Matthew 19:26

Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 19:26

“And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

A rich young ruler came to Christ and asked Him what good He needed to do to attain eternal life.  Jesus answered him saying, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.“.  Matthew 19:17.  He was not telling him that salvation is attained by works, but He answered him based on what the Law said.  He has not, at this time, died and paid the penalty, thus the reason as I understand it for His answer.  He then listed a subset of the laws to follow.  The young man then replies, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”  Matthew 19:20b.  Jesus then responds with this, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21.

What Jesus was saying was that nothing can take precedence over Him.  Salvation comes through giving up everything to follow Him.  When the young ruler heard these words, he walked away because He could not place Jesus above his belongings.  Then we read the following, “And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Matthew 19:23-24.

So, what was Jesus saying referring to camel through the eye of a needle?  There are several thoughts on this, however, the most likely explanation is that it is a hyperbole.  The Persians expressed the idea of impossibility by declaring that it would be easier for an elephant to go through the eye of a needle.  The use of camel was a Jewish form of this phrase, using the largest animal in Israel, that being the camel.  So, what Jesus was saying was simply it is seemingly impossible for a rich man to be saved because their riches mean so much to them.  Few if any would be willing to give up everything for Him.

“When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?”  Matthew 19:25.   Then we come to our focus verse.  “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26.

Man cannot save himself because it is impossible to be perfect.  Jews believed that through sacrificing an animal to God, their sins would be removed.  However, it is really through giving everything to God and following His Word and obeying His commands.  “but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Matthew 19:17b.  However, we cannot keep them perfectly, Jesus, the Son of God, came here and lived that perfect life for us.  And by doing so, and us accepting His work on the cross, we are justified, declared righteous.  He said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17.  He came to do what we could not and applied it to our situation if we believe in our hearts, mind, and lives.  What a mighty and loving God we serve.

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

Matthew 15:8

Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 15:8

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.” – Matthew 15:8

This is a prophecy of Isaiah that Jesus spoke against the Pharisees.  These Pharisees came from Jerusalem and asked Him “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Matthew 15:2 This is part of what is called the ‘Oral Traditions’, not part of the written law of Moses.  It was passed down from generation to generation as a proper thing to do.  Mark brings additional clarity to this tradition.  “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.”  Mark 7:4. The Pharisees expected every Jew to follow these traditions, and this included Jesus and His disciples.

However, Jesus answers back with a question as to why they transgressed not the oral tradition, but the commandment of God.  “And He (Jesus) answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said,’ Honor your father and mother’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father and mother is to be put to death. ‘ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Matthew 15:3-6.  What the Pharisees had done is usurp the command of God by the tradition of the elders.  They were hypocrites because they accused them of breaking tradition, when they were breaking the law of God.  He then tells the disciples, as stated in the focus verse, that the Pharisees honored God with their words, but not with their heart.  And then He adds, “But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”. Matthew 15:9.

It is important that we examine ourselves and make sure we do not fall into this unknowingly.  It is very easy to fall into the habit of praising God when our thoughts are elsewhere.  It is easy to give to the church simply because it is the expected thing to do, rather than giving it to God with a heart of love and thankfulness.

And what of communion?  There are several verses we need to look at.  “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24b When we take the bread and eat it and the cup and drink it, do we think of Him and remember His sacrifice; the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood?  There is a warning involved here.  We are not to take the communion for sake of the tradition, but for what it represents, the death of Christ on our behalf.  This is the most important act anyone has done for us.  We must remember His sacrifice and be always thankful, for only He could pay the penalty.  “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Cor 11:28

In closing, we must examine why we do things in the church or any religious gathering.  Do we do them simply because it is expected, they are tradition, or do we do them because of who God is and our desire to please Him?  We are to remember, and be thankful for, all He has done for us and the great love He has for us.  Tradition can be good, but not the reason or the mentality by which we conduct ourselves.

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

Isaiah 40:1

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Isaiah 40:1

“Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God.” – Isaiah 40:1

Chapters 1-39 of Isaiah certainly had passages of comfort and hope, but they also have a strong tone of judgment and warning throughout them. Now, beginning with Isaiah 40, the tone shifts to being predominantly full of comfort and blessing, full of the glory of God. Isaiah 39 ended, announcing the conquest of Jerusalem and the exile of the nation. “Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts, Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,’ says the LORD. And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Isaiah 39:5-7. The announcement that the Babylonians would someday capture Jerusalem and take the people into exile was a bitter blow. How could Judah celebrate the downfall of Assyria when everyone knew that a more powerful invader was on the way?

Our focus verse is the general subject of this and the following chapters. The commencement is abrupt, as often happens in Isaiah and the other prophets. The place where this vision is laid is in Babylon, the time near the close of Judah’s captivity. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD’s hand Double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:2. The main subject of the consolation is stated in the above verse, that their captivity and warfare was about to end, and that brighter and happier days were to succeed their trials and their exile. The exhortation to ‘comfort’ the people, seen in our focus verse, is understood as a command of God to those in Babylon whose office or duty it would be to address them, that is to the ministers of religion and the prophets. Jerusalem needed to be comforted because of all they had experienced in Babylon.

Then in the next three verses we find, “A voice is calling,  Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, And every mountain and hill be made low; And let the rough ground become a plain, And the rugged terrain a broad valley; Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, And all flesh will see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5. Here, Isaiah speaks for the LORD’s messenger, who cries out to the barren places. The idea is that the LORD is coming to His people as a triumphant King, who has the road prepared before Him so He can travel in glory and ease. Every obstacle in the way must be removed. Whatever was wrong in the road must be corrected. The problems were not the same everywhere. Sometimes, the road in the valley needed to be lifted up; other times a road had to be cut through a passage in the mountains. The idea of preparing the way of the LORD is a word picture because the real preparation must take place in our hearts. Building a road is very much like the preparation God must do in our hearts. They are both expensive, they both must deal with many different problems and environments, and they both take an expert engineer. And God’s glory is revealed in the prepared hearts described above. And it is revealed without regard to nationality; all flesh shall see it together. This glory of the LORD is not revealed only to Jerusalem or Judah, but to every prepared heart. The certainty of this word is assured because the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

God desires the best for His people, and sometimes that means difficult trials in order for us to turn back to Him. This may be hard to see it as best for us, but He knows all things and does what He needs to do. But in the end, if we look to Him, He will as our focus verse states, “Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God.” And Isaiah closes out chapter 40 with the following. “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly,”  Isaiah 40:27-30. God will strengthen us in these times, and He does not grow tired in giving us what we need. And because of this, we read in the last verse in chapter 40. “Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:31.

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

Isaiah 29:13

Verse of the Day Devotion Isaiah 29:13 

“Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” –  Isaiah 29:13

In Isaiah 29, Isaiah is prophesying against Jerusalem and, by extension, the rest of Judah. He predicts judgment on the kingdom due to their sin, judgment that will come through invading armies.  “And I will camp against you encircling you, And I will set siegeworks against you, And I will raise up battle towers against you. Then you shall be brought low; From the earth you shall speak, And from the dust where you are prostrate, Your words shall come. Your voice shall also be like that of a spirit from the ground, And your speech shall whisper from the dust.“ Isaiah 29:3-4. However, the prophet also affirms that God is incredibly graceful and will restore Judah after bringing justice upon their enemies. “But the multitude of your enemies shall become like fine dust, And the multitude of the ruthless ones like the chaff which blows away; And it shall happen instantly, suddenly.” Isaiah 29:5.

In the middle of Isaiah’s prophecy, he diagnoses Judah’s problem of hypocrisy, which is bringing about their judgment: “Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,” Isaiah 29:13. In essence, while the Israelites were saying the right things, their hearts were far from God.

And unfortunately, they continued this during the time of Jesus.  “And he said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”  Mark 7:6-7.  Jesus, here, quotes this verse in an important confrontation with the Pharisees. They, too, had hearts far from God. The Pharisees pretended to care about God’s law by following outward acts like handwashing, but they did not care about God on the inside. When they met God in the person of Jesus, they tried to kill Him!  Then Jesus scathingly summarized their heart condition: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” Mark 7:8. The Pharisees still did religious things but had forgotten the reasons behind their actions. They said the right things, but their hearts were far from God.

As Christians, we are tempted to do the same as the hypocritical Israelites. Sometimes, it is easy to maintain the outward appearance of obedience to God by following a set of rules yet lack any real relationship with God in our hearts. We can sing the worship and praise songs without focusing on who we are worshipping and praising. We end up going through the motions without growing in love for God or for others. We might faithfully go to church every Sunday but ignore God the rest of the week. Like the Pharisees and the ancient Israelites, faking it is not spiritually healthy, and it will eventually catch up with us.  The idea is that it is more important why we do something rather than what we do.  Two people can be singing at the same time with clapping and joy, but only one may be glorifying God while doing it.

Our focus verse is a stark reminder that rules and rituals, by themselves, cannot please God. God wants true righteousness and with that, true worship. God wants us to love Him and our fellow man with everything we are. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31.  And finally, God tells us what He desires from us.  “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6.  Therefore, we must examine why we obey God.  Is it because we want to follow the rules, or that we want to show are love to Him.  If it is the latter, then our heart is part of our time with God.

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

John 11:42

Verse of the Day Devotion:  John 11:42  

“And I knew that Thou hears Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” – John 11:42 

Over the next week we will be looking at seven miraculous signs performed by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John.  These signs show that Jesus was not just some ordinary man but was truly the Son of God.  Today we will look at the last sign which is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

There was a man who lived in Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived.  And this is the same Mary who had anointed the feet of Jesus and wiping His feet with her hair. And these are the sisters of the man who was ill.  They send for Jesus to come, for Lazarus, whom He love is very sick.  However, Jesus responded by saying, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:4. Something special was going to happen that would bring glory to the Jesus.

After two days, Jesus left to go to Judea again.  The disciples were nervous and made this clear to Him. “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?” John 11:8. Jesus responds by referring to a comment in chapter nine. “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5. Note the wording here. “Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” John 11:10.  Then after saying this, Jesus gives some context. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awaken him out of sleep.” John 11:11.  He was saying, while I am here, I must do the work His Father sent Him to do. And this will become more clear further on. When the disciples heard Jesus say Lazarus fell asleep, they assumed he would eventually wake up, but Jesus then comes out and said, “Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.” John 11:14b-15. Several Jews came to the house to console them, which provides an opportunity to see this miracle.

Jesus then arrives and Mary goes out to meet Him and says, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32. Jesus then, seeing her and the Jews weeping, began crying Himself.  Some Jews that were present remarked that Jesus obviously loved this man, but some said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?” John 11:37. Then, being deeply moved, came to the tomb.  He told them to remove the stone, upon which Martha responds, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” John 11:39b. But Jesus counters by saying, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40. This is said above in verse four. His words here were probably said to the disciples to whom He had said it. 

Now we come to the critical verses which includes our focus verse. “And so, they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hears Me. And I knew that Thou hears Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” John 11:41-42. Several things we see here.  First, his direct reference to God as ‘Father’ is characteristic of his praying. To say that the God He prayed to is His Father was quite revolutionary.  Second, the prayer assumes that Jesus has already asked for Lazarus’ life, and that all he must do is to thank his Father for the answer. That is not surprising for verse eleven also assumes that the raising of Lazarus had been determined for some time. Third, this prayer was not a matter of public playing to the people there, it is intended to show His intimacy with the Father. 

After this prayer, Jesus then cries out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” John 11:43b. After this we see the miracle. “He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:44.

The sign here shows that Jesus is truly the Son of God. And this sign was to be seen again by the Jews, which included Mary and Martha and the disciples.  Many of the Jews who were there had their minds changed. “Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.” John 11:45-46. However, the leadership for the most part was angry. “Therefore, the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:47-48. They called this miracle a sign, which it was, that showed proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah. In John 9, regarding the healing of the blind man from birth.  He there said that those Jews who see these signs and still do not believe are blind. “And Jesus said, For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind. Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said to Him, We are not blind too, are we? Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” John 9:39-41.

Jesus allowed Lazarus to die (fall asleep) so that He could show many the miracle and believe. “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hear Me. And I knew that Thou hear Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” John 11:41b-42. Jesus came here to be a light in the world. And what better way to shine this light than to show people who He is and the power and glory He has from the Father. We see this in this miracle as well as the other six signs.  He wanted everyone to see who He was, for He loved them and desired them to believe in Him and be saved. 

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

John 6:9

Verse of the Day Devotion: John 6:9 

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” – John 6:9  

Over the next week we will be looking at seven miraculous signs performed by Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of John.  These signs show that Jesus was not just some ordinary man but was truly the Son of God.  Today we will look at the fourth sign which is the feeding of the five thousand in the wilderness.

This miracle is unique in that it is the only miracle during the ministry of Christ that is recorded in all four gospels.  Jesus had just traveled to Tiberias on the other side of the Sea of Galilee and a great number followed Him.  According to John it was because of the signs which He performed on those who were sick.  Jesus then went up on the mountain with His disciples.  It is not said here the name of this mountain, but because of where the verse describes its location, it very well could be what is known today as the Golan Heights.

Now the Passover was coming up, but they remained in Galilee because of the Jews desire to get rid of Him. “And after these things Jesus was walking in Galilee; for He was unwilling to walk in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill Him.” John 7:1. There was a great multitude of people, and as they were coming, He asks Philip. “Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?” John 6:5. Jesus asked Philip this to test Him. “And this He was saying to test him; for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.” John 6:6. Philip responds telling Jesus that even if they all worked for several months, we would not have the money to feed them all. He could only think in traditional ways, and not beyond to the miraculous. According to D.A. Carson, “Since a substantial proportion of a worker’s wage went into daily food, this was, presumably, enough to provide for a family for eight months or a little longer. But the crowd was so large (v. 10) that even such a large sum of money would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Then Andrew pipes in. “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” John 6:9. Then Jesus responds. “Have the people sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So, the men sat down, in number about five thousand.” John 6:10. How was this going to work?” Now, Matthew clarifies the number of people as, “And there were about five thousand men who ate, aside from women and children.” Matthew 14:21. Based on the amount of food the young boy had, there would be about one loaf of bread for every one-thousand people. However, this did not stop Jesus. “Jesus therefore took the loaves; and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise, also of the fish as much as they wanted. And when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost.” John 6:11-12. How could there by any leftover food?  Well, there was. “And so, they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.” John 6:13. As you can see, there was a lot more leftovers than there was food available. There is no way to see this except that it was a miracle. 

Next, we see the purpose for this sign. “When therefore the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, this is of a truth the Prophet who is to come into the world.” John 6:14. They saw this as proof that Jesus was the prophet promised by God through Moses. “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.” Deuteronomy 18:16. And, “I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” Deuteronomy 18:18-22. The people find in the miraculous sign sufficient evidence to argue that Jesus is the expected Prophet who was to come into the world.

Christians should also be reminded that their problems are never too large (the “many” of John 6:9) for God to handle. Surely, Andrew was wondering, “What good are we going to do with only five loaves and two fish?” Theoretically, believers know God can easily multiply whatever He wants, to feed as many people as He wants, to meet the needs of all His people —He is God. The problem comes when we are faced with a practical outworking of the theory; we tend to doubt that God will want to meet our need. However, we must remember what Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi.  “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.

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

Luke 12:1

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Luke 12:1 

“Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” – Luke 12:1 

An important idea is found in our focus verse, in the last part, that being “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”  Luke 12:1b.  Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were known to demand more from those who heard their teachings then from themselves who were the teachers.  There is an old saying that says, “Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say”. Another way this put it is, “We are to say what we do and do what we say.”  This is in essence what Jesus was saying.  Beware of those who say one thing yet do another. 

After this He gives them this warning.  “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.” Luke 12:2.  Do not do anything different from what you say, for when you do there is a good possibility it shall be found out and it shall be told to many.  And even if it is not discovered here in this life, it will be revealed in the next.  Many times the Jewish leaders would say it is wrong to do this or that, but then when they are by themselves they would practice the same things they declared as wrong.  No sin, be it ever so secret or privately done, is more covered than hypocrisy, but likely to be found out sooner or later; if not in this world, then in the world to come.  Jesus then continues.  “Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.” Luke 12:3.  Hypocrisy has a way of making itself known. 

A Pastor I know fell into this and it did not end well for him.  He was having an affair and somehow, and I do not know how, the word got out regarding what was happening.  He lost his pastorship, almost lost his wife, and many lost faith in him.  We must remember that the enemy wants to destroy our message, and what better way to do this then to make public the hypocrisy of Christians.  

We must also remember that as we judge we will be judged.  “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2.  How can we honestly judge others for what we ourselves are doing?  “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5.  If we tell someone that what they are doing is wrong and then go out and do it ourselves, possibly in a greater way than they do, how are we doing anything different than the Pharisees and Sadducees?  And if the other person finds out we are doing the same thing we denounced in them, we will be seen as a hypocrite and will probably lose the ability to speak into their lives.  And always remember that these things have a tendency to get talked about with others, which could destroy our impact and darken our light that should be shining bright in the world (Matthew 5:14-16).

It is important that, as Christians, we be real and genuine with people.  By doing so, people will be more inclined to listen and believe our testimony regarding the love of God and His desire to save them and develop a loving relation with them.  Many Jews lost confidence with the Pharisees because of their acts of hypocrisy.  Let us do nothing that will destroy our witness to a world that needs to hear it.

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

Isaiah 9:2

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Isaiah 9:2 

“The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” – Isaiah 9:2 

We see the reference to Galilee actually in verse one.  “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.” Isaiah 9:1.  The inhabitants of the region of Galilee were represented, by the Jews, as walking in darkness because they were from Jerusalem and the temple.  And because of this, they had few religious privileges; they were intermingled with the pagan and were comparatively rude and uncultivated in their manners and in their language.  There are several references made to Galileans that show how they were not  all that liked.  As an example,  Nazareth is located in the land of Galilee, and when Nathanael found out Jesus came from Nazareth, he said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:45b. 

The prophecy states that those in this region “who walk in darkness” shall see a great light.  This area and the people suffered much in the first Assyrian invasion under their king, Tiglath-pileser.   They were held captive and had very little freedom, resulting in very little hope.  However, Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of the world  would change things.  We read in the Book of Matthew the following, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead. So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.  But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:20-23. And this was because Nazareth was the home of Mary and Joseph, and where He lived while growing up.

And when He was ready to begin ministering, it started in Galilee.  “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”  Matthew 4:23-25. 

And what was this great light?  Galilee was a region where little was known and followed regarding the Jewish faith because they we so far away from Jerusalem and the temple that few were able to travel there on a regular basis.  They did not have access to the knowledge those in Judea had, therefore they were not as trained in the Jewish ways as the land of Judea was.  This is why they were denoted by Isaiah as ‘walking in darkness’.  However, they were the first to see His ministry.  John put it this way.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:1-3.  Now, notice the next couple of verses.  “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 1:4-5.

The light spoken of in our focus verse is the light of truth.  In Galilee, the people walked in darkness because they were so far from Jerusalem with the Temple and the priests that they did not understand God and His ways as the people in Jerusalem did.  But when Jesus began His ministry, He was in Galilee.  “Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”  Matthew 4:23-25. The people heard the truth from Him and understood it.  And the people spread the news about all the land.  This was the light spoken of.  And this idea of light was passed on to Jesus’ disciples.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 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 5:14-16.  The psalmist put it this way.  “I have not turned aside from Your ordinances, For You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! From Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” Psalm 119:102-105.  It is God’s word that is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. 

In closing, this is the reason Isaiah declared this prophecy found in our focus verse, “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” And expanding on this, the light of God’s Word shines upon us now because we are called to spread this beautiful message to all we can.  Everyone needs to hear it, and see it shining from us through our words and deeds.  Jesus’ ministry started in a dark place, but eventually flooded the whole world with the light of truth.  

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

Genesis 50:20

Verse of the Day Devotion: Genesis 50:20  

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20

In the book of Genesis we find one of the best known and intriguing stories in the Old Testament, that being about Joseph the son of Jacob and Rachel.  Interestingly, this story is also found in the Quran, but with some very distinct differences. 

It starts with Joseph’s brothers being so jealous of him that they made a plan to kill him.  “When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them, they plotted against him to put him to death.”  Genesis 37:18.  However, Judah convinced them to sell him to Ishmaelites rather than kill him. “Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh. And his brothers listened to him.” Genesis 37:27.  So they sold him and then went and told their father he had been killed. 

The Ishmaelites then sold Joseph to an Egyptian officer named Potiphar, the captain of the bodyguard.  Joseph was then given charge over all Potiphar’s property, and there was no issues because God made him successful in what he was assigned to do. “The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.” Genesis 39:2.  However,  Potiphar eventually cast him into prison because of false charges from his wife.  And again, God was there.  “But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” Genesis 39:21. 

It then came about that the King of Egypt cast the chief cup bearer and baker into the same jail as Joseph.  He then interpreted dreams they had through the help of God.  The baker was told he would be hung on a tree but the cupbearer would be restored to his position, so asked that He would mention him to Pharaoh.  “Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house.” Genesis 40:14.  The cupbearer forgot his promise, but when he remembered Joseph was ushered in to interpret Pharaohs dreams.  After hearing the interpretation, he was given a powerful role in Egypt.  “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” Genesis 41:40.  And in this role, he was able to save his family and all they owned from the incredible famine that hit Egypt and the surrounding area.  If interested, you can read the entire story of Joseph in Genesis 37 through 50.

Joseph had a very difficult life.  He was sold by his brothers to Ishmaelites around the age of seventeen, who then sold him to Potiphar as a servant/slave.  After a year or two,  he was thrown into prison because Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of indecent activity.  He spent approximately twelve years in the prison before Pharaoh called him and ultimately put him in the position where he was second in command.  All this took place over a span of approximately thirteen years.  And why did God allow all this?  Joseph starts by asking the question, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?” Genesis 50:19b.  This is actually more of an affirmative proposition rather than a question.  Then he continues with our focus verse.  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” Genesis 50:20.  God allowed it to happen in order to save Jacob and all who were with him from the famine that was to occur.

Many times we go through difficult time and wonder why God is allowing it to happen.  However, we should not be asking why, but rather ask Him what He wants us to do.  God brought me through all the things that happened to me as a child, while in the Air Force, and eventually throughout my years working: both in my own company and while working for others.  When I look back, I see an incredible journey that has made me who I am today.  And it was God who took me by the hand and guided me to the people, places, and experiences He had for me, one being studying and receiving my Master and Doctorate from a Christian Seminary.  It was not the path I would have taken if it were up to me, but I ended up in a good place, heading up a ministry where I can exhort people and help them understand what this Christian Life is all about.  It was not always easy, but it was always beneficial to my relationship with God. 

He has a reason for everything that happens, and we know it is for good.  It is His promise to us.  Two verses that show this reality.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.  Everything He allows to happen is for a good.  And the second, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.  Everything that happens is for a good, either for ourselves as told in Romans 8:28 or for another as found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.  We should look at everything that happens as a blessing for us and many times for another.  For me, this makes it easier as I look forward to what God is doing through me.  “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.“ Philippians 2:13.

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

2 Chronicles 7:14

Verse of the Day Devotion: 2 Chronicles 7:14 

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14       

This verse takes place upon the completion of the Temple by Solomon, after which God appears to him.  “Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished.  Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.” 2 Chronicles 7:11-12. 

At this point, God tells Solomon how they were to address difficult times due to wrongdoing.  We see this idea in verse 13 where God speaks of when national judgement comes.  “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,”  2 Chronicles 7:13.  He would no doubt do these things only in order to bring His people back to the ways of righteousness.  Let us look at what this focus verse says and apply it to us when we go through hard times because we turn from God.

The first thing He says is who this verse applies to.  To those who are His.  Those who are called by His name.  In our time those are Christians.  They are the new Jerusalem, Gods people.  It is not speaking here to those who are not Christians.  Yes, they do need to come to Him, giving up their old lives and committing themselves to Christ.  However, this verse speaks to those who have already given themselves to Him. 

And now are we to approach Him when we stumble?  We are to go to Him in humility, humbling ourselves before Him.  We are to bow before Him, acknowledging we have sinned against Him, putting aside any pride or arrogance we may have, recognizing that it was us who decided to sin, no matter what came our way that led us in that direction.  The only two reasons we can honestly give is we either have not studied His Word to see it is wrong, or we choose to do wrong.  Therefore, we are to come to Him in humility understanding we are totally at fault.  Next, in our humility, we are to pray and seek His face.  We must go to Him and acknowledge what we have done and ask Him to forgive us.  And it must come from the depths of our being, not simply saying the words believing this will make things OK.  And we must commit to turn away from our wicked ways, truthfully working toward removing these evil ways from our lives. 

And when we do all this, with complete honesty from the depths of our heart, He will see this and hear our heart crying out to Him and will forgive us and heal whatever difficulties came forth from what we did.  It is important that we do not only go through the motions but truly are repentant and broken because of our sin.  When we do this, then God will truly forgive us and make us whole again.  So I encourage us all to go to Him when we realize we have sinned and humbly confess them to God in reality and humility.  God desires us to come before Him this way, and He will make good on this promise when we do.

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