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Temptation

semper armatus: always ready

I’ve heard many people tell stories of their mother warning them to always wear clean underwear, because you never known when you’re going to be in an accident. If you’re like many people, it won’t matter whether you’re wearing clean underwear before the wreck because you may not be after the wreck. If you just could know when that wreck is coming, you could make double-sure … if you could.

If you knew when a thief were coming to break into your home, you’d make sure that your home security system is armed. Or you’d make sure that you’re armed. But you’re never given advanced notice when you’ll have a wreck or when someone’s coming to break into your home. So you always have to be ready.

In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells the Thessalonians to be ready, because Jesus will return like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2) In fact, Paul adds that Jesus will come not just unexpectedly, but at the most inopportune time. You always have to be ready. And Paul actually tells us to always be armored up with “faith and love, and a helmet of the hope of salvation”. (1 Thessalonians 5:8 CSB)

Application

As I said in my last devotional, Paul knew our nature. Just like Jesus, he knew that if we were given a time and date for Jesus’ return, we’d live like the devil as long as possible and then clean ourselves up just in time for His return.

But it doesn’t work that way. We never know when Jesus will return. And if we did, we have no guarantee of when our time on this planet will end. Neither do we know when our friends, family, and coworkers will cross over to the other side of eternity. They need to hear this message! They need Jesus!

Paul’s takeaway application for us is that we need to encourage each other to always be ready. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

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Beware the Wolves

I read today’s Bible reading a few hours after I read a Facebook post from friends, Billy and Cindy Foote. In Billy’s new song, he has set the Prosperity Gospel peddlers in his crosshairs and fired his shot.

Billy begins his song, “All the Wolves”, with, “I know some preacher men, men with some business plans. And I think this must be said. They’re making millions selling Jesus. They take but they never give.”[1]

Billy’s description could not be further than the reality of Paul’s description of the preaching to and the reception of the Gospel by the Thessalonians.

For you yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our visit with you was not without result. On the contrary, after we had previously suffered and were treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, we were emboldened by our God to speak the gospel of God to you in spite of great opposition. For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness— and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. 1 Thessalonians 2:1–6 (CSB)

The ideas of difficulty and suffering are foreign to the wolves. The wolves come only to take and never give.

Application

The wolves are everywhere. They dress well and they sound good. They may also look like sheep. But beware the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Be careful who you listen to. Be careful who you watch. Be careful who you read. Even the most popular Bible teachers and preachers can be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Look at the fruit of their work. Stay connected to the Word. Examine everything you hear, everything you see, everything you read. Run it through the filter of all of God’s Word. Does it fit with what you see in your Bible?

[1] Please take a few moments to listen and read the lyrics to Billy’s latest song, “All the Wolves“. Prepare

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Hatred

In today’s Bible reading, John offers the comforting words that haters are going to hate Believers. Gee, thanks John! You sound just like Job’s encouraging friends!

But hould we really expect anything else from lost people? Lost people are going to act like lost people! Besides, if they hated Jesus, why would they feel different about His followers? (Matthew 10:22–25) They won’t.

Application

If haters are going to hate, why should Believers even deal with the fear of man? If they’re going to hate you, why try to please them? Why try to curry their favor?

Now, I’m not saying that we should return hate for hate. Quite the opposite. The New Testament consistently teaches that Believers are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)

Peter tells the persecuted church not to pay back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

And Paul reminds the Romans, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 CSB)

There’s nothing you can do to stop them from hating you and your Lord. But do everything you can to live in peace with everyone and pray for your haters. Because haters are going to hate.

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Man looking in the mirror

In today’s Bible reading, Paul continues with similar topics as we saw in his letter to Timothy. He tells Titus, “Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8 CSB)

Paul puts a lot of pressure on these young pastors. He holds them to a high standard. But it isn’t a standard that they aren’t able to live up to as they live in dependence on the Holy Spirit. Oh, on their own, they’re in deep weeds! But leaning into the power of the Holy Spirit living through them, it’s a day-by-day experience of seeing God work through them. Paul knows they’ll never “arrive”. They’ll always have to live one day at a time, taking up their cross to follow Jesus. It’s a daily choice that every Believer must make. (Luke 9:23)

For Paul, you can’t say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Paul knows that a life of integrity flows out of a close walk with Jesus.

Application

There are inconsistencies in our lives. If you think you don’t have any, just ask God and listen. Spend time in His Word and He’ll tell you. When He shows you things that don’t look like Jesus, thank Him for the forgiveness that He gave His children through Jesus’ death on the cross.

The entire Christian life is one of daily cross-taking. It’s a life of daily self-denial. It’s a daily reflection, looking for Jesus and asking God to bring out the character of Jesus in your life. And it’s asking God to take away the things that don’t look like Jesus.

It’s true for young pastors like Titus and Timothy. And it’s true for you, too.

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One-woman kind of man?

In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy what to look for in church leaders. I don’t know that Paul’s checklist is so much a checklist as much as it is a reminder that character matters. And character matters … a lot.

I find it interesting how Bible teachers and commentators read their Bibles. Many modern Bible teachers look at Paul’s qualifications and immediately jump to the bit about elders and deacons not being divorced. (1 Timothy 3:2, 12) Or that’s what we think it says.

Paul’s actual wording is “a man of one woman” or “a husband of one wife”. Yes, Paul could mean that elders and a deacons cannot be divorced. But that isn’t what he said. Paul could have used the word “divorce” in his discription, but he didn’t. Instead he worded this qualification in a way that includes polygamy, divorce, and the general way the man looks at women. The way Paul worded it covers it all!

On a parenthetical note, let me say that whether or not Paul was talking about divorce, I don’t think he had our American “no-fault divorce” in mind. I don’t want to get into it here, but “divorce” in the Bible and “divorce” in late Twentieth/Early Twenty-First Century America are not the same. And we can easily run into problems when we impose a modern concept onto the Biblical context.

I also find it interesting how Bible translators do their jobs. Specifically, why do they translate some words one way at one time and translate those same words a different way at another time. My two somewhat-related interests intersect in Paul’s prescription to Timothy when it comes to the service of men and women in the church.

We get the word misogyny and gynochology from the Greek word for woman. This Greek word can be translated as woman or wife, depending on how the word is used. You can’t just say that a Greek word always means one English word in all circumstances. Context dictates how to properly bring the word from Greek into English. Sometimes, the word means woman. Other times, the word means wife. Similarly, the Greek word translated as man can also be translated as husband, depending on the context.

The reason you can’t force a one-to-one correspondence of Greek-to-English words is you run into interpretation issues when the author speaks generically and you translate it specifically or vice-versa. For example, look at Paul’s prohibition of women teaching men in church in yesterday’s reading (1 Timothy 2:12). Is Paul’s concern with women (in general) or wives (specifically) teaching men (in general) or husbands (specifically)? I think by translating the word contextually clears up most of the “problem” passages like the one I’m referring to.

Getting back to Paul’s requirement of male church leaders being a “man of one woman”… Paul was concerned that male leaders should have a single focus on one woman. Church leaders shouldn’t be distracted with multiple wives. And neither should they have “roaming eyes”. They shouldn’t be distracted by other women; they should have eyes for only their own woman.

Application

There’s an application for all of us when it comes to having a single-focus on God when it comes to a growing relationship with Him. This is reinforced with Jesus’ comments when He was questioned on the “Greatest Commandment”. (Matthew 22:36–40)

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