1 Kings 8:61

Verse of the Day Devotion: 1Kings 8:61

“Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.” – 1Kings 8:61  

1 Kings 8 is an account of the ark of the covenant being placed into the temple which had just been completed.  In the following verses we read,

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ households of the sons of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the city of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon at the feast, in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.”  1 Kings 8:1-2.

After this, an enormous number of sacrifices were made to God, so many that they could not be adequately counted.

And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen they could not be counted or numbered.” 1 Kings 8:5.

After this, the priests alone brought these into the inner sanctuary of the tempe, also known as the Holy of Holies. And it is important to note that there was nothing in the Ark except the two stones which Moses placed at Horeb when they came out of Egypt.

Next, he offered a prayer to the Lord asking that any requests given earnestly and humbly by Israelites or strangers would be accepted by God.  This is a prayer of dedication, which is found in 1 Kings 8:22-53. At the end of this prayer, Solomon asks for God’s blessing over the people of Israel plus an exhortation for them as well.  This exhortation is the focus of our verse today, which is as relevant to us today as it was for the Israelites back then.

First, let us look at verses 57-60.

May the LORD our God be with us, as He was with our fathers; may He not leave us or forsake us, that He may incline our hearts to Himself, to walk in all His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances, which He commanded our fathers. And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God; there is no one else.” 1 Kings 8:57-60.

The first part asks of God that He would be with them, as He was with their fathers. God promised to be with Israel, but Solomon knew it was important to ask God to fulfill His promise. He comes pleading the promises of God. And he made this plea so that not only the Israelites, but all the people of the earth may know and understand that the Lord their God is the true God, and that there is no other God but the true God of Israel. Solomon shows the missionary desire that was often neglected and desired in Israel. Blessing to Israel wasn’t meant to end with Israel; God wanted to bless the world through Israel.

Next, we come to our focus verse.

Let your heart therefore be wholly devoted to the LORD our God, to walk in His statutes and to keep His commandments, as at this day.” 1 Kings 8:61.

Solomon was asking that His people would walk in God’s statutes, always striving to keep His commandments. He urges them to let their hearts be fully committed to the Lord. And this should be our focus and desire as well. Our obedience should be universal such that we keep all of His commandments and not just those we choose to. With this, I say His desires should take infinite precedence over our own.   All that we do, or think should follow the idea that He is supreme, and we are not.  We should not be divided in our loyalties.  We should be totally devoted to God in our ways and submissive to His commands. Jesus takes these two points in Solomon’s prayer and merges them into one concise statement.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15.

As always with Jesus, His position on this could not be clearer. If we love God, our goal will be to keep His commandment and follow His ways. And if we do not keep His commandments, then we must ask ourselves, do we truly love Him?

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

1 John 1:9

Verse of the Day: 1John 1:9

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

None of us are perfect, no matter what we think. However, as true Christians this should be our desire. Speaking for myself, there are times when I fail to do what God has commanded me to do, or I do what God has commanded me not to do.  Even the Apostle Paul struggled with this. And if we are honest, we all do.  The verse prior to our focus verse says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Notice his wording, ‘If we say we have no sin’, present tense. Paul was clear in his letter to the Church in Rome that no one can say they have no sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ Romans 3:23.

What John is saying is as Christians we are to walk with God and devote ourselves totally to Him. We are to live a life that honors Christ, that is a perfect life. However, in our fleshly weakness we often do things we know are wrong. Paul put it like this regarding his own struggle, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.” Romans 7:18-19. Paul understood that he was far from perfect. He knew that he did not always live in a way that honored God. In fact, he states that no one does. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12. And to say that we have no sin puts us in a dangerous place because God’s grace and mercy is extended to sinners, not to those who see these as mistakes, or who say, “I’m only human”. We need to realize the victory and forgiveness that comes from praying, “I am a sinner, even a great sinner, but I have a Savior who cleanses me from all sin.

And this is laid out in our focus verse. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9. Though sin is present, it need not remain a hindrance to our relationship with God, we will find cleansing from all unrighteousness as we confess our sins. By confessing our sins, we are willing to say and believe the same thing about our sin that God says about it. The one who confesses his sin is the one who agrees with God about how bad he was. And if we deny the presence of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and are denying God’s Word. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” 1 John 1:10. And though sin is always present, so is its remedy, so sin need never be a hindrance to our relationship with God. We need to confess all sins to God, and this confession should be with the idea of knowing what you did was sin, hating having done it and desiring never to do it again but wanting to honor God in everything. In this, He is “faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Psalm 43:5

Verse of the Week – Psalm 43:5

“Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God, for I will again praise Him For the help of His presence, my God.” – Psalm 43:5

First, let us look at the first four verses spoken by David directly to God. Starting in verse one we read, “Vindicate me, God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; Save me from the deceitful and unjust person!” Psalm 43:1. David cites the hesed in verse one of the Lord, as the rationale for claiming a right to God’s judgment. The word hesed occurs around 245 times in the Hebrew Bible, and 127 times in the Psalms. One Jewish scholar defines hesed as “a free-flowing love that knows no bounds.”

Many biblical words such as mercy, compassion, love, grace, and faithfulness relate to the Hebrew word hesed (חֶסֶד), but none of these completely summarize the concept. Hesed is not merely an emotion or feeling but also action on behalf of someone who is in need. Hesed describes a sense of love and loyalty that brings mercy and compassion toward another person to help them through their trials. Hesed is most closely connected in the Hebrew Bible with the covenant relationship between God and the children of Israel. In Genesis 15, God covenants with Abram, saying: “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates:” Genesis 15:18. Then following in chapter 17 we read, “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land where you live as a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.” Genesis 17:7-9.” Then in Exodus 19, God speaks to the children of Israel regarding their responsibility. “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.” Exodus 19:5-6. In each instance, God calls the Israelites into a unique and special relationship centered around a covenant.

Hesed is often used in parallel with the Hebrew word ʾemeṯ, which is translated as faithfulness. In Psalm 43:1 for example, David declares that the people have no hesed, meaning either the Philistines, among whom he was near to; or his own nation when they joined his son Absalom in rebellion against him: some understand it of the great numbers that were with Saul, when he was persecuted by him. No matter which, they were a people who hated David, his followers, and the God he served. And thus, they had no hesed. Then in Exodus, God declares the following, “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth; who keeps faithfulness for thousands, who forgives wrongdoing, violation of His Law, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. Exodus 34:6–7.

 In the next verse, we see David confronted by a people who have no knowledge of hesed, this special relationship between God and His people. He asks questions of God that parallel the questions in Psalm 42. “For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Psalm 43:2. Notice the similarity in chapter 43. “For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” Psalm 42:9.

Next, we read David’s request from God because of what he was experiencing.  “Send out Your light and Your truth, they shall lead me; They shall bring me to Your holy hill And to Your dwelling places. Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And I will praise You on the lyre, God, my God.” Psalm 43:3-4. David quickly moves to petition God and anticipating His results of granting that petition. He requests that God send His light (‘Ohr’) and faithfulness (ʾemeṯ) because they will bring him to the mountain and will come to the altar and praise Him. The Hebrew word ‘Ohr’ has the idea of ‘light’, which in today’s definition means illumination or an agent that makes something visible. But, in Hebrew, light or ohr means something more.  Ohr also has the idea of “giving order to something chaotic.” And the Hebrew word ‘emet’ has the idea of truth, right, and faithful. Light and faithfulness are not commonly paired in the poetic structure of the Hebrew Psalms. Perhaps David asks for light so that the path to the mountain of God’s holiness and the sanctuary will be clear and for faithfulness such that he is not distracted from following the path. Only then will David be able to come to the altar, encounter God with gladness, with rejoicing, and praise. And to make this thought clear, it is not an earthly holy hill or alter, but one in the heavenly presence of God.

Then in our focus verse David changes from speaking to God to speaking to his inner self. “Why are you in despair, my soul? And why are you restless within me? Wait for God, for I will again praise Him For the help of His presence, my God. Psalm 43:5. He calls his inmost being to wait for God. But, in keeping with the contrast already drawn above, David’s words seem not so much to draw the inmost being back from the brink of despair but to gently remind himself to wait and be confident in God. He will wait on God to send His light and faithfulness, and  they will guide him to the altar of God so he can give Him much praise and worship.

In our struggles with those who do not honor the hesed of God, Psalm 43 offers us words with which to request light and faithfulness from God. It gives us words of assurance that no matter our situation, we may always come to the altar and praise the God who delivers us, for He never forgets us and always loves us. This is a statement, poetically phrased as a question whose answer should be obvious. It’s natural to be tempted towards despair and discouragement. Despite our feelings, we know God is faithful and that He will ultimately vindicate His people. For that reason, we should be encouraged to put all our trust in the Lord.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Psalm 39:10

Verse of the Week – Psalm 39:10

“Remove Your plague from me; Because of the opposition of your hand, I am perishing.” – Psalm 39:10.

David starts out with what appears to be a paradoxical statement in his prayer to God in the first verse. “I will keep watch over my ways so that I do not sin with my tongue; I will keep watch over my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence.” This can be paraphrased, “I said, ‘I will keep silent.’” This seems inconsistent, until we look deeper into the idea of David declaring his intention to keep silent. The Hebrew word for ‘said’ is, אָמַר, pronounced  amar, a verb meaning ‘speaking’, but it also refers to one’s internal thoughts; technically speaking to oneself in your mind. And this is important because David is in a difficult situation. Theologian Adam Clarke puts it this way, speaking for David. “I must be cautious because of my enemies; I must be patient because of my afflictions; I must be watchful over my tongue, lest I offend my God, or give my adversaries any cause to speak evil of me.

He continues in his prayer. “I was mute and silent, I refused to say even something good, and my pain was stirred up. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue:” Psalm 39:2-3. He would not say anything to his enemies that would anger them. His mind became more and more excited, his feelings more and more intense. And even though he attempts to suppress his emotions, they are only more and more enkindled. We see then in verse four he calls out to God.

After this, David prays to God, speaking wisdom from his heart. “LORD, let me know my end, And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, you have made my days like hand widths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Certainly, all mankind standing is a mere breath. Selah Certainly every person walks around as a fleeting shadow; They certainly make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them. And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:4-7. David’s broke his silence in the best way possible, by his humble prayer to God. He would not speak of his fears and doubts before his enemies, but he would pour them out before His God. Here David asked God for wisdom, specifically, the wisdom to know the shortness and the frailty of his life, that he may know how frail he actually was. He understands since life is so short, the only real meaning of a man or woman’s existence must be in his relationship to God.

Next in the next verse he continues. “Save me from all my wrongdoings; Do not make me an object of reproach for the foolish. “He accepts the fact that his sins are the reason for his troubles and sorrows. If his transgressions were forgiven, he felt assured that his trouble would be removed. His first petition, therefore, was that his sins would be forgiven, believing that it would be consistent and proper for God to remove his troubles and deliver him from the evils he was going through. He recognized his sins were the source of all his troubles. If his transgressions were forgiven, he felt assured that his suffering would end.

Then we come to our -Verse of the Week. “Remove Your plague from me; because of the opposition of your hand, I am perishing.” Psalm 39:10. There is one word in this verse that will help see what David is saying to God, and that word is ‘plague’. This word is not referring to a disease, but an act of discipline, strokes as in a spanking. In the Hebrew language, this seems to be a figure taken from combating gladiators. One is wounded so that he cannot continue fighting. David is unable to maintain the fight, so he gives in and prays for God to spare his life. I am conquered; I can hold the contest no longer. In the next verse, David says, “With rebukes You punish a person for wrongdoing; You consume like a moth what is precious to him; Certainly, all mankind is mere breath! Selah” Psalm 39:11. Because of his sin David was punished.

David has now come to understand the nature of man and his own powerlessness too well not to know that he is incapable of achieving that goal without God’s help. Thus, he prays that God may relieve him from the force of his hand which punished him and presses heavily upon him. We read from chapter 90 the following. “For we have been consumed by Your anger, And we have been terrified by Your wrath.” Psalm 90:7. It is only when the knowledge of the transient nature of man is considered under the aspect of God’s punishment of human guilt that it leads to the realization of that contrast between God and man which imparts to the fact of death the character of an inescapable fate, of God’s judgment on sin.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Philippians 4:13

Verse of the Day: Philippians 4:13

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

Of all people here on earth, we Christians have the most excellent reason to rejoice.  Paul, in this letter to the Philippians lays out what that reason is. “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked an opportunity to act.” Philippians 4:10. Paul understood that all good comes from God. This could either be immediately from God’s providence or from his grace and therefore, the apostle gives thanks to God for the kindness directed to him, for it was God that gave them the power and desire that directed their hearts to him. There is nothing quite so cheerful and optimistic to the weary soul as an unexpected visit from an old friend. No wonder as Paul turns to express gratitude for their gift, he starts by telling them that he did then what he has been urging them to do throughout: “I rejoiced” greatly in the Lord. The reason for his great joy is expressed with a botanical metaphor, meaning to “blossom again”, like perennials or the spring shoots of deciduous trees and bushes. After a period of dormancy in the matter of giving and receiving, the Philippians were able to renew this part of their friendship with Paul.

Now in verse 11 we see that Paul, who was very well educated, had learned something very important to help him in the life he was currently living. He was very content. “Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:11. This was probably something that took time for him to grasp. If he was ever in the Mamertine, that being a Roman prison for those condemned to die, he would confess that it would take a deal of grace to make us content to be there. And if he was shut up in the prison of the Palatine hill, in the barracks near the morass, it was, to say the least, that it was not a desirable place to be in. A soldier chained to your hand day and night, however good a fellow he may be, does not always make the most delightful company for you, nor you for him, and it takes some time to learn to be content with such a companion. But, says Paul, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Philippians 4:10b.

Contentment in all states is not natural to us. As weeds grow in soil; covetousness, discontentment, and murmuring are things that can  grow in us. And as there is no need to sow thistles and weeds because  they come up naturally, we have no need to teach others to complain or be discontent for these also come up naturally. But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. If we want wheat, we must plough the ground and sow the wheat seeds. if we want flowers, there must be the garden, and all the gardener’s care. Contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have it, it must be cultivated. It will not grow in us naturally; it is the new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be especially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the grace that God has sown in it. Paul says, “I have learned to be content,” which says he was not content before he learned to be.

Now Paul adds to this thought. “I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Philippians 4:12. Paul here says he has learned how to live with very little, as he does now, and to live with an abundance of things, as he did prior to his conversion. A Christian, who had been rich, when he was asked how he could bear his reduced state so happily, put his answer to this question so beautifully, and it has been called the ‘secret to contentment.’ “When I was rich, I had God in everything, and now I am poor I have everything in God.” We must always remember that no matter our situation, God is always with us. He will bring us through any difficulty. We must honor Him in every situation. Here is an interesting quote from Charles Spurgeon regarding this issue. “How many Christians have I seen grandly glorifying God in sickness and poverty when they have come down in the world, and how often have I seen other Christians dishonoring God when they have grown rich, or when they have risen to a position of influence among their fellow men! These two lessons grace alone can fully teach us.

Now we come to our focus verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. There is no boasting in this statement. Paul only spoke truth here. The former part of the sentence would be a piece of impudent daring without the latter part to interpret it. This passage is not about having financial abundance. Some teach a prosperity gospel that says God will bless us financially if we are faithful. In contrast, Paul taught that the believer would endure suffering but can be content in any circumstance, given Christ’s strength. Just as He faithfully endured the suffering forced upon Him on the cross, His followers can faithfully endure the problems they face. Christ can give contentment during times of plenty and of poverty. He can help us do all things through His strength. In Paul’s case, it was the strength to spread the gospel even though  he was experiencing intense suffering. In our lives, this same strength is available during our times of trials. Whether we serve in another country or help someone in our own community, Christ’s power can enable us to stand firm on His promises and endure the most difficult of life’s challenges.

I want to encourage us all to stand firm in the Lord no matter our situation. Note the wording in our focus verse. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.“ Philippians 4:13. Not just some things, but all things. If God calls us to do a work, He will not leave us alone, but will work through us to make it happen. We must trust Him completely in all we do. He will never let us down. This pertains to all who love and follow Him. So, do all you can and let the Lord help you through the rest.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Jude 1:23

Verse of the Day: Jude 23

“save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” – Jude 23

The book of Jude is the shortest book in the Bible, but says a lot about what we, as Christians, need to do as well as be careful of. He wanted to write about their ‘common salvation’, which was a very positive idea, but he felt compelled, by God, to encourage his brothers and sisters to stand firm in the faith. “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude 1:3. This was important because people were sneaking in to speak against what the Christian faith was all about. “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4. These are dangerous people who have secretly entered the Church fellowship with the purpose of deceiving believers to believe the same ungodly things they did.

Jude then uses a term that fully explains what he meant. Licentiousness or lewdness is not a sign of weakness but one of willful disobedience. Licentious people do things that are really wild. Some look upon God’s grace and kindness as an excuse to sin, saying, in effect, His kindness does away with law, so we are free to do as we please. Essentially, they suppose that, somehow or other, the more they practice sin, the more grace they will receive. And they also deny Christ. It is not that they say Christ never existed or is not the Savior. It is that everything they say and do, everything they believe, contradicts God’s way. If one denies a statement, he is contradicting the person who says it. Jude is using “deny” in this sense. The false teachers contradict Jesus Christ in all things. They can appear to be doing what they are supposed to, but inside deny the truth of God.

However, Jude knew this was happening. Therefore, instead of writing, at this time, about their ‘common salvation’ he felt it important to help them contend for the faith, to come against what the false teachers were teaching, and remind them of the truth of the Gospel. He was not saying to speak against the false teachers, but their teachings. He gave several examples of similar actions; the angels including Lucifer, the unbelievers in Sodom and Gomorrah, and those who were rescued out of Egypt and denied God, the one who rescued them. Jude then tells them “It was also about these men 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, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.” Jude 1:14-15.

Then Jude encourages them to keep themselves in a manner that is pleasing to God. “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.” Jude 1:17-19. He is telling his readers that these activities described above were prophesied by Jesus’s apostles. It simply means they foretold it before it came to pass. In essence, it was inevitable. Paul was quoted by Luke in the Book of Acts, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves’ men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” Acts 20:29-30. But he told them to keep themselves in God’s love. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” Jude 1:20-21. Jude has finished what he had to say about the ungodly, and now turns to more positive teaching. For the second time he calls them dear friends, and on each occasion, it is in contrast to the false teachers. He encourages them to build up the faith they have in Christ, pray in the Holy Spirit, and wait anxiously for Christ’s mercy and the eternal life He has promised.

But he also reminds them of their mission here. “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Jude 1:22-23. Having exhorted his readers on how to behave in general and encouraging them as to their hope, Jude now turns back to the issue of the false teachers and their followers. How should they treat these people? Are they to be hated, fought, feared, or simply shunned? Jude implicitly rejects all of these approaches toward teaching considered to be false and thus misleading many Christians. But also, as said so clearly in our focus verse, we are to rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives, but loving those trapped in those beliefs and practices. While the doubters may not have been sure who was right and thus may have held back from committing to either set of practices, some were already getting involved with the practices of the teachers Jude is opposing. Jude’s counsel is to “snatch” them ‘from the fire’ and ‘save them.’

This is what we are called to do, help the doubters understand the truth and accept it, and declare the reality of what they are doing to those who are purposefully practicing what is wrong, knowing that it is wrong, so they can stop their sinful practices. Chuck Smith wrote this regarding this idea. “You can’t witness the same way to everybody. People are different, people have different temperaments. Some you’ve got to scare the hell out of them. Others are drawn by love. Some with compassion, making a difference, others, by fear, pulling them out of the fire. I mean, what does that mean? Now, it means that we have got to be led by the Spirit as we deal with people, hating even the garment that has been spotted by the flesh, pull them out of the fire. But hate the garment spotted by the flesh.

Our purpose is to bring people into the faith of God and help them to grow such that they can then do the same. We are not called to simply do the do’s and not do the don’ts. We are called to help people become believers, and believers that spread the truth of the Christian life, helping others to grow in the faith.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Ephesians 4:17

Verse of the Day: Ephesians 4:17

“So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds.” – Ephesians 4:17

The letter to the Ephesians was written, by Paul, to the saints who resided in Ephesus. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are at Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 1:1-2.

We see in chapters one through three he writes to them regarding the spiritual blessings that come to those who accept Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” Ephesians 1:3. He continually gives thanks to God for their faith as he prays for them. He encourages them, saying they have received grace from God, though Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.  And then in chapter three, he tells them that he prays for them that they will become and remain strong in the faith. “For this reason I bend my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner self, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19. He encourages them to be in unity with all the saints. “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, being diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3.

Now because of this Paul tells them, as we see in our focus verse, to no longer live in a worldly way as the non-believers in Ephesus lived but rather in the new life provided to them by Christ when they were saved. “So, I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds.” Ephesians 4:17. Now, as I proceed, I will be speaking not only of the unsaved Ephesians whom Paul was referring to, but also the unsaved today. There are several specific areas Paul focuses on which we need to be on the watch for in our lives as well.

First is that the unbelievers had hardened their hearts to the truth. “being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” Ephesians 4:18. Many people then, and today as well, are hardening their hearts against the truth because it goes against what they desire. He is stressing their deliberate choices to reject God and His ways, not necessarily accidental. In a sense sin has caused them to lose their minds. Their thinking process has been tainted by the dark forces of evil, called “the powers of this dark world. “And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:2. In essence, they separated themselves from the life of God. And this is a dangerous ignorance, for it is the result not of a lack of knowledge but of a deliberate denial of the knowledge God has made available to them. Paul puts it this way in his letter to the Romans. “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20. God has made clear his ‘eternal power and divine nature,’ but because of their darkened understanding, depraved humanity has rejected that knowledge and chosen ignorance. Although the world was created by Christ, the world refused to know him. As John put it, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, and yet the world did not know Him.” John 1:10. Thus they, as the theologian Grant Osborne put it, ‘lost all sensitivity’. Grant then explains what he meant, ‘Ignorance leads to hardness, which in turn leads to callousness, the inability to feel pain; here it refers to the inability to feel shame or guilt in the presence of abiding evil.’  And this becomes even more prevalent when friends and family push you to join them in these wrong activities. “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them in the same excesses of debauchery, and they slander you; but they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” 1 Peter 4:4-5. In essence, they have become greedy, never satisfied with what they have and do. In Colossians we read, “Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.

We who are Christians, followers of Christ, need to take heed of what are focus verse is saying. “So, this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,” Ephesians 4:17.  Paul states farther down, “if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:21-25. It is essential that we put aside our old nature, ignore it’s desires, and put on our new self which is given to us, and which is pleasing to God. The cure for a life of sin and excess is to reject the old lies the world told us and to embrace the eternal truths of Christ. This is what we have learned about Him. Since we have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, we should live accordingly. To live in any other way is against what Christ requires.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

1 John 2:15

Verse of the Day: 1 John 2:15

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” – 1 John 2:15  

Our focus verse here has a lot to say about where many are heading in this world today. To start with, John wrote this epistle to help the Christians of that time be filled with joy. “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:4-5. This is the same message Jesus gave His disciples. “If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:10-11. This is what God wants for us, to be filled by His joy. Charles Spurgeon put it this way. “What an evidence of our Savior’s deep attachment to His people that He is not content with having made their ultimate salvation sure, but He is anxious concerning their present state of mind! He delights that His people should not only be safe, but happy; not merely saved, but rejoicing in His salvation. Hear this, people of God! The object of the revelation of Jesus Christ is that you may have joy, indeed, that you may have a heart full of joy, and that you may know what full joy means.

Moving to chapter two, John speaks of Christ as the Christian’s advocate. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. By this we know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commandments.” 1 John 2:1-3. John is encouraging the readers not to sin, but if they do, Christ will be their advocate before the Father. He, as advocate for us, stands there on our behalf, pleading our case. And because of this, He is able to save completely all who will come to God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for us. And we know these are Christians regarding verses that follow. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you on account of His name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God remains in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 1 John 2:12-14.

Now we come to our focus verse. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. This is a very strong statement, for what he is telling them is if they love the things of the world, they cannot love God, for the ways of the world and God are contrary to each other. The same idea is found in Matthew where Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matthew 6:24. Pastor Chuck Smith put it this way. “You cannot, not you should not, you cannot. And wealth, of course, refers to worldly materialistic things, the monetary system of the world. You can’t serve them both.

Next, John defines for us what he is meaning by ‘the world.’ First, he is not referring here to the physical world, creation. He is referring to the world system itself. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16. John proceeds to explain more fully why love for the world is incompatible with love for God. It is because everything in the world is not from God but from the world itself. Its origin lies in the world, viewed as a system in opposition to God. Let us look at these three worldly ways. First, let us look in Genesis where these ideas are first exhibited. “The serpent said to the woman, you certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will become like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:4-6. Eve here was tempted by the serpent to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. She coveted the fruit in three ways. First, it was appealing to her appetite. This John refers to as the ‘lust of the flesh,’ Next, the fruit was also pleasing or delightful to the eye, that which we see and desire to own or possess. This John referred to as the ‘lust of the eyes.’ And lastly, Eve saw that the fruit would make her wise, giving her a wisdom beyond her own. Part of Satan’s lie was that eating the fruit would make her ‘like God, knowing good and evil.’ This was also tempting to her, which is referred to as the ‘pride of life.’

Christians have and will always be lured by the same three temptations Eve and Jesus experienced. Satan doesn’t change his methods; he doesn’t have to because they continue to be successful. He tempts us with the lust of the flesh; sexual gratification, gluttony, excessive alcohol consumption, and drugs, both legal and illegal, as well as the “deeds of the flesh” about which Paul warned the Galatians, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21. He tempts us with the lust of the eyes—the endless accumulation of “stuff” with which we fill our homes and garages and the insatiable desire for more, better, and newer possessions, which ensnares us and hardens our hearts to the things of God. It is also lusts that go beyond things but includes sinful behaviors.

But perhaps his most evil temptation is the pride of life, the very sin that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God. See Isaiah 14:12-15. The arrogant boasting which constitutes the pride of life motivates the other two lusts as it seeks to elevate itself above all others and fulfill all personal desires. It is the root cause of strife in families, churches, and nations. It exalts the self in direct contradiction to Jesus’ statement that those who would follow Him must take up their cross and deny themselves. The pride of life stands in our way if we truly seek to be servants of God. It is the arrogance that separates us from others and limits our effectiveness in the kingdom.

These three things, lust of the flesh and eyes, plus the pride of life comes not from the Father, but from the world. And, as such, it is passing away with the world, but those who resist and overcome the temptations listed above do the will of God, and the person who does the will of God lives forever. As I said in the beginning, many are accepting what the world offers, which automatically rejects God and what He offers. It is important that we shine the light of truth on those who do not see it, for the time is close for Jesus’ return, and if they continue to deny God’s ways, then it will be too late..

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Proverbs 9:10

Verse of the Day: Proverbs 9:10

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

I want to start this by letting Solomon himself declare why these writings are so important. “To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice, and integrity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise person will hear and increase in learning, And a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a saying, The words of the wise and their riddles.” Proverbs 1:2-6. And then he wraps up these verses into one. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7.

Now, one more thing we need to understand is the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge, in itself, is nothing more than an accumulation of raw facts. An example of this would be a list of holidays or family members or how much money we currently have. But wisdom goes well beyond this, being the ability to see people, events, things, and situations as God sees them. Throughout this book, Solomon reveals the mind of God in matters high and lofty and in common, ordinary, everyday situations as well. As we read it, we see no topic escaped King Solomon’s attention. These include, but not limited to,  personal conduct, sexual relations, business, wealth, charity, ambition, discipline, debt, child-rearing, character, alcohol, politics, revenge, and Godliness.

Now let’s look at what the Psalmist says about this. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; All those who follow His commandments have a good understanding; His praise endures forever.” Psalm 111:10. The verses before this in Psalm 111 speak of the great works of the Lord. “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them. Splendid and majestic is His work, And His righteousness endures forever. He has caused His wonders to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and compassionate. He has given food to those who fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever. He has made known to His people the power of His works, In giving them the inheritance of the nations. The works of His hands are truth and justice; All His precepts are trustworthy. They are upheld forever and ever; They are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. Psalm 111:1-9.

Now, the theme of wisdom and its necessity in our lives finds its fulfillment in Christ. We are continually exhorted in Proverbs to seek wisdom, get wisdom, and understand wisdom. It also tells us several times that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Our fear of the Lord’s wrath and justice is what drives us to Christ, who is the embodiment of God’s wisdom as expressed in His glorious plan of redemption for mankind. We read in Colossians that  “For I want you to know how great a struggle I have in your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and that they would attain to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:1-3. We receive a full understanding of true knowledge and wisdom, which is found in Christ. And in another verse we read,  “But it is due to Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written: “LET THE ONE WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

The wisdom that is found only in Christ is in contrast to the foolishness of the world which encourages us to be wise in our own eyes. But Proverbs also tells us that the world’s wisdom is not God’s way. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” Proverbs 3:7. but actually leads only to death “There is a way which seems right to a person, But its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12. Wisdom comes to us when we fear the Lord, not in being afraid in a phobic way, but an awe and reverential fear as we really think about God; His greatness, His power, who He is, just that awe that comes over us when we desire to do what God would have us do. As Pastor Chuck Smith once said, “Love what God loves. Hate what God hates. Have that desire recognizing who God is. To seek to please Him, that’s what the fear of the Lord is about. That’s the beginning of wisdom.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.

Isaiah 46:10

Verse of the Day Devotion. Isaiah 46:10

“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’ – Isaiah 46:10

Before we get to our focus verse, I want to go back a couple of chapters and look at what the Lord is saying through Isaiah. “Remember these things, Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. “I have wiped out your wrongdoings like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” Shout for joy, you heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; Break into a shout of jubilation, you mountains, forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, And in Israel He shows His glory.” Isaiah 44:21-23. The things mentioned in the above verses are reasons for praise and rejoicing. And He also is their redeemer. “This is what the LORD says, He who is your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb: I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth alone,” Isaiah 44:24.

 Now, for all that is mentioned above, should they then trust Him to restore their nation? Absolutely they should trust Him. For He has fulfilled all that He declared He would do up to that moment. Therefore, why should they believe that He would not fulfill all that He promises for the future. In the following three verses, we see future events of that day that will be fulfilled. “Confirming the word of His servant And carrying out the purpose of His messengers. It is I who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited!’ And of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built.’ And I will raise her ruins again. “I am the One who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Dry up!’ And I will make your rivers dry up. “It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he will carry out all My desire.’ And he says of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’” Isaiah 44:26-28. Notice what God says, that Jerusalem shall be inhabited as well as the cities of Judah. And that He will raise Jerusalem from ruin. But what is especially interesting is that God speaks of Cyrus by name, who will be His servant. Cyrus has not even been born yet and will not for at least 150 years, but God has already chosen him for a great purpose.

Now, going back to chapter 46 we read, “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you wrongdoers. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,” Isaiah 46:8-9. God was telling His people to remember Him, and to serve and honor Him, and not the false gods and idols that He mentioned earlier in chapter 46. These idols man made, but the true God was never created for He has always been. God was telling His people to think about what He has told them and what He has done for them. He tells them to remember what He has told them as well as everything that has occurred in the past so they will always trust Him in all things.

I want now to apply this to us today. It is important that we remember all things God has done for us, those things that happened before and after we were born; how He has provided for our needs and has helped us through difficult times. Remember these things, no matter what happens. For God knows all things. “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My plan will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;” Isaiah 46:10. God knows all things; those that have happened, those that are happening, and those that will happen. What God has planned will come to pass, and everything He desires to do will happen exactly as He wants.

We all go through difficult times, some more than others. But always remember what He promised Joshua, and ultimately us. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or in dread of them, for the LORD your God is the One who is going with you. He will not desert you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6. God is always with His people; therefore we can be strong and courageous, knowing God will never abandon or desert us. Or, as it is more popularly worded, He will never leave or forsake us. We have no reason to fear anything, for He knows everything and will help and bring us through everything. Remember what our focus verse says, “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My plan will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” Isaiah 46:10. He knows the end from the beginning, and His plan has been established and this plan will accomplish all that is good and brings pleasure to Him. Therefore, what do we have to fear?

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.