Daily Archives: February 15, 2018

February 15 The Joy of Affection

“It is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:7–8).


Often the strongest and deepest relationships are forged in the crucible of Christian ministry.

Undoubtedly there are people who occupy a special place in your heart. Perhaps you seldom see them or talk to them, but they are on your mind and in your prayers often.

That’s how Paul regarded the Philippian believers, and it was right for him to do so because they were such an integral part of his life and ministry. They stood by him in every situation—even during his judicial proceedings and imprisonment in Rome.

The gratitude and joy Paul felt was more than an emotion. It was a moral obligation to praise God for what He had accomplished through them. That’s the meaning of the Greek word translated “right” in verse 7.

“Heart” refers to the center of one’s thoughts and feelings (cf. Prov. 4:23). Paul thought of the Philippians often and eagerly yearned for them with the affection of Christ Himself. In Philippians 4:1 he calls them “my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown.”

The mutual affection between Paul and the Philippians illustrates that often the strongest and deepest relationships are developed within the context of Christian ministry. There’s a special camaraderie among people who work toward life’s most noble goals and see God achieve eternal results through their efforts. Guard those relationships carefully, and cultivate as many as possible.


Suggestions for Prayer:  Make a list of those who share in your ministry. Also list some ways God has worked through you in recent weeks. Spend time thanking Him for both.

For Further Study: Barnabas was a faithful friend and ministry companion to Paul. Read Acts 4:36–37, 9:22–28, 11:19–30, and 13:1–3 and answer these questions: ✧ What does “Barnabas” mean? Did he live up to his name? ✧ How did Barnabas pave the way for Paul’s ministry among the disciples at Jerusalem? ✧ What adventure did Paul and Barnabas share that began at Antioch?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 58). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.


And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.


The patriarch Jacob saw a vision of God and cried out in wonder, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.”

Jacob had never been for one small division of a moment outside the circle of that all-pervading Presence. But he knew it not. That was his trouble, and it is ours.

Men do not know that God is here. What a difference it would make if they knew!

The Presence and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work is to show us the Father and the Son.

If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.

It has been asked, “Why does God manifest His Presence to some and let multitudes of others struggle along in the half-light of imperfect Christian experience?” We can only reply that the will of God is the same for all—He has no favorites within His household. All he has ever done for any of His children He will do for all of His children. The difference lies not with God but with us![1]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

40 Days to the Cross: Week of Ash Wednesday – Thursday

Confession: Psalm 51:5–8

Behold, in iniquity I was born,

and in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward parts,

and in the hidden parts you make me to know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.

Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness;

let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

Reading: Mark 8:34–9:1

And summoning the crowd together with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life on account of me and of the gospel will save it. For what does it benefit a person to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a person give in exchange for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

And he said to them, “Truly I say to you, that there are some of those standing here who will never experience death until they see the kingdom of God having come with power.”


Some are saying, Oh that the world was crucified to me and I to the world! Oh that my heart were as dead as a stone to the world and alive to Jesus! Do you truly wish it? Look, then, to the cross. Behold the amazing gift of love.… Sit down like Mary, and gaze upon a crucified Jesus. Then will the world become a dim and dying thing. When you gaze upon the sun, it makes everything else dark; when you taste honey, it makes everything else tasteless; so when your soul feeds on Jesus, it takes away the sweetness of all earthly things—praise, pleasure, and fleshly lusts all lose their sweetness. Keep a continued gaze. Run, looking unto Jesus. Look, till the way of salvation by Jesus fills up the whole horizon, so glorious and peace-speaking. Then will the world be crucified to you, and you unto the world.

—Robert McCheyne

Glorifying in the Cross


Has the cross changed the desires of your heart? During the season of Lent, many choose to fast or refrain from certain practices. If you have done so, are you focusing your gaze upon the cross?[1]

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

February 15, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Return to Nazareth

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” And he arose and took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he departed for the regions of Galilee, and came and resided in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (2:19–23)

The fourth and final prophecy that Matthew mentions in chapter 2 pertains to the journey of Jesus’ family from Egypt to Nazareth.

When Herod was dead, the greatest immediate danger to Jesus was over. In his Antiquities Josephus reports that Herod “died of this, ulcerated entrails, putrified and maggot-filled organs, constant convulsions, foul breath, and neither physicians nor warm baths led to recovery.” A rather fitting end, it seems, for such a man. Not nearly so fitting was the elaborate and costly funeral that his eldest son and successor, Archelaus, prepared in his honor—especially in light of the fact that just five days before he died, Herod, by permission from Rome, had executed another son, Antipater, because of his plots against his father.

The angel of the Lord had told Joseph to stay in Egypt “until I tell you” (2:13). Now the angel reappeared to Joseph as promised, telling him, Arise and take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead. The fact that the angel spoke of those who sought the Child’s life indicates that Herod was not alone in his plans to destroy his supposed rival. But like Herod, the other conspirators seeking the death of the Child were themselves now dead.

Joseph was not instructed to return to any particular city or region but simply to take the Child and His mother back into the land of Israel. When he arrived in southern Israel, however, and heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. The ones who had previously sought to kill the infant Jesus were dead, but Archelaus posed another, more general, threat. In one of his numerous acts of brutality shortly before he died, Herod had executed two popular Jewish rabbis, Judas and Matthias, who had stirred up their disciples and other faithful Jews in Jerusalem to tear down the offensive Roman eagle that the king had arrogantly erected over the Temple gate. The following Passover an insurrection broke out, and Archelaus, reflecting his father’s senseless cruelty, executed three thousand Jews, many of whom were Passover pilgrims who had no part in the revolt.

Any Jew, therefore, who lived in the territory of Archelaus was in danger. Consequently Joseph was again warned by God in a dream, [and] he departed for the regions of Galilee. That they came and resided in a city called Nazareth was not only because Joseph and Mary were originally from there (Luke 2:4–5) by divine providence, but that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled. Matthew focuses on two features through all of this narrative: (1) divine revelation as indicated by angelic instruction for every move, and (2) the fulfillment of a divine plan revealed in the Old Testament.

The specific statement that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene does not appear in the Old Testament. Some interpreters have tried to connect Nazarene with the Hebrew nēser (branch) spoken of in Isaiah 11:1, but that idea is without etymological or other support, as is the idea of trying to tie the prophecy to the “shoot” of Isaiah 53:2. Because Matthew speaks of the prophets, plural, it seems that several prophets had made this prediction, though it is not specifically recorded in the Old Testament.

Other sayings and events unrecorded in the Old Testament are nevertheless quoted or referred to in the New. Jude tells us that “Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way’ ” (Jude 14–15). Yet no such prophecy is mentioned in Genesis or in any other part of the Old Testament. In a similar way we know of Jesus’ teaching that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” only because of Paul’s later reference to it (Acts 20:35). The saying is not mentioned by any of the gospel writers, including Luke, who reported the account in Acts. John tells us that he did not even attempt to record everything that Jesus said and did during His earthly ministry (John 21:25).

Matthew does not tell us which prophets predicted that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene, but only that more than one of them did so. The prophecy is said to be fulfilled when Jesus was taken to live in Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary had formerly lived. Matthew’s original readers were largely Jewish, and it was probably common knowledge among them who the specific prophets were that had made the prediction. For later readers, the Holy Spirit obviously felt it was enough that we simply know that the prediction was made and that it was fulfilled as Matthew explains.

Nazareth was about 55 miles north of Jerusalem, in the regions of Galilee, where the Lord had directed Joseph to go. The town was in an elevated basin, about one and a half miles across, and was inhabited largely by people noted for their crude and violent ways. The term Nazarene had long been a term of derision, used to describe any person who was rough and rude. That is why Nathanael, who was from Cana, a few miles to the south, asked Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). The question is especially significant coming from Nathanael, who by Jesus’ own word was “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (v. 47). Nathanael was not given to maligning his neighbors, but he was shocked that the one “of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote” (v. 45) actually could come from such a disreputable place as Nazareth.

The early Jewish persecutors of the church apparently considered Jesus’ being from Nazareth as evidence that He could not be the Messiah, rather than, as Matthew tells us, a sign that He was. Tertullus, acting as attorney for the high priest Ananias and other Jewish leaders, spoke derisively of Paul before the Roman governor Felix as “a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). The church Father Jerome wrote that in synagogue prayers Christians were often cursed as Nazarenes, with the petition that they would be blotted out of the Book of Life (see Ps. 69:28). Jesus’ living in Nazareth not only fulfilled the unnamed prophets’ prediction, but gave Him a name, Jesus the Nazarene, that would be used as a title of reproach, thus fulfilling many other prophecies that depict the Messiah as “despised and forsaken of men” (Isa. 53:3; cf. 49:7; Ps. 22:6–8; 69:20–21). The gospel writers make clear the fact that He was scorned and hated (see Matt. 12:24; 27:21–23, 63; Luke 23:4; John 5:18; 6:66; 9:22, 29).

It was therefore at lowly and despised Nazareth that the royal Son of God, along with the righteous Joseph and Mary, made His home for some thirty years.[1]

23 The town Joseph chose was Nazareth, which, according to Luke 1:26–27; 2:39, was his former home and that of Mary (cf. 13:53–58). This final quotation formula, like that of v. 15, should probably be construed as telic: this took place “in order to fulfill.” But the formula is unique in two respects: only here does Matthew use the plural “prophets,” and only here does he omit the Greek equivalent of “saying” and replace it with the conjunction hoti, which can introduce a direct quotation (NIV) but more probably should be rendered “that,” making the quotation indirect: “in order to fulfill what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene” (cf. W. Barnes Tatum Jr., “Matthew 2:23,” BT 27 [1976]: 135–37). This suggests that Matthew had no specific OT quotation in mind; indeed, these words are found nowhere in the OT.

The interpretation of this verse has such a long history (for older works, cf. Broadus; for recent studies, cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 97–104; Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 207–13) that it is not possible to list here all the major options. We may exclude those that see some wordplay connection with an OT Hebrew word but have no obvious connection with Nazareth. This eliminates the popular interpretation that makes Jesus a Nazirite or second Samson (cf. esp. Jdg 13:5, 7; 16:17, where LXX has Naziraios as opposed to Matthew’s Nazōraios; cf. Lk 1:15). Defenders include Calvin, Loisy, Schweizer, and Ernst Zuckschwerdt (“Nazōraios in Matth. 2:23,” TZ 31 [1975]: 65–77). Also to be eliminated are interpretations that try to find in Matthew’s term a reference to some kind of pre-Christian sect. The evidence for this is feeble (cf. Soares-Prabhu, Formula Quotations, 197–201) and the connection with Nazareth merely verbal. E. Earle Ellis (“How the New Testament Uses the Old,” in New Testament Interpretation [ed. Marshall], 202) sees a pun here as an “implicit midrash,” but significantly he then has to put the word “fulfillment” in quotation marks.

Matthew certainly used Nazōraios as an adjectival form of apo Nazaret (“from Nazareth” or “Nazarene”), even though the more acceptable adjective is Nazarēnos (cf. Bonnard; Albright and Mann; Soares-Prabhu). Possibly Nazōraios derives from a Galilean Aramaic form. Nazareth was a despised place (Jn 7:42, 52), even to other Galileans (cf. Jn 1:46). Here Jesus grew up, not as “Jesus the Bethlehemite,” with its Davidic overtones, but as “Jesus the Nazarene,” with all the opprobrium of the sneer. When Christians were referred to in Acts as the “Nazarene sect” (24:5), the expression was meant to hurt. First-century Christian readers of Matthew, who had tasted their share of scorn, would have quickly caught Matthew’s point. He is not saying that a particular OT prophet foretold that the Messiah would live in Nazareth; he is saying that the OT prophets foretold that the Messiah would be despised (cf. Pss 22:6–8, 13; 69:8, 20–21; Isa 11:1; 49:7; 53:2–3, 8; Da 9:26). The theme is repeatedly picked up by Matthew (e.g., 8:20; 11:16–19; 15:7–8; see Turner). In other words Matthew gives us the substance of several OT passages, not a direct quotation (so also Ezr 9:10–12; cf. Str-B, 1:92–93).

It is possible that at the same time there is a discreet allusion to the nēṣer (“branch”) of Isaiah 11:1, which received a messianic interpretation in the Targums, rabbinic literature, and Dead Sea Scrolls (cf. Gundry, Use of the Old Testament, 104), for here, too, it is affirmed that David’s son would emerge from humble obscurity and low state. Jesus is King Messiah, Son of God, Son of David; but he was a branch from a royal line hacked down to a stump and reared in surroundings guaranteed to win him scorn. Jesus the Messiah, Matthew is telling us, did not introduce his kingdom with outward show or present himself with the pomp of an earthly monarch. In accord with prophecy, he came as the despised Servant of the Lord.[2]

[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 46–48). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 124–126). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Rick Warren and C. Peter Wagner, partners in spiritual crime

Re-posting a piece penned by the late Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries in 2014 titled “The Unregenerate Know Nothing of This Struggle.”

Here at Apprising Ministries you’ve heard me warn you on a regular basis about the despicable Church Growth Movement (CGM),1 which slithered out of the spiritual black hole known as Fuller Theological Seminary (FTS). Briefly, we trace the origins of the CGM back to Donald McGavran who in 1965:

 was asked by Fuller Theological Seminary to establish the School of World Mission…. His major book  Understanding Church Growth does not primarily focus on Theology (but rather on the social sciences. McGavran’s theology is primary apologetic.

Although the name of his book is Understanding Church Growth, he focuses mostly on growth and little on the church. (source, bold in original)

At this point it’s important to note that C. Peter Wagner, McGavran’s partner in spiritual crime at FTS is listed as the co-author of Understanding Church Growth.2 You might also notice that the mythology of McGavran and Wagner sounds an awful lot like the seeker driven Purpose Driven Church methodology of Rick Warren.

There’s actually good reason for this as I shared a couple of years back in Rick Warren on Mentors like C. Peter Wagner. For you see, “Apostle” Wagner—the wingnut who developed the spurious New Apostolic Reformation—happens to be the mentor for Warren’s doctoral dissertation at FTS on, you guessed it, church growth.3

Since this isn’t the main point of this piece, let me just point out that these men essentially espoused the same man-centered theology as the late Robert Schuller4 who once wrote the following foolishness:

Classical theology has erred in its insistence that theology be “God-centered,” not “man-centered”…[and teaching about] a holy God who hates sin…we [need to] redefine our doctrine of sin.”

Historical theology has too often failed to interpret repentance as a positive creative force… Essentially, if Christianity is to succeed in the next millennium, it must cease to be a negative religion and must become positive.5

So, if you didn’t know where these man-centered myths came from, now you do. Here’s why this is important before you read the devotional teaching to follow. Another entity of the CGM, which would also slither into the visible church to marry man-pleasing mythology to business methodology is Leadership Network (LN).

It’s no secret that Rick Warren has been deeply involved with LN for decades.6 You need to know that LN teaches a fable known as “pre-conversion discipleship.” For example, we consider the following from Emergent Church “missiologist” Alan Hirsch, who was very involved in the early Emerging Church.7

Hirsch writes:

we need to reframe evangelism within the context of discipleship…even “the Twelve” (and “the Seventy”) were all what we would call “pre-conversion disciples.”8

That’s from Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship where Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren himself gushed in his foreword:

No, sorry about that Rick Warren; they are clearly teaching a mythology that someone who is still in the flesh can actually be discipled. However, the critical fact is that the Twelve and the Seventy were very specifically chosen by Jesus Christ Himself and interacted directly with Him; and thus they were converted before they were sent out.

This brings me to the most important part of this short article. The CGM has really crippled the Christian witness outside the Body of Christ and produced the neutering of the Gospel of repentance and the Cross. As such, you need to know that there are scores and scores of false converts kidding themselves that they are Christians.

George Whitefield was a leading figure in the Great Awakening, a major revival “that swept through the American colonies between the 1730s and the 1770s.”9 Well, I  offer Whitefield saw more conversions to Christ than Rick Warren et al could ever dream of seeing. He was once asked, “Why do you always say, ‘You must be born again!’?”

Whitefield simply replied, “Because you must be born again!” Don’t deceive yourself, no one can follow Christ in the flesh or ever hope to please God (c.f. John 3:3-7; Romans 8:7-11). If you don’t find what you’re about to read happening to you personally, then you have every reason to wonder whether you are a regenerated Christian:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)

If you fail that test you just might cry out —Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24). If this be so, good; the Lord is calling you. Now you’re ready for the Good News;  there’s repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name. Come to HIm now; He died on the Cross for your sins.

And if you’ll but reach out for Him, then your next cry wil be — Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)

“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you cannot do the things that you would.” Galatians 5:17

In this one verse the apostle Paul describes the thing that continually plagues every Christian. We, as the people of God, desire more than anything to love God perfectly, but can’t. We long to cease from sin and ungodliness, but can’t. We strive to worship our God with our entire being, but can’t. We try to do good and honor God in all things, but can’t.

Why do we continually do, say, feel, and think things that are evil? Why are we so hard-hearted, unforgiving, and ignorant? Why can’t we do what we desire most?

It’s because we have two natures called . . . flesh and spirit, sin and righteousness, Adam and Christ.

We do indeed believe our God, but not as we would. We do love our Savior, but not as we would. We do live for His honor and glory, but not as we would.

Our flesh won’t allow us. It always interferes. It keeps us from doing the things that we would. When we would do good–then evil is present with us. Our most fervent faith, is mixed with unbelief. Our most selfless sacrifices, are mixed with selfishness. Our most ardent prayers and supplications, are marred by our infirmities. Our most spiritual moments, are contaminated by our sickening carnality. Our meekest hours of submission and dependence on God, are corrupted by our self-will and pride. Every mountain top experience of spiritual pleasure, is tinged with shameful wanderings within. Our clearest views of Christ are darkened by error, misconceptions, and preconceived notions. Even when our hearts seem to be most fixed on God’s glory, they are torn between this world and the next.

The reality is, that as long as we live in this world–we will be at war within ourselves! The flesh will not submit to the Spirit–and the Spirit will not submit to the flesh. We will be . . . pulled this way one moment–and that way the next; believing one moment–and doubting the next; praising God in the morning–then murmuring at night; seeking God’s will today–and our will tomorrow. As long as we live in this body of flesh there will be a constant struggle within us–a struggle between flesh and Spirit.

Lost unregenerate men know nothing of this struggle! This internal warfare is peculiar to believers. Unbelieving, unregenerate, impenitent, rebellious, lost sinners know nothing of this fight with SELF. They don’t loathe themselves as all believers do; they lovethemselves. They have but one nature–and that is sin, which rules in their hearts supremely. Lost men do not have grace within, to oppose the works and motions of the flesh. All they have is a nature that is dead in trespasses and sin, that walks according to the course of this world.

The struggle doesn’t begin within a man, until that man is born of God’s Spirit and given the gift of life and faith in Christ.

This war between our flesh and Spirit is best for us. If it were not so, then God would not allow it. God is control of this fight, and has ordained it for us in His infinite wisdom and grace. This constant battle within our hearts is good for us, because it keeps us looking to Christ–ever seeking Him, His grace, His help, His power. This lifelong fight will make the prize that much sweeter–when Jesus will present us “to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless!” Ephesians 5:27

Frank Hall

Further reading


  1. e.g. Teachings of Demons on Church Growth
  2. http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Church-Growth-Donald-McGavran/dp/0802804632, accessed 4/8/14.
  3. You’ll find helpful background material here: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2009/12/4/134435/084, accessed 4/8/14.
  4. e.g. see Man-Centered Methods of Rick Warren a la Robert Schuller and Robert Schuller: Father of the New Reformation
  5. Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation [Waco: Word Books, 1982], 64, 65, 104
  6. e.g. see http://herescope.blogspot.com/2006/01/leadership-network-spawns-emergent.html, accessed 4/8/14.
  7. The emerging church, another arm of the CGM, was also launched by LN. See http://www.herescope.blogspot.com/2005/11/how-leadership-network-created.html, accessed 4/8/14.
  8. Alan Hirsch, Deborah Hirsch, Untamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010], 150.
  9. http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/tserve/eighteen/ekeyinfo/grawaken.htm, accessed 4/8/14.

Source: Rick Warren and C. Peter Wagner, partners in spiritual crime

‘Save The Persecuted Christians’ Campaign Launches

Save The Persecuted Christians

Institute on Religion & Democracy Press Release
February 14, 2018
Contact: Jeff Walton Office: 202-682-4131, Cell: 202-413-5639, E-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org

“Caring for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, and knowing that we are one body of Christ with them, should be in the DNA of every church and every individual follower of Jesus Christ.”
– IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith J.H. McDonnell 

Washington, DC—The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) is joining with the Save The Persecuted Christians (STPC) campaign, an informal alliance of individuals and non-profit organizations dedicated to using their expertise, skills, and energy to protect Christians worldwide suffering discrimination, torture, rape, slavery, banishment and murder simply because they believe in Jesus Christ.

The campaign is modeled after the extraordinary work of the campaign to Save Soviet Jewry, which began in 1970 with banners and signage in front of synagogues and churches. Save The Persecuted Christians hopes to spawn a similarly powerful movement that will be a catalyst for change in the minds and hearts of American Christians – to wake the sleeping, transform the apathetic, ignite the passive, and empower all those who care but don’t know how to take action.

Dozens of churches will hang the official “Save The Persecuted Christians” banner in front of their place of worship beginning today. Churches can continue to join the effort at any time, by ordering a free banner and information/resources kit from the website, http://www.SaveThePersecutedChristians.org.

IRD Religious Liberty Program Director Faith McDonnell, with 24 years of experience in advocacy work for persecuted Christians, coordinates IRD’s partnership in STPC.

IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith J.H. McDonnell commented:

“IRD is proud to be part of the Save The Persecuted Christians coalition, and to re-energize a movement that 20 years ago led to the International Religious Freedom Act and other policy efforts to help the persecuted.

“A day that is both St. Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday is especially appropriate to launch a campaign that we hope will become a gift from the heart of American Christians to their brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith, and a time to remember that although the Lenten road experienced by persecuted Christians is so long and hard, it leads to resurrected life.

“It is my hope and prayer that churches that look to IRD for counsel on having a truly Biblical social witness in the world will immediately reach out to the STPC website and join the campaign. Caring for our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted, and knowing that we are one body of Christ with them, should be in the DNA of every church and every individual follower of Jesus Christ.

“This initiative is truly on the heart of God. IRD has planned a conference for May 10 of this year on Western Christian apathy to the plight of persecuted. With the work of the STPC campaign, we envision more Western Christians empowered to daily intercede for and to take action on behalf of their persecuted fellow Christians.”


Source: ‘Save The Persecuted Christians’ Campaign Launches

For the believer, death does not have the last word

When we close our eyes in death, we do not cease to be alive; rather, we experience a continuation of personal consciousness. No person is more conscious, more aware, and more alert than when he passes through the veil from this world into the next. Far from falling asleep, we are awakened to glory in all of its significance. For the believer, death does not have the last word. Death has surrendered to the conquering power of the One who was resurrected as the firstborn of many brethren.

– RC Sproul
full article here

What Do You Do with Your Guilt?

The cross of Christ has resources not just for forgiveness and the removal of guilt, but also the removal of sin’s power in our lives. We have the Holy Spirit! Remember our theology: justification never happens without sanctification coming along for the ride.

Lots of people have been raised on guilt like it was their bread and butter. If they didn’t measure up in any way, guilt! If they transgressed in any way (whether the Bible defined it or the parents defined it didn’t always matter), guilt! Guilt was made to seem like the way of the Christian. If you weren’t feeling guilt, then you wouldn’t stay in line. Guilt was the fence to keep people from going crazy.

This guilt came from fear, because Christian homes were afraid of the world out there, and the hedonism it advocated. They felt that they needed to erect barriers against the world’s influence. Guilt is a powerful weapon in the hands of scared parents. Of course, since many parents never told their children what to do with the guilt (since, if they did, they would lose their best weapon, and the children would go berserk!), the children learned to find ways to cope. Unfortunately, these ways of coping did not take away the feeling of guilt.

The various ineffective ways of dealing with guilt include distraction (food, entertainment, fun events, idealistic crusades, feverish workaholism), self-atonement (making oneself feel really bad, and even guiltier than before, even wallowing in it, so that one can atone a bit and feel a bit less guilty afterward), projection (if I make everyone around me feel guilty, then I will feel less guilty: one suspects this the real origin of the “Jewish mother” caricature), and ignoring it (this never works very well even temporarily).

Feelings of guilt can come from two sources, and these two sources must be handled quite differently. 1. Feelings of guilt can come from actual sin. There is only one way to deal with this kind of guilty feeling: take it all to the cross, to Jesus. Burdens are lifted at Calvary, as the hymn says. However, some people have a proud streak in them, and they won’t let go of their guilt feelings even if their actual guilt before God is gone. Here is it vitally important to make a distinction between actual guilt and feelings of guilt. After all, it is possible to feel guilty even when one has done nothing wrong. It is also possible, through a seared conscience, not to feel guilty even if one has actually sinned. If a person is not letting go of their guilt even after taking it all to Jesus and repenting, then the theological point must be made: this is pride speaking. The person is saying that Jesus’ blood isn’t really good enough to cover all my sins. I need to “double atone” by feeling guilty, even after I read that Jesus has forgiven me. This is a deep theological problem, which can only be answered by stressing the divinity of Christ, and hence the infinite value of Christ’s sacrifice.

2. The second source of feelings of guilt arise out of things that are not sins, but which the person has been duped into thinking are sins. These would be man-made additions to God’s law. The answer is different: education must take place about what God actually requires and what He doesn’t. Here we can think easily of the questions of alcohol, smoking, and other things that fall within the realm of Christian liberty. Of course, Christian liberty is always bounded in these matters by the weaker brother: we never want to make someone else stumble. However, and teetotallers seem to be especially prone to instigating this, we can easily be made to feel guilty by someone who believes in “not a drop.”

The million dollar question that remains is this: if we were to shed all this extra, unneeded guilt, how in the world will we stay in line? Several things need to be said here. Firstly, guilt does not keep people in line! If a person feels guilty, they are most likely to think, “Well, since I’ve already done this, what’s a little more sin?” They are not likely to think that they do not want to become more guilty. Secondly, the cross of Christ has resources not just for forgiveness and the removal of guilt, but also the removal of sin’s power in our lives. we have the Holy Spirit! Remember our theology: justification never happens without sanctification coming along for the ride! Actually, what we need to know is that the beautiful feeling of a clean slate is much more motivating to holiness than guilt is. For then we can plug into the gratitude that we know when we are forgiven. We then have a good thing: we wouldn’t want to damage it. This is a far more effective way of dealing with guilt than the ineffective ones listed above.

Lane Keister is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C. This article first appeared on his blog, Green Baggins, and is used with permission.

The post What Do You Do with Your Guilt? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Five Questions to Ask About Entertainment

Entertainment is often an expression of God’s gifts of creativity, storytelling, and beauty. But it can also provide mindless amusement, or damage our souls. How should Christians handle rapidly multiplying entertainment options in a God-honoring way?

Here are five questions to ask about your entertainment choices:

1. What purpose does entertainment serve?

The other night I came home from work, Costco, and the grocery store, put away the food, cleaned the bathroom, did a load of wash, and started dinner. After dinner, I was done. I just wanted to zone out in front of television.

It wasn’t wrong to watch television, but it wasn’t helpful either. I needed to rest. I needed God to revive me. Instead, I turned to the television.

Contrast that scenario with the following: my husband and I are going to dinner and a play in Chicago in a couple weeks. We are looking forward to the art and shared experience.

Entertainment serves completely different desires in these cases. In the first, entertainment is escapism, allowing  me to turn off my brain and retreat from the responsibilities of life. In the second event, entertainment is engaging with life, art, and people.

God wants us to enjoy life, and I don’t think he is opposed to good entertainment. Entertainment should be life-giving—a means of engaging with our world rather than retreating from it. Entertainment should not be a substitute for life.

Before you turn on the television or retreat to your iPad, ask yourself what you are seeking. To engage life in enjoyment or to escape?

2. How much time do you spend with entertainment?

Years ago, I wrote down the number of hours I spent watching television every day for a week, and I was surprised by the total. I hadn’t thought that I watched too much—just a show now and then—but it added up to a fair amount.

This is a worthwhile exercise.

Compare your time spent with entertainment to your time spent with spiritual input in your life. A couple hours at church on Sunday, maybe a small group meeting, and fifteen to twenty minutes reading your Bible, or a devotional every morning, might be normal for you. Maybe you invest more; maybe less. Let’s say we average five to eight hours per week receiving solid biblical input.

According to a Nielsen Company Audience Report (CNN article), the average American adult spends over 10 hours a day in front of a screen and about four and a half hours a day watching television or movies. Using these averages, entertainment consumes 32 of our hours per week.

Of course, those are averages, and entertainment is not always devoid of positive or godly influences, but those numbers give me pause. Ephesians 5:15-16 offers helpful guidance when examining your time:  

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

How much time are you giving to entertainment? Are you making the best use of your time?

3. Is what I’m watching true, honorable and commendable? Is the novel I’m reading excellent, praiseworthy?

God’s Word gives us some guidelines for choosing entertainment wisely. These qualities are taken directly from Paul’s words in Philippians 4:8:

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

That’s a pretty high bar for entertainment choices. Your definition of what is excellent and praiseworthy may be different from mine, but we must submit our ideas of what is appropriate to God’s Word.

What we allow into our eyes and ears affects our heart and soul, probably more than we know. 
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I memorized this passage years ago, and I found it helpful when evaluating television or movies for my children and for myself.

My husband and I look for story lines of redemption, transformation, and truth. We don’t like watching stories that make evil look good and good look evil, and we have rejected a number of series because, in my husband’s words, they are not good for our souls.

Take some time to examine your entertainment choices considering God’s Word to us in Philippians 4:8, and establish some criteria that your family will use when choosing entertainment.

4. How is this affecting my heart?

What we allow into our eyes and ears affects our heart and soul, probably more than we know. And what we allow to influence our hearts will direct our lives, as Proverbs 4:23 points out:

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

Jesus also said that what our eyes take in will affect the rest of us:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, 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 in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:21-23)

These verses are preceded by the command to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven; and, they are followed by the caution that we can serve only one master. Right in between are these verses about our eye being the determining factor of the light or darkness in our bodies—and our hearts.

God’s Word gives us some guidelines for choosing entertainment wisely.
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If our hearts are the wellspring of life, and if our eyes allow either light or darkness to fill our hearts and influence our loyalty, then it is important to pay attention to what we permit our eyes to absorb. If we watch enough television we will find ourselves adopting unspoken—but very clear—messages of worldly loyalty.

Take an honest diagnosis of what you allow into your eyes and ears and ask the Lord to help you discern how it is affecting your heart.

5. Jesus, will you help me?

Jesus came to save us from the darkness of our sin. He is our light and he offers us life that is truly life (John 8:12, John 10:10, 1 Timothy 6:18-19). He submitted to the punishment of death that was ours because of sin, and offers us his resurrection life when repent and believe in him. Only by the grace of God can we believe that Jesus would do that out of his great love for us.

Once we repent and believe, God begins the process of transforming us into the likeness of Christ. Years ago, when I surrendered to him, he started changing my interests and desires, and they are still undergoing metamorphosis. Suddenly what once looked like light, now looks dark.

When we need the Lord’s help to make godly entertainment choices, he is ready and waiting to assist us. Jesus couldn’t watch television, but he knows that we are in a constant battle to choose our entertainment wisely. We’re told in Hebrews 4:15-16 that Jesus will help us:

 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Talk to Jesus about your entertainment choices, and ask these questions:

What am I seeking from my entertainment?

How much time am I investing in it?

Is it true, honorable, and praiseworthy?

Does what I read, watch, or do fill my heart with light or darkness?

Ultimately, ask the Lord to direct your choices; He will.

[Photo Credit: Unsplash]


The post Five Questions to Ask About Entertainment appeared first on Unlocking the Bible.

5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically

James 1:1-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James of course was inspired by the Holy Spirit to remind believers not to grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when we “meet trials of various kinds.” So God’s people are supposed to suck it up…even be glad and joyful when we’re being put through the ringer? Seriously? Easier said than done for most of us.

Michelle Lesley, who writes Bible studies, says “You can do this!” Lesley suggests 5 ways believers should handle the tests and trials of life. And as always, she goes right to the Source:

Your car breaks down and you don’t have the money to get it fixed.

Your child develops a behavior problem, and you have no idea how to help her.

Somebody royally messed something up at work and now you have to figure out how to fix it.

You’re smack dab in the middle of a tenuous situation at church instigated and exacerbated by THAT lady.

Anybody who tells you, “Come to Jesus and all of your problems will be over,” is selling something. The Christian life is not a stroll through a flowery meadow with never a bump in the road. In fact, sometimes it’s just one big pile of poo after another.

The truth is, if you come to faith in Christ, you’re going to continue to have some of the same kinds of general “that’s life” poo that you had before. People at work will keep messing up. Your child will still pour nail polish on your new white rug (Why do you have a white rug if you have children?). Your neighbor will back into your fence (again) and drag her feet about fixing it (again).

So what’s the point of coming to Christ if you’re just going to keep having problems?

Because the point of coming to Christ is not for Him to make all your problems disappear, it’s for Him to redeem you from your sin and propitiate God’s wrath against you. That’s why the symbol of Christianity is a cross, not a magic wand. So how does God want us to face those tests and trials of life in a biblical, Christian way?

1. Recognize God’s Purpose in Testing You

There are scads of blessings and benefits that come along with repentance and faith in Christ, and one of them is that poo now has a purpose. (I sense some of you have had enough of the word poo. OK, moving on…)

What is the purpose of all these aggravations, sorrows, and worrisome circumstances that keep coming your way?

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  James 1:2-4

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, Romans 5:3-4

Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:9-11

Those difficult situations we face in life – whether they come as a consequence of our sin, a consequence of our Christlikeness, or simply a consequence of living in a post-Fall world – are the tools God uses to make us more like Jesus. Obediently bearing up during hard times develops steadfastness and maturity, endurance, character, and hope, holiness, peace, and righteousness.

You want those Christlike characteristics, don’t you?

I do too. But I’ll be honest – my flesh is not crazy about the fact that God often pulls a chisel out of His toolbag instead of a feather duster. And once again, we’re back to the cross versus the magic wand. We want God to “abracadabra” us into Christlike character. God points us to the cross.

2. Look at Tests and Trials Through Jesus’ Eyes

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1c-2

Jesus was not some crazy masochist who enjoyed being beaten, mocked, nailed to a cross, and having the wrath of God poured out on Him for our sin. That was not fun. It was not pleasant. It was such a unique kind of awfulness that a whole new word had to be invented to describe it: excruciating. It was such a horrifying specter that it caused Jesus to sweat blood as He prayed in Gethsemane, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

God does not require you to enjoy pain, suffering, inconvenience, stress, or aggravation any more than He required Jesus to enjoy it. What Jesus did was to focus on “the joy set before Him” – the results of His suffering and the great and glorious things it would accomplish – to help Him endure the suffering. That’s what God wants us to pattern our approach to suffering after – Jesus. We don’t look at the circumstance itself. We look past the circumstance to how God is going to be glorified, how He’s going to grow us in Christlikeness, what we’re going to see Him do in answer to prayer, and whom He might save as a result of the circumstance. We look at the finish line. The winner’s circle. We focus on those things to help us get through the pain and exhaustion.  View article →

Source: 5 Ways to Face Tests and Trials Biblically


Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.

1 John 5:4

When our faith becomes obedience to our Savior, then it is true faith, indeed! The difficulty we modern Christians face is not misunderstanding the Bible, but persuading our untamed hearts to accept its plain instruction. Our problem is to get the consent of our world-loving minds to make Jesus Lord in fact, as well as in word. For it is one thing to say, “Lord, Lord,” and quite another thing to obey the Lord’s commandments.

We may sing “Crown Him Lord of all,” and rejoice in the tones of the loud organ and the deep melody in harmonious voices, but still we have done nothing until we have left the world and set our faces toward the City of God in hard practical reality.

The world’s spirit is strong, and it can play at religion with every appearance of sincerity. It can have fits of conscience (particularly during Lent)! It will contribute to charitable causes and campaigns on behalf of the poor, but all with its own condition: “Let Christ keep His distance and never assert His lordship.” This it positively will not endure!

Dear Lord, I want to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t want to play “religious games” with my faith.[1]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

February 15 Recognizing Our Humility, Part 2

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:3

Continuing from yesterday, a fourth principle for determining our humility, which Thomas Watson recognizes, is that we will see the strengths and virtues of others as well as our own weaknesses and sins. As the apostle instructs, we will “regard one another as more important than” ourselves (Phil. 2:3) and will “give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10).

Fifth, we will spend a lot of time in prayer. As the physical beggar pleads for earthly sustenance, spiritual beggars ask regularly for spiritual food. Just as when Jacob wrestled with an angel (Gen. 32:24–28), we will not quit until we receive the Lord’s blessing.

Sixth, we will accept Christ on His terms, not ours or any other terms. We will not try to have Him while maintaining our sinful habits. We will not crowd Him aside by our own preferences or traditions, not even by familiar church standards. The Bible alone will be our guide.

And finally, when we have true humility we will praise and thank God for His grace to us. We will gratefully realize that the Father’s grace is “more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:14). We will know above all else that every mercy God showers on us is solely from His love and kindness.


Remember these seven signposts that point inward to a growing humility. Write them briefly in an appointment calendar or notebook so you can return to them at a later point in time to see how you’re coming along. Humility is worth striving for with that kind of purpose.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 54). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

February 15 The Necessity of Repentance

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

True confession cannot happen without repentance. Many times we don’t confess our sin because we’re not ready to let go of it. When I was a young Christian, I remember telling the Lord that I was sorry about particular sins I had committed and then thanked Him for already forgiving them. But that was all I did.

I reached a milestone in my spiritual life when I began to say, “Lord, thank You for forgiving those sins. I know they did not please You, and I never want to do them again.” That can be hard to say because sometimes we want to commit certain sins again. But we betray a lack of spiritual maturity when we want to eliminate the penalty of sin but retain the pleasure. For your confession to be genuine, you must turn from your sins.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 58). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

February 15, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

32  In spite of all this, they still sinned;
despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33  So he made their days vanish like a breath,
and their years in terror.
34  When he killed them, they sought him;
they repented and sought God earnestly.
35  They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
36  But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
37  Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.
38  Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
39  He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 78:32–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

36–39 The people’s repentance was not an expression of true contrition but was intentionally deceptive. They may have worshiped the Lord outwardly but not with their hearts. They “would flatter” (v. 36) him, thinking they could entice or lure (pātâ; cf. 2 Sa 3:25; Pr 24:28; Jer 20:7) the God of Israel into their schemes, but their every prayer was deceptive (cf. Isa 1:15). Their deception was expressive of the condition of “their hearts,” which were determined not to be loyal to the Lord (v. 37; cf. Ac 8:31). Though the Lord knew their hearts, he was true to his character in having compassion on them (“he was merciful,” v. 38; cf. Ex 34:6). His compassion found expression in his forgiveness (cf. 65:3) of their sins, his forbearance with their stubborn spirits, and his empathy with the human condition, so that the full brunt of his anger did not destroy them. Human beings are, after all, “flesh,” i.e., mortal (v. 39; cf. Ge 6:3; Pss 38:3; 56:4; 103:14–15; Isa 2:22). They are like the grass of the field that is here today and gone tomorrow (cf. Isa 40:6–7).[1]

78:32–39 / This section notes that in spite of these divine judgments, they kept on sinning and offered only superficial repentance. Yet, in spite of these human behaviors, God was merciful. Neither response follows as a logical consequence of the other party’s behavior, but the human one is destructive (v. 33) and the divine one restorative (v. 38).

That “they kept on sinning” is directly attached to the fact that they did not believe—their lack of trust led to wayward behavior. As a result, the first generation liberated from Egypt ended their days in futility (cf. Num. 14:20–35). The repeated cycle (implied by whenever and time after time) of God’s judgment, the people’s temporary repentance, and God’s relenting (vv. 35–39) are reminiscent of the cycle repeated in the book of Judges (see esp. Judg. 2:11–19). In this period, there were occasions when the people would seek God as a result of his “slaying” them. In fact, they remembered—the very action this psalm endeavors to elicit (cf. vv. 7, 11, 42). But as it turns out, this repentance reached only their mouths, and not their hearts (vv. 36–37, cf. v. 8). Nonetheless, God repeatedly restrained his anger, though justified, and forgave their iniquities. We should note that in the ot God is rarely the subject of the verb “atone.” In most cases a priest performs the atoning sacrificial rites, but here God takes it upon himself (see BDB, p. 497). In addition, here it is God who remembers—in this case, human frailty.[2]

The People’s Continued Sin and God’s Unfailing Mercy (78:32–39)

In spite of all the proofs of His love, their hearts were still unfaithful. Nothing God did pleased them. Despite His miracles, they were compulsive grumblers. So from time to time Jehovah visited the nation with death and destruction. This seemed to speak to the survivors for a while; they turned to the Lord, repented of their wickedness, and became earnest seekers. They realized what a refuge He had been to them, how He had redeemed them from the terrors of Egypt. But soon again they were living a lie, speaking piously and acting perversely. They were fickle and disobedient.

The Lord showed tremendous restraint. Because of His super-abounding compassion, He forgave their chronic backsliding and withheld the disaster they deserved. He remembered that they were mere men, here today and gone tomorrow.[3]

78:32–39 In Spite of All They Saw, They Still Sinned. The mighty works of God described in vv. 9–31 should have been enough, but they were not: In spite of all this, they still sinned, they did not believe. This section focuses on the judgments with which the Lord disciplined his people, again and again seeking to lead them to repentance. When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly, yet their repentance was not deep and sincere (v. 36, they only flattered and lied in their professions of faith), so it did not last: their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant (v. 37; cf. v. 8). However, God did not do what one might expect, namely, wipe them out and start over: even though he could have purged them of unbelieving members, he did not destroy them, he did not stir up all his wrath. All this was because he is compassionate, and therefore he atoned for their iniquity (v. 38, which means that he accepted the sacrifices that they offered and conveyed his blessing of forgiveness).[4]

78:36–39 Israel’s worship of the Lord was insincere and hypocritical. Their actions did not reflect their words (Ac 8:21). God consistently forgave Israel’s sin and restrained his anger because of humanity’s weakness and transitory nature (Ps 78:35, 39, 41).[5]

[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 597). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Hubbard, R. L. J., & Johnston, R. K. (2012). Foreword. In W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston (Eds.), Psalms (p. 323). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 667–668). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1035). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Warstler, K. R. (2017). Psalms. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (pp. 886–887). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.


Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

—1 John 4:7

If you are longing after God with the expectation that you are going to be able to think your way through to Him, you are completely mistaken….

The promise is that God will fill the heart, or man’s innermost being. The Word of God makes it very plain that the Church of Jesus Christ will never operate and minister and prosper by the stock of knowledge in the heads of Christian believers but by the warmth and urgency of God’s love and compassion flowing through their beings.

Now, don’t throw your head away—you are going to need it! I am convinced that God has made it plain that man alone, of all the creatures on earth, is created so that he can have fullness of knowledge about the earth and all the wonders and glories that it holds. I believe that through grace man can have a fullness of knowledge even about the works of God—but this certainly does not mean that we find Him and know Him and love Him through thought processes and human wisdom.

It is utterly and completely futile to try to think our way through to knowing God, who is beyond our power of thought or visualization. ITB100-101

Lord, it’s great to know Your works through the intellect, but it is infinitely more wonderful to know Your Person through a relationship with You. Fill my heart today, I pray. Amen.[1]

[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

February 15 God Knows Everything

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”

Psalm 147:5


God knows everything, and so He knows our sin.

Our time in history has been called “the Information Age.” Computers work around the clock storing the glut of information from all branches of knowledge. And this flood of data is growing bigger all the time. Without the help of advanced technology, we could process and interpret only a tiny fraction of it.

In contrast, God is omniscient; He knows everything. Our Scripture for today says, “His understanding is infinite.” Isaiah asks, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding?” (40:13–14). The answer to all those questions is, “No one.”

Since His knowledge is infinite, God never learns anything, nor does He forget anything. When you pray, you’re not telling God something He doesn’t know. He merely chooses to work through our prayers.

God knows every detail of our lives. Jesus says, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). God doesn’t have to count them because He intrinsically knows how many there are. He also knows all our thoughts (Isa. 66:18). David says, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all” (Ps. 139:4). In that same psalm, David goes on to say, “Even the darkness is not dark to Thee” (v. 12). You can’t hide anything from the knowledge of God.

God’s omniscience should be a deterrent to our sinning. Think about some of the wrongs you did as a child when your parents weren’t around. You never would have done those things in front of them because you didn’t want to be punished. And you might have gotten away with a few things. But “God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Eccles. 12:14). Even though the eternal penalty for sin has been paid by Christ, God still disciplines us when we sin (Heb. 12:5–11). Is there anything in your life you would be ashamed about if God knew? If so, repent, because He does know!


Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for His infinite knowledge.

For Further Study: Read David’s praise for God’s omniscience in Psalm 139:1–6. What specific areas of God’s knowledge does he mention?[1]

[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

February 14 Daily Help

WHAT! is Christ thy Brother, and does he live in thine house, and yet thou hast not spoken to him for a month? I fear there is little love between thee and thy Brother, for thou hast had no conversation with him for so long. What! is Christ the Husband of his Church, and has she had no fellowship with him for all this time?

Prayer is the outcome of that sense of need which arises from the new life; a man would not pray to God if he did not feel that he had urgent need of blessings which only the Lord can bestow.

Prayer is the autograph of the Holy Ghost upon the renewed heart.[1]

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 49). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.

February 14, 2018 Evening Verse Of The Day

Satan’s Children Are Indifferent Toward God’s Children

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (3:16–18)

The phrase we know love by this again affirms genuine love as the outstanding mark of the Christian (cf. the discussion of v. 11 above). By God’s grace, a loving willingness to give up everything to help others (cf. 2 Cor. 9:6–12; 1 Tim. 6:17–19; Heb. 13:16, 21) permeates the attitudes of believers and shines forth in their lives. The New Testament contains several notable examples of such sacrificial love. One such example was Epaphroditus, whom the apostle Paul commended to the Philippians:

I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. (Phil. 2:25–30)

Paul also was willing to surrender his life for the cause of Christ, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21; cf. Rom. 9:3–5; 2 Cor. 1:9–10). Of course, the Lord Jesus was Paul’s role model, because at the cross He laid down His life for all who believe (cf. John 10:11, 14–18; 15:13; Rom. 8:32–34; Gal. 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).

The expression laid down His life for us is unique to the apostle John (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; 13:37–38; 15:13), and in addition to life itself it refers to divesting oneself of anything important. Obviously, Christ’s atoning death is the supreme example of selfless love (John 15:12–13; Phil. 2:5–8; 1 Peter 2:19–23; cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). Thus John exhorts his readers, as followers of Christ, that they ought to lay down their lives for the brethren, should such sacrifice be necessary. That this expression refers to something far more extensive than only sacrificial death for a fellow believer is clear from the subsequent statement about having goods that someone needs.

The selfish indifference of unbelievers stands in sharp contrast to the generous, compassionate love that believers exhibit (Acts 2:45; 4:36–37; 9:36; 11:29–30; 2 Cor. 8:1–5; 9:2, 11–13; Phil. 4:14–16). John illustrates the difference in attitude in practical, specific terms: But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? The children of the Devil often have the world’s goods (material wealth) at their disposal. When they do give sacrificially to anyone else (cf. Mark 12:43–44), they are motivated by selfishness. Unbelievers’ philanthropic efforts are usually merely to pacify their consciences, satisfy their emotions, or bring honor to themselves (cf. Matt. 6:1–2) rather than glory to God.

But that is not to be the case with believers, as John’s closing injunction to his readers indicates: Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. It is not enough for an individual merely to profess love for others (which is also true regarding faith; cf. Luke 6:46; James 2:18–26). The proof that one has genuine love and is a child of God rests not in sentiments but in deeds (cf. Matt. 25:34–40).

For John, therefore, the differences between Satan’s children and God’s children could not be more distinct. Those who murder, habitually hate, or are chronically self-centered and indifferent to the needs of others do not have eternal life. But those who, as part of their repentance from sin and trust in Christ, have renounced murderous, hateful attitudes and all cold, selfish indifference to the needs of others give evidence that they have been born again. In place of those sinful traits, Christians manifest genuine love to others, especially fellow believers (Rom. 12:10–13; Gal. 6:10), because of the love of God shed abroad in their hearts. They sincerely obey James’s injunction: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27; cf. 2:8, 15–17).[1]

16 Having vilified the Antichrists by analogy with Cain, John offers a positive example of true love: Jesus. The NIV’s colon renders the Greek hoti, which here introduces a paraphrase of John 15:13—“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (cf. Jn 10:11–18). “Lay down his life [psychē, GK 6034]” is a uniquely Johannine way of describing Jesus’ voluntary self-sacrifice, an act that represents the highest possible expression of love (Jn 15:13). The citation at 1 John 3:16 is introduced with the perfect tense of ginōskō (“we have known,” GK 1182), which probably refers both to mental awareness and emotional experience (see comment at 2:2). True believers “have known” of Jesus’ love not only in the sense that they have accepted John’s witness about Jesus but also in the sense that they have experienced divine love and forgiveness. Such an experience should motivate them to act in the same self-sacrificing way toward other believers.

John’s dualistic mind-set is evident in his narrow and absolute definition of love (agapē). There are no degrees of love: those who sacrifice themselves, like Jesus, show love; those who do not act this way show hate. The NIV reflects this emphasis with the translation “This is how we know what love is.” Since there is only one kind of love, and since this one kind was modeled by Jesus, Christians, like Jesus, “ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” In the historical setting of 1-2-3 John (see Introduction), this might mean that some Johannine Christians had literally suffered martyrdom for the community, but the application of the principle in v. 17 suggests that John is thinking of one’s material possessions. The person who does not sacrifice herself and her wealth for her brothers is no different from the Antichrists and Cain. If it seems too much to ask for this sort of love, John could point out that Jesus laid down his life not only for his friends (Jn 15:13) but even for the hostile world (Jn 6:51). Surely, then, Christians can at least love other Christians.

17 Up to this point, John’s discussion of love and hate has been rather abstract, focusing on vague generalities. Here he offers a direct and practical test that will identify selfless love. John states this test in the form of a sarcastic rhetorical question. The Greek text of the verse consists of four phrases loosely arranged in a brief narrative:

  1. If someone has “the life of the world” (NIV, “material possessions”), and
  2. If that person “sees his brother having need,” and (kai; NIV, “but”)
  3. If that person “closes his heart to” (NIV, “has no pity on”) the needy brother,
  4. then the love of God does not remain in him.

The opening statement in John’s illustration is considerably stronger in the Greek text than in the NIV. While the NIV translates ton bion tou kosmou (“the life of the world”; cf. Marshall, 194 n. 20) with the somewhat neutral “material possessions,” both bios and kosmos (GK 3180) have negative implications in Johannine thought. First John 2:16 refers to material wealth as the “pride of life [bios],” associating it with “the lust of the flesh” and “the lust of the eyes,” which do not proceed from the Father. The true origin of such things is indicated here in 3:17: they are “from the kosmos,” the hostile world that is alienated from God and hates Jesus (see Introduction). While modern Western Christians might be uncomfortable with the association, John suggests that material wealth is inherently worldly, making it almost unnatural for a believer to be possessed of excess resources. This being the case, Christians should have no difficulty relieving themselves of money whenever a need arises.

Phrase 2 introduces the second character in John’s scenario. The contrast between this person and the first person hinges on the repetition of echō, “has.” While the first person “has life,” the second person “has need.” John uses theōreō (“sees,” GK 2555), to describe the first person’s realization of the second person’s need. While poverty may indeed manifest itself visibly in the appearance of its victims, John probably wishes to stress that the person in question has firsthand information about his brother’s need. In such a situation, the example of Jesus would call the wealthy brother to divest himself of his worldly goods and help the person who is less fortunate.

The plot of John’s story, however, takes a tragic turn, for phrase 3 indicates that the wealthy brother has gone the way of Cain. The NIV dilutes the treachery of the wealthy man’s deed by saying that he “has no pity,” suggesting only a passive indifference toward the brother’s need. In fact, John portrays the wealthy brother as one who actively distances himself from the situation by “closing his heart” to his brother. “Heart” here is splanchna (“the bowels,” GK 5073), which the ancient Greeks saw as the seat of the emotions. The unusual image of “closing” (kleiō, GK 3091) one’s affections probably builds on theōreō from phrase 2. The wealthy man’s eye is open to his brother’s need, but his heart is closed so he takes no action. He has failed the test.

Phrase 4 offers the conclusion that must be drawn in such a case. “Love of God” uses the objective genitive (“love for God”) to stress a point that echoes a number of sayings in both the Synoptics and the fourth gospel: those who do not love their brothers do not love God either. Jesus set the standard for self-sacrifice, and those who disregard that standard cannot legitimately claim to love him (Mt 25:31–45; Mk 10:45). The Johannine Jesus stresses this point in the final moments with his disciples in the upper room. After washing their feet, Jesus tells them, “You should do [for each other] as I have done for you” (Jn 13:14–15). Shortly thereafter Jesus gives the disciples the “new command,” that they must “love each other as I have loved you” (13:34; 15:12). Since Jesus commanded believers to treat one another in this way, and since only those who obey Jesus’ commands remain in his love (15:9–14), John concludes that those who disobey the command to love are not friends of Jesus, meaning that they do not truly love God. Caring for one’s brothers becomes, then, a visible test of one’s relationship with God. Those who fail this test remain in the world with Cain.

While the general ethical implications of this test are obvious (if painful), John’s sudden emphasis on Christian benevolence, a subject he has not previously mentioned, seems abrupt. In what way does this test apply to the Antichrist situation, and how does it distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil (v. 10)? The answer may lie in the distinction John makes between Gaius and Diotrephes in 3 John. Both 2 and 3 John suggest that the Johannine churches were held together by a network of itinerant teachers, protégés of John who spoke and acted on his behalf (see Introduction; comment at 1 Jn 2:19). Second John 10–11 and 3 John 5–8 indicate that John’s representatives relied on the support and hospitality of local congregations to finance their travels. The test at 1 John 3:17 may be aimed at people such as Diotrephes, an apparent ally of the Antichrists, who “refuses to welcome the brothers [and] also stops those who want to do so” (3 Jn 10). In such a setting, the wealthy person would represent the kind of inhospitable people (e.g., Diotrephes) who show hatred for their righteous brothers (John’s representatives) by ignoring their needs and refusing to support them. Such hostile behavior proves in John’s mind that Diotrephes and others like him do not truly love God. On the other hand, Christian leaders such as Gaius, who has shown hospitality to John’s associates and has “sent them on their way in a manner worthy of God” (3 Jn 6), prove their love for God by obeying the love command.

18 After blasting the Antichrists John suddenly shifts to a more pastoral tone to encourage his “children” (teknion), those who pass the test of love. Verse 18 summarizes vv. 11–17 and also John’s general view of Christian duty. Love does not express itself “with words or tongue” but rather “in deeds and truth” (NIV, “with actions and in truth”). This statement parallels John 4:24, where Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that true worshipers must approach the Father “in spirit and in truth.” “In truth” has a doctrinal orientation, referring to a correct view of Jesus. Just as real worship depends on a proper recognition of Jesus’ identity, genuine Christian ethics must also be based on John’s orthodox witness. This verse epitomizes John’s belief that all aspects of Christian life are grounded in Christology.[2]

3:16 / Continuing the theme of love, the Elder offers an experiential and operational definition (lit., “By this we have come to know love”): Jesus Christ (the Greek text only has “he,” ekeinos) laid down his life for us. This is one of the most common elements in early Christian creeds (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; 2:20). Two aspects of the Greek text of this verse reinforce the idea of love. The Greek word order itself emphasizes for us; it is put first, just as Christ put us first in the gift of his life. The verb laid down (ethēken) stresses that Jesus gave up his own life willingly, thus showing the motivation of love. So in the Gospel of John, Jesus, “the good shepherd,” voluntarily “lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11, 15, 17–18). The death of Jesus is also the decisive evidence of God’s love (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:9–10).

Here, as in many other places in the nt, the conduct of Jesus is taken as the example or model for Christians to follow. (In 1 John 4:11, it is God’s love which provides the pattern.) This is true in general, but also with specific reference to his suffering and death (cf. 1 Pet. 2:21–23; Heb. 12:3–4; 13:12–13). In John 15:12, Jesus tells his disciples, “Love as I have loved you” (cf. 13:34), and in the next verse he says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus’ actions demonstrate the sacrificial element in authentic agapē love. Love is a personal commitment to give oneself to foster the highest good and well-being of others. Sometimes giving oneself for others means more than giving one’s time or money or energy; it may mean giving one’s very life.

3:17 / As a concrete instance of this love and the lack of it among the secessionists, the Elder turns to material possessions and how they are handled. He envisions a situation in which someone has material possessions (lit., “the life of the world,” ton bion tou kosmou), sees (theōrē, “stares,” “gazes”) his brother lacking them, and yet refuses to help him. This may have been the very condition of the writer’s community, especially if those who withdrew were numerous and the community had been a network of interdependent house churches (as 2 and 3 John seem to suppose). In 2:16 the writer knows of people, likely the schismatics, who boast of “the world’s goods” (tou biou). They boast of what they have, and they do not share it with others (even their former brothers and sisters) who are in need (lit., “having need”). What is missing is the element of pity (lit., “closes his innards [heart] from him”). Not only do they not help the needy brother or sister, but they deliberately “shut off a feeling of compassion that the needy would instinctively arouse” (Brown, Epistles, p. 450).

The three previous clauses in v. 17 all lead to the question: how can the love of God be in him? Does the author mean love for God, love from God, or God’s kind of love? It is not easy to decide. First John 4:20 expresses the first alternative, but here the writer means God’s kind of love, divine love. Just as eternal life does not abide (menousan, untranslated in the niv) in one who hates his brother (3:15), so it is unthinkable that God’s love abides (menei, untranslated in the niv) in such a merciless person. The question implies a negative answer.

3:18 / Verse 18 is a fitting conclusion to the teaching on love for one another in vv. 11–18. Influenced by the negative example in v. 17, the present tense command in this verse is also negative: “let us not be loving.” The command is followed by four nouns in two pairs: with words (the Greek is singular, “word,” logō) or tongue (tē glōssē), but with actions (again the Greek is singular, “action,” or “deed,” ergos) and in truth (alētheia). Genuine love must be practical, visible, and active. Just as God’s/Jesus’ love is made manifest in the giving of his life for us (3:16), and just as the secessionists’ lack of love is seen concretely in their failure to help their brothers and sisters in need (3:17), so authentic love is a matter not of words (“I/we love you”) but of practical actions.

The most difficult aspect of interpreting v. 18 concerns the relation of the second word in each pair to its partner. At first glance, they do not appear to be parallel. While word and tongue are roughly similar, actions and truth are not. In truth can mean “in reality,” as opposed to mere intention or even deceptive lies. But in the letters of John, in truth usually means “within the sphere of God’s truth,” i.e., God’s revelation of the way things really are in Christ, who is the truth (John 14:6); much as in Paul’s writings “in Christ” can represent “in the sphere of Christ,” where he is the all-determining reality. The writer means, then, something like “deeds of truth,” or “actions which come from the truth.” The words and tongue phrase could also be parallel, since words come from the tongue. The Elder means that his readers should love, not with mere spoken words, but with the kind of actions which knowing Christ (3:16) and having God’s love within them (3:17) produce.[3]

3:16–18. In stark contrast to this unspeakable hatred is Jesus’ remarkable love. We can understand what love is by looking at Jesus’ example. He laid down his life for us. We ought to be prepared to do the same for one another. While the necessity of laying down our lives for one another is rare, the necessity of helping meet one another’s needs is not. The true test of a Christian’s love is not his words (loving with words or tongue) but his willingness to sacrifice for the sake of his brother … to love with actions and in truth.[4]

16. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

John is a pastor and a teacher. As a wise pastor he places himself at the level of his readers by using the pronoun we. And as a teacher he reminds his readers of the message of the gospel by saying, “We know,” that is, “We have learned our lesson and know it well.”

But what do we know? We know what love is. John calls attention not to illustrations of love taken from daily life, but to the supreme example of love, namely, to “Jesus Christ [who] laid down his life for us.” In short, we know what love is, because we have heard the gospel message.

Jesus’ death on the cross is not a passive death comparable to the sacrificial death of an animal. Jesus died actively and purposefully. Of his own will he laid down his life for his people. If, then, Jesus gave his life for us, what is our obligation to him? In the nineteenth century, Frances R. Havergal put this question in the form of a hymn:

I gave My life for thee,

My precious blood I shed,

That thou might’st ransomed be,

And quickened from the dead;

I gave, I gave My life for thee;

What hast thou given for Me?

John has an answer, for he writes, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” When he says ought, he imposes a moral obligation: as Jesus extends his love by giving his life, so the Christian ought to express his love for the believers by being willing to lay down his life for them. When the honor of God’s name, the advancement of his church, and the need of his people demand that we love our brothers, we ought to show our love at all cost—even to the point of risking and losing our lives.[5]

3:16 Our Lord Jesus gave us the ultimate example of love when He laid down His life for us. Christ is here contrasted with Cain. He gives us love in its highest expression. In one sense, love is invisible, but we can see the manifestation of love. In the cross of Calvary we see the love that is love indeed. John draws the lesson from this that we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. This means that our lives should be a continual giving-out on behalf of other believers, and that we should be ready to die for them also if necessary. Most of us will never be required to die on behalf of others, but every one of us can manifest brotherly love by sharing our material things with those in need. That is what is emphasized in verse 17.

3:17 If verse 16 suggests the most we can do for our brethren, verse 17 suggests the least. John distinctly says that a man is not a Christian who sees his brother in need and yet withholds from him what is necessary to satisfy that need. This does not justify indiscriminate giving to everyone, because it is possible to harm a man by giving him money with which to buy what would not be good for him. However, the verse does raise very disturbing questions concerning the accumulation of wealth by Christians.

3:18 We should not love in word or in tongue, but rather in deed and in truth. In other words, it should not be a matter of affectionate terms only, neither should it be an expression of what is not true. But it should be manifested in actual deeds of kindness and should be genuine instead of false.[6]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2007). 1, 2, 3 John (pp. 135–137). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Thatcher, T. (2006). 1 John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 464–466). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Johnson, T. F. (2011). 1, 2, and 3 John (pp. 83–85). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Walls, D., & Anders, M. (1999). I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude (Vol. 11, p. 197). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[5] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, p. 310). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[6] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2318). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

February 14: When Things Don’t Go as Planned

Exodus 33–34; John 6:1–14; Song of Solomon 4:9–13

I live in the world of projects. There are a few things I know for certain about them, aside from all requiring a budget and a schedule to have any hope of success. They will all take more time than I expect (at least 25 percent more), and they will all have problems. It seems that nothing ever goes according to plan. No one will complain, though, if the result, budget, and end date remain the same. There’s a biblical lesson here—Moses’ story is one of the best analogies for this.

Moses had likely planned for the Israelites to enter the Holy Land shortly after leaving Egypt, but mistake after mistake (on his part and the part of others) kept this from happening. In return, he spent years (about a half a lifetime) wandering in the wilderness. In Exodus 33:1, we read one of God’s direct instructions, “Go, go up from here” (Exod 33:1), but Moses proceeds to argue with God, interceding for the people (Exod 33:12–23). Things aren’t going according to plan—for Moses or God. Finally, God gives Moses new instructions to solve the predicament the people have gotten themselves into: “Look, I am about to make a covenant. In front of all your people I will do wonders that have not been created on all the earth and among all the nations” (Exod 34:10).

Here, in the middle of the debacle, God takes care of the problem with a promise. Over and over again, God makes promises; and unlike people, He keeps them. God performs marvels.

We see this in the events in Jesus’ life as well. Jesus doesn’t just feed the people, He overturns their notions about where food comes from (John 6:1–12). Jesus creates marvels like nothing anywhere in creation—other than where God Himself has worked. Of course, this shows that Jesus is indeed God. We’re often waiting for a marvel, and we will truly see them when following the Spirit. But how much more often is God waiting for us to pay attention and see how He can take plan B and make it plan A—like nothing we’ve seen before.

What is not going as planned in your life right now? How do you think God might use the thing that feels out of control to show how marvelous He is?

John D. Barry[1]

[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.