John 15:4

Verse of the Day: John 15:4

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4 

If we have a branch on an apple tree, healthy and vibrant, during the right time we will see fruit on it.  However, if we cut the branch off the tree and take it home because we want to grow fresh apples, we will be disappointed.  You see, the branch does not, on its own, have what it takes to produce fruit.

It is the same with us.  We must abide in Christ and let Him work through us, and then we bear fruit.  It is not what we do, but what we allow God to do through us.  Paul said basically the same thing to the Philippians.  “For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13.

God will never leave us alone.  He has a work for each one of us to do.  However, what we need is to submit to Him and He will do it through us.  He will take us where He wants us, give us the words to say and the strength to fulfill it.  We must be in a constant attitude of prayer, always ready to hear what He has to say and follow His lead.  Then we will bear much fruit and glorify God in the process.

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

Psalm 16:11

Verse of the Day Devotion: Psalm 16:11

“You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” – Psalm 16:11

This is a very encouraging verse.  David here is speaking to the Lord and thanking Him for the goodness of the life to come.  First he is saying that God has shown to Him the path of life.  What he is referring to is that even though he may die in this life, God will not keep him in this state.  He would be brought back to the living world, that which is life everlasting.  David believed in the resurrection from the dead.  He believed that God had for Him a life that will no end.  “He asked life of You, you gave it to him, Length of days forever and ever.” Psalm 21:4. We see this same idea from Daniel.  “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.  Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:2-3.  The idea of everlasting life for the righteous is found in various places in the Old Testament, and David took comfort in this truth. Note, Daniel was after the time of David, however, it shows this truth carried forward to his time.)  Regardless of this, David rejoiced in knowing he would be resurrected when the end came.

He then says that in the presence of God is fullness of joy.  This is not a partial nor imperfect joy, intermingled with pain and sorrow.  This is a joy that completely satisfies the soul not in conjunction with anything that may minimize it.  This is not a joy as we experience here, but an unimaginable joy that will never lessen, nor will it end.  It will not be diminished by the idea we have in this life that all earthly joy must come to an end.  It will be a joy that will be understood as everlasting.  This is the joy we will experience in the next life.  “So, the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, And everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.”  Isaiah 51:11.

And lastly, David says that in His right hand are pleasures forever.  God’s right hand is the place of honor, where the saints will be throughout eternity.  It denotes that he would be raised up to exalted position; one filled with eternal happiness and exalted honor.  And this happiness will be forever.  This is not happiness as we find here in this life that comes and goes.  We will reside forever in happiness, for there will be nothing that can take it away.

This is the life we look forward to as Christians.  First, we will be raised from the dead to a life that is infinitely different from this one, and God will guide us into this new life, we will be in His presence forever where our joy will be full and never ending, and there will be great pleasure because of our exalted position in Christ.  And this will never end.  What more could we ask for, and what could ever be better than this promise from Him.

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

Matthew 10:38

Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 10:38

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” – Matthew 10:38

When persons were convicted of a crime in ancient Rome and they were condemned to be crucified, a part of the sentence was that they would carry the cross they would be crucified on to the place where the crucifixion would take place.  This idea of carrying or bearing the cross is a brutal and humiliating process.

Normally, when the prisoner was sentenced to crucifixion, he would first be scourged to the point of near death.  This was done using the flagrum, otherwise known as the Roman scourge.  It was essentially a short whip with two or three ox-hide leather strands known as thongs.  The leather thongs were knotted with several small pieces of metal with sharp edges.  When used, this would rip some skin off after the first hit.

After this was finished, they placed the cross, normally only the crossbeam, which was very heavy onto the prisoner’s back.  He would then carry this, completely naked, from the prison to the place of crucifixion.  If he survived the journey, and some did not, the crossbeam would be attached to the pole, and they would be nailed by the hands (technically the wrist just below the hand) and feet and would be left to die.  This occurred in a very public area, only about ten feet up, which added to the humiliation.

The idea of being willing to take up our cross as stated in our focus verse means we must be willing to endure extreme hardship, suffer, be humiliated and disgraced, and die for the cause of Christ.  God has called us to do His work upon this earth.  Sometimes that work is easy.  Sometimes it is trying, but sometimes it is brutal.  Look at what is taking place in China and North Korea where Christians are starved, beaten, humiliated and often put to death in what are known as Re-Education camps.  The main purpose is to “re-educate” the Christians until they deny God and make the government and its leader their so-called god.  We should look at these who do not renounce their faith no matter how much suffering there is, as the example Jesus described in Matthew 10:38 for us to follow.

Are we willing to lower ourselves in order to do the will of God?  Are we willing to endure extreme hardship for the cause of Christ?  Are we willing to go through extreme suffering and/or humiliation if that is what He has for us?  This is a tough verse, however, honestly and prayerfully examining ourselves with this verse will allow us to see if we are truly devoted in all ways to God.  He is not asking us to do anything He was not willing to do Himself.  If we are not willing, then, as our verse of the days says, we are not worthy of Him.

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

Isaiah 6:8

Verse of the Day Devotion: Isaiah 6:8

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then I said, here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8 

In the year King Uzziah died, around 754 B.C., Isaiah is outside near the alter and he had a vision, one of the more well-known visions in the Old Testament.  “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.  Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”  Isaiah 6:1-3.  What an incredible vision.  Very explicit vision of the Lord God on His throne, the seraphim above Him crying out ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’.  Further, “And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.”  Isaiah 6:4.

Isaiah upon seeing this vision called out saying, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5. He had seen the God of all creation, the eternal one, and was filled with immense conviction of his sin and cried out of his unworthiness.  Then one of the seraphim came to him with a burning coal (also could be translated stone), touched his lips and declared his iniquity gone and his sin forgiven.

Then, as we reach our focus verse, God is asking the question, “whom shall we send?”.  This is not to say that God did not know, for He knows everything.  I tend to see this as an invitation shrouded in a question.  Then Isaiah calls out, with hardly any delay based on how this scripture is worded, “Here I am, send me.”

If we look in Matthew, we see we are called to go out and deliver God’s message to our world, in the same way Isaiah was to the Jews in his time.  “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.  This is of course known as the Great Commission where Jesus called His disciples to go out and spread the news.  Who will tell Jesus, “Here I am, send me.”

This is why we are here.  Jesus told His discipled to go out and share the gospel, help them understand what it is, give them the opportunity to accept Christ as Savior, and then train them to live this Christian life as it should be lived.  And we who are Christians are a part of ‘the called’ who are to go out.  There are many people who have never heard the gospel, or have not understood it, or have been told a false gospel.  It is our job to go out there and let everyone know of the love of God, how Jesus, the Son of God, came and died who never sinned, to make a way for us who have to be forgiven and declared righteous.

God has already answered the question of “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” to this present generation.  It is now up to us to say, with the full intention of, “Here am I. Send me!”

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

Matthew 4:9

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Matthew 4:9 

“And he said to Him, “All these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.” – Matthew 4:9    

Over these three days we will be looking at, in Matthew, the temptation of Jesus.  There were three specifically mentioned in Matthew 4, which we will address. God sent Him out to be tempted. “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1. These three testings’ were not for God to see what happens, for God knows all things. Isaiah said the following regarding this idea. “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, 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 46:9-10.  God also is showing the contrast between Adam and Eve and the Christ.  Jesus proved Himself by not giving into Satan’s temptation as Adam and Eve did, which was not to God but to the world.  Also showing that temptation itself is not a sin, but our response may be.

With the last temptation, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain.  In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is taken to Mount Nebo to look upon the land that He has promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” Deuteronomy 34:1-4. However, unlike this situation with Moses, the issue is not that Jesus is permitted to see the kingdoms of the world; instead, Satan offers Him world dominion if He will worship him. “Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and he said to Him, all these things will I give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9.

This was quite a temptation, for what Satan offered was rule over all the earth but without the sacrifice on the cross.  Without the pain, humiliation and all the suffering that was associated with crucifixion. In essence, Satan’s temptation was for Jesus to receive what the Father promised without the physical cost of death, which meant no paying the penalty for the sins of the people. However, Jesus would have nothing to do with it. “Then Jesus said to him, begone, Satan! For it is written, YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.” Matthew 4:10. And as the others, we find this in the Book of Deuteronomy. “You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.” Deuteronomy 6:13. 

Satan tempted Jesus to believe that someone else could provide for Him in a better way than God could. And we need to be cautious with our eyes open, for this is the way he appeals to us.  Whether it is power, money, success, or the ability to pursue personal interests.  Jesus again reached into the scriptures to answer Satan, and as always interpreting it accurately.  We can see a personal lesson, that being the Bible is our only authority for right and righteous living.  Old Testament Israel bought the lie that God had competition.  However, Jesus did not. He wanted to be mastered by nothing and no one except the true God.  And this should be our mindset as well.

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

John 14:6

Verse of the Day Devotion:  John 14:6

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” – John 14:6 

Over the next few weekdays, we will be looking at seven verses where Jesus declares “I AM”, and then gives a metaphor regarding what He is.  Today, we will look at the sixth of these, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Jesus is now preparing the disciples for what is coming soon, that being His death. “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1. It is Jesus who is heading for the agony of the cross; it is Jesus who is deeply ‘troubled’ in heart and spirit. “Now my soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose, I came to this hour.” John 12:27. And He was also troubled by the fact one of His beloved disciples would betray Him. “When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” John 13:31. Yet on this night of nights, when of all times it would have been appropriate for Jesus’ followers to lend him emotional and spiritual support, he is still the one who gives, comforts, and instructs. For they, too, are troubled, not because they are rushing toward pain, ignominy, shame, crucifixion, but because they are confused, uncertain of what Jesus means, and threatened by references to his imminent departure.

Jesus now gives the reason for His departure; it is to the disciples advantage. “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3.  The reason is now spelled out: Jesus’ departure is for the disciples’ advantage. True, he is going away, but he is going away to prepare a place for them, and he will come and get them so that they may be where he is. What more could they ask for?

Then in verse four we read, “And you know the way where I am going.” John 14:4.  Jesus said they knew the way He was going; however, we see in the next verse they did not get it. “Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” John 14:5. Thomas’ question sounds as if he interpreted Jesus’ words in the most obvious way, such that it was a physical destination He was referring to. He wants an unambiguous destination, for without such a destination how can one meaningfully speak of the route there? Jesus then answers him with our focus verse, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6. 

In this verse, He states three things that He is.  First, He is the way.  Jesus used the definite article to distinguish Himself as the only way. The idea is of a way, path or route to a specific destination. Jesus here is in essence telling them to follow Him, just as He did in their initial calling to them. He is the only route to salvation and their new home they will have with Him. And this salvation is only found by following Him. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Second, He is the truth.  This and the last one can be derived from the first, that He is the way. He is the truth because He is the only true path to salvation. The Jews believed that salvation came from doing the deeds of the Law.  And there are many religions today who claim to have the way to eternal peace and life aside from Christ.  However, there is only one way to salvation, and that is through Christ and His way which is true. 

And lastly, He is the life. He is the source of our eternal life, again because He is the way to this wonderful existence.  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” John 14:18-20.    

In these words, Jesus was declaring Himself the great “I Am,” the only path to heaven, the only true measure of righteousness, and the source of both physical and spiritual life. He was staking His claim as the very God of Creation, the Lord who blessed Abraham, and the Holy One who inhabits eternity. He did this so the disciples would be able to face the dark days ahead and carry on the mission of declaring the gospel to the world.  And this is what we are called to do as His disciples.  We are to follow His ways and not deviate, gripping ahold of the truth with everything we have, and by these we have access to life forever as He does and has freely given to us. 

I want to close with a quote from the book, “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis.  It was first composed in Medieval Latin around 1418 A.D. 

“Follow thou me. I am the way and the truth and the life. Without the way there is no going; without the truth there is no knowing; without the life there is no living. I am the way which thou must follow; the truth which thou must believe; the life for which thou must hope. I am the inviolable way; the infallible truth, the never-ending life. I am the straightest way; the sovereign truth; life true, life blessed, life uncreated.”

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

Matthew 10:38

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Matthew 10:38  

“And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” – Matthew 10:38

This verse speaks of trials that come upon us Christians because we are Christians.  He is letting His disciples know that this life whereby we are committed to Him will not be an easy one.  Jesus starts off with the following.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34.  This sounds like a strange thing for Jesus to say, but when we fully understand what is meant here.  It was not meant that the purpose of His coming was bring discord and contention.  What He is saying is that this is the effect of His coming. 

In the next verse, He is quoting the prophet Micah.  Jesus’ words are, “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Matthew 10:35-36.  Again, this will be the result, not the intention of His coming.  Micah words it this way.  “Do not trust in a neighbor; Do not have confidence in a friend. From her who lies in your bosom Guard your lips.  For son treats father contemptuously, Daughter rises up against her mother, Daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household.” Micah 7:6. Jesus essentially said the same as Micah, however Micah also refers to neighbors and friends as well. 

 Jesus then makes three statements designating three situations where Christ says people are not worthy Him.  In verse 37 we read, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:37.  The meaning here is clear.  If we do not love Him over and above anyone else, or we are not truly loving Him.  If we do not love Him above everyone else and everything, then we do not truly have a true love and attachment to Him. Jesus uses the phrase ‘not worthy of Him’.  What is alluded to is that we are not to be seen as a follower of Him if we do not love Him above everyone else. 

And now we come to our focus verse.  “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:38.  Lets look at this.  In first century Rom, when a person is condemned to die by crucifixion, a part of the sentence was that they would carry their cross to the place of execution.  To carry this incredible weight was exhausting and disgraceful and was hard to do mentally and emotionally as well.  Then after the torture of carrying the cross to the place of execution, they were hung on this same cross, either by ropes or nails until they died.  This was an extremely tortuous form of execution.  So, to carry the cross here is a figurative expression denoting we must endure whatever is burdensome, trying, considered disgraceful in following Christ.  It means to simply do what Christ requires regardless of what anyone says or thinks of us.  It does not mean doing things for the purpose of being opposed, but simply doing what Christ calls us to do and being opposed because of it.  Doing whatever is required in the scriptures and enduring whatever shame, disgrace or pain may come upon us.  This is what is required of all Christians.  Remember, Christ suffered much in order to pay the penalty for our sins.  We should be willing to suffer in the work we do for Him.

Are we willing to endure anything in order to do what He has called us to do?  I pray we all are.

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