Romans 10:14

Verse of the Day Devotion: Romans 10:14

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” Romans 10:14 

Paul here in this verse is writing to the Church at Rome regarding the Jews and their inability to understand the message of salvation.  He declares in an earlier verse, “For I bear them witness that they (the Jews) have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Romans 10:2-4.

The Jews, whose forefathers had received the law from God turned to the law as a basis of their salvation. But the prophet Joel states the following, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” Joel 2:32. As noted in this verse, it is not the doing of the law but calling out to God.  Jesus said it like this, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. But because the Jews held to the law due to the traditions of the leaders and elders, they could not accept Christ as the Messiah because He did not act as they thought the Messiah would.

There were many in the first century that did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  In fact, all the religious practices of that time believed their gods demanded a following of specific rules in order to be saved.  It was not just the Jews.  However, going back to the Jews, they believed the law was the path to their salvation.  So, what is our focus verse saying.  To all Christians it is saying the following.  First, that how can they call on Jesus if they do not believe?  Putting this another way as Albert Barnes so clearly stated, “How could they call on one in whose existence, ability, and willingness to help, they did not believe?”  Good question.  Then he goes further.  And how can they call on someone who they have never heard of.  There were many in that day who had never heard of Him.  And then lastly, how can they hear of Him if no one tells them?

Paul is calling Christians, then and now, to tell people of the saving knowledge of Jesus, showing that He was the long-awaited Messiah.   Quoting Isaiah, he says “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Isaiah 52:7. Isaiah is saying that God richly approves and is delighted in those who go out and declare the good news of the love of God and His great salvation.  In one of Jesus’ last words He says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20. He is calling all His disciples to go out and spread the good news.  We are the ones who, in our focus verse, are the preachers, the ones He has called to let everyone know who the true God and Savior is.  Some are called to go into nations and places far away, others to our neighbors, friends, co-workers and those whom we meet.  We must tell them, for if we do not, who will?

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

Mark 4:9

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Mark 4:9 

“And He was saying, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Mark 4:9 

As was His purpose, Jesus began teaching again to the people. “And He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very great multitude gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables, and was saying to them in His teaching,” Mark 4:1-2. He begins teaching those on the shore from the boat. And He is using the tool of parables to present the truth. And he starts off with “Listen to this!” Mark 4:3a. And then He ends with the same idea. He wants those who are there to use their sight and hearing in order to understand what He is saying. It is also an admonition to listen thoughtfully, which shows that the meaning of parables is not necessarily self-evident.

Here is the parable. “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and it came about that as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. And other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. And other seeds fell into the good soil and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:3b-8. The parable presents an accurate picture of what is known about ancient Palestinian agriculture. Unlike our modern approach, the seed was sown first and then plowed under. The sower held it in an apron with one hand and tossed it with the other. It was not unusual that some would fall upon the hardened path through the field, some where the soil was too shallow, and some among thorns as well as on good ground. Therefore, this was something His audience would understand. And then He ends this with the phrase, ”He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:9.

When Jesus was finished and He was alone with His followers, they asked Him about the parables, and He answered by saying, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” Mark 4:11-12. His disciples have been given the ‘mystery of the kingdom’ because they left everything to follow Him, thus showing their desire to fully understand what Christ is declaring. Those in the crowds are not given this knowledge immediately, but if they truly desire to know and seek it with everything they have, then they are able to obtain this understanding. We can see this based on what Peter wrote in his second letter. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9. God desires that all come to repentance, but the only way they can receive it is if they desire to understand what the truth really is and seek it with all their hearts.

So, what does this parable mean? The disciples appeared not to understand. “And He said to them, Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables?” Mark 4:13. And because they were not understanding, He told them the meaning. He starts by telling them what is meant by the seeds. “The sower sows the word.” Mark 4:14. The Word of God is illustrated by seeds. And Jesus then follows with four different results, using the picture of seeds being sown, to show the results of giving the Word to four different groups. First, we read “And these are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them.” Mark 4:15. When these people hear the Word, they hear it, but they didn’t take firm hold of it and Satan, in whatever manner he chooses, took it from them causing them not to accept it. Next, “And in a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.” Mark 4:16-17. When these people hear the Word, they immediately accept it, however when trials and persecution comes they immediately give up and fall away. Next we see, “And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, and the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Mark 4:18-19. Here, the Word of God is sown, but not accepted because the riches and worldly desires take precedence and choke out the truth of His Word. And last, but far from least, “And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it, and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” Mark 4:20. These are those who hear the word, accept it in their heart and do not give it away. They accepted it and lived by it. But not all are as fruitful in the work as others. And as for the thirty, sixty and one hundred-fold, not everyone is going to be as fruitful as everyone else. We will be as fruitful as God gifts us. Notice He does not state those of thirty-fold are looked at as inferior to the sixty or hundred-fold,

There are various ways that God’s Word is received. Some ignore it, some place things at a higher level, and some refuse to be persecuted and decide accepting His Word is not worth it. However, we must go out to these in order to find those who will hear it, accept it, and live it. It is worth it even if only one gets saved. “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7.  

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

Luke 8:8

Verse of the Day Devotion Luke 8:8 

“And other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. As He said these things, He would call out, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” – Luke 8:8  

Today we will look at one of the many parables Jesus told His followers in order to help them understand the Christian life as He intended.  This one is known as the parable of the sower.  It also was called the Parable of the Four Soils.  The main character mentioned here is a sower who scatters seed in the field, which ultimately falls on four different types of soil.  The seed represents the Word of God, and the ground on which it falls is a picture of man’s response to it.  Now, let us look at each of the soil types alluded to here.

First, “and as he sowed, some fell beside the road; and it was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air ate it up. Luke 8:5.  The hard ground speaks of a person who’s heart is hardened by sin.  They hear what is said but do not understand because they choose not to take the time to consider the reality of it.  The picture is of a seed that does not take root because of the hard soil, just as the Word of God does not take root because of a hardened heart. They are therefore distracted by the things of this world which prevent the truth from being planted in them.  Therefore, truth is trampled underfoot or is taken away.   

Next we see the stony ground.  “And other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” Luke 8:6.  The stony ground represents a man who professes joy in the Word; however, his heart is not changed, and when trouble arises, his so-called faith quickly goes away. When seed is planted in shallow soil it will often start growing, there will be some signs of life. But that life does not last. The soil is simply not deep enough to sustain life. There’s not enough water for the plant so eventually the sun will scorch out all life. In essence, as plants need deep roots to get water and nutrients, Christians need deep roots in the Word and teachings in order grow and refresh their faith. Without it, they have no roots. Their belief does not last, and they fail to stand up to testing and temptation.

Other seeds then fall among thorns. “And other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.” Luke 8:7.  These are not an overgrown thistle-field, but a place in the farmland that is suitable to grow crops.  The idea is that the thistles and thorn bushes have been cut off from the land, but the roots are still intact and they grow up again, entirely suffocating the crops, since they grow much quicker. The true picture is good seed competing with bad seed where they grow up together. The implication is obvious. Our lives may look pure with no known danger of bad weeds, but the bad seeds are there. It is important that we guard our heart. We need to be constantly looking out for anything that wants to attack our faith.

And finally, in our focus verse, “And other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. As He said these things, He would call out, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 8:8. The good ground portrays the one who hears, understands, and receives the Word and then allows the Word to accomplish its result in his life. The man represented by the good ground is the only one of the four who is truly saved, because salvation is proven by the fruit we produce.  This soil represents those who hear the Gospel and follow Jesus. Their roots go deep and can sustain the hardships of life. They have guarded their hearts to ensure no thorns can choke out their life. They are primed and ready to grow. And grow they do. Their lives produce more than they could have ever imagined.

To summarize, a man’s reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. A secondary lesson here is that salvation is more than a superficial, yet joyful, hearing of the gospel. Someone who is truly saved will go on to prove it. They will be that shining light that draws the lost to our loving God.  Let us go out and be that seed that grows in the good soil and produces a great harvest of followers of God.  Let us go out and make disciples, who make disciples, who make disciples, ad infinitum.

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

1 John 5:14

Verse of the Day Devotion: 1 John 5:14 

“This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” – 1 John 5:14          

John here is finalizing his first letter to the church.  According to I. Howard Marshall, author of the New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistles of John, there was a crisis in the church whereby teachers within the church were advocating a new understanding of Christianity which did not agree with the idea John and his colleagues were teaching.  Throughout the book, John is showing them the truth as opposed to what they taught.  We see this in chapter 2.  “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” 1 John 2:18-19.  He called those who taught wrong teachings antichrists, strong language but true if they taught a different gospel then Jesus presented.  So, many left and went out pushing their beliefs.

Now, in the final section of this letter, he lays out why He wrote it. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13.  It appears that one of the main teachings of the false teachers countered the idea of eternal life.  Note the phrase so that you may know that you have eternal life.  John wanted them to fully understand that eternal life was promised to those who believe Jesus, who He was and what He taught.  And based on our focus verse, because of their belief in Jesus they have confidence that if they ask anything, according to His will, that He hears them.  

Now, a very important phrase is found here that many either do not see or they ignore; “according to His will.”  It is not saying that anything we ask for will be heard, only those things that fall under His will. This is a very important concept, because note the next verse.  “And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:15.  And if He hears us, then we shall have what we ask for.  Therefore, the great promise to believers is that if we pray to God, according to and within the scope of His will, then we can be assured what we ask for is ours.

Now, one last point of clarification. There are two ways to ask outside of His will.  The first is to ask for something that we know is not His will.  That would encompass such things as asking for something we know is wrong or sinful, or something that is not intrinsically wrong, but asking would be wrong for us, such as asking for something that may have a negative effect on ours or someone else’s life, such as if we win, someone else loses.  Remember what Paul said, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;“ Philippians 2:3. 

The other way to ask outside of His will is to ask for something that is not what God has in mind.  He has a better plan.  The basic idea is that we may ask for something, but God has something better for us.  For instance, we may ask Him to give us a ministry position at the church we attend, but He wants us to minister overseas.  This requires trust from us.  If we ask Him for something and He does not provide that specific thing, then we must understand it was not His will for us, He has another plan.  And we must be content when what we ask for does not come to pass.  God knows better, and we should learn to be content no matter which way it goes. 

Trust God that, because He knows the end from the beginning, that He understands who we are better than we know ourselves, and that He has been preparing us for His work even though we do not recognize all that He has done, He knows best, therefore rest in this truth.  

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

Psalm 5:3

Verse of the Day Devotion: Psalm 5:3 

“In the morning, O LORD, you will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” – Psalm 5:3  

Psalm 5 is a psalm of David.  As we proceed here, you will see this is considered a morning prayer, one that is used to start the day. David starts by asking God to hear his prayer.  “Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning.” Psalm 5:1. He pleas with God to hear the words of his prayer, not simply the words from his mouth, but the meditations, the groanings of his heart. The word groanings refers to whispers, murmurings and musings; those things which are not necessarily said but felt. 

Next, “Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray.” Psalm 5:2. He is asking God to assist and help him.  He calls out to God to hear him, to attend to his cries for help, acknowledging the one who he is praying to as his king and his God. He is crying out only to Him and no one else.  For he understands that the true God who he serves is the one who hears him and answers his prayers.  He does not call out to any idol or false god, only to the true God and creator of all.

He then, in our focus verse, declares these prayers in the morning, as soon as he wakes up he calls out to God.  Notice that this is not so much a prayer of request but a prayer of resolution.  You will hear my voice.  I will direct my prayer to you.  And I will eagerly watch for your answer for I know it will come and I will rejoice over it. 

I believe this is a wonderful example of how we should communicate with God.  We should take the morning when we first wake up to spend this time with our King and our God.  We should cry out to Him with our words and open ourselves to present our hearts and minds to Him.  Often, we do not have words to express our feelings, our pain and disappointments, our failings and regrets.  However, we should not attempt to hide these for He does hear our words as well as our groanings and inward thoughts.  We must understand we cannot hide anything from Him.  He knows our requests, needs, hurts and failings long before we were even born, for He knows the end from the beginning. 

And as we look at our focus verse, we must declare to ourselves that He absolutely will hear our voice.  There can be no question regarding this.  And not only our words, but our feelings as well.  He will not close His ears to us.  John put it this way. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” 1 John 5:13-15. 

Lets make the first thing we do when we wake up be going before God and spending concerted time in prayer. Let us lift up to Him our needs, fears, thoughts and feelings knowing that He hears us and loves us.  And then anxiously await His answer.  Do not only look for what we want or expect as His answer, but also what we may not expect.  He knows what is best, and we must take His answer and run with it, rejoicing as we go forward.  There is no better way to start the day.

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