This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you:
God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. -1 John 1:5 NLT

I do not see a revelation of a wrathful God in Jesus. He certainly had the power to do harm to those who opposed him but never laid a divine finger on anyone. Even so, because of their preconceived idea of who God is, many expected a wrathful Messiah to come and overthrow Rome. These missed God because of their belief about who God is.

The good news of the gospel is that God is not filled with a dark wrath towards us but with a bright love. He is not like the earthly father who requires us to perform for his acceptance. He is not a dark God to be feared when we make mistakes. He is the light filled one who says to come unto Me when you are weary and depressed and I will give you rest.

Thank you Father for the image of you that we see in your Son.

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

Sword of the Spirit

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. -Ephesians 6:17 NLT

The Greek word rhéma, translated in this verse as 'word', signifies a spoken word. I love that. It reminds me of that passage in the gospels where Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Each time he was tempted to sin Jesus spoke a word of scripture to his enemy. Each time the scripture was successfully used, like a sword, to protect his heart.

In like ways we are able to stand against our enemy and overcome temptation. But first we must know what the scriptures say - passages hidden in our hearts can only rise up as a sword when they are actually emblazoned in our innermost being. Then the Holy Spirit can use them as a powerful spiritual sword to defeat the enemy in our lives.

Teach us to hide the scriptures in our hearts Lord and listen for the Sirit's voice when we are tempted.

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


You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. -Acts 1:4 ESV

The old adage tells us that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolute. Abraham Lincoln put it this way:
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
Such is the conundrum of fleshly power. Its focus is exerting power or authority over others. This is not the kind of power that Jesus speaks of when he uses the word power. The Greek word used in this verse (dunamis) speaks to me about the powerful presence of God's Spirit in our lives. Jesus tells us that this is the power that causes us to live powerful lives.

When I reflect on what it means to witness for Jesus, I am drawn to Paul's description of the fruit of the Spirit in a believer's life. When we love our enemies we give a powerful witness. When we exhibit joy in hardship we show God's power. When our hearts are filled with peace in the midst of war we demonstrate the power of the Prince of Peace.

Dear Lord, empower us again that we might love as you love. That all may know that we are yours.

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


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. -1Corinthians 13:4 NIV

For some time I have understood that patience is the cornerstone of wisdom. The word is sometimes translated as long suffering. I can relate to that. Sometimes we suffer as we patiently endure physical and emotion pain. Delaying a decision can seem indecisive when it is really most decisive. Hindsight often validates our decision to be patient.

In this verse the apostle seems to be saying that love is first of all patient. In that sense patience could be considered the cornerstone of both wisdom and love. Yet love is what fuels and motivates us to be patient. As God himself is patient with us, so we are with those whom we encounter as we manifest this aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Lord help us to be loving and wise. Help us to be patient.

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

Rock and Stone

Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means 'rock'), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. -Matthew 16:18 NLT

Then Jesus asked them, "Didn't you ever read this in the Scriptures? 'The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the LORD's doing, and it is wonderful to see.' -Matthew 21:42 NLT

I find these two verses in Matthew fascinating. The idea of papal authority has its roots in the first verse. It sees the foundation of the church as one rooted in the man Cephas - who Jesus renamed Peter (which means rock). Some understand this verse differently and think Jesus is simply responding to Peter confession - You are the Messiah.

Yet just a few chapters later Matthew records Jesus teaching that the foundation of the church would be the rejected stone - namely Jesus. This makes so much more sense to me. Mark, Luke, Paul and Peter himself also testify to this in their writings. The church universal is built on the person and character of Jesus. And no power will conquer it.

You are the cornerstone Lord Jesus. On the foundation of your life we can lay the living stones of our lives.

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


In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. -Proverbs 3:6 ESV

The word translated here as "acknowledge" is the Hebrew word דָעֵ֑הוּ (yada). It's simple definition is "know". It speaks to me of the connection with the verse that precedes this verse that instructs us to trust God with all of our heart. To acknowledge God is to know him and his heart in everything that we do. In this our heart draws deep from his.

It is in the context of our trusting relationship to God that our paths are set on a divine path. Our inner vision becomes clearer as we know him more. Acknowledging him becomes a deep spiritual resonance. The NIV translates it this way "in all your ways submit to him". I like that. To know God is to submit to him, and his will, with all that is within us.

Lord, we pray the chorus of the song that says there is no greater thing than knowing you - we want to know you more.

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


The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45 NIV

Much is often made these days of the idea of servant leadership. The notion seems well intentioned. Yet I have found that the emphasized word seems to be leadership rather than servant. It is a nuanced distinction but one that goes to how the concept is walked out. Is leadership provided by classroom teaching or in the style of Jesus and the disciples?

The Greek word diakoneó can be rendered serve or minister - it is where we get the word deacon. When I envision Jesus serving I see him ministering first and instructing second. Jesus was a hands-on leader. He did not ask his followers to go places he had not already gone or do things that he had not done. No service was beneath him.

Help us Lord to be counted among those who are washing feet and serving in ways that no one wants to serve.

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


The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom;
and the grace of God was upon Him. -Luke 2:40 NASB

I love how this verse teaches us that Jesus grew in wisdom. I am 66 years old. If life has taught me anything it is that experience, both good and bad, can open us up to become wiser people. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
"When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.
But when I grew up, I put away childish things." -1 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
Richard Rohr, in his book "Falling Upward", calls it second half of life thinking. As we grow our quest for knowledge morphs into one for understanding. We are no longer satisfied with things learned with our brains. We long for things understood with our souls. Such is the path of wisdom. A journey from the head to the heart.

Help us Lord to see past earthly knowledge and embrace heavenly wisdom.

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


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. -1 John 4:18 NRSV

Zeusophobia (also called Theophobia) is a word that is used to describe the experience of being afraid of God. John writes here about such a fear. Many then, and even now, live in such a fear of God. These embrace an image of god that is more aptly described as a lightning bolt throwing Zeus like deity than one that looks like the compassionate Jesus.

I love the idea that we strive to reach perfection in love. And as we journey to that place our dark fears and phobias melt in the light of Christ. Truly no fear can exist in the light of the divine love of Jesus. Such love drives out fear as we draw near to the Lord. Knowing this changes everything because it is grounded in knowing the One who is called Love.

Draw us close to you Lord and drive out all of our fears.

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


Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. -Psalm 37:3 NASB

The words 'till death do us part' have been spoken countless times in wedding vows. They encapsulate the idea that real love is faithful. In a sense faithfulness witnesses to faith. We who proclaim faith in Jesus do so by our faithfulness to love others as he loves us. In that sense our faithfulness is simply a reflection of the love and faithfulness of God.

Interesting to note that faithfulness is, as Paul teaches in his letter to the Galatians, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Yet, like natural fruit, this fruit requires daily cultivation. It needs to be watered and pruned by our prayers and our obedience. It grows and is strengthened each time we respond in faithfulness. It blossoms each time we trust in the Lord.

We confess that we have sinned and have been unfaithful Lord. Teach us to cultivate faithfulness.

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


Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. -Luke 6:20 NIV

I think that most of us simply cannot relate to the idea of being poor. Poor people make us feel uncomfortable. Especially ones who are content. When we think of poverty we seek out solutions to get people out of it. We simply cannot see poverty in any positive light. So what do we do with the idea that these poor disciples of Jesus are blessed?

Perhaps we might consider the idea that Jesus was also poor? He owned no home - he was homeless. He lived off the generosity of donations. He lived simply and had few possessions. Yet divine royalty flowed through his spiritual veins. When he saw the poor he saw disciples like himself. He saw followers who would help him usher his kingdom in.

Lord Jesus, grant us grace that we might be like you.

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


Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. -Psalm 126:5 NIV

There is a paradox in tears. Sometimes they evidence sadness. Sometimes joy. I think that Jesus cried a lot. How else would those around him know that he was moved by compassion? Tears are the normal reactions of a person who is fully alive and connected to the feelings of those around them. Washington Irving once wrote about tears saying:
"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."
The shedding of tears are some of our most holy moments. Our sacred tears often communicate a deep empathy and compassion for the suffering of a friend. It takes a strong and loving person to openly weep with others.

Lord help me to not hold back the tears that witness to your great love for those who are hurting.

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

Stumbling Blocks

It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! -Luke 17:1 NASB

The Greek word skándalon translated here as 'stumbling blocks' is sometimes translated 'offenses'. It carries the idea of creating a negative cause-and-effect relationship. The word of scandal comes from it. The dictionary tells us that a scandal is something that is shocking, upsetting, or unacceptable. These words paint an image of a stumbling block.

I like what John says about this in his first Epistle: "The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him." Love is all about removing stumbling blocks. It forgives offenses. It washes away our sins. It erases the wrongs done to us. Love commits to being a blessing instead of a stumbling block to others.

God help us to not be an obstacle to others on their spiritual path. Help us to be stone removers on their journey.

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