Romans 14:21

Verse of the Day Devotion: Romans 14:21

“It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.” – Romans 14:21
n the first century Jews were accepting Christ and the work He did on the cross in droves.  The same can be said of the Gentiles.  However, because their former beliefs were not the same, they had different opinions as to what was acceptable and what was not.  That does not mean that either was wrong, but if they believed it was wrong, then it was wrong for them. There were several ideas in that time period that were most evident.  The first was what they could eat.  The Jews believed that only those foods that were declared clean by God were acceptable, everything else was not.  For instance, sheep were acceptable, but pigs were not.  Bass would be acceptable, but not eels.  “One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.” Romans 10:2. Another area in that day was when to worship.  “One person regards one day above another; another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” Romans 14:5. One group, Jews, believed that the seventh day (Sabbath) was the day to observe in honor to God, others believed that all days, not necessarily the Sabbath only was acceptable. However, Paul sees it like this.  “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” Romans 14:6. As for eating, see what God tells Peter.  “But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air.  A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean. Again, a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” Acts 10:10-15.  Some things are not wise to eat, but nothing is unclean as declared by God.  And “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”  James 1:13. As you can see from this, the Jews had a different view of right and wrong regarding these two ideas. And many today have similar differences as to what is right and wrong in the Christian walk.  One is that some will not drink any alcohol because they believe it is evil, while others believe alcohol is ok as long as there is no drunkenness.  Another area is with clothing.  Some believe that men need to be dressed up in suit and tie to go to church, while others believe anything that is not provocative is acceptable, such as jeans and a nice shirt.  Both examples within the belief described are OK.  However, some have grown up believing a certain way and were taught it was unacceptable to drink even a drop of alcohol, or that any clothing considered casual should not be worn in church. However, Paul wrote to the Romans that whatever we do as unto the Lord, and we truly believe this, honors Him and that it is not declared explicitly in scripture as sin, then we should not judge our brother or sister.  However, we must not do what another believes is wrong in their presence.  For instance, with the alcohol issue, if someone believes any alcohol is wrong, then no alcohol should be served or consumed.  For in doing so, we might cause him to stumble by doing what he believes is wrong; or to judge another by declaring them a sinner.  “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.” Romans 14:3. Or, in our example, the one who wears a suit is not to regard with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not wear a suit is not to judge the one who does, for God has accepted him.  What is important in this verse is as long what anyone does is not explicitly considered sin, such as theft, murder or deceit, and they are doing it to honor God, then we must accept it as good.  And we should not do anything in the presence of our brothers and sisters if they do not see it as acceptable, for this may cause them to fall. In closing, we must be careful how we judge the actions of another, for they may truly believe that their actions absolutely honor God, whether they abstain from something or practice something.  God knows what is in the hearts of men, we do not.  So, we must allow God to determine if what they do is acceptable or not.  If we attempt to do so, we may falsely judge them and end up in sin ourselves.  And that would not be a good thing. William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Mark 3:35.

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Mark 3:35 

“For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” –  Mark 3:35

While Jesus was speaking to the Scribes who came to question Jesus, His mother and His brothers came. “And His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him, and called Him. And a multitude was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” Mark 3:31-32. There is no question about who His mother was, Mary the wife of Joseph. However, not much is mentioned regarding His brothers. However, we do find them named in the Matthew’s gospel. “And coming to His hometown He began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they became astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” Matthew 13:54-56.

And when they arrived, they called out for Jesus, and Jesus responded. “And answering them, He said, who are My mother and My brothers? This was a rhetorical question which forced attention on a deeper issue, that being an authentic relationship with Him. He was not denying they were family, in the physical sense, but He was looking deeper. So He continues with, “And looking about on those who were sitting around Him, He said, Behold, My mother and My brothers!” Mark 3:34. Now, Jesus was not minimizing their relationship. Mary was His mother, and he did have half-brothers and half-sisters with Mary as the mother and Joseph as the father. What He was speaking of was a spiritual family, and not the physical family. Again, He was not minimizing the relationship with His physical family, but He was introducing the idea of a spiritual family. And our focus verse lays out who His spiritual family was. “For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35. In other words, in a spiritual sense, whoever does the will of God is now a part of the family of God. The Apostle Paul lays out this though beautifully. “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:4-7.

God must come first in all areas. We must please Him before anything else. We must do His will ahead of everything else. And those who do will be a member of the family of God, and everyone who does this will be family: brothers and sisters in Christ. “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26. This does not do away with our earthly family, however, it must take precedence and will ultimately last forever.   

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

Philemon 1:16

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Philemon 1:16 

“No longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” – Philemon 1:16     

The main theme in this book is Onesimus, a runaway slave from Philemon. He was a fugitive who had robbed his master and then fled to Rome, where he believed he could hide in the large city and thus not be found. Onesimus encountered Paul, who was in prison, who helped him become a Christian. Then finding out that he was a slave of Philemon, Paul wrote this letter to him regarding Onesimus. “Therefore, though I have enough confidence in Christ to order you to do that which is proper, yet for love’s sake I rather appeal to you. since I am such a person as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus “ Philemon 1:8-9. Paul starts by saying he does not want to enforce compliance with his words but wants Philemon to do this of his own accord, in an attitude of love which governs the Christian. And by  mentioning his age and imprisonment, he can expect that Philemon will pay due respect to what he has to say.

Then he brings up his request. “I appeal to you for my child, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, Onesimus, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. And I have sent him back to you in person, that is, sending my very heart,” Philemon 1:10-12. Paul had led Onesimus to salvation through Christ while he was imprisoned. Obviously, his conversion was real, and Paul wanted to get this truth across. Then he uses a play on words. ‘who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me’. The name Onesimus means useful or profitable. It was a common name for slaves in that day. Prior to his salvation, Onesimus had been useless or unprofitable to Philemon, but now he had become beneficial to both Philemon and to Paul. Upon becoming saved Onesimus lived up to his name.

Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, asking/pleading him to accept Onesimus back, but not as simply a slave but as a Christian, a brother in Christ. Paul really loved Onesimus because of the great blessing he had been to Paul. In fact, in the next verse he would have liked him to stay. “Whom I wished to keep with me, that in your behalf he might minister to me in my imprisonment for the gospel; but without your consent I did not want to do anything, that your goodness should not be as it were by compulsion, but of your own free will. For perhaps he was for this reason parted from you for a while, that you should have him back forever,” Philemon 1:13-15. Paul would have liked to keep Onesimus with him, for he had rendered faithful service and could continue to give to him. Nevertheless, he does not want, under any circumstances, to encroach upon the decision which only Philemon, as the slave’s rightful master, could make. He wanted Philemon to make the decision on his own without any compelling by Paul.

Then he says, if he goes back, the following in our focus verse, “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon 1:16. He asks him not to receive him back as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. That is how Paul saw him, and he was encouraging him to feel the same. And then finally, “If then you regard me a partner, accept him as you would me.” Philemon 1:17. Paul wanted Philemon to accept Onesimus as he has and would accept him. Their fellowship is grounded in their belonging to one Lord. This deeply binding relationship draws them together into common activities, in faith and love. On the basis of this bond, Paul makes his request in which he not only intercedes for Onesimus, but even identifies himself with him. All the love that Philemon will give to Onesimus will be considered as love that he had given to Paul himself.

We need to exhibit these characteristics in our lives. Employers, political leaders, and parents must follow the spirit of Paul’s teaching by treating Christian employees, co-workers, and family members as members of Christ’s Body. Christians in modern society must not view helpers as ways to achieve their ambitions but as Christian brothers and sisters who should receive gracious treatment. Also, all Christian leaders must recognize that God holds them accountable for the treatment of those who work for them, whether the helpers are Christians or not. We all will eventually answer to God for our actions toward others.

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

Luke 17:3

Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 17:3

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” –  Luke 17:3 

This verse deals with people, specifically in these verses (1-4), who sin against us.  Starting in verse 1 we read, “And He said to His disciples, It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come!” Luke 17:1. As we see at the beginning of this verse, He is not speaking to the Pharisees but to His disciples.  And what He is saying here is that temptation, here referred to as ‘stumbling blocks’ are inevitable.  From the Greek word ‘skandalon’ which refers to the trap-spring,  the item on a trap that causes it to spring shut. The idea is that whatever tempts us to sin is a trap, and if we fall into sin due to the temptation, then we sprung the trap and are caught in it. But notice the end of this verse.  Yes, we sin and that is wrong.  Jesus knew that due to the world, the flesh, and the devil such temptations would continue. But Jesus says woe to those who cause the temptation.

Then in the next verse, Jesus shows how He feels about this. “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:2. Drowning a person with a stone tied about the neck was an ancient mode of punishment. What this is saying is that it would be better for them to endure the temporary drowning death by men then to cause a young brother or sister in Christ to sin, which is a serious offense to God.

Now we come to our focus verse. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. So, based on what we see in the first two verses, He is not speaking of sins in general, but particularly of sins one brother commits against another. This rebuke should be a mild brotherly admonition, helping them understand what occurred. If such correction brings him to humbly acknowledge his fault, forgiveness must not then be withheld, even if the trespass had already been six times repeated. We see this last part in verse 4. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, I repent, forgive him.” Luke 17:4. Now, this seven times is not to be taken literally for it has a much deeper meaning. It does not mean you may forgive him, but it is an imperative denoting ‘you will forgive him’. There is no option here.  And to understand the numbers, we must go the Matthew for clarification. “Then Peter came and said to Him, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22. The seven times mentioned in Luke, and the seventy times seven in Matthew are not upper limits to the number of times we are to forgive.  It means ‘always.  If a brother or sister sins against us, and they repent, then we are to ‘always’ forgive them.  And our model in this is God Himself. He forgives all our sins if we truly repent and ask forgiveness. Remember, Jesus forgave all the sins committed by one on the cross in which he repented.  “And he was saying, Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom! And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43.

Jesus calls us to forgive those who sin against us and repent of that sin. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:31-32. When we repented, He forgave us.  Therefore, those who repent of their sins against us, we must forgive. And in so doing, we will show them the reality of our faith, and thus open the door to help them grow in their faith and in the knowledge of God. And this is what we are called to do. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14.  And this light is to help disciple others in the faith. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. That is, after all, our calling.

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

Matthew 18:21

Verse of the Day Devotion Matthew 18:21 

“Then Peter came and said to Him,  Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” – Matthew 18:21

Jesus had just finished a teaching on what must be done if our brother sins against us.  He starts out with telling His disciples what to do if this happens. “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” Matthew 18:15-17. It is important that if a brother sins against us, we are to go to him alone and reprove him, letting him know what he has done. And if he does not listen to you, bring two or three believers with you, ones this man listens to with the hope he will then listen to you. However, if he does not, then bring it to the church so they can speak with him.  When it gets this far, and he does not listen, then he is to be treated like a non-believer and tax collector.  Both these expressions stand for people outside the people of God, people who have sinned and not repented, and that is the position of the sinning brother. He has made his choice, and the brother sinned against must respect his decision. It is usually said that the passage speaks of excommunication from the church, but that is not what the text says; to you is very personal. Whatever be the case vis-à-vis the church, to the brother against whom he has sinned he is as an outsider.  

Now, after this teaching Peter asks Jesus a question as seen in our focus verse. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21b.  Peter, wishing to appear especially forgiving and benevolent, asked Jesus if forgiveness was to be offered seven times.  The Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary. This idea is found in the book of Amos, “Thus says the LORD, For three transgressions of Damascus and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.” Amos 1:3. Now this verse was pointing at Damascus, but we see the same basic verse pointing to other nations: verse 6 for Gaza, verse 9 regarding Tyre and verse 13 regarding Ammon.  The idea was that after three times they would not be forgiven. This then became a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more then three times.  However, Jesus responds in a surprising, and I am sure a shocking way to Peter’s question. “Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22.  Jesus replaces seven times with seventy times seven, or 490 times. 

Now, this is not an arithmetic issue that after 490 offense, forgiveness was not necessary. It is a way of saying that for Jesus’ followers forgiveness is to be unlimited. For them forgiveness is a way of life. Bearing in mind what they have been forgiven, they cannot withhold forgiveness from any who sin against them. “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15. By saying we are to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a number that is, for all practical purposes, beyond counting. Christians with forgiving hearts not only do not limit the number of times they forgive; they continue to forgive with as much grace the thousandth time as they do the first time. Christians alone are capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lives within us, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as God forgives us over and over.

This is such an important thought. No matter what anyone does to us, and as many times as they do it, it in incumbent upon us to forgive each and every time. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-29. This is the love God has for us, and He expects us to exhibit this love to our fellow man. “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Mark 11:25-26.

And lastly, this love should be for everyone, including our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

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

1 John 3:17

Verse of the Day Devotion:  1 John 3:17  

“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?” – 1 John 3:17

This verse brings out in a clear way just what true love is.  The verse just prior to our focus verse shows us that love, as described here, is not an emotion but an action.  I am not saying emotion is not a part, for that is very true.  However, if it is only an emotion with no actions associated with it, then is it truly love?  James had this to say about it, focusing on faith.  “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” James 2:15-16. 

In our focus verse, we see a similar idea, however, it is a stronger position taken here.  “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?” 1 John 3:17.  In James, he is saying that our faith is worthless, in fact it is dead.  However, in our focus verse, John’s statement is much stronger.  “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?” 1 John 3:17.  He is not just saying their faith is worthless, but that the love of God does not reside in them.  This is a very strong message. 

Let us look at the verse just prior to this.  “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3:16.  John is essentially saying that Jesus showed His love to us by meeting the major need we had in our lives.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.   This salvation was not a possibility without the work Christ did for us.  Jesus sacrificed His life for our good.  He gave everything for us.  He did not close His eyes, heart or mind against us.  He saw our need and met it completely.  This is a picture of what real love is. 

So, do we have this kind of love within us?  This is the idea found in this verse.  He did not have to come here, but He did because of His great love for us.  His death was horrible and without any legitimate reason but to meet our great need.  But because of His love He endured it all.  If we would not divide our bread with the hungry, then do we really have the love of Christ in us?  If we would not be willing to share our water with the thirsty, then does the love of Christ truly reside in us?  This is the heart of the matter.  He sacrificed everything for us.  Are we willing to make sacrifices for others? 

In closing, John writes in verse eighteen, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 1 John 3:18.   If we only declare our love through words, and neglect showing people through our actions, then according to our focus verse, God’s love does not abide in us.  We are only doing what James says, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” James 2:16b.  They do not have the means to eat or stay warm,  but we tell them to anyway.  Does this really provide for their needs? 

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