Colossians 2:6

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” – Colossians 2:6.

Up to this time Paul had never visited the Church in Colossae, as well as several other places where Christians were coming together at that time.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:1-3.

He wrote here as you can see above that he wished the best for them. He desired,

  • That they would encourage each other in the faith with love,
  • That they would also assist each other to understand the truth regarding Christ,

This was important based on what we read in the next verse,

So that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” Colossians 2:4.

Pau had been addressing the problems of the Colossians indirectly, but here he faces them directly. Defection and distortion of the truth were his pastoral concerns, as well as for his co-workers. In fact, much of Paul’s letters engaged in encouraging  believers, which reminds us that the heart of apostolic work was spiritual, that being in prayer, listening, learning, and discussions with others about issues arising when the gospel helps them take root in a new community. Paul was concerned about Christians either falling away or falling into false doctrine. I came across this interesting quote from Plato to philosophers regarding cogent/factual proof.

But you do not advance any cogent proof whatsoever; you base your statements on probability. If Theodorus, or any other geometrician, should base his geometry on probability, he would be of no account at all. So, you and Theodorus had better consider whether you will accept arguments founded on plausibility.

Paul did not want believers in Colossae or any other place to leave the faith or fall into false doctrine. He says in verse five that even though he is not there physically, he was with them in Spirit.

For even though I am absent in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good discipline and the stability of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5.

The strong warning in verse 4 is followed in verse 5 with a pastoral affirmation to the Colossians by announcing that Paul believes they will not believe false teachers who preach heresy. Even though he tells them he may not be with them physically, but he would be with them in spirit.” We see this also in his first letter to the Church in Corinth.

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.” 1 Corinthians 5:1-3.

Now we come to our focus verse along with the following verse.

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” – Colossians 2:6-7.

 The main point in this letter is the philosophy/heresy that was being taught in Colossae. The Colossian philosophers and forms of Old Testament idolatry are spiritually empty and thus worthless. They were both human-made and inherently deceitful. Neither the Colossian philosophy nor Old Testament idolatry were positive and/or beneficial. Both involve false promises of glory to the people. Viewed in light of these comparisons, both biblical idolatry and false philosophies represent competing and heretical alternatives to being “rooted and built up” in Christ.

I want to close out this writing with a look at verses 8-12.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Colossians 2:8-12.

This word found in Colossians 2 is not speaking only to the Church in Colossae, but to the Church in this present time. We must be careful that we are not deceived into believing and accepting false beliefs that lead us away from the true God. We must watch that we are not ‘taken captive’ by them and ultimately turn away from Christ. Paul’s words do not simply declare God and Christ as one being but does deny there is deity to be found or known in a form other than Christ. While some philosophers reject this, claiming the Christian faith is exclusivist, others have called it “particularist.” That is, the primary claim of the Christian faith is a positive one, that God has become manifest in the particular person, Jesus of Nazareth, and is therefore known in the particular narrative of this man’s life, death, and resurrection. Therefore, a Christian understanding of the identity and character of God is inseparably linked to Jesus and his story. We must remain true to Christ and spread this truth to all we can. We must go out and help unbelievers and those trapped in any false religion to understand Christ is the only way. This is our calling, which is God’s calling to us.

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

Ephesians 4:17

Verse of the Day: Ephesians 4:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 2:6

Verse of the Day Devotion: Colossians 2:6

“Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,” – Colossians 2:6  

Paul here is encouraging the church in Colossae to live life as it is intended as followers of Christ.  He specifically says, ‘as you received Christ Jesus the Lord walk in Him’.  Not as you received the doctrines of God, walk in them.  He is being very explicit here.

When we accepted Christ as our savior, we received the Spirit of Life in Christ.  This is His spirit residing in us.  We will have this Spirit in us if we are truly saved.  Paul says later in a letter, “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Romans 8:9 If we are saved, we do not live in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in us.  If He does not dwell in us, then we are not truly Christians.

So, if we have received the Spirit of God in us, then we are saved, so we must walk in Him.  To walk in Him means in this context, to conduct ourselves in the way Christ did and desires us to live.  The Law does not save, but it shows us the character of God and thus how we should live.  In the same faith, love and holiness He did.  Now we will occasionally fail in this, but when we do, we confess it to God and turn back to the life we should live.

The proof of our salvation is the life we live as a result of it.  Do we live totally committed to God, or not?  Paul is telling us that Christ gave it all for us.  We should desire, because of the Spirit that lives in us, to do the same for Him.

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

Deuteronomy 6:7

Verse of the Day Devotion Deuteronomy 6:7  

“Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” – Deuteronomy 6:7

In order to understand what this verse refers to it is important that we look at the verse prior to focus verse. “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.”  Deuteronomy 6:6. The whole here describes the commandments, a term that encompasses the full covenant text as communicated by Moses. “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” Deuteronomy 6:1-2. Then Moses says, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5. And as we read in verse six, these laws are to be on their hearts and not just in their heads.

Now Jesus spoke regarding the Law in a similar fashion as recorded by Matthew in His gospel. “And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40. Based on this, we should look at obeying the Jewish law as a way to show our love for God, not just to obey them to be righteous. However, notice that Jesus added another thought to this, and that is to love our neighbor as ourself.

Now lets take a look at our focus verse.  “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:7.  These words given them by God are so important that the covenant recipients must impress the words of covenant faith into the thinking of their children by inscribing them in the children’s hearts with indelible sharpness and precision.  Theologian E. H. Merrill makes a great point regarding this.  “The image is that of the engraver of a monument who takes hammer and chisel in hand and with painstaking care etches a text into the face of a solid slab of granite. The sheer labor of such a task is daunting indeed, but once done the message is there to stay. Thus it is that the generations of Israelites to come must receive and transmit the words of the Lord’s everlasting covenant revelation.”

This idea of training our children in the ways of God is just as important, if not more, in our time as well.  We read in Proverbs the following, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.  And in the New Testament. “And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. It is imperative that we instruct our children, and if necessary other children, in the ways of God and of the Salvation that is offered via the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Mark records what Jesus said to His disciples. “And He said to them, go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16.

I want to encourage each of us to spend concerted time in sharing the truth of the scripture to our children, first leading them to salvation through the acceptance of Christ, and then helping them to learn how to live the Christian life in a way that glorifies God.  If we absolutely love our children, we will take as much time as necessary to train them in the ways of our loving God. When my children were young, I would read the scriptures to them in a way that was fun yet instilled in them the truth.  They enjoyed it and actually looked forward to it.  And now, my children are Christians with strong faith in God.  This is so important, for this gives them an opportunity to have a wonderful life in Christ both now and for eternity.  And never stop training them for there is so much involved in living the Christian life.  Is not this what we desire of our children? I pray it is.

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

John 5:8

Verse of the Day Devotion:  John 5:8 

“Jesus said to him, Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” – John 5:8   

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 third sign which is the healing at the Pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath.

We are entering a time in chapters three thru five that lay out a shift from mere reservation and hesitation about Jesus to outright and sometimes official opposition to Him. The first point of controversy regards the Sabbath.  In chapter five we see that Jesus went into Jerusalem when the people were preparing for a feast to celebrate this import day. In Jerusalem, by the sheep gate, there was a pool named Bethesda, Bethesda being Aramaic for ‘House of Mercy’, where many would wait for healing. “In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]” John 5:4-5. Those who were sick or disabled would lie there, for as long as needed, for an angel to stir up the waters, then they would race to the water, for the first one to enter would be healed. Now, an interesting point is that the pool of Bethesda was used to provide water for the temple.

Now there was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. When Jesus came to the water, He had compassion on this man. “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you wish to get well?”  The sick man then answers, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming another steps down before me.” John 5:7. The answer this man gives is a sad one.  He was there for he greatly wanted to be healed.  However, being disabled he was unable to get up and go into the water himself, and there was no friend there with him that could help him into the stirred-up waters.  By the time he would have reached the water, someone else had already beaten him to it.

However, Jesus then responds to his answer by telling him, in our focus verse, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” John 5:8.  Jesus showed compassion for him, but He provided the healing to him in a surprising way. He simply told the man to get up, taking his pallet with him, and walk.  “And immediately the man became well and took up his pallet and began to walk.” John 5:9a.  I tend to think this was a complete shock to the man, however in faith he followed Jesus’ command.  We read of a similar incident where Jesus is talking and an invalid is lowered through the roof for Jesus to heal.  And Jesus uses the same wording to that man as He did with man at the pool. “And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. And being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.” Mark 2:3-4.  Then, in healing the man, He said, “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” Mark 2:11.

After this, the Jews came to this man. “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” John 5:10.  “But he answered them, He who made me well was the one who said to me, Take up your pallet and walk. They asked him, Who is the man who said to you, take up your pallet, and walk?” John 5:11-12.  They were upset that the man followed the leading of someone to break the Sabbath law by carrying the pallet.  However, this man did not know who it was that told him to pick up his pallet and walk. However, in a later verse, “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may befall you. The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.” John 5:14-15.   

This was a sign to the Jewish leadership that He was more than just a simple man, but that He had authority over them. He told them, “But He answered them, My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” John 5:17 For this reason, the Jewish leaders were trying even harder to kill Him, because not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was also calling God His own Father, thus making Himself equal with God. It did not occur to them that because a remarkable healing had taken place, they ought to glorify God for it. No, the only thing that troubled them was Jesus’ transgression of the Sabbath (as they had decreed it should be kept). The problem, of course, was that they were so wedded to the traditions with which they had overlaid the law that they could see nothing else. They were infuriated that someone had upset their cozy little empire, especially one who declared Himself the Son of God.

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

Ephesians 5:15

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Ephesians 5:15 

“Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,” Ephesians 5:15 

Paul here is telling the Church in Ephesus that they need to be careful how they walk, how they conduct themselves.  The idea in the Greek is a double idea expressed in one sentence.  ‘Take heed how you walk’ and ‘see that you walk circumspectly.’   The word ‘circumspect’ has the idea of looking around about on all hands, being every way watchful, wary and cautious in order to avoid any danger, discern any enemies before they affect you in any way, and ensure that everything we do is possible and legal.  And the word this derives from signifies correctly, accurately, consistently and perfectly. 

Going back a few verses we read, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” Ephesians 5:11-12. He begins here warning them not to participate in sin, but on the contrary, expose them for what they are.   And the best way for us to do this is to live in the light, to live this Christian life in the open so that all may see it.  As Albert Barnes put it, ‘By your life, your conversation and all your influence.’  Our lives should be a standing rebuke of a sinful world, and by living this way we should be ready to express our disapproval of wickedness in every form.  And Paul continues with, “for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.” Ephesians 5:12-13.  Sometimes we cannot even talk about what is going on in this world, however, our lives lived as Christ calls can speak much more than any words could express.  Jesus called us the light of the world, and because we are the light, we expose the worldly ways for what they are, as sin.  And we, through the life we live should communicate to those in darkness, in sin that they should change their ways.  “For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14.

Coming to our focus verse, Paul is letting the Church know that they need to be careful how they walk.  To avoid the foolish ways of this world and live wisely as Christ requires.  And this relates to us today.  We need to be careful how we live our lives.  It is essential that we do not give into the temptations that are abundantly found in this world.  It can be easy at times to lose our focus and find ourselves acting as the world does.  The Christian walk has two facets.  The inward and the outward.  Our inward walk is focuses on our relationship with Christ, and our outward on our relationship with our fellow man.  And how we live our inward lives will denote how we live our outward lives.  Therefore, we must always work to strengthen our relationship with Christ so that we can avert any temptations to sin and remain the light in the world we are called to be.

Therefore, we must be careful that our focus is on Christ and His ways.  In doing this, we will be ready for whatever comes our way and can show this world the reality of our walk in Christ and show that life in Christ is infinitely better than the ways of this world.  We need to be watchful in everything.  Matthew put it this way.  “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41.  

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

1 John 2:6

Verse of the Day Devotion:  1 John 2:6 

“The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” – 1 John 2:6

What does John mean here when he says, ‘ the one who abides in Him’, namely Jesus.  This phrase means to lives and to  continue and remain in Him.  When a person is truly saved, they are described as being in Christ.  “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Romans 8:1-2.  And we read also in 1 Corinthians, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 1 Corinthians 5:17.

The idea of abiding in Him pictures an intimate, close relationship and not just a superficial knowing or acquaintance.  Jesus spoke of abiding in Him as the means of bearing fruit for the kingdom. “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. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:4-7.  Jesus is telling the disciples that drawing life from Him is necessary in order to bear fruit.  Using this analogy of branches united to the vine, He says ‘abide in me and I in you’.  The picture is of a branch attached to (abiding in) the vine.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can we unless we abide in Him. And through the life we derive from the vine, we are able to bear much fruit.  However, if we do not abide in Christ (attached to the vine), then we will not bear fruit.  Now note verse 7.  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7.  Because when we are in Him and He is in us, which denotes an intimate and close relationship, this provides the synchrony needed to work as one together in bearing fruit.

Now to our focus verse, “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.” 1 John 2:6.  If we not only profess to abide in Christ but also spend time with Him and are in communion with Him, the proof of this is that we walk in the same way He did when here on earth.  And that is living a life of true and pure devotion to God, as well as having true love for our neighbor.  Jesus said this to the rich young ruler.  “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. Jesus lived these two commandments out during His time here.  And He is calling us, as those who abide in Him, to live also as such.

However, we must also look at verse 4.  “Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”  1 John 2:4.  This is clearly stated in the gospel of John when Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  John 14:15.  If we truly love Him, we will abide in Him and He in us.  Keeping His commandments does not provide us salvation but proves we have salvation, and this shows our relationship with Christ is strong.  And this is the relationship we have when we are in Him and He in us. 

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

Psalm 23:4

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Psalm 23:4   

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4 

This verse is one of comfort.  In the previous verses David speaks of the Lord as shepherd and guide, how He brings him to places of good food and clean and easily accessible water. How He provides every need he may have, and how when he is lost, the Lord brings him back to the fold and restores him completely.  And He guides him on paths that lead to righteousness.

Our focus verse today speaks of protection from danger and the comfort this provides. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4.  In studying for this devotion, something I had not seen  or thought of before came to light. It seems clear that the idea of walking through the valley of the shadow of death is a consequence, or reality of living in this life here in a depraved world.  Therefore, this is probably speaking of a ‘right path’ which if we take this into account, as theologian Derek Kidner puts it, “takes much of the sting out of any ordeal.  Not every place back then where the sheep went was wonderful.  There were paths they had to take to go from one place to another, and some of these paths probably had dangers associated with them, such as wild animals or thieves.  However, when a good shepherd that was trusted by the flock would lead them in a particular direction, they followed him for they trusted him completely.

I am sure we can all look back in time and remember difficulties we have endured.  I can remember various times where things were just not going well at all, but in the end, it turned out good.  And I attribute this to trusting God and knowing He was there with me all the time.  And just as it said, ‘I fear no evil, for you are with me’.  Just as with the shepherds who in order to bring the sheep where they needed to be, would need to travel through places of danger, there are times where we wonder why do I need to go through this?  In all these times, we need to always remember we are never alone.  Our great shepherd is us. 

Also, there is a very interesting distinction between verses one through three and four.  Note the wordings:  Verse one “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Verse two “He makes me”.  Verse three “He restores my soul, and He guides me”.  And now look at four.  “I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. “.  In verse four, he changes it from the more distant “He” to a more personal “you”.  This is done for the shepherd here is no longer ahead of the flock, to lead them but is alongside them to escort them.  During times of need and danger, it is good to have a companion with us.    

And He will protect us as our shepherd.  They had two different instruments to make this happen.  The ‘rod’ was known as a cudgel which was worn at the belt and was used as a weapon,  while the ‘staff’ was used to walk with and could be used as a weapon as well.  However, the main purpose of the staff was to round up the flock, bringing them closer to him, and in so doing they would feel more secure.  And as He gathers His people close to Him, there is a feeling of safety that comes upon us.

The main idea of verse four is that no matter where we are or what we experience, if we are truly following Jesus He will keep us safe and secure.  Even if it is in troubling times.  As Paul said to the church in Rome, “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.  No matter our circumstances, God will bring about a good and safe ending if we stay close to Him, for He will always stay with us.

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. 

2 Corinthians 5:7

Verse of the Day Devotion: 2 Corinthians 5:7 

“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7           

Growing up, I used to walk in our back woods and enjoy the trees and bushes that lined the trail taking me from the front to the back of the nine acres my dad owned.  There was not much back there but trees and lots of places where wild black and raspberries grew, which I enjoyed eating while out there.  Sometimes I would take a side path just to see where it went, however, most times it just took me to nowhere.  But I always looked where I was going because it seemed there was always a fallen tree or some hole dug by small foxes or an occasionally a coyote.

In this verse, Paul uses the term walking as another way of traveling through life.  It denotes to live and act and conduct our lives in a particular way that is normal for us.  It describes life as a pilgrimage where our journey from one type of life to another is like traveling from one country to another.

Paul is essentially saying that as we go through life, we are actually on a journey to some final destination.  We can walk it in one of two ways.  We can either walk by faith or walk by sight.  Let us look at both of these in reference to our life’s journey here.  We can walk by sight which in essence says our map is what we can see.  We look up at the stars and see the magnificence of the observable universe, but because we do not see anything that could have created it, we assume they came into existence on their own, with only the assistance of the laws we observe in the known universe.  There can be no God because we cannot see it, and therefore it is inconceivable to us that there could be one.  And so, since there is none, than all actions and behaviors are judged by the values man places on them.  And this brings into our lives a relative value system that can change based on how people change.

If we walk by faith, our map is in essence the Word of God.  We cannot see God, but we know He exists because our faith shows us that He must.  We are not guided on our journey by what we see, but what we cannot see with our eyes, but what we see by our faith.  And as the writer of Hebrews stated, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.  We are guided by what God says and we live our lives accordingly.  We do not see what our eternal life will be like, however, we believe this unseen person and live our lives in expectation of what He tells us will be.  The big difference that I can see of these two journeys are the ultimate destinations.  Those who walk by faith follow the path laid out by our loving God, who is real though we cannot see Him.  He guides us along the only path that leads to somewhere good, where those who walk by sight have no idea where that path is but follows many paths that lead to nowhere good.  It is our job to guide people to the only one who can take them to a place of real life, not to a delusional path that eventually leads to death.  And that path is seen by faith.

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