You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. -Matthew 7:5 GNT

The dictionary offers this definition for the word pharisaical: a person "marked by hypocritical censorious self-righteousness". I think that this captures the essence of what Jesus speaks to in this verse and the ones that precede it. In truth there is no one qualified to judge another person. Logs obscure our vision. Logs of sin. Logs of bad attitudes.

And most importantly these logs seem to be invisible to the one who is blinded by them. For sure others can see the logs. The hypocrisy is in full bloom. Self-righteous behaviors are seen by others but seem transparent when the one afflicted looks into the mirror. Personally, the removal of my own embedded logs have been so painful. I was such a young pharisee. I judged so much when I was younger. It took a lot of painful experiences to find the grace of God.

Lord, help us to daily remove the splinters from our inner eyes before they become logs.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. -2 Corinthians 9:6 NIV

I once fully embraced the tithing dogma. I think that I liked the certainty of it. To be in leadership in the church of my younger years one had to commit to it. Yet I think that it spoke to dark place in my ego that made me feel a bit superior to those who did not tithe. I mean really, once I gave my ten percent I had fulfilled my obligation. Such a limiting perspective.

In contrast this idea of giving, living and being generous is so much more challenging. It seems to stretch every part of me because generosity is not just about money. It cannot be calculated with our heads. It is a heart issue. It is fluid. Comparatively speaking, one can give a little and still be generous. Giving generously embraces a beautiful life attitude.

You have been so generous Lord. Help us to be mirrors of that generosity.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. -1 Corinthians 12:4 NKJV

I love the double gifting represented by spiritual gifts. Each is given to us and so that we can give it to somebody else. Wisdom is given and then given away. We are helped and our response is to help. The gift is never an end unto itself. It is a vehicle of serving and blessing that is transferred from one person to another. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle tells us that "There are diversities of gifts". I love that. Once I thought that spiritual gifts were somehow limited to those delineated in the bible. Now I understand that these gifts are as diverse as God himself. Gifts change with the seasons of our lives. Often they deepen as we walk with God. Any so often we are surprised when they come.

Thank you Lord for the gift of your Spirit and the many gifts of grace that accompany that gift.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. -3John 1:2 NKJV

In writing to Gaius, John seems to understand the multifaceted aspects of what it means to be healthy. Psychē, the Greek word translated soul, is used 105 times in the New Testament. Sometimes it is rendered soul. In other places life. Good health seems to encompass the inner and outer aspects of our bodies. One can be healthy in body but sick in soul.

Yet I think that health is a somewhat relative term. We are all unhealthy in some way. No one is perfect in body or psychology. We are all works in progress. Some of us wear glasses. As we age our bodies slow down. Sometimes our minds fail us. It is why it is important to pray for each other. Not from a position of perfection but from one of weakness.

We acknowledge our need for your healing touch Lord. Please bring health to our bodies and our souls.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. -Romans 5:1-2a NIV

Justification is the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a word that seems to be rooted in the biblical concept of justice. Justice that involves reconciliation instead of retribution. Forgiveness. Fellowship. Peace. It is the justice afforded by the grace of the One who has the right to prosecute but chooses to waive prosecution.

This justification is not sought directly. It is a byproduct of saying yes to the Holy Spirit. In an instant, in an exercise of microscopic faith, one is born anew as a justified human being. Connected to the divine. In a holy relationship. Given grace to live in a manner pleasing to God. So much more than anyone deserves or can expect. Justified.

Lord, help us to live justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly at your side.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. -1 Corinthians 15:53 NLT

Unlike many views of life after death, this verse speaks to the finality of a life that has not been transformed by the Holy Spirit. It begs the question of why some embrace the idea that untransformed lives will survive death and live forever - albeit not in the same "place" as those transformed by God. These seem to embrace immortality without transformation.

So why do I feel a need to speak to the finality of death? Partly because of the way that I have seen the teachings of Plato enter this conversation about death. He was one of the first to teach an immortality that is not rooted in transformation. Humans are not born immortal. In my view immortality begins with a spiritual birth and transformation. It always has.

Thank you Lord for the gift of eternal life and for the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:20 NIV

The Sermon on the Mount often contrasts the external and internal compliances of Mosaic Law. In this sermon Jesus alludes to how sins like murder and adultery begin in the heart and sometimes cause external acts. And in this verse above he continues the thought that divine righteousness is not attained by external obedience to the letter of the Law.

Religious people, even learned leaders like teachers, sometimes forget that righteousness (that is not self-righteous) is an issue of the heart. It begins when righteousness is birthed in us when we are spiritually born. This newly born righteousness is alive. It is nurtured and matured as we grow in Christ. It surpasses all other forms of righteousness.

Center me Lord by your righteousness in me. Cause me to live in a righteous way that pleases you.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. -Romans 5:1

The Greek word eiréné is translated here as peace. It is similar to shalom, it's Jewish counterpart. Both words carry with them a sense of completeness and soundness, These words tell us that peace is so much more than the absence of hostilities and war. In a very real sense wars result when one does not experience completeness in their soul.

When we look at peace in this fashion we begin to understand that having peace with God is not about the cessation of hostilities but about being complete in Him. When we are spiritually born we become a complete human being. We are whole in a way that we have never been before. Faith in God results in a new life of spiritual completeness.

Lord, I am forever grateful for the cross. That you have forgiven me, cleansed me and made me complete.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


Now this is eternal life--that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. -John 17:3 NET Bible

A friend once wrote: "The point of the bible is not to know the bible. The point of the bible is to know God." I love that statement because it tells us that knowing about God is simply not enough. Salvation has always been about the heart and not the head. Yet so much of religious life seems to be focused on knowing the bible and not knowing God.

Now please do not misunderstand what I am saying. Knowing what the bible says is so important. Yet knowing about a book is not the same as knowing the author of it. One can know what a teacher is teaching yet miss the heart of their instruction. So it is with the Lord. Eternal life begins this side of heaven. It is about actually knowing Jesus Christ now.

Lord, you are not an unknowable force. We are thankful that you want to have a personal relationship with us.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” -Luke 4:8

Much has always been made of men who serve the Lord in robed attire. In some religious circles there is no greater honor than to enter religious service. In my own life, I felt a bit of pride when I became a pastor. Yet in this verse, Jesus makes no distinction between those who serve in a religious profession and those serving in secular ones.

In truth words like worship and service are more descriptive of a lifestyle rather than a profession. When a Christian businessman works ethically and gives his work all that he has, he glorifies God as he serves his employer and his customer. When a believing mom serves her children in ways sometimes only seen by God, she serves the Lord.

In all that we do. In every attitude. Let us proclaim our love to you Lord with serving hands and worshipful hearts.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. -Lamentation 3:22-23 NASB

The Hebrew word 'checed', rendered here as lovingkindness, is sometimes translated steadfast love, mercy or goodness. I have heard it compared to agápē, the Greek word that is often used to describe God's sacrificial love for us.

The phrase "compassions never fail" is such a wonderful elaboration of lovingkindness. The love of God is so consistent with his character. Like God love never fails. Like him, lovingkindness is eternal. It reminds us that we are most like God when we love. When we show kindness. When we are merciful. When we show goodness to those who least deserve it.

Help us to be merciful as you are merciful Lord. Let your lovingkindness light our way,

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


If we have to choose between obedience to God and obedience to any human authority,
then we must obey God. -Acts 5:29 [voice]

Throughout history men and women have faced challenges similar to the one that the apostles were confronted with here. In a very real sense these followers of Jesus were simply acting in a manner similar to their friend and master. In one sense it would have been so easy to obey these religious leaders. Yet in a deeper sense it would have been so hard.

In Les Miserables, that great musical based on Victor Hugo's novel, the protagonist is faced with a decision that will change his life and a man who is accused of a crime that he committed. Here is the way that Jean Valjean frames it:
If I speak, I am condemned. If I stay silent, I am damned!
The easy road is simply not that easy. Obeying our base survival instincts can so lead us astray. Seeing what happened to Jesus, it would have been understandable if the apostles went along with human authority. Yet these had seen more than the cross. More than the consequences of disobeying earthy leaders. These had seen the resurrected Jesus.

Instill courage in us Lord. Bravery to obey you in all things. A will to do your will.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you. But to do justice, to love kindness.
And to walk humbly with your God? -Micah 6:8 NASB

The word 'humbly' recorded here can also be translated 'lowly'. I love that image. It reminds me that humility is rooted in servanthood. And by that I do not mean running an errand for a friend or occasionally helping out at the food pantry. Being a servant, walking humbly, is an issue of the heart that bleeds into the way that we conduct our lives.

Humility is a hard word for many of us. Being lowly is not an appealing image. We prefer to be in charge. We want to be the head and not the tail. The idea of thinking of ourselves as lower than another is not something we hear preached much. Yet to walk humbly with God requires a change in our self image. It means that we always put ourselves second.

I am filled with pride Lord. Cause me to kneel. Help me to walk the low road of humility.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


“The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” -Mark 2:27-28 NLT

This verse speaks to me of my need to rest. Not in a systematic organized fashion but in a relaxing way. For sure, the Sabbath that ancient Jews celebrated was anything but relaxing. Mosaic Law commanded them to basically cease from anything that looked like work. Keeping the Sabbath had to be pretty stressful. Not, as Jesus indicates, as God intended.

I love how Jesus is so bold as to confront his leaders on this. These, like many religious folks, took something that was meant to lighten our load and used it to heap more on us. Jesus words remind us that the scriptures are full of blessings if we will adjust our ears to really hear what he is saying. If we will simply be still and rest in his goodness and grace.

We are weary Lord. Help us to come to you that we might find rest.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.

Eternal Life

My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. -John 10:27-28 NRSV

Many feel that humans are born immortal. They think that all people will transcend death in some form. In this verse, and many others, Jesus tells us that a life that transcends death, eternal life, is a gift from God given to those who hear his voice and follow him. The word perish indicates that, apart from this gift of life, all others will one day cease to exist.

This view seems to be consistent with the nature and character of God as it presents him as One who longs to be with those who long to be with him both now and after they die. In truth, eternal life begins before we die. When we are spiritually born we enter into a relationship with God. A friendship in which we are known and hear the still voice of God.

Open the ears and hearts of all peoples Lord. That they may know you, hear your voice and follow you.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.


In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. -1Thessalonians 5:18

I love how the apostle instructs us to give thanks "in", not "for", everything. It reminds me that we give thanks to God not for temporal things but for things eternal. When we hurt the most we can be thankful that God is near to us. In times of struggle we are able to give thanks because we know that He loves us deeply and empathizes with our pain.

This verse also reminds me that sometimes we do see blessings from a temporal perspective. In doing so we set ourselves up by seeing temporal things, like good health, a new house or a good job, as blessings. Unlike true blessings, like divine love and forgiveness, these things can change. Yet for eternal things, like God's faithfulness, we stand thankful.

We thank you Lord for the ways that you manifest your love and faithfulness in our lives.

... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on words in the bible.