the healed man caused many to faithlessly believe that he was not the person born blind.

If you read through vv. 13–34, this section in the story of the healing of the blind man reveals some key characteristics of willful unbelief: 1) unbelief sets false standards; 2) unbelief always wants more evidence but never has enough; 3) unbelief does biased research on a purely subjective basis; 4) unbelief rejects the facts; and 5) unbelief is self-centered. John included this section on the dialogue of the Pharisees with the blind man most likely for two reasons: 1) the dialogue carefully demonstrates the character of willful and fixed unbelief, and 2) the story confirms the first great schism between the synagogue and Christ’s new followers. The blind man was the first known person thrown out of the synagogue because he chose to follow Christ (see 16:1–3).

Even though the neighbors had confirmed that the man had in fact been blind (v. 9), that was not evidence enough. So the authorities called the parents (v. 18). While neighbors may have been mistaken as to the man’s identity, the parents would know if this was their own son. And the authorities considered the witness of the healed man worthless.

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Paul: Joy in Spite of Trouble

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

The apostle Paul was a model believer who did not let his troubles steal His joy in the Lord.

According to today’s verse, believers should never let a negative outlook replace our joy, no matter how bad life seems to be. The apostle Paul set an example that was far different. He wrote to the Philippians that in spite of being imprisoned in Rome, he was still rejoicing. Even though Paul was restricted under trying and harsh conditions, he was glad because the gospel message was being declared, even among the prison guards. Paul was not so concerned about his own hardships but that others hear the saving good news of Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 9:16).

Paul saw himself as a prisoner for the sake of Christ and the gospel. Therefore, he never gave in to any temptation to indulge in self-pity but rather focused on his duty of telling others about his Lord and Savior. Some of Paul’s other letters also mention his imprisonment (see Eph. 3:1Col. 4:10) but always positively, because the apostle never forgot that being a prisoner was merely part of the role he was called to as an ambassador for God’s kingdom.

Paul’s Roman imprisonment resulted in his joyful attitude extending out in evangelism: “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well-known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else” (Phil. 1:13). However, Paul’s ultimate impact on the guards and others was not just from his outward expressions of happiness. Rather, those who heard him were changed because they saw an attitude of joy and a message of truth deeply fixed in a man experiencing great trials and afflictions.

What a profound example Paul is for you and me today. For instance, we can make difficult witnessing opportunities easier by exhibiting Christlikeness and godly joy no matter how events are pressing us down. Such attitudes, so different from what people naturally expect, will give us many chances to testify of God’s grace (see 1 Peter 3:15).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask the Lord to help you look above and beyond your problems and focus on what He has done for you.

For Further Study

A very striking example of Paul’s rejoicing in the midst of suffering happened at the Philippian dungeon. Read Acts 16:22-34. What did he and Silas do to make the best of that trial?


Living Courageously (Thaddaeus)

The twelve apostles included "Thaddaeus" (Matt. 10:3).

Victorious Christian living requires great courage.

Thaddaeus was a man of many identities. In the King James translation of Matthew 10:3 he is called "Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus." He is also called "Judas the son of James" (Luke 6:16Acts 1:13) and "Judas (not Iscariot)" (John 14:22).

Judas, which means "Jehovah leads," was probably the name given him at birth, with Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus added later as nicknames to reflect his character. Apparently Thaddaeus was the nickname given to him by his family. It comes from a Hebrew root word that refers to the female breast. Basically it means a "breast-child." Perhaps Thaddaeus was the youngest child in the family or especially dear to his mother. Lebbaeus comes from a Hebrew root that means "heart." Literally it means a "heart-child," and speaks of someone who is courageous. That nickname was likely given him by his friends, who saw him as a man of boldness and courage.

Early church tradition tells us that Thaddaeus was tremendously gifted with the power of God to heal the sick. It is said that a certain Syrian king named Adgar was very ill and sent for Thaddaeus to come and heal him. On his way to the king, Thaddaeus reportedly healed hundreds of people throughout Syria. When he finally reached the king, he healed him then preached Christ to him. As a result, the king became a Christian. The country, however, was thrown into chaos, and a vengeful nephew of the king had Thaddaeus imprisoned then beaten to death with a club. If that tradition is true, it confirms that Thaddaeus was a man of great courage.

It takes courage to die for Christ but it also takes courage to live for Him. That's why Paul said that God hasn't given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline (2 Tim. 1:7). Each day trust in God's promises and rely on His Spirit. That's how you can face each new challenge with courage and confidence.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the courage He has given you in the past and ask Him to help you face future spiritual battles without retreat or compromise.

For Further Study

Read Daniel 3:1-30.

  • Why were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego punished by King Nebuchadnezzar?
  • How did God honor their courage?


The True Source of Bread

“‘“Give us this day our daily bread”’” (Matthew 6:11).

Jesus’ reference to “bread” not only signifies food but all of our physical needs. It is amazing that the self-sufficient, infinite God of the universe would care about our physical needs—that we have enough food, clothing, shelter—and then pledge to supply those needs. Thus God is the only source of our daily bread.

When everything is going well in life, we tend to think we are managing it all ourselves. Yet even the hardest-working person owes all he or she earns to the Lord’s gracious provision (see Deut. 8:18Acts 17:24–28). God provided for humanity even before He created Adam and Eve. They were His final creation, and one of the first things He said to them was, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Gen. 1:29). God has fulfilled this statement abundantly and in unlimited ways ever since.

Yet Paul teaches that in the latter days some will “advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:3). But the apostle reminds us “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected” (v. 4).

This part of the Lord’s Prayer is an affirmation—appropriate for the well-fed and those who have little. By it we can thank God that every good thing comes from His gracious hand (James 1:17).

Ask Yourself

What are some of the more mundane, ordinary, forgettable things you not only can ask God for today, but can also transform into a prayer of gratitude? How can you make this refresher course in God’s gracious gifts become a more regular part of your conscious thoughts and prayers?


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 21:1, 2 Saul and his bloodthirsty house. By divine revelation David learned that the famine was a result of sin committed by Saul; namely, that he had slain the Gibeonites. There is no further reference to this  event. Saul was probably trying to do as God commanded and rid the land of the remnant of heathen in order that Israel might prosper (v. 2). But in his zeal he had committed a serious sin. He had broken a covenant that had been made 400 years before between Joshua and the Gibeonites, who were in the land when Israel took possession of it. They deceived Joshua into making the covenant, but it was, nevertheless, a covenant (Josh.9:3–27). Covenant keeping was no small matter to God (Josh. 9:20).

2 Samuel 22:1–51 David’s song of praise here is almost identical to Psalm 18.This song also has many verbal links to Hannah’s prayer (1 Sam. 2:1–10) and together with it forms the framework for the books of Samuel. This song focuses on the Lord’s deliverance of David from all his enemies, in response to which David praised the Lord, his deliverer (vv. 2–4). The major part of the song (vv. 5–46) states the reason for this praise of the Lord. David first describes how the Lord had delivered him from his enemies (vv. 5–20), then declares why the Lord had delivered him from his enemies (vv. 21–28), then states the extent of the Lord’s deliverance from his enemies (vv. 29–46). The song concludes with David’s resolve to praise his delivering Lord, even among the Gentiles (vv. 47–51).

John 8:39 If you were Abraham’s children. The construction of this phrase indicates that Jesus was denying that mere physical lineage was sufficient for salvation (Phil. 3:4–9). The sense would be “if you were Abraham’s children, but you are not, then you would act like Abraham did.” Just as children inherit genetic characteristics from their parents, so also those who are truly Abraham’s offspring will act like Abraham, i.e., imitate Abraham’s faith and obedience (Rom. 4:16Gal. 3:6–9Heb. 11:8–19James 2:21–24). works of Abraham. Abraham’s faith was demonstrated through his obedience to God (James 2:21–24). Jesus’ point was that the conduct of the unbelieving Jews was diametrically opposed by the conduct of Abraham, who lived a life of obedience to all that God had commanded. Their conduct toward Jesus demonstrated that their real father was Satan (vv. 41, 44).

John 8:58 Most assuredly…I AM. Here Jesus declared Himself to be Yahweh, i.e., the Lord of the Old Testament. Basic to the expression are such passages as Exodus 3:14Deuteronomy 32:39Isaiah 41:443:10, where God declared Himself to be the eternally preexistent God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament to the Jews. 

DAY 25: What are the steps toward true Christian discipleship?

John 8:31–36 is a pivotal section of Scripture in understanding genuine salvation and true discipleship. John emphasized these realities by stressing truth and freedom. The focus in the passage is upon those who were exercising the beginnings of faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. Jesus desired them to move on in their faith. Saving faith is not fickle but firm and settled. Such maturity expresses itself in full commitment to the truth in Jesus Christ resulting in genuine freedom.

The first step in the progress toward true discipleship is belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Son of God (v. 31).“ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” reveals the second step in the progress toward true discipleship. Perseverance in obedience to Scripture (Matt. 28:1920) is the fruit or evidence of genuine faith (Eph. 2:10). The word “abide” means to habitually abide in Jesus’ words. A genuine believer holds fast, obeys, and practices Jesus’ teaching. The one who continues in His teaching has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9Heb. 3:14Rev. 2:26). Real disciples are both learners (the basic meaning of the word) and faithful followers.

“The truth” (v. 32) has reference not only to the facts surrounding Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God but also to the teaching that He brought. A genuinely saved and obedient follower of the Lord Jesus will know divine truth and both freedom from sin (v. 34) and the search for reality. This divine truth comes not merely by intellectual assent (1 Cor. 2:14) but by saving commitment to Christ (Titus 1:12).

“Whoever commits sin” (v. 34).The kind of slavery that Jesus had in mind was not physical slavery but slavery to sin (Rom. 6:17,18). The idea of “commits sin” means to practice sin habitually (1 John 3:489). The ultimate bondage is not political or economic enslavement but spiritual bondage to sin and rebellion against God. Thus, this also explains why Jesus would not let Himself be reduced to merely a political Messiah (6:14, 15).

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Stephen: Godliness in Suffering

“But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

Because Stephen was so consistently Spirit-filled, it was natural for him to react in a godly way to persecution and death.

The cliché “Garbage in, garbage out” provides a good clue to the essence of the Spirit-filled Christian life. Just as computers respond according to their programming, we respond to what fills our minds. If we allow the Holy Spirit to program our thought patterns, we’ll be controlled and renewed by Him and live godly lives. And that’s exactly how Stephen consistently and daily lived his life.

The expression “being full” is from a Greek verb (pleroo) that literally means “being kept full.” Stephen was continuously filled with the Holy Spirit during his entire Christian life. This previewed Paul’s directive in Ephesians 5:18, “but be filled with the Spirit.” These words don’t mean believers are to have some strange mystical experience, but simply that their lives ought to be fully controlled by God’s Spirit.

Stephen gave evidence of his Spirit-filled godliness as He was about to die from stoning. Acts 7:55-56 says he looked to Jesus and let his adversaries and any witnesses know that he saw Christ standing at the right hand of God. Stephen did not focus on his difficult situation but fixed his heart on the Lord, which is what all believers must do: “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2).

Stephen’s spiritual sight was incredible and enabled him to see the risen Christ and be certain of his welcome into Heaven the moment he died. We won’t have that kind of vision while we’re still on earth, but if we are constantly Spirit-filled like Stephen, we will always see Jesus by faith and realize His complete presence during the most trying times (John 14:26-27Heb. 13:5-6).

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that God would direct your mind away from mundane distractions and toward Him throughout this day.

For Further Study

Stephen established a magnificent pattern during his short ministry in Acts 6. Read that chapter, and jot down several positive things you see about how he did things.


Saluting an Unknown Soldier (James, Son of Alphaeus)

The twelve apostles included "James the son of Alphaeus" (Matt. 10:3).

God often uses ordinary people to accomplish great things.

Like most Christians, James the son of Alphaeus is an unknown and unsung soldier of the cross. His distinguishing characteristic is obscurity. Nothing he did or said is recorded in Scripture—only his name.

In Mark 15:40 he is called "James the Less," which literally means "Little James." That could refer to his stature (he might have been short), his age (he might have been younger than James the son of Zebedee), or his influence (he might have had relatively little influence among the disciples).

In Mark 2:14 Matthew (Levi) is called the son of Alphaeus. Alphaeus was a common name, but it's possible that James and Matthew were brothers, since their fathers had the same first name. Also, James's mother is mentioned in Mark 15:40 as being present at Christ's crucifixion, along with other women. She is referred to as the wife of Clopas in John 19:25. Since Clopas was a form of Alphaeus, that further supports the possibility that James and Matthew were related.

From those references we might conclude that James was a small young man whose personality was not particularly powerful. If he was Matthew's brother, perhaps he was as humble as Matthew, willing to serve the Lord without any applause or notice. Whichever the case, be encouraged that God uses obscure people like James, and rewards them accordingly. Someday James will sit on a throne in Christ's millennial kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of Israel—just like the other more prominent disciples (Luke 22:30).

No matter how obscure or prominent you are from a human perspective, God can use you and will reward you with a glorious eternal inheritance.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for all those people unknown to you whom He has used to shape your life for His glory.
  • Seek to be more like James, serving Christ faithfully without applause or glory.

For Further Study

  • Read Luke 9:23-25. What did Jesus say is necessary to be His disciple?
  • Read Luke 9:57-62. What were those men unwilling to give up to follow Christ?


May 24 - Three Aspects of the Divine Will

“‘“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”’” (Matthew 6:10).

God’s Word reveals three aspects of His will. First is His will of purpose—His sovereign, ultimate plan for the universe. “Surely, just as I [God] have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (Isa. 14:24; cf. Eph. 1:9–11). It has been within God’s purpose to allow sin to affect the world for a time. But that situation will end precisely according to His plan and foreknowledge.

Within God’s will of purpose is His will of desire. This will is more specific but not always fulfilled in the present age. For example, Jesus desired His people, the Jews, to be saved. However, only a relative few believed in His message. Jesus prayed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together … and you would not have it!” (Luke 13:34). Like the Jews, most Gentiles are also unwilling to come to Christ for salvation (John 5:40; cf. 1 Tim. 2:42 Peter 3:9).

Third is God’s will of command, which is His desire that believers obey Him fully, as only they of all people can, with the help of the Spirit (see Rom. 6:16–18). Pride is the great enemy set against all of God’s will. But for us to obey His will, we must forsake self-will and “prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2; see also v. 1).

Ask Yourself

Understanding the many-layered aspects of God’s will is not nearly as important as being obedient to every aspect you do know. Don’t you long for His purpose, desire, and command to be met with full acceptance in your own life? Submit to Him in some new way today. Conform to His will.


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 19:7 not one will stay with you. Joab, who was the esteemed general of the army, was a dangerous person because of that power. He was also dangerous to David because he had disobeyed his command to spare Absalom and killed him with no remorse. When he warned David that he would be in deep trouble if he did not immediately express appreciation to his men for their victory, David knew he could be in serious danger.

2 Samuel 19:13 Amasa…commander of the army…in place of Joab. David appointed Amasa commander of his army, hoping to secure the allegiance of those who had followed Amasa when he led Absalom’s forces, especially those of Judah. This appointment did persuade the tribe of Judah to support David’s return to thekingship (v. 14) and secured the animosity of Joab against Amasa for taking his position (20:8–10).

2 Samuel 20:11 one of Joab’s men. Joab was reinstated as commander of David’s army by his troops. It is a striking illustration of Joab’s influence over the army that he could murder the commander whom David had chosen, a killing right before their eyes, and they would follow him unanimously as their leader in pursuit of Sheba.

Proverbs 16:33 lot. Casting lots was a method often used to reveal God’s purposes in a matter (Josh. 14:121 Sam.14:38–431 Chr. 25:8–31Jon. 1:7Acts 1:26). The high priest may have carried lots in his sacred vest, along with the Urim and Thummim (Ex. 28:30).

John 8:24 if you do not believe. Jesus emphasized that the fatal, unforgivable, and eternal sin is failure to believe in Him as Messiah and Son of God. In truth, all other sins can be forgiven if this one is repented of. I am He. He” is not part of the original statement. Jesus’ words were not constructed normally but were influenced by Old Testament Hebrew usage. It is an absolute usage meaning “I AM” and has immense theological significance. The reference may be to both Exodus 3:14 where the Lord declared His name as “I AM” and to Isaiah 40–55 where the phrase “I am” occurs repeatedly (especially 43:10, 13, 25; 46:4; 48:12). In this, Jesus referred to Himself as the God (Yahweh—the LORD) of the Old Testament and directly claimed full Deity for Himself, prompting the Jews’ question of v. 25.

DAY 24: How is Jesus the light of the world?

In John 8:12–21,the word “again” indicates that Jesus spoke once more to the people at this same Feast of Tabernacles (7:2,10). While Jesus first used the water-drawing rite (7:37–39) as a metaphor to portray the ultimate spiritual truth of Himself as Messiah who fulfills all that the feast anticipated, He then turned to another rite that traditionally occurred at the feast: the lighting ceremony. During Tabernacles, 4 large lamps in the temple’s court of women were lit and an exuberant nightly celebration took place under their light with people dancing through the night and holding burning torches in their hands while singing songs and praises. The Levitical orchestras also played.

Jesus took this opportunity of the lighting celebration to portray another spiritual analogy for the people: “I am the light of the world” (v. 12). This is the second “I AM” statement (6:35). John has already used the “light” metaphor for Jesus (1:4). Jesus’ metaphor here is steeped in Old Testament allusions (Ex. 13:21,2214:19–25Pss. 27:1119:105Prov. 6:23Ezek. 1:4,13,26–28Hab. 3:3,4). The phrase highlights Jesus’ role as Messiah and Son of God (Ps. 27:1Mal. 4:2).The Old Testament indicates that the coming age of Messiah would be a time when the Lord would be a light for His people (Is. 60:19–22; see Rev. 21:2324), as well as for the whole earth (Is. 42:649:6). Zechariah 14:5b–8 has an emphasis on God as the light of the world who gives living waters to His people. This latter passage probably formed the liturgical readings for the Feast of Tabernacles.

“He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” The word “follows” conveys the idea of someone who gives himself completely to the person followed. No half-hearted followers exist in Jesus’ mind (Matt. 8:18–2210:3839). A veiled reference exists here to the Jews, following the pillar of cloud and fire that led them during the Exodus (Ex. 13:21).

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Stephen: Grace and Serenity in Suffering. 

“And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5).

Stephen’s excellent character teaches us much about responding to suffering and death.

Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is one of the most inspiring biblical examples of faithfulness in life and ministry. But his personal excellence shines forth most through the familiar account of his death by stoning.

As one of the first deacons in the church, Stephen was recognized early on as a man of great faith and spirituality (Acts 6:5). And a few verses later Luke describes him as “full of grace and power” (v. 8). That was a grace of loving-kindness toward others, which he displayed in a most powerful way just before his death.

In Acts 7:60, as the Jews were pelting him with rocks, Stephen was able to look up to Heaven and say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” That kind of faith-filled, grace-filled reaction to those who were hatefully killing him was possible only because Stephen believed in God’s sovereign control over his life and death.

At the very start of his encounter, Stephen manifested another amazing response to his horribly unjust treatment: his enemies “saw his face like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). It’s impossible for us to know precisely what such an expression would have been like, but it denoted a supernatural tranquility and joy that comes from being enveloped by the Lord’s glorious presence. Stephen’s awesome expression must have been an extremely forceful rebuke to the Jewish leaders who claimed to know God.

The typical reaction from many of us in the same situation would have been to exhibit much anxiety, stress, and anger. But Stephen demonstrated no such response. Instead, he is a role model for how any believer ought to behave during the most challenging trial. He had more than adequate grace to cope well in every circumstance (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9James 4:6), which is true of all genuine Christians—those “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for Christian friends who are role models to you. Pray that your behavior today would be special and Spirit-filled, not ordinary and man-centered.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 33:7-1117-2334:29-35. What does Moses’ experience reveal about the power of God’s glory?


Marveling at God's Forgiveness (Matthew)

The twelve apostles included "Matthew the tax-gatherer" (Matt. 10:3).

Never lose your sense of awe over Christ’s forgiveness.

Matthew describes himself as "Matthew the tax-gatherer" (Matt. 10:3). He is the only apostle whose name is associated with an occupation. Apparently Matthew never forgot what he had been saved from, and never lost his sense of awe and unworthiness over Christ's forgiveness.

This is how he set the scene of his own conversion: Matthew 9:1-8 tells us Jesus forgave the sins of a paralytic man and then healed him of his paralysis. When the Jewish scribes accused Him of blasphemy for claiming to have the authority to forgive sins, He said to them, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'?" He wanted them to know His miracles testified of His deity. As God, He could as easily forgive sins as He could heal diseases.

Immediately after that account, Matthew gave the account of his own call. It's as if he wanted his own salvation to serve as an illustration of Christ's ability to forgive even the vilest of sinners. Matthew 9:9 says, "As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man, called Matthew, sitting in the tax office; and He said to him, 'Follow Me!' And he rose, and followed Him."

When the Pharisees questioned Jesus's practice of associating with tax-gatherers, He said to them, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. . . . I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (vv. 12-13). The Pharisees were sick with sin but thought they were healthy. Matthew and his associates knew they were sinners who needed a Savior.

Do you share Matthew's humility and sense of awe at receiving Christ's precious gift of forgiveness? I pray that you do and that you are continually praising Him for it.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the wonder of forgiveness.
  • If you have lost your sense of awe over God's forgiveness, perhaps you're taking His grace for granted. Confess your apathy and ask Him to give you a deep appreciation for the enormous price He paid for your salvation.

For Further Study

As a reminder of what Christ endured for you, read Matthew 26:17—27:56, which chronicles the events of His betrayal and crucifixion.


Right Understanding of God’s Will

“‘“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”’” (Matthew 6:10).

To understand God’s will rightly, we need an attitude of righteous rebellion. If we would pray that God accomplishes His will, we must reject the notion that sin is normal and therefore we must accept it. Instead we must righteously rebel against the world’s ungodliness, its unbelief of Jesus Christ, and believers’ disobedience. Not to do this is to abandon key biblical teachings and accept powerlessness in prayer.

Jesus was not resigned to the spiritual status quo—He preached and acted against sin. When Jewish leaders profaned God’s house, “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business’” (John 2:15–16).

We further must rebel against the idea that wickedness and corruption is somehow God’s will that we must passively accept. Nothing evil comes from God’s hand, but only from Satan’s. To ask that righteousness and God’s will be done oftentimes means we have to pray for Satan’s will to be undone (cf. Ps. 68:1Rev. 6:10).

To pray with a right understanding of God’s will is to pray believing that He hears and answers our prayers. Lack of such faith is one of our greatest hindrances to effective praying.

Ask Yourself

Yes, to pray for God’s will to be done on earth, we must first make sure it is being done in us. What are some aspects of God’s will that are going unheeded in your own heart, even though they are far from mysterious, very clearly laid out in Scripture? Make this your prayer today—that His will would be done in you.


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 17:7–13 Providentially, the Lord took control of the situation through the counsel of Hushai (15:32) who advised Absalom in such a way as to give David time to prepare for war with Absalom. Hushai’s plan seemed best to the elders. It had two features: 1) the need for an army larger than 12,000 (v. 1), so that Absalom would not lose, and 2) the king leading the army into battle (an appeal to Absalom’s arrogance).

2 Samuel 17:14 the LORD had purposed. The text notes that Ahithophel’s advice was rejected by Absalom because the Lord had determined to defeat the rebellion of Absalom, as prayed for by David (15:31). God’s providence was controlling all the intrigues among the usurper’s counselors.

2 Samuel 18:33 my son. Repeated 5 times in this verse, David lamented the death of Absalom, his son (19:5). In spite of all the harm that Absalom had caused, David was preoccupied with his personal loss in a melancholy way that seems to be consistent with his weakness as a father. It was an unwarranted zeal for such a worthless son and a warning about the pitiful results of sin.

John 7:31 many…believed. Divided conviction existed among the people regarding Jesus. While some wanted to seize Him, a small remnant of genuine believers existed among the crowds. The question here anticipates a negative answer, i.e., the Messiah could do no greater kinds of miracles than those Jesus had done.

John 7:37–52 This section catalogues the different reactions of people to Jesus’ claims. These reactions have become universal patterns for reactions to Him through the ages. This section may be divided into the claim of Christ (vv. 37–39) and the reactions to Christ (vv. 40–52). The reactions may be subdivided into 5 sections: 1) the reaction of the convinced (vv. 40,41a); 2) the reaction of the contrary (vv. 41b,42); 3) the reaction of the hostile (vv. 43, 44); 4) the rejection of the confused (vv. 45, 46); and 5) the reaction of the religious authorities (vv. 47–52).

DAY 23: What does the “living water” have to do with Jesus?

A tradition grew up in the few centuries before Jesus that on the 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles, a golden container filled with water from the pool of Siloam was carried in procession by the high priest back to the temple. As the procession came to the Watergate on the south side of the inner temple court, 3 trumpet blasts were made to mark the joy of the occasion and the people recited Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” At the temple, while onlookers watched, the priests would march around the altar with the water container while the temple choir sang the Hallel (Pss. 113–118).The water was offered in sacrifice to God at the time of the morning sacrifice. The use of the water symbolized the blessing of adequate rainfall for crops.

In John 7:37, Jesus used this event as an object lesson and opportunity to make a very public invitation on the last day of the feast for His people to accept Him as the living water. His words recall Isaiah 55:1. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” These 3 words summarize the gospel invitation. A recognition of need leads to an approach to the source of provision, followed by receiving what is needed. The thirsty, needy soul feels the craving to come to the Savior and drink, i.e., receive the salvation that He offers.

“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (v. 38).The water-pouring rite was also associated within Jewish tradition as a foreshadowing of the eschatological rivers of living water foreseen in Ezekiel 47:1–9 and Zechariah 13:1.The significance of Jesus’ invitation centers in the fact that He was the fulfillment of all the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated, i.e., He was the One who provided the living water that gives eternal life to man (4:10, 11). By this “He spoke concerning the Spirit” (v. 39). The impartation of the Holy Spirit is the source of spiritual and eternal life.

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Entrusting All to God

“Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19).

The final attitude we should have in facing trials and sufferings is that of entrusting ourselves to God.

Geoffrey Bull epitomizes the modern-day believer who entrusts his entire soul to God’s will in the middle of terrible suffering. Bull was punished with solitary confinement, brainwashing, many kinds of intimidation, and starvation during more than three years of imprisonment by the Communist Chinese forty years ago. During his affliction he prayed that God would help him remember Scriptures, realize His peace, and triumph over doubt, fear, loneliness, and fatigue. The final two lines of a poem he wrote summarize Bull’s complete trust in God’s plan and purpose:

And Thy kingdom, Gracious God,
Shall never pass away.

The term “entrust” is a banker’s expression meaning “to deposit for safekeeping.” Peter encourages all believers who experience trials and tribulations to give over their very lives (“souls”) to God’s care. The Lord is indeed “a faithful Creator” who made us. Therefore we can and should trust Him fully as the only one who is able to care for all our needs.

By this point Peter has assumed that his original readers, since many had endured persecution, knew what suffering was like. Therefore, he could also present the Lord as a sovereign God who could be trusted to do “what is right.” Because it is God’s will to allow sufferings and trials in the lives of all believers, it is only logical that Peter exhort us to entrust ourselves to Him during such times.

Peter’s instruction is also related to Romans 12:1, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [or rational] service of worship.” Paul reminds us that it is much easier to react as we should to trials if we have already resolved, with God’s help, to entrust everything to Him. Then we can face with calm and confidence, rather than worry and fear, whatever God allows.

Suggestions for Prayer

Review your commitment to God, and ask Him to bring to mind anything that you need to entrust wholly to Him; then by faith take that step.

For Further Study

Psalm 25 describes David’s desire to trust in God. Read it and pick out several verses or a paragraph to meditate on.


A Traitor Turns to Christ (Matthew)

The twelve apostles included "Matthew the tax-gatherer" (Matt. 10:3).

God can use you despite your sinful past.

I remember reading a notice in a local newspaper announcing the opening of a new evangelical church in our community. It gave the date and time of the first services, then added, "our special guest star will be . . ." and named a popular Christian celebrity. In its attempt to appeal to unbelievers or simply draw a large crowd, the church today commonly uses that kind of approach.

Jesus, however, used a different approach. None of His disciples were famous at all. In fact, rather than drawing a favorable crowd, some of them might have repelled or even incited anger and hatred among His Jewish audience. Matthew was such a man because he was a despised tax-gatherer—one of many Jewish men employed by Rome to collect taxes from his own people. As such he was regarded as a traitor by his own countrymen.

The Roman tax system allowed tax collectors to keep anything they collected in excess of what was owed to Rome. That encouraged bribes, extortion, and other abuses.

To compound the issue, Matthew was among those who had the prerogative of taxing almost anything they wanted to tax—roads, bridges, harbors, axles, donkeys, packages, letters, imports, exports, merchandise, and so on. Such men could accumulate enormous wealth for themselves. You might remember another tax-gatherer named Zaccheus, who is described in Luke 19:2 as a wealthy man. His salvation was evidenced by his offer to repay fourfold to those he had defrauded (v. 8).

Some people think God can't use them because they're not famous or because of their past sins. But God has used Matthew, Zaccheus, and millions of others like them. Concentrate on your present purity and let God bless your ministry as He sees fit.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God that he has made you a new person in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). Minister in light of that reality!

For Further Study

Read Luke 19:1-10.

  • Where was Zaccheus when Jesus first spoke to him?
  • What was the reaction of the crowd when Jesus went to Zaccheus's house?
  • What prompted Jesus to say that salvation had come to Zaccheus?


God’s Will: Two Misunderstandings

“‘“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”’” (Matthew 6:10).

Two polar opposite views of God’s will can cause Christians to have faulty understandings of prayer and the accomplishing of God’s purposes. On the one hand, some see His will as absolutely deterministic—whatever will be, will be. They either pray little at all, figuring the divine will is inevitable, or they are resignedly obedient, praying for God’s will simply because He tells them to.

Neither approach to prayer demonstrates faith. Viewing God’s sovereignty in a fatalistic, prayerless way robs us of the joy of aligning our wills with His and seeing His will done as we pray in faith. And praying with passive resignation leads to a weak, unexpectant prayer life. It is one that doesn’t heed Jesus’ instruction in the parable of the persistent widow: “He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Other believers overemphasize the role of human will and see prayer as mainly a way to twist God’s will to their own desires. They think of God’s will as what He dispenses from His cosmic vending machine—they get whatever they want by inserting a claim on one of His promises. But our Lord rejects such a false, man-centered concept throughout the model prayer. Genuine prayer focuses on God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. The emphasis remains on the Father. God is sovereign, but Jesus tells us to pray that His will be done (cf. James 5:16).

Ask Yourself

Which of these two misunderstandings has been the hardest for you to counteract? Which one do you find yourself gravitating toward in your usual dealings with God? How has this led you to defeat and discouragement in your walk with Christ? What would you gain from embracing a more biblical mind-set?


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 15:1–6 stole the hearts. Public hearings were always conducted early in the morning in a court held outside by the city gates. Absalom positioned himself there to win favor. Because King David was busy with other matters or with wars, and was also aging, many matters were left unresolved, building a deep feeling of resentment among the people. Absalom used that situation to undermine his father, by gratifying all he could with a favorable settlement and showing them all warm cordiality. Thus, he won the people to himself, without them knowing his wicked ambition.

2 Samuel 15:10–12 Absalom formed a conspiracy, which included taking some of the leading men to create the impression that the king supported this action and was in his old age sharing the kingdom. All of this was a subtle disguise so Absalom could have freedom to plan his revolution. Absalom was able to do this against his father not merely because of his cleverness, but also because of the laxness of his father (1 Kin. 1:6).

John 7:4 to be known openly….show Yourself to the world. Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to put on a display of His miracles. Although the text does not clearly state their motivation, perhaps they made the request for two reasons: 1) they wanted to see the miracles for themselves to determine their genuineness, and 2) they may have had similar crass political motives as did the people, namely that He would become their social and political Messiah. Jerusalem’s acceptance of Him was to be the acid test for them as to whether His own family would believe in Him as Messiah.

John 7:17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know. Those who are fundamentally committed to doing God’s will will be guided by Him in the affirmation of His truth. God’s truth is self-authenticating through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit (16:131 John 2:2027).

DAY 22: How confused were the Jewish people about who Jesus was?

John 7:12–27 reflects the confusion among the people. In vv. 12,13 the crowds, made up of Judeans, Galileans, and Diaspora (scattered) Jews, expressed various opinions regarding Christ. The spectrum ranged from superficial acceptance (“He is good”) to cynical rejection (“He deceives the people”). The Jewish Talmud reveals that the latter view of deception became the predominant opinion of many Jews.

Jesus’ knowledge of Scripture was supernatural. The people “marveled” (v. 15) that someone who had never studied at any great rabbinical centers or under any great rabbis could display such profound mastery of Scripture. Both the content and manner of Jesus’ teachings were qualitatively different from those of any other teacher. And the people were surprised that, in spite of the ominous threat from the religious authorities (vv. 20, 32), Jesus boldly proclaimed His identity (v. 26).

“Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?” they asked. The question indicates the level of confusion and uncertainty as to who Jesus was and what to do about Him. They did not really have any firm convictions regarding Jesus’ identity. They were also perplexed at the religious leaders’ failure to arrest and silence Him if He really were a fraud. Such dense confusion caused the crowd to wonder if the religious authorities in private concluded that He was indeed the Christ. Mass confusion among all groups reigned regarding Jesus.

“No one knows where He is from” (v. 27). Only information regarding the Messiah’s birthplace was revealed in Scripture (Mic. 5:2Matt. 2:56). Beyond that, a tradition had developed in Jewish circles that the Messiah would appear suddenly to the people, based on a misinterpretation of Isaiah 53:8 and Malachi 3:1. In light of this, the meaning of this phrase most likely is that the identity of the Messiah would be wholly unknown until He suddenly appeared in Israel and accomplished Israel’s redemption. In contrast, Jesus had lived His life in Nazareth and was known (at least superficially) to the people (v. 28).

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Evaluating Our Suffering

“By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (1 Peter 4:15).

We must not presume that God blesses every possible kind of suffering a Christian may become involved in.

It’s quite obvious that some sufferings and trials are not part of God’s plan for us. Believers should never suffer because they’ve murdered, robbed, or done evil. But in today’s verse Peter mentions a fourth category—“a troublesome meddler”—whose meaning is not as apparent and whose application might be more in dispute.

“A troublesome meddler” interferes with everyone else’s business, and Paul says we should avoid such persons (1 Thess. 4:112 Thess. 3:141 Tim. 5:13). But I believe Peter also uses the term to refer to a political agitator, someone who actively tries to disrupt the normal function of the government. If this understanding is correct, then Peter is commanding Christians to be good citizens in their non-Christian cultures (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). We are to go to work, live peacefully, witness to others, and exalt Christ.

Believers are not to act like radicals who are intent on overthrowing existing authority or imposing Christian standards on society. Getting into trouble with your employer or being fired by him because of disruptive activities, even those done in the name of Christ, is not honorable but disgraceful.

Most believers would never even consider the possibility of being involved in militia groups that are engaged in separatist activities and are violently opposed to all legitimate governmental authority. Yet some Christians wrongly see validity in strategies of civil disobedience and violence as they oppose some government-sanctioned acts, specifically abortion. They are not satisfied with simply providing biblical counsel or material and educational assistance at a local pro-life agency, as many believers have done over the past twenty-five years.

Therefore, if we would seek to promote what is right and redress injustices, we must use scriptural discernment regarding which strategies to implement or support. Similarly, the Lord wants us to evaluate all our trials and sufferings and be sure they are placing us in the center of His will. Otherwise, we can claim to suffer righteously when we are not and merely be “a troublesome meddler,” which is not pleasing to God.

Suggestions for Prayer

Pray that your church would always have biblical reasons for supporting any efforts at redressing social wrongs.

For Further Study

What areas does Peter include in 1 Peter 2:11-19 when he encourages obedience to authority?


Beyond Doubt to Hope (Thomas)

The twelve apostles included "Thomas" (Matt. 10:3).

Jesus can replace your doubts with hope.

When Jesus was crucified, Thomas was shattered. He loved Jesus deeply and wanted always to be with Him. He was willing even to die with Him, but now his greatest fear had been realized: Jesus was gone.

Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection. John 20:25says, "The other disciples therefore were saying to [Thomas], 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.'" Thomas was emotionally spent and unwilling to subject himself to any further pain. So he retreated behind a wall of empiricism, saying in effect, "I'm not going to believe this on your word alone. I need proof! I must see Jesus myself."

Because of that, people have labeled him "Doubting Thomas," but remember, none of the disciples believed the resurrection until Jesus appeared to them. Thomas wasn't a compulsive doubter—he was a loving pessimist.

As it turned out, Thomas didn't need as much proof as he thought. When Jesus finally appeared to him and invited him to touch His hands and side, Thomas didn't do either. Instead he immediately cried out, "My Lord and my God!" (v. 28)—which is the greatest single confession of faith ever made.

Thomas struggled with doubt because he didn't understand what Jesus said about His own death and resurrection, and he wasn't with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. He failed to understand God's Word and forsook the company of believers—two common mistakes that can lead to doubt.

Jesus doesn't condemn you when you have doubts. Instead, He gives you His Spirit, His Word, and the fellowship of His people to encourage and strengthen you. So commune with the Spirit in prayer, know the Word well, and never forsake the fellowship of believers. That's how to change your doubts into hope!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the presence of His Spirit, the power of His word, and the fellowship of His people.

For Further Study

Read Luke 24:13-35.

  • Why didn't the two disciples recognize Jesus?
  • How did Jesus change their doubts to hope?


How His Kingdom Comes

“‘“Your kingdom come”’” (Matthew 6:10).

It is obvious that Christ is not physically ruling on earth today, but one day He will. Therefore we should pray that God would hasten that time when His Son returns to establish His earthly kingdom, defeat sin, and ensure obedience to God’s will. After a thousand years, this kingdom will merge into the eternal kingdom, and His earthly and heavenly rule will be the same (see Rev. 20–21).

There are two major ways in which God’s kingdom comes, and they ought to inform our prayers as we ask Him to complete His purpose. First, His kingdom comes by means of conversions. Thus we should pray for sinners to repent (Mark 1:14–15) and to embrace the gospel (Luke 9:61–62). Our prayers must be simply that the Spirit will add new citizens to God’s kingdom.

Second, the kingdom comes through believers’ commitment. If we pray as Jesus commands, we will constantly ask that our lives and those of other Christians might obediently honor and glorify God in heaven.

The kingdom that we hope and pray for is of infinite value. Jesus elsewhere teaches that it “is like a treasure hidden in the field” or like “one pearl of great value” (Matt. 13:44–46). When the kingdom fully comes at His return, God will have completely answered our prayers. As the hymn says, “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does its successive journeys run. His kingdom spread from shore to shore, ’til moon shall wax and wane no more.”

Ask Yourself

How focused are you on these twin elements of kingdom advance? How do these priorities show themselves in your daily choices and activities? If they are commonly missing from your field of reference, ask yourself why this is the case.


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 13:15 hated her. Amnon’s “love” (v. 1) was nothing but sensual desire that, once gratified, turned to hatred. His sudden revulsion was the result of Tamar’s unwilling resistance, the atrocity of what he had done, feelings of remorse, and dread of exposure and punishment. All of these rendered her intolerably undesirable to him.

2 Samuel 14:13 against the people of God. The woman asserted that by allowing Absalom to remain in exile, David had jeopardized the future welfare of Israel. If he would be so generous to a son he did not know in a family he did not know, would he not forgive his own son?

Psalm 66:4 All the earth shall worship You. This praise is not only an acknowledgment of God’s universal Lordship, but also an intimation of the people’s belief in a future worldwide kingdom where God will be worshiped (Is. 66:23Zech. 14:16Phil. 2:1011).

John 6:64 Jesus knew. Reminiscent of Jesus’ words in 2:23–25, Jesus knew the hearts of men, including those disciples who followed Him. He supernaturally knew that many did not believe in Him as Messiah and Son of God so He did not entrust Himself to them. These false disciples were simply attracted to the physical phenomena (miracles and food) and failed to understand the true significance of Jesus’ teaching (v. 61).

DAY 21: If we accept the scholarly view that the surviving ancient manuscripts of 1 and 2 Samuel were poorly preserved, what should be our attitude toward these books?

Given the challenges involved in hand-copying and preserving scrolls, it is a wonder that we have the ancient documents that we do have. Our attitude ought to lean more toward amazement that we have such few discrepancies rather than toward concern over the ones that puzzle and challenge us.

Many of the discoveries in the science of analyzing ancient manuscripts involve the typical errors that commonly appear when handwritten documents are copied. For example, when two lines of text end with the same word or words, the eye of the copyist tends to skip the second line, deleting it completely. Careful comparisons between manuscripts and reconstruction of the text often reveal these simple errors.

In the case of 1 and 2 Samuel we have two ancient text families: 1) the Masoretic text in the Hebrew language and 2) the LXX (Septuagint) text in Greek that was translated by Jewish scholars in about 100 B.C. Comparing the two, it is clear that the two differ in more places with the Samuel books than with other Old Testament books. There are frequent disagreements between the texts when it comes to numbers. In settling these discrepancies, the age and language of the Masoretic text is generally considered a closer version of the original manuscript unless grammar and context indicate a copying error.

When thinking about the possibility of textual errors in the Scriptures, it is crucial to remember this: The central doctrines of the Christian faith are never based on a single verse of Scripture, nor do they rely on a disputed section of Scripture. God’s plan of salvation and the main outline of Christian teaching can be found throughout Scripture.

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Rejoicing Through the Spirit

“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).

The indwelling Holy Spirit allows us to rejoice, no matter how greatly we suffer or are persecuted.

One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the past half century has been the discovery of the DNA molecule, which carries unique and essential genetic information about all living beings. The most well-known practical application of DNA has been the “fingerprinting” technique in which genetic information from one DNA sample is compared with that of another. If the information matches, it’s highly probable, but not absolutely certain, that the samples identify the same individual.

While discoveries about DNA’s ability to more precisely determine physical identity have been newsworthy, God long ago established His infallible truth regarding spiritual identity. The apostle Paul gives us the basic criterion by which we can know if we are believers: “However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9). This reinforces Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus about being born again (John 3:3-6). Therefore, all genuine believers will know the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence.

The Spirit’s presence in our lives is one final reason we have to rejoice in trials and sufferings. Peter calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of glory” because as deity the Spirit has glory as an essential attribute. Although that glory doesn’t manifest itself today as it did in the Old Testament (e.g., the cloud in the tabernacle), the Spirit’s indwelling a Christian is nonetheless real for any who are undergoing a trial.

First Peter 4:14 is referring to a special grace that goes beyond the normal indwelling of the Spirit. It is much like the extraordinary power that Stephen realized before and during his stoning (see Acts 6:157:55-60). God’s Spirit gave him amazing composure and strength and lifted him above normal pain and fear. The Holy Spirit also blesses us with abundant grace, specially suited to our times of need. Therefore, it should be hard for us to react with any attitude but rejoicing, no matter how difficult our trials.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who ministers daily in your life.

For Further Study

Read Exodus 3:1-6.

  • What was unique about the bush?
  • How did Moses react to God’s glory?


Desiring Christ's Presence (Thomas)

The twelve apostles included "Thomas" (Matt. 10:3).

The follower of Christ will have an intense desire to be in Christ’s presence.

When you think of Thomas, you probably think of a doubter. But if you look beyond his doubt, you'll see he was characterized by something that should mark every true believer: an intense desire to be with Christ.

John 10:39-40 tells us Jesus and His disciples left Jerusalem because of threats on Jesus' life. While they were staying near the Jordan River, Jesus received word that His dear friend Lazarus was sick. He delayed going to Lazarus because He didn't want merely to heal him, but to raise him from the dead.

Lazarus lived in Bethany—just two miles east of Jerusalem. So when Jesus decided to go there, His disciples were deeply concerned, thinking it would surely be a suicide mission (John 11:8). Despite the danger, Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (v. 16). That's a pessimistic attitude, but it shows his courage and desire to be with Christ, whether in life or death. An optimist would expect the best, making it easier to go. Thomas expected the worst, but was willing to go anyway.

I believe Thomas couldn't bear the thought of living without Christ. He would rather die with Him than live without Him. That's also evident in John 14, where Jesus told the disciples He was going away to prepare a place for them. Thomas responded by saying in effect, "Lord, we don't know where you're going or how to get there. Please don't go somewhere we can't go!" (v. 5). He didn't understand what Jesus was going to do. All he knew was he didn't want to be separated from His Lord.

Can you identify with Thomas? Is Christ such an integral part of your daily decisions and activities that life without Him is unthinkable? Do you love Him so much you long to see Him? That was Thomas's passion. May it be yours as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank the Lord for His presence and power in your life.
  • Demonstrate your love for Him by communing with Him often.

For Further Study

Read John 14:1-31.

  • What did Jesus say about His return?
  • Who would comfort and instruct the disciples in Christ's absence?


What Is God’s Kingdom?

“‘“Your kingdom come’’” (Matthew 6:10).

“Kingdom” is not so much a geographical territory as it is a sovereign dominion. When Christians pray “Your kingdom come,” they are asking God to rule through Christ’s future enthronement, His coming reign over the earth. The Greek for “come” indicates a sudden, instantaneous coming and here refers to the coming millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4). Jesus is not speaking of some indirect effort by human good works to create a godly society on earth.

God’s coming kingdom will be a kingdom on earth but not a kingdom of this present world system. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). No human kingdom fits with God’s, which is why even the best measures to improve society are mere holding actions that only retard sinful corruption until Christ returns to establish His perfect kingdom.

Jesus came to “preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43), and there is no other gospel but the good news of His kingdom. Even during His final days on earth He was faithful to teach the apostles things concerning that kingdom (Acts 1:3).

Yes, the kingdom has a past element that encompasses the Old Testament patriarchs (Matt. 8:11). The kingdom was also present during Jesus’ earthly ministry because He, its king, was “in [people’s] midst” (Luke 17:21). In a sense that is true today as believers are members of God’s invisible kingdom. But the particular focus of our prayers regarding the kingdom should be future, as we hope for the visible one to come.

Ask Yourself

What will you miss the least about earthly life when the fullness of His kingdom becomes your forever reality? Doesn’t that give you something to really look forward to? Let the genuine hope of this occurrence bolster your hope as you live through the coming day.


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 11:3 Bathsheba. Not until 12:24 is her name used again. Rather, to intensify the sin of adultery, it is emphasized that she was the wife of Uriah (vv. 3,26; 12:10,15). Even the New Testament says “her of Uriah”(Matt. 1:6). Eliam. The father of Bathsheba was one of David’s mighty men (23:34). Since Eliam was the son of Ahithophel, Bathsheba was Ahithophel’s granddaughter (15:1216:15). This could explain why Ahithophel, one of David’s counselors (15:12), later gave his allegiance to Absalom in his revolt against David. Uriah. Also one of David’s mighty men (23:39). Although a Hittite (see Gen. 15:20Ex. 3:8,17,23), Uriah bore a Hebrew name meaning “the LORD is my light,” indicating he was a worshiper of the one true God.

2 Samuel 11:15 he may…die. Failing twice to cover up his sin with Bathsheba, the frustrated and panicked David plotted the murder of Uriah by taking advantage of Uriah’s unswerving loyalty to him as king, even having Uriah deliver his own death warrant. Thus David engaged in another crime deserving of capital punishment (Lev. 24:17). This is graphic proof of the extremes people go to in pursuit of sin and in the absence of restraining grace.

John 6:40 everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him. This verse emphasizes human responsibility in salvation. Although God is sovereign, He works through faith, so that a man must believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God who alone offers the only way of salvation (14:6). However, even faith is a gift of God (Rom. 12:3Eph. 2:8,9). Intellectually harmonizing the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man is impossible humanly, but perfectly resolved in the infinite mind of God.

John 6:51 This pronouncement exactly reiterates vv. 33,35,47,48. My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. Jesus refers here prophetically to His impending sacrifice upon the cross (2 Cor. 5:211 Pet. 2:24). Jesus voluntarily laid down His life for evil, sinful mankind (10:181 John 2:2). 

DAY 20: How do Jesus’ “I am” statements in the Book of John express His saving relationship toward the world?

After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, Jesus was challenged by the crowd to perform an even greater miracle in John 6:30.“Our fathers ate the manna,” they said (v. 31), implying that Jesus’ miraculous feeding was a small miracle compared to what Moses did. In order for them to believe in Him, they would need to see Him feed the nation of Israel on the same scale that God did when He sent manna and fed the entire nation of Israel during their wilderness wanderings for 40 years (Ex. 16:11–36).They were demanding that Jesus outdo Moses if they were to believe in Him.

Jesus responded that the manna God gave was temporary and perished and was only a meager shadow of what God offered them in the true bread, Himself, who gives spiritual and eternal life to mankind (“world”). He is the “true bread from heaven,” and in case that wasn’t understood, He added, “I am the bread of life” (v. 35).

Twenty-three times in all we find our Lord’s meaningful “I AM” in the Greek text of this Gospel (4:266:20, 35, 41, 48, 51; 8:12,18,24,28,58; 10:7,9,11,14; 11:2513:19; 14:6; 15:1,5; 18:5,6,8). In several of these, He joins His “I AM” with seven tremendous metaphors which are expressive of His saving relationship toward the world.

“I AM the Bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51).
“I AM the Light of the world” (8:12).
“I AM the Door of the sheep” (10:7, 9).
“I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14).
“I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25).
“I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (14:6).
“I AM the true Vine” (15:1, 5).

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Rejoicing in Suffering

“But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation” (1 Peter 4:13).

We should rejoice in trials and persecutions, not for their own sake, but for the benefits that result.

The late D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his classic book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, made the following careful distinction on what it means to rejoice in persecution: “The Christian is, in a sense, one who must feel his heart breaking at the effect of sin in others that makes them do this [persecute believers]. So he never rejoices in the fact of persecution as such.”

We can draw from this, then, that 1 Peter 4:13 and other verses (notably Matt. 5:11-12), while they encourage the positive attitude of rejoicing in trials, do not mean we should have a masochistic or elitist view of suffering. The joy we are to have should go beyond the pain and heartache of the suffering itself and focus on the ramifications of what God is doing in our life.

Peter begins our verse by asserting that one of those ramifications is enjoying the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. That means we can share, for His sake, in the same kind of suffering and rejection He endured. We should be ready for such persecution whenever we share the gospel or generally identify with Him. The apostles learned this lesson soon after Jesus departed— “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). We will increasingly embrace such suffering as a privilege if we heed Peter’s exhortation.

The apostle goes on to give us more motivation for rejoicing. “The revelation of His glory” is a reference to Jesus’ second coming, which in itself ought to bring tremendous joy to all believers. If we have faithfully endured all the persecutions, sufferings, trials, and problems of this life, when our Lord returns we will have genuine reason to rejoice all the more. And it will be with an intense and joyous outburst that exceeds any we’ve had before (see Luke 6:22-23).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you the right motivation to rejoice in the midst of suffering.

For Further Study

Matthew 5:11-12 contains some of the most challenging truth in all the Bible. Commit these verses to memory, and look for opportunities in which they can become real in your experience.


Searching for Truth (Bartholomew)

The twelve apostles included "Bartholomew [Nathanael]" (Matt. 10:3).

God knows your heart and will honor your search for truth.

Despite Nathanael's prejudice, Jesus knew he was an honest, sincere, Jewish believer in whom there was no religious hypocrisy or deceit (John 1:47). He truly sought after God and looked forward to the Messiah's coming.

Most of the Jewish people of Jesus' day believed that every circumcised descendent of Abraham was a true Jew and a beneficiary of the Abrahamic covenant. But in Romans 2:28–29 Paul explains that salvation is an issue of the heart, not of national origin: "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart." Nathanael was such a man.

He was shocked when Jesus described him as "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile" (John 1:47) because they had never met before. He was equally shocked when Jesus said He saw him under a fig tree because Jesus was nowhere near that tree. Nathanael immediately realized that Jesus was omniscient—He knew everything! That's why he exclaimed, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel" (v. 49). He had found the Messiah for whom he had searched so long!

The Lord's mention of the fig tree is significant. In that region, fig trees were commonly used as a source of shade and outdoor shelter. Many of the houses in Palestine had only one room, so fig trees became a place to be alone for prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. Quite possibly Nathanael was under the fig tree searching the Scriptures and communing with God when Jesus saw his open heart and his desire to find the Messiah. Jesus personally answered Nathanael's prayer.

When Jesus looks into your heart, does He see a true believer in whom there is no hypocrisy? Nathanael wasn't perfect, but he loved God and was a diligent student of the Word. The Lord did great things through him. I pray that is true of you as well.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Spirit to reveal and deal with any hypocrisy you might be harboring.
  • Ask God to increase your desire and capacity to know and love Him.

For Further Study

Memorize Romans 12:1–2 as a defense against hypocrisy.


Hallowing God’s Name

"Hallowed be Your name" (Matthews 6:9)

Scripture (1 Peter 1:16) commands believers to be holy (“hallowed”), whereas it recognizes God as being holy. So attributing to Him the holiness that already is His is how we hallow His name.

As with every other truly righteous action, hallowing God’s name must begin in the heart. Peter reminds us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). When we do this, we also sanctify Him as Lord in our lives, as we above all affirm that He exists: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

Discovering and believing scriptural truth about God is also a way to hallow His name. Any deliberate ignorance or wrong doctrine about the Father shows gross irreverence for Him. But if we want to completely hallow His name and have full reverence for Him, we must go on to have a constant awareness of the Father’s presence. David was a great example of this: “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8).

Perhaps the greatest way of all for us to hallow His name is by following His will—down to the smallest task—making it the entire goal of our lives to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Furthermore, we hallow God’s name by drawing others to Him. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may … glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; cf. Ps. 34:3).

Ask Yourself

Everything we do, think, say, and communicate is a reflection on the name of God, since we have been called by His name and wear it as our chief identity. When are you most likely to forget that you bear the name of Christ, that you carry the responsibility for doing nothing to defame or discredit it?


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 9:8 dead dog. A “dead dog” was considered contemptible and useless. Mephibosheth saw himself as such in that he knew that he had not merited David’s kindness and that there was no way for him to repay it. David’s offer was an extraordinary expression of grace and beauty to his covenant with Jonathan (1 Sam. 18:320:15,42).

2 Samuel 10:4 shaved off half of their beards. Forced shaving was considered an insult and a sign of submission (Is. 7:20). cut off their garments…at their buttocks. To those who wore long garments in that time, exposure of the buttocks was a shameful practice inflicted on prisoners of war (Is. 20:4).

Proverbs 16:21 sweetness of the lips. “Honeyed words,” which reflect intelligence, judiciousness, and discernment in speech. This refers to eloquent discourse from the wise (v. 24).

John 6:19,20 Jesus walking on the sea. The Synoptics reveal that in fear and the darkness, the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost (Matt. 14:26Mark 6:49). The Son of God, who made the world, was in control of its forces; and, in this case, He suspended the law of gravity. The act was not frivolous on Jesus’ part, for it constituted a dramatic object lesson to the disciples of Jesus’ true identity as the sovereign Lord of all creation (1:3).

DAY 19: Why were the crowds who followed Jesus a potential liability?

In John 6:2, it says that the multitudes followed Jesus “because they saw His signs.” The crowds followed not out of belief but out of curiosity concerning the miracles that He performed (v. 26). However, in spite of the crowd’s crass motivations, Jesus, having compassion on them, healed their sick and fed them (Matt. 13:14Mark 6:34).

The crowd’s declaration of Jesus as “the Prophet” (v. 14) is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15. Sadly, these comments, coming right after Jesus healed and fed them, indicate that the people desired a Messiah who met their physical, rather than spiritual, needs. Apparently, no recognition existed for the need of spiritual repentance and preparation for the kingdom (Matt. 4:17). They wanted an earthly, political Messiah to meet all their needs and to deliver them from Roman oppression. Their reaction typifies many who want a “Christ” that makes no demands of them (Matt. 10:34–3916:24–26), but of whom they can make their selfish personal requests.

Jesus “perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king” (v. 15). John supplemented the information in Matthew and Mark by indicating that the reason Jesus dismissed the disciples and withdrew from the crowd into a mountain alone was because of His supernatural knowledge of their intention to make Him king in light of His healing and feeding of them. The crowd, incited by mob enthusiasm, was ready to proceed with crassly political intentions that would have jeopardized God’s will.

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Reassurance in the Midst of Trials

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

We can be certain of God’s love for us, no matter how unexpected or difficult any trial might be.

Reassuring words are vital as we strive to deal in a godly fashion with trials and sufferings in our Christian lives. In today’s verse, Peter opens with a pastoral term (“beloved”) that conveys tenderness, love, and concern for his audience. It reinforces in a single word the concepts of fervent love for one another and love that covers sin (1 Peter 4:8). Such love is a welcome reality to lean on whenever anyone is undergoing suffering or persecution.

Trials can easily tempt us to be discouraged and doubt God’s love. That likely was happening to believers in Peter’s time. For example, the emperor Nero coated many, including children, in pitch and used them as human torches. With such cruel persecution going on, we can see why Peter wrote to fellow Christians—which includes us—to reassure them of God’s love.

Peter’s expression “fiery ordeal,” which can refer to many different types of difficulties, provides reassurance that troubles and trials come for a purpose. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, “fiery” referred to a smelting furnace that refined metals of their foreign, unwanted elements. That process is pictured in verses such as Psalm 66:10, “For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined.” So “fiery ordeal” represents the various sufferings God allows in our lives to purify us.

Peter closes by assuring us that trials are not out of the ordinary, or “some strange thing.” We should not be surprised at them as if each was some bizarre occurrence, coming at us simply by chance. Trials, therefore, should be seen as part of life. They might catch us off guard at first, but we can confidently deal with them, knowing that God’s loving care for us never fails.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord that no trial, no matter how unusual it seems at first, needs to catch you by surprise.

For Further Study

  • Jesus taught the disciples about the inevitability of sufferings, trials, and disappointments. What warnings did He give in John 15—16?
  • What major resource did He promise?


Avoiding Prejudice (Bartholomew)

The twelve apostles included "Bartholomew [Nathanael]" (Matt. 10:3).

Prejudice can destroy relationships and prevent people from coming to Christ.

Prejudice is an uncalled-for generalization based on feelings of superiority. It is an ugly sin that has fueled hatred and conflicts for centuries, dividing entire nations and bringing untold misery. But prejudice is most damning when it blinds people to God's Word. The prophet Jonah was so prejudiced against the Assyrians, he refused to go to Nineveh to preach to them. Even after God convinced him to obey, he wanted to die because the people of Nineveh had repented and God had spared them.

Prejudice also reared its ugly head in Nathanael, whose last name was Bartholomew (meaning "son of Tolmai"). John 1:45-46 says, "Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." And Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?'" Nathanael was a student of the Word and was looking for the Messiah, but he couldn't understand how Messiah could come from Nazareth.

Nazareth lay on the fringes of the Jewish world—the last stop before Gentile territory. Perhaps the people of Cana, Nathanael's hometown, were more refined and educated than the people of Nazareth. Whatever the cause, Nathanael's perspective seemed to be that nothing but trouble could come out of Nazareth.

Prejudice has blinded many people to the gospel. The Jewish religious leaders rejected Jesus because He didn't fit their idea of a Messiah, wasn't from Jerusalem, and wasn't trained in their synagogues. Fortunately Nathanael's desire for truth overpowered his prejudice and he came to Jesus.

Perhaps you have family or friends who are resisting the gospel because of prejudice. If so, don't be discouraged and don't give up! Jesus broke through Nathanael's prejudice and redeemed him, and He has done the same for millions of others.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray for those you know who are blinded by prejudice, asking God to open their spiritual eyes to His truth.
  • Confess any prejudice you might have in your own heart.

For Further Study

Practicing unity and humility is the best way to overcome prejudice within the Body of Christ. Read Ephesians 4:1-6 and Philippians 2:1-8.

  • What attitudes did Paul encourage? Discourage?
  • Who is the example we're to follow of humble service on behalf of others?


Value and Importance of Knowing the Father

“‘Our Father who is in heaven . . .’” (Matthew 6:9).

Knowing God as our Father carries with it a definite list of spiritual privileges and benefits. First, it means we need not fear, as pagans do before their false gods or unbelievers do in their agnosticism.

Second, real knowledge of God resolves uncertainties and gives us hope. A good earthly father does what it takes to protect and provide for his children; so our heavenly Father does much more to love and sustain His children (cf. Matt. 7:11John 10:2914:21).

Third, knowing the Father alleviates loneliness. Family, friends, and even other believers may reject us, but we can be sure that God never will (John 14:21; cf. Ps. 68:5–6).

Fourth, knowing God as Father settles the issue of selfishness. Jesus used the plural possessive pronoun in reference to God because we share His fatherhood with millions of other Christians. Thus we ought to pray for others, not just ourselves.

Fifth, genuine knowledge of the Father means all His heavenly resources are available to us (Eph. 1:3).

Finally, this comprehension settles the issue of obedience. If Jesus in His incarnation did only His Father’s will (John 6:38), we as adopted spiritual children must also do only God’s will. This proves our relationship to Him (Matt. 12:50). Yet God in His grace still loves His children who disobey (cf. Luke 15:11–24).

Being our Father reveals God’s willingness to lend His ear, power, and blessings to His children, for their best and His glory.

Ask Yourself

Which of these six benefits of God’s Fatherhood struck you as most comforting and compelling today? What needs in your life does this particular blessing of God meet? And how does it do so in ways that no person could ever accomplish?


Reading for Today:


2 Samuel 7:14 his Father…My son. These words are directly related to Jesus the Messiah in Hebrews 1:5. In Semitic thought, since the son had the full character of the father, the future seed of David would have the same essence of God. That Jesus Christ was God incarnate is the central theme of John’s Gospel. If he commits iniquity. As a human father disciplines his sons, so the Lord would discipline the seed, if he committed iniquity. This has reference to the intermediary seed until Messiah’s arrival (any king of David’s line from Solomon on). However, the ultimate Seed of David will not be a sinner like David and his descendants were, as recorded in Samuel and Kings (see 2 Cor. 5:21). Significantly, Chronicles, focusing more directly on the Messiah, does not include this statement in its record of Nathan’s words (1 Chr. 17:13).

2 Samuel 7:16 your house…your kingdom…Your throne. Luke 1:32b,33 indicates that these 3 terms are fulfilled in Jesus, “…and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” forever. This word conveys the idea of 1) an indeterminately long time or 2) into eternity future. It does not mean that there cannot be interruptions, but rather that the outcome is guaranteed. Christ’s Davidic reign will conclude human history.

Psalm 64:1 Preserve…from fear. This word for “fear” means “dread” and is a different Hebrew word than the “fear” in verses 4 and 9. The psalmist recognized that the fear of an enemy can be as destructive as an actual assault.

John 5:36 the very works that I do. See 10:25. The miracles of Jesus were witness to His deity and messiahship. Such miracles are the major signs recorded by John in this Gospel, so as to fulfill His purpose in 20:30,31.

John 5:39 You search. Although the verb “search” could also be understood as a command (i.e., “Search the Scriptures!”), most prefer this translation as an indicative. The verb implies diligent scrutiny in investigating the Scriptures to find “eternal life.” However, Jesus points out that with all their fastidious effort, they miserably failed in their understanding of the true way to eternal life through the Son of God. testify of Me. See v. 45. Christ is the main theme of Scripture.

DAY 18: What was the Davidic Covenant?

Second Samuel 7:1–17 record the establishment of the Davidic Covenant, God’s unconditional promise to David and his posterity. While not called a covenant here, it is later (23:5). This promise is an important key to understanding God’s irrevocable pledge of a king from the line of David to rule forever (v. 16). It has been estimated that over 40 individual biblical passages are directly related to these verses (see Pss. 89; 110; 132); thus, this text is a major highlight in the Old Testament. The ultimate fulfillment comes at Christ’s Second Advent when He sets up His millennial kingdom on earth (see Ezek. 37; Zech. 14; Rev. 19).This is the fourth of 5 irrevocable, unconditional covenants made by God. The first 3 include: 1) the Noahic Covenant (Gen. 9:8–17); 2) the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15:12–21); and 3) the Levitic or Priestly Covenant (Num. 3:1–1818:1–2025:10–13). The New Covenant, which actually provided redemption, was revealed later through Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31–34) and accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Specifically, 2 Samuel 7:8–16 state the promises the Lord gave to David. Verses 8–11a give the promises to be realized during David’s lifetime. Verses 11b–16 state the promises that would be fulfilled after David’s death. During David’s lifetime, the Lord: 1) gave David “a great name”; 2) appointed a place for Israel; and 3) gave David “rest” from all his enemies.After David’s death, the Lord gave David: 1) a son to sit on his national throne, whom the Lord would oversee as a father with necessary chastening, discipline, and mercy (Solomon); and 2) a Son who would rule a kingdom that will be established forever (Messiah). This prophecy referred in its immediacy to Solomon and to the temporal kingdom of David’s family in the land. But in a larger and more sublime sense, it refers to David’s greater Son of another nature, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:8).

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Satan's Role in Our Trials

“Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

All of Satan’s involvement in our sufferings and trials is under God’s control, which means our success against him is also in God’s sovereign hands.

During the past twenty-five years, there has been a tremendous upsurge of interest in the occult, Satan worship, and evil supernatural influences. Such unwise fascination has had an impact on the church and led to an overemphasis on spiritual warfare in some circles. But such unbiblical emphases give us an unbalanced perspective on the role Satan plays in our trials and persecutions.

On the other hand, 1 Peter 5:8-9 places Satan’s activities in the proper context. Peter urges us to watch our surroundings and be alert to possible temptations. But as we do, we can be encouraged that Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan, and therefore the evil one can have no long-term victories in our lives (1 John 4:4).

Peter goes on to admonish us that we need to resist Satan, which simply means we must “stand up against” him with our spiritual feet solidly planted on the objective truth of the Word (see also James 4:7). The Devil is a liar and a deceiver, and the surest way to deflect his onslaughts is with the infallible, revealed truth of Scripture.

In the biblical accounts of Satan’s participation in the trials, persecutions, or sufferings of God’s servants, God is always the one in control (see Job 1:1—2:8; Matt. 4:1-11). Therefore, our responsibility as we prepare for possible satanic attacks is to recall that our own grand strategies of spiritual warfare, however relentless and innovative they might be, will not provide the vigilance Peter speaks of. Paul gives us a further example of the right kind of preparation when he describes the essence of spiritual warfare as “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). If we heed the implications of those words, there’s really nothing else we need to have or do in combating the Devil. 

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to give you a biblical, balanced approach to dealing with Satan and his many subtle temptations.

For Further Study

Read Mark 9:14-29.

  • What does this passage affirm about Jesus’ authority?
  • What basic lesson did the disciples need to be reminded of?


Overcoming Pessimism (Philip)

The twelve apostles included "Philip" (Matt. 10:3).

Pessimism will blind you to the sufficiency of God’s resources.

It's been said that an optimist sees a glass half full; a pessimist sees it half empty. An optimist sees opportunities; a pessimist sees obstacles. In one sense Philip was an optimist. He recognized Jesus as the Messiah and immediately saw an opportunity to share his discovery with Nathanael. In another sense, Philip was a pessimist because on occasions he failed to see what Christ could accomplish despite the apparent obstacles.

On one such occasion Jesus had just finished teaching and healing a crowd of thousands of people. Night was falling and the people were beginning to get hungry. Apparently Philip was responsible for the food, so Jesus asked him, "Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" (John 6:5). Philip said, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little" (v. 7). In other words, "We don't have enough resources in our whole savings account to buy enough food for a group this size!" Philip's calculating, pragmatic, pessimistic mind could reach only one conclusion: this is an utter impossibility.

Jesus knew all along how He was going to solve the problem, but He wanted to test Philip's faith (v. 6). Philip should have passed the test because he had already seen Jesus create wine from water at the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Despite Philip's failure, Jesus didn't give up on him. Instead, from five barley loaves and two fish He created enough food to feed the entire crowd, thus replacing Philip's pessimism with a reaffirmation of divine sufficiency.

There's a little of Philip in each of us. We've experienced God's saving power and have seen Him answer prayer, yet there are times when we let pessimism rob us of the joy of seeing Him work through obstacles in our lives. Don't let that happen to you. Keep your eyes on Christ and trust in His sufficiency. He will never fail you!

Suggestions for Prayer

Memorize Ephesians 3:20-21. Recite it often as a hymn of praise and an affirmation of your faith in God.

For Further Study

Read Numbers 13 and 14.

  • What kind of report did the pessimistic spies bring back from the Promised Land?
  • How did the people react to their report?
  • How did God react to their report?


Knowing God as Father

“‘“Our Father who is in heaven . . .”’” (Matthew 6:9).

Only those who have come to God through Christ can call God “Father.” He is the Father of unbelievers only in that He created them (cf. Mal. 2:10; Acts 17:28). It is only those who trust Jesus who have “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12; cf. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 3:26).

In the Old Testament, faithful Jews saw God as the Father of Israel, the nation He elected as His special people. Isaiah proclaimed, “You, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isa. 63:16b; cf. Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9). Many of them even saw God in an intimate way as their spiritual Father and Savior (Pss. 89:26; 103:13).

But because of their disobedience toward God’s commands and their embracing of false gods around them, most Jews of Jesus’ time had lost the true sense of God’s fatherhood and viewed Him as only the remote Deity of their ancestors.

These six words at the beginning of the Disciples’ Prayer reaffirm that God is the Father of all who trust in Him. Jesus Himself used the title “Father” in all His recorded prayers except one (Matt. 27:46). Although the text here uses the more formal Greek pater for Father, Jesus likely used the Aramaic abba when He spoke these words. Abba has a more personal connotation (cf. Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15), equivalent to the English “daddy.”

Because saints belong to Jesus the Son, they can come to God the Father (“Daddy”) as His beloved children.

Ask Yourself

Certainly in our decadent day and age, many are increasingly growing up in homes where “father” is a person to be feared, a person who rejects, a person who demeans and devalues. How does God’s identity as “Father” fill the holes left by even well-meaning dads who fall short of what their role requires?


Reading for Today:

  • 2 Samuel 5:1–6:23
  • Psalm 63:1-11
  • Proverbs 16:16-17
  • John 5:1-23


2 Samuel 5:1,2 all the tribes of Israel. The term “all” is used 3 times (vv. 1,3,5) to emphasize that the kingdom established under King David was truly a united monarchy. The “elders” of Israel (v. 3), representing the “tribes” (v. 1), came to David at Hebron with the express purpose of submitting to his rule. Three reasons were given by the Israelites for wanting to make David king: 1) he was an Israelite brother (Deut. 17:15); 2) he was Israel’s best warrior and commander; and 3) he had been chosen by the Lord to be the king of Israel.

Psalm 63:1 Early will I seek You. Eagerness to be with the Lord in every situation is more in view than the time of day. My soul thirsts. David longs for God’s presence like a wanderer in a desert longs for water. In a dry and thirsty land. David writes this psalm while hiding in the wilderness of Judea, but longing to be back worshiping in Jerusalem.

John 5:10,11 The Old Testament had forbidden work on the Sabbath but did not stipulate what “work” was specifically indicated (Ex. 20:8–11). The assumption in Scripture seems to be that “work” was one’s customary employment, but rabbinical opinion had developed oral tradition beyond the Old Testament which stipulated 39 activities forbidden (Mishnah Shabbath 7:2; 10:5), including carrying anything from one domain to another. Thus, the man had broken oral tradition, not Old Testament law.

John 5:14 Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you. The basic thrust of Jesus’ comments here indicates that sin has its inevitable consequences (Gal. 6:7,8). Although Scripture makes clear that not all disease is a consequence of sin (9:1–3; Luke 13:1–5), illness at times may be directly tied into one’s moral turpitude (1 Cor. 11:29,30; James 5:15). Jesus may specifically have chosen this man in order to highlight this point.

DAY 17: Why did Jesus not back down to religious hypocrisy?

A careful reading of John 5:17–47 reveals the ultimate reason Jesus confronted the Jews’ religious hypocrisy, i.e., the opportunity to declare who He was. This section is Christ’s own personal statement of His deity. As such, it is one of the greatest Christological discourses in Scripture. Herein Jesus makes 5 claims to equality with God: 1) He is equal with God in His person (vv. 17,18); 2) He is equal with God in His works (vv. 19,20); 3) He is equal with God in His power and sovereignty (v. 21); 4) He is equal with God in His judgment (v. 22); and 5) He is equal with God in His honor (v. 23).

In v. 17, Jesus’ point is that whether He broke the Sabbath or not, God was working continuously and, since Jesus Himself worked continuously, He also must be God. Furthermore, God does not need a day of rest for He never wearies (Is. 40:28). For Jesus’ self-defense to be valid, the same factors that apply to God must also apply to Him. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath! (Matt. 12:8). Interestingly, even the rabbis admitted that God’s work had not ceased after the Sabbath because He sustains the universe.

In response to Jewish hostility at the implications of His assertions of equality with God (v. 18), Jesus became even more fearless, forceful, and emphatic.“ Most assuredly”(v. 19) is an emphatic way of saying “I’m telling you the truth.” Jesus essentially tied His activities of healing on the Sabbath directly to the Father. The Son never took independent action that set Him against the Father because the Son only did those things that were coincident with and coextensive with all that the Father does. Jesus thus implied that the only One who could do what the Father does must be as great as the Father.

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I have a fear of death. How can I overcome it?

It is a natural human feeling to fear the end of one's life. The thought of death brings to mind other thoughts of pain, sadness, and separation from loved ones. What does the Bible share to help overcome the fear of death?

First and foremost, the greatest antidote to the fear of death is to be assured of heaven when this life is over. To enjoy eternity in heaven, you must receive Jesus Christ by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16). He is the only way (John 14:6).

Second, those who have received Christ by faith are to grow in Him. As we grow, we gain confidence in our salvation. First John 5:13 says, "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." Learning God's Word strengthens our faith and creates a joy in us as we look forward to eternity with our Lord. In Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, death is pictured as a "dreadful river that surrounds Mount Zion." However, the river is "deeper or shallower depending on the faith of the one traversing it."

Third, we can study what the Bible teaches about heaven. When we learn about the joys that await us in eternity, we long to be with Jesus and the believers who have gone before us. 

Fourth, we can study what the Bible says about the death of a believer. Because of Jesus, death has been defeated; it has lost its "sting" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Physical death, for the believer, is attended by angels (Luke 16:22) and is temporary because of the promised resurrection; in fact, death is sometimes referred to as "sleep" in the New Testament (John 11:11, 13; 1 Corinthians 11:30). To be "away from the body" is to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Fifth, we are called to live a life without regrets. Our fear of death is often associated with the disappointment of falling short of personal goals. We cannot change the past, but we can live today with full devotion to the Lord. Paul wrote, "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, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). Living without regrets includes living a holy life in Christ, making disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), and using our gifts and resources to make an eternal impact. Jesus taught, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).

Physically, we can also do our part to take care of our bodies. Healthy diet, exercise, and rest, along with avoiding harmful activities such as smoking can help us live life to its fullest.

Ultimately, the Lord is the one who can remove our fears, including the fear of death. Those who know Him, are growing in Him, and living for Him can anticipate the afterlife with great joy, knowing they will be with Him forever (1 Peter 1:8-9).

Death - What does the Bible say about it?

According to the Bible, death is not the end of life but the separation of the soul from the body. Scripture clearly speaks of both eternal life with God in heaven and eternal separation from God in hell.

Death is the result of sin. Romans 6:23 directly states, "For the wages of sin is death." Every person dies physically, because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Following death is a time of reckoning: "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Thus, there is no reincarnation as taught in Eastern religions. Death entered the world with Adam's sin (Romans 5:12), as shown in the fact that Adam died (Genesis 5:5). 

Even Jesus endured physical death (Matthew 27:50), making Him like all other humans. The difference was that Jesus had no sin and therefore did not deserve death. Jesus defeated death through His resurrection on the third day, proving Himself to be the Savior (1 Corinthians 15:3-11). Because of Christ's work, death has been defeated, and the Christian can ask, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).

The Bible also speaks of spiritual death, the state of being separated from God. People can be alive physically yet dead spiritually. The solution to spiritual death is to be born again. Jesus spoke of the necessity of the new birth in John 3 and offered eternal life to those who believe: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). 

Those who trust Christ for salvation have been set free "from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). Death has been defeated in the life of the believer. The Christian lives in confident anticipation of eternal life: "We know that we have passed out of death into life" (1 John 3:14).

So, our gracious God has exchanged our spiritual death for eternal life. Romans 6:13 says, "present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness."

The New Testament often refers to the believer's death as "sleep." For this reason, early Christians called their burial places "cemeteries" (Greek koimeteria) which literally meant "dormitories" or "sleeping places." First Thessalonians 5:9-10 teaches, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him" (see also 1 Corinthians 15:51). Christ has defeated death, and so Christians "sleep" upon the end of this life. They truly "rest in peace."

While a believer's body is in the grave, awaiting resurrection, his spirit is in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). An unbeliever, on the other hand, dies twice: at physical death, his body is interred, and what follows is an eternal separation from God, called "the second death" in Revelation 21:8. How different from the eternal destiny of those in Christ! Philippians 3:20-21 says, "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body."

What is salvation?

Salvation is about being delivered from that which can injure or destroy. When someone is in danger and gets rescued, or is suffering and gets relief, it is said that he has been saved. But Christian salvation is about far more. It is victory in Jesus, spiritual wellness, and the gift of eternal life. The Philippian jailer who came to the Paul wanting to know how to receive salvation was asking about his eternal destiny (Acts 16:30-31). Paul acquainted the man with eternal salvation. 

One might ask what specifically are we saved from? Primarily, we are saved from the wrath of God against sin that will surely fall upon sinners unless they are saved from that wrath. We are sinners by nature and by choice—because of the sin inherited from Adam and sin we commit because of our fallen nature, the consequence of which is spiritual death (Romans 6:23). Specifically, salvation is being saved from God's wrath concerning sin (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

But we cannot save ourselves. Only God who created mankind can save rebellious, sinful mankind, and He has provided the way of salvation. We are saved only by faith through Jesus because of God's amazing grace and power (Ephesians 2:8; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). God saves us by providing the only means of salvation, the death of His only begotten Son, Jesus, on the cross and His resurrection from the dead (Romans 5:10). Because He died for us and lives again, so can we die physically, then live eternally with Him. We do not deserve salvation. Salvation is God's gift (Ephesians 2:5, 8) which comes to us only though the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). 

We receive salvation by the gift of faith imparted to us as a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9), by hearing the "good news" of the gospel of salvation (Ephesians 1:13) and believing it. But salvation is more than saying "I believe." Salvation requires repentance, and repentance goes beyond saying, "I'm sorry." Repentance involves a 180-degree turn away from sin; that is, to go in the opposite direction, to forget the attractions of the world and follow the teachings of Jesus the Savior (Matthew 6:24).

Salvation is defined as being delivered, by God's grace, from sin and its consequence of eternal punishment and being raised to newness of life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:4). Salvation comes to those who repent and, by faith, receive Jesus alone as personal Savior and Lord (John 1:12).

What is Christian redemption? What does it mean to be redeemed?

Redemptionis a biblical word that means "a purchase" or "a ransom." Historically, redemptionwas used in reference to the purchase of a slave's freedom. A slave was "redeemed" when the price was paid for his freedom. God spoke of Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt in this way: "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment" (Exodus 6:6). The use of redemptionin the New Testament includes this same idea. Every person is a slave to sin; only through the price Jesus paid on the cross is a sinful person redeemed from sin and death.

In Scripture, it is clear every person stands in need of redemption. Why? Because every person has sinned (Romans 3:23). The following verse then reveals we are "justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24). Hebrews 9:15 says that Jesus "is the mediator of a new covenant . . . since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant."

Redemption provides several benefits for the believer: eternal life (Revelation 5:9-10), forgiveness of sin (Ephesians 1:7), a right relationship with God (Romans 5:17), peace with God (Colossians 1:18-20), the Holy Spirit to live within (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and adoption into God's family (Galatians 4:5). Titus 2:13-14 says Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession."

When we are redeemed, we become different people. When God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, He made them a new nation and gave them a new land. Likewise, the Christian has a new identity in Christ. No longer is the Christian a captive to sin and death. Instead, he has become a citizen of God's kingdom. Christians now live in anticipation of our eternal home with our heavenly Father.

God wants us to see Him as the One who redeems (Isaiah 43:14; 44:6, 24; 49:7). Just as Boaz was the kinsman-redeemer of Ruth (Ruth 3:9), Jesus redeems us (Galatians 3:13). Jesus paid a high price for our redemption, the ultimate sacrifice of His own life to free us from sin.

Christian reconciliation - What is it? Why do we need to be reconciled to God? 

To reconcile is to make right or to harmonize. Reconciliation involves different parties coming to the same position, and it always involves change. Obviously, if enemies are to be reconciled, there must be some kind of change, or friendship will be impossible.

Christian reconciliation is the idea of being made right with God. Before we go any further, we should clarify that our relationship with God was broken through no fault of God's. It was we who ran away from God, not vice versa (Genesis 3:8). God is perfect and we are not (Romans 3:23). He does not need to change, make concessions, or find some middle ground of cooperation with us. We are the ones that need changing.

Because of our sin, we were actually the enemies of God (Romans 5:10). Amazingly, Christ took the first step to reconcile us to Himself. "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:19). God wanted us to be reconciled. He knew we could not solve our sin problem ourselves. So He provided a way for us to be made right with Him through Christ.

Believers have their sins forgiven, a necessary step in reconciliation with God. Colossians 1:21-22 says, "You, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him." We are no longer "alienated"; we are now forgiven, transformed, and reconciled. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we can have fellowship with God.

Now, rather than seeing us as enemies, Christ calls us "friends" (John 15:15). Jesus is our peace; He is our mediator who makes us right with God. "Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1).

Not only do we enjoy peace with God as a result of Christ's sacrifice, we also have peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Varied backgrounds, natural antagonisms, old grudges—none of it matters to those who have been born again. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[g] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Ephesians 2:14-16 emphasizes the reconciliation that God has established between Jews and Gentiles: "For he himself is our peace . . . that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility."

"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said, and He should know (Matthew 5:9). Jesus made a way to exchange our sinful, broken lives for forgiven, connected lives. He replaced the enmity with intimacy. Just as Hosea pursued his unfaithful wife and restored her to a proper relationship (Hosea 3), God has pursued us and sought reconciliation. "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love" (Song of Solomon 2:4).

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The Necessity of Grateful Prayer

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

Genuine believers will react thankfully to trials and suffering.

Preventive spiritual maintenance is very important. If we are disciplined believers, we’ll practice it and prepare ourselves for any kind of trials and hardships. Then when the unexpected happens, we’ll be able to respond in a godly manner and truly appreciate what the Lord is teaching us.

The attitude expressed in today’s verse is basic and is one of the strongest antidotes to fear and lack of preparation in the face of trials. The apostle Paul affirms an attitude that allows us to call upon God for help in difficulties but does not leave room for doubt, blame, or second-guessing. Those responses reveal an absence of faith and a lack of acceptance of what God has for us.

A prayerful and grateful reaction to God’s tests in our lives, no matter how painful, unexpected, or difficult to understand at the time, results in our receiving His unsurpassed peace. A careful look at Philippians 4:6, along with verse 7—“the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”—proclaims that God’s chief concern for us is not so much specific answers to our every request, but that we know His supernatural peace. We can also glean this principle from the long series of questions Job asked God about Himself. God chose not to answer Job’s questions per se (see Job 38—41) because His purpose was simply that Job know God’s sovereignty and submit to it.

That may be His purpose for us as well. Therefore, the Lord wants us to be prepared for trials and sufferings with a faith-filled, grateful response, one that recognizes He has an ultimate purpose for us (1 Peter 5:10) and remembers His promise that we will receive no trial or temptation we can’t bear (1 Cor. 10:13).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God to help you stay faithful in your reading and study of Scripture so that the preventive maintenance of your soul will be strong.
  • Thank the Lord for His peace that is available even in the most difficult circumstances.
  • Praise Him for a specific time when that peace was especially comforting to you.

For Further Study

Read Ephesians 2:14-156:15; and 1 Thessalonians 5:23. What important components characterize peace?


Speaking the Truth in Love (John)

The twelve apostles included "John" (Matt. 10:2).

Seek to maintain a proper balance between truth and love.

Some people picture John as overly sentimental and egotistical, lying with his head on Jesus' shoulder and constantly referring to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. But that's not an accurate characterization of one of the "Son of thunder"! He loved Jesus deeply and was amazed that Jesus loved him—especially after he wanted to burn up the Samaritans and then secure a prominent place for himself in Christ's kingdom. Calling himself "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (e.g., John 21:20) was simply his way of marvelling over God's grace in his life.

As much as he loved Jesus, John never allowed his love to deteriorate into mere sentimentalism. In fact, the proper balance between truth and love is the hallmark of his ministry. In his writings we find the word love more than eighty times and witness nearly seventy times. His profound love for Christ compelled him to be a teacher of love and a witness to the truth. To him, obedience to the truth was the highest expression of love. As 1 John 2:5 says, "Whoever keeps [God's] word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected."

John's greatest joy was to know that his spiritual children were walking in the truth (3 John 4). He firmly denounced anyone who attempted to divert them from that goal by denying or distorting God's Word.

Today, media talk shows and other influences have blurred the lines between opinion and truth. One man's opinion is purported to be as good as the next, and there's little talk about what's right or wrong.

Truth suffers even within the church because many Christians are willing to compromise it to avoid upsetting people. They forget that true love flourishes only in the atmosphere of biblical truth (Phil. 1:9).

Amid such confusion, God calls you to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). The world doesn't need another opinion—it needs God's absolute and authoritative Word!

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank God for the gift of His love and the power of His truth. Ask Him to make you a person of ever-increasing biblical integrity.

For Further Study

Read Revelation 2:1-7.

  • What strengths did the church at Ephesus have?
  • What did it lack?
  • What did Jesus require of it?


The Lord’s Prayer: An Overview, Part 1

“‘Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]” For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions’” (Matthew 6:9–15).

In the words of this passage, Jesus provides a concise but comprehensive model outline of genuine prayer. First our Lord addresses God’s glory (vv. 9–10), then He speaks to humanity’s needs (vv. 11–13a). Three petitions make up each of the sections. The first three deal with God’s name, kingdom, and will; the second three appeal to the Father concerning daily bread, forgiveness, and protection from temptation.

Jesus says nothing specific about where we should pray. During His earthly ministry, He prayed in many different places and situations, both public and private. Paul instructed his readers to pray “in every place” (1 Tim. 2:8).

There is also nothing specific about a time to pray. Jesus prayed at many different hours, around the clock. Scripture pictures believers praying at every conceivable occasion—at regular, habitual prayer times; at times of special danger and special blessing; before and after meals; and when arriving at or leaving a certain location.

At any time and under any circumstance, prayer is appropriate. It should be a continual, comprehensive way of life—an open communion with God (Eph. 6:18; 1 Thess. 5:17).

Ask Yourself

As we embark on several days of devotional discussion concerning the Lord’s Prayer, try to articulate what this passage has meant to you through the years. What is in this pattern of prayer that has ministered to you in deep, unforgettable ways?


Reading for Today: