eVotional: Isaiah 56:4-5 Choosing God’s Good Pleasure

“And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” 

Isaiah 56:6-7, ESV

The Lord has said to us elsewhere, “Have this mind…which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). What is “this” mind? The mind we are to have? The mind of God. His word. If we need to act and think outside of our normal or usual mind, how do we go about acting and thinking using a different mind? We have to become connected to a new mind!

Jesus is our example of the new mind. He has shown us how to get it, where it comes from, and how to live it. Every time the devil came at him, he didn’t rebuke the devil on his own authority, he rebuked him with the Word of God. Because he acted on the Word of God, because he lived the Word of God, because he spoke the Word of God, God provided the power and the approval of Jesus’ actions.

The Word of God is who he was in the beginning with God. It is who he is now seated at the right hand of God. In the beginning was the Word, he became flesh and dwelt among us, and now has received the back the fullness of the glory he put down in order to walk among us and show us how we truly live when live God with all heart, mind, soul, and strength.  

Being in the form of God, he didn’t take any occasion to be God here on earth. He gave up his title to become like man and be subject to the Father. After he was successful in this, God gave him back all the authority he ever had and also added a name that is above any other name and put all things under his feet!

Before this, we had a hard time seeing who we are! Now we see more clearly that what is similar about Christ’s situation and ours is that we are also made in the image of God! Our authority and our power flows from our head, Christ, the living word of God. Jesus knew the scriptures and thus was prepared to stand on God’s word in every attack the devil made.  

In the Isaiah passage above, it was not just Israel that God included in his work of salvation. What ever is going on in your life or mine, we become victorious as we stand in the love of God, which includes the love of his word. Notice how God sent his word to his prophets. Notice how he sent the living word to us! Know who you are! And walk victoriously in his word. 

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eVotional: Proverbs 4:25-26 Walk this Way

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eye lids look straight before thee.  Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”

Proverbs 4:25-26

We are recommended to watch the way we walk.  By taking careful account of our steps and looking straight ahead we create less tangents in our life. Look straight ahead helps to remove tempting visuals.  Looking straight ahead at the path God has given us empowers us to care less about who is talking about you and me or who is lying and sowing discord!

If we will do this, ALL of our ways will be established.  Those things I described happen to us all. The WORD is the lamp to our feet and the light to our path.  How can we see our path without a light in this darkened world? Distraction is available 24/7.

When do you need God’s help?  Now?  Look straight ahead, walking in his word, being present and in the moment you find yourself in. Don’t waist any more time with vain repetitions. We know what their end is because we are far too familiar with them. The beset to change is to do something different! Start something new! Praise God like your next blessing is already here and watch God fight the battle for you. If he inhabits the praises of his people (Psa 22:3), find a way to praise him as often as you can. And you’ll find him inhabiting your steps; even when you didn’t notice he was there!

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eVotional: Isaiah 43:2-3 Blessing Ahead

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour”

Isaiah 43:2-3

Why look back at the past when God is continually doing new things?  The old is old.  The new is new.  Because we are precious in His sight, He has loved us and has began restoration!  Before we knew Christ, he was already at work!  We are created for His glory, so that when we follow Him even death will lose its grip.  He parted the seas for Moses as he raised his arms and followed the Lord’s lead. If following the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength parts seas, why look back at our past disobedience?  What is there to show for it? Nothing. So then we look forward to a new thing that he’s doing in you and in me!  Look forward to seeing a new earth, a new heaven, and receiving new revelations!!!

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eVotional: Deut 29:29 Inheritance of Faith



“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV

This passage today says a lot about what we have been given in the fullness of Christ. I’ve recently spent time reviewing Colossians 2 where Paul also talks about our need to stay in Christ and that our faith has taken away the debt that was held against us! Amen.

The Israelites are instructed to destroy every living person in Jericho, and they do. Immediately, we are confronted with one of the hardest things in the Old Testament to understand: why would God destroy people? It seems so harsh and violent. It paints a picture of an angry and vengeful God, which is different than the New Testament presentation of the gospel of Christ. It also brings to the discussion the topic of ethnic cleansing. Was Israel, or was God, participating in this kind of behavior?

We tend to read modern conceptions into the biblical text. This is common because our reality is comprised of our own experiences. We try to understand things from where we are, what we know, and where we’ve been. After all, what else can we do? But part of studying the word of God is attempting to think God’s thoughts after him. We live a faith-seeking-understanding. That being the case, we must remain teachable. We are not looking to forge the Bible into a shape we like, but to rather be molded by it. Our end goal is to understand God’s message.

With that in mind, what answers does God provide regarding the destruction of Jericho? I find several pieces of information. 1.) Before the Israelites ever got to Jericho, there was fear of judgment looming in the city. 2.) God’s covenant is not with Israel alone, but with all those who will follow him. 3.) Secret things belong to God and only those things revealed belong to us.

First, Jericho was not without warning and allowed time to repent. Joshua sent spies to scope the land and people. His spies were protected by Rahab when the town guards came for them. Rahab wasn’t living holy. She was a prostitute. Yet, she was justified and spared because of her faith or hope in God. Rahab knew judgment was coming and acknowledged it (Jos 1:9). The rest of the city did not.

Rahab’s behavior shows recognition of sin and of God’s authority. This leads to the second point: God told Israel that it is not only with them that he is making his covenant (Deu 29:14). Entering into a covenant with God takes submission and honoring him as God: the king of the covenant. Part of that honoring is to observe the stipulations of the covenant. to love him above all other things. Rehab behaved with this perspective even though she was guilty and looked to God for grace. Well, thank God! Maybe there is hope for me! All of Jericho had this same opportunity, and refused it. Look at how this concept is present here in the first books of the Bible, not just later in the New Testament.

Finally, God has reserved some matters for himself. He has not disclosed everything to us. What we can know is what he has revealed to us (Deu 29:29). The rest of the way we have to walk out by faith. A child does not understand the parent’s command, but, when obeyed that parent saves the child from harm and sets them up for success. It isn’t until afterwards that the child sees the reason for the commands.

When we follow God and his commands we will reap the fullness of them. Understanding of all the elements is not a requirement. We are justified God’s love that has been poured on us in union with our love of God. It has never been about a certain ethnicity because ultimately we all come from the Father himself. It has always been about faith as a response to God’s love toward us.

Even though we may not understand right now, what is taking place in our lives is maturing us toward acting lovingly to our God. Continue in those things God has led you into. In due season, you will reap a harvest you did not foresee! And oh how good his harvest season is! Love in Christ, Saints.

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eVotional: Rom 8:29

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29

Before the foundations of the earth were set into place, there you were as a plan in the mind of God. You are a person with a destiny, with a destination, and with a purpose. In all the quests to find purpose, the quest that has produced the most for me is pursuit of my savior. We can rest, REST, assured that where we are now is also part of who we are. And it is part of the plan. It doesn’t always, or doesn’t often, feel that way. I don’t mean that suffering, if we are experiencing it, is always of God because it is not always his will depending on the situation, but the big picture is not one we are accustomed to looking at. We are being trained to look at a picture God is painting for us, and one that we are not familiar with. Thus, our training period is underway showing us how.

You can take a quarter and set it on the ground all day long, and it will accomplish nothing. You can place it on the most luxurious car and it will still be a quarter without any accomplishments. Just because it has a purpose, doesn’t mean it is accomplishing that purpose. Its purpose will be fulfilled when it’s either invested or spent. When that quarter is even fed into a parking meter, it accomplishes something. It makes something happen and fulfills its purpose: a trade for goods or services.

To the same effect, your value accomplishes nothing without correct application. Your value, your image was created for a purpose. You were fashioned in the image and likeness of your creator. You too are a creator! Some of us create life. Some of us create pictures and books. When we look at ourselves as having a form of godliness, that we were put here on purpose, and that God loves us specifically because we are who we are, it is easier to love ourselves: and we must because to not appreciate who we are is to not appreciate who made us. Unless we appreciate the value of the quarter, we won’t apply it. Appreciate your immense value in the kingdom.

It is more important to be who you are than to try to achieve some kind of position or authority because it looks like it would be a nice place to be. Part of loving who God made us is also loving our limitations. We start crossing into covetousness when we don’t appreciate boundaries. Our gifts, talents, and desires, often intersect at a given spot. That’s where our love and passion is. That’s where our calling is. You can find it! If you don’t know where it is, knock and the door will be opened.

Many distractions are sent to you by your enemy in order to stop you from prospering in the body of Christ; in the Spirit of God. A Son has been given as a testimony of the greatness of God and the value of our call. We are life-giving, miracle-working, captive-freeing, bond-breaking, glory-giving, sons and daughters of a living God! We are determined to accomplish what God has pre-designated us to be!

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eVotional: Mat 16:15-18 Empowered to Draw Near

“He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Mat 16:15-18, ESV

I can’t help but notice an inspiring order of operations in this part of Matthew’s gospel. The disciples’ understanding of Jesus has been developing up until this point and now they are finally beginning to see that Jesus is the Christ. They are “getting it.” Just a bit earlier Jesus told them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples understood that Jesus was talking about their teaching (Mat 16:12) and so marked the turning tide.

This is a big step for these guys. This would be a big step in our own lives as well. This is the point at which we finally start to see what God has been revealing to us. The very first step in this ordeal was that God called the disciples through Christ Jesus. It was God who took the initiative to seek them out as he did we are who are lost to draw us to Christ.

Now at this point in their walk they are starting to see the truth about who Christ is. Jesus told them that they are blessed because the revelation is not coming from their own understanding but rather a power that the prophets of old had longed to see and a matter also that angels desired to look into (1Pe 1:12). This is cause for Jesus to call them blessed!

I’ve heard some pastors belittle the word being used here like it simply means “happy.” True: that is one of the things being “blessed” denotes. However, the Greek word for “blessed”, makarios, also means divine favor. Oh happy are you Simon because you’ve been shown something happy…no…Simon you have been revealed a divine message that many do not see and have not ever seen! That God has called you to see this is a major, earth shattering, bomb-dropping deal! You are experiencing divine favor. This is not a light thing, brother!

And so you too! Me too! That you have been called of God to be revealed Christ is the Lord is not something you should simply view as happy. You are divinely favored. So now we have God’s call on Christ’s disciples and God having divine favor on his disciples by showing them the truth of who Christ is. Next, is something many people have paid a lot of money to try to understand. You ready?

Christ tells Simon who he is: Peter! The Greek word means “rock.” This was prophesied to Simon when Jesus first called him (Joh 1:40-42). This also echoes the change in name Abram experienced to Abraham when God called him. Jesus testifies later that He is the chief rock: the cornerstone (Mat 21:42). This process of God calling, revealing, believers coming to understand, and learning who we are in Christ Jesus is what the church will be built upon. He was talking to Peter here for sure, but Jesus also meant to show the model that is used for maturity and growth in God for all those who believe.

With this empowerment authority is given. Jesus pronounces blessings saying the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church. They will have the keys of the kingdom of heaven to bind and loose. Nothing will separate you from who you are in Christ! You are divinely favored. It’s a big deal and a real deal. When God draws us close, let us not recoil. Let us draw near to him and learn who we are as his sons and daughters, and the mission he has for our lives.

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eVotional: James 5:8-11 Becoming Steadfast

“You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” James 5:8-11

We have witnessed the passion of the Lord through his birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection. God came came to earth through a virgin, which in part symbolizes that it is God who has the power to save and does so working through a willing vessel. It is not a device of man. Peace on earth is only possible through him. And those who have that peace of God live in the peace that surpasses understanding. This actually makes sense in a strange way.

When we think of things only in terms of our understanding, they can bring less than peaceful results! We have experienced plenty of wrong-doing in our lives! However, the peace of God needs no understanding: it requires faith. Trusting in the Lord applies our faith, and Scripture says that the product of faith doesn’t disappoint.

What has been entirely purposeful in your and my life is the work of God. He is there at work; especially, when we don’t sense him. So we have need of patience. It is through events that challenge our faith that we have the opportunity to be steadfast and receive the results for such commitment to our faith (Heb 10:35-36). There is no steadfastness without something to be steadfast about. When we have been steadfast, then we receive the promise.

James uses the story of Job. I don’t think I’m alone in that I don’t like the fact that we are told of a man God liked who he allowed Satan to do a number on!. True, the ultimate end of Job was far better than his beginning. That’s great. What about the in-between time? Boils and such infirmities do not sound pleasant. But do we sometimes have a poor perspective: as if life is about going through life comfortable? That’s why the story of Job concerns and challenges us. But if the trial periods were easy, the outcome wouldn’t be so great. And we have an exceedingly great reward awaiting!

What can be helpful is scholars have pointed out that the Job story is composed in the style of Hebrew poetry. The emphasis seems to be more on the moral of the story than on the literalness of the event. This view treats the story more as an extended parable: an earthly event with heavenly meaning. Whatever one’s view, it doesn’t alter the message.

Though we may kick and scream, our ultimate position must be a total commitment and dependence on Christ. It is there where the magic happens. James also said that if we pray and don’t believe in hearing or receiving an answer, we may as well not pray at all. God is looking for those who will love and trust him. It won’t work without this.

Let us always consider the message of hope we have received; how compassionate and merciful our God is toward us. He remained faithful so that we may remain in him. He sought us out before we sought him. He provided our need before we recognized we needed it. The conclusion of the story is magnificent. He lives and lives in us!

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1 Thessalonians 5:24-25, Car Stereos, and Devotion

“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.”  1 Thessalonians 5:2-4, NKJV

This Scripture caused me to recall that I lived in an apartment in South Minneapolis many years ago. I had a pretty good car stereo system. I faithfully brought the detachable face (yes it was that long ago) into my apartment every day. For just one day, one day, I left it in the car. That very same day a thief broke in and stole the stereo! Arrrrg! Are you kidding me? That very day?

I had a dream one morning that our church had been broken into. All the audio equipment was gathered into the pulpit area as if thieves were about ready to run off with the gear until suddenly being chased out. The Pastor came and inspected the situation. He pulled a piece of equipment out of the sound booth and stood at the pulpit. It was a broken speaker that had needed servicing long before the thief ever got there. The Pastor said, One reason a thief finds opportunity is because if we’re not going to take care of our own things, someone else will gladly take it!’

Now I can look at this perspective by way of my earthly house, my body, the temple of the living God. I can say that I’m not always taking care of every little hurting piece. That “one” day comes when I don’t protect those things that are most dear to me. I get tired. I get lazy. I get frustrated. I get weary. Yet, I know now that if I don’t take good care of this Temple of God, the devil will surely advance his agenda! Praise be to God for his reminders to be prayerful and watchful at all times. It’s in those moments of our weakness or neglect that unfortunately provide that window of opportunity for those spirits who seek to do ill. Our Lord has enlightened us that we might prepare for those thieves!

That same pastor used to say, “I stay ready to keep from having to get ready.” Wise words. And he lived them out faithfully. Use those whom God has sent you to stay accountable and encouraged. He has not left us without. Where there is a call, there is provision. Blessings upon you!

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Spiritual Friendship: Do we Have Spiritual Obligations to our Friends?

Spiritual FriendshipWesley Hill
Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian
Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2015. Paperback $14.99.
ISBN 9781587433498.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Brazos Press through the Brazos Press Bloggers program. The opinions expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. This is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Wesley Hill has written this book in his pursuit of answers for his interest concerning intimate friendships, how Scripture has presented them, and what the Church has historically thought about them. Do we have more obligations to our friendly relationships other than simply choosing to have them? Since friendships do not have the type of physical ties like those of our ancestry or like marriage does it then follow that friendship doesn’t have significantly meaningful and spiritual ties?

Hill describes several enemies on the path toward this intimate outlook on friendship. The first he mentions is sex. We have grown akin to assuming that intimacy involves sex and Hill thinks we can thank Freud’s suspicion that relationships are based on eroticism for this connection. Thus, when any same-sex intimacy is encountered, people often feel uncomfortable. Books that describe an intimate same-sex relationship are automatically suspected of masking homosexual attraction.

The second enemy presented Hill describes as a myth about the ultimate significance of marriage and the family. He asserts that it is assumed there is no higher bond than these. When newlyweds forsake friends to embark on a journey together, Hill points out that there is a loss felt by those friends who are left behind. Is not this loss significant and appropriate enough to be grieved?

The last myth Hill points out is in regard to the idea of freedom. We have been sold the idea that less commitment equals greater freedom. If personal autonomy is where we find deepest joy, then a concept like intimate friendship is a hindrance. “We can be friends, so long as it doesn’t require too many sacrifices” (14). For those who turn to the Church for intimate friendships, they often find a casual approach. Not only is this felt by singles, but also by stay at home parents.

Wesley Hill presents these arguments in an engaging and thoughtful way. He illustrates by providing examples of same-sex friendships experiencing intimacy without engaging in sexual relations. An example offered is that of Aelred who was an abbot of the Rievaulx Abbey and wrote on spiritual friendship. Aelred disagreed with the idea that abstinence and committed love were irreconcilable (31). Aelred posited that celibacy created an opportunity for purifying love and desire. Many didn’t agree with this type of sentiment and John Boswell specifically argued that Aelred ventured too far into the erotic. Hill believes this misunderstands Aelred and that his intent was the joy of a committed, loving, and intimate friendship.

Hill uses Aelred’s example and several others to make a convincing point that re-looking at our view on friendship is in order. Hill reviews C. S. Lewis’ position that friendship does not require knowing anything about another’s personal life, but can be built upon a commonality. That commonality “just is” the friendship (68). Hill also shares Lewis’ position that our lack of knowledge about the cause of homosexuality is like the lack the apostles had of the blind man in John 9:1-3. The disciples weren’t given an answer for the cause, but simply that through the blind man the works of God can be manifest. Lewis called this a negative position. We must accept the consequences of these and don’t always know the causes (74). This was a helpful section and was alone well worth the read.

I value Hill’s observations and the sensitivity he is creating for those of us who are not intimately familiar with the struggles for friendship in the particular context of being gay and celibate or simply of celibacy. I found his outlook to be refreshing; especially, as it is viewed through a Christ-centered blueprint. Hill raises awareness to several other sensitive issues and has provided good examples of treating them them fairly. Hill makes a good argument that our friendships may involve “just as much of an ascetic struggle as marriage or parenting or monastic vows or any other form of Christian love” (99). Sharing in the interests or successes of others also involves sharing in the desolation or pain of others.

In all fairness, Hill doesn’t argue that all friendships must be taken to the same degree of commitment, but rather that everyone one of us does have important friendships in which we must take great care. I don’t share, however, his concern for the aftermath on friendships that newlyweds leave behind. In that new union there is a reprioritization that can indeed create a type of severing from other relationships that limits the intimacy of those relationships because of the new priorities (Gen 2:24). I don’t’ view this as negative (1 Cor 7:9). There are some friendships that naturally change. I appreciate, however, the light that Hill sheds on this issue.

I recommend the book and what is behind Hill’s practical suggestions at the conclusion. This work is well done and I feel this is of great benefit for the church.

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Lexham Bible Dictionary Articles

I received word that the Lexham Bible Dictionary articles I wrote are now all available! You will need the Logos or FaithLife Bible apps to view. The dictionary has numerous articles for background and explanations for a plethora of biblical subject matter to compliment your studies. And best of all, it’s a free resource!

Fall, The
Co-written with Derek Brown, academic editor at FaithLife, the article describes the history of the fall, its relation to other ancient near eastern accounts of humanity’s condition, the view from the intertestamental period, and the appearance of the idea in the New Testament with some modern scholarship summaries.

Memphite Theology
Also called the Theology of Memphis, this article describes an ancient account of creation that was discovered on a black milling stone dated around 700 BC. The story written on the stone is believed to date back to the First Dynasty of Egypt. One of the major significances is its reference to creation by divine decree like we find when God speaks creation into existence in the biblical narratives. This provides some evidence that the biblical narratives are quite older than some proposed later datings.

This article provides a summary of a major theme in the Old Testament concerning the people of God. The remnant of God’s people are those who suffer, survive divine judgment, and remain faithful to God. The idea can be traced from the Old Testament, through the intertestament period, and well into the New Testament.

Temple Scroll
The Temple Scroll was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran. It is the longest scroll and presents some of the law of Moses as spoken by Moses himself, first-person. It provides details for the eschatological temple and insight into the Qumran community, and the interpretation of the Old Testament during the later intertestamental period.

These are four among many articles that you’ll find very helpful.

Blessings on your studies!

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