You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.
As your fathers did, so do you. -Acts 7:51 ESV

Stephen uttered these sadly prophetic words to the religious folks who were about to murder him with rocks and stones. The hurling of these stones evidenced how these stiff-necked religious folks violently resisted the Holy Spirit. It was true then and it is true today how humans are able to resist the convicting influence of the Spirit of God.

Do you find it odd that the Almighty has given humans the ability to resist him and his will? Does it not speak to you about the way that God has chosen to rule the universe? Certainly God could have stopped those who murdered Stephen. Yet in the same way that he gave them the freedom to resist his will, he also gives us the ability to follow the Holy Spirit.

I am stiff-necked and stubborn Lord. Help me to filter out the noise and hear you that I might follow you.

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


If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. ...
As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord. -Joshua 24:15 NLT

Serving is a choice. We choose how we serve and who we serve. It is about priorities and prioritization. No one chooses to do something that that is not important to them. And with regard to faith, it is sometimes a matter of denying ourselves, picking up the cross of service and following Jesus. As the Lord said, no one can serve two masters.

So what does it mean to serve the Lord? I think that it is answered in two parts. Negatively, serving involves denying want we want in deference to others. Positively it means that we pick up Love's Cross. In essence one cannot serve unless their service involves sacrificial love. Such is the nature of serving. Such is the heart of Jesus Christ.

I am selfish Lord. Help me to take my eyes of myself and look to the needs of others. Help me to choose to serve.

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


Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. -2 Corinthian 13:11 ESV

παρακαλέω. This is the Greek word that is transliterated parakaleó and rendered here as comfort. It is associated with paraclete - the word that Jesus used to describe the role of the Holy Spirit. It reminds me that comfort is rarely accomplished apart from walking with another. And as we walk, we speak and we do. We become God's voice.

It strikes me how this verse marries comfort with restoration, agreement, peace and love. In truth peace and restoration never comes aparts from parakaleó. Such aspirations are beyond our grasp if we do not seek to comfort those we seek to restore. In truth love will always inspire us to comfort and encourage. Such is the nature of the Holy Paraclete.

Fill us Lord with the Holy Spirit of comfort that we might be those who comfort.

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


Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. -Psalm 119:105 NLT

I love the idea that the scriptures are described here as a lamp. When I think about a lamp I think about how it is focused on a specific and limited area but not too focused like a flashlight. Like the headlights on a car, a lamp has a limited range. A lamp will only illuminate the path directly in front of us. It will keep our feet from stumbling and causing us to fall.

Such is the function of holy writ. Yet even more, the Living Word, Jesus Christ, is the Living Lamp. He called himself the Light of the World and said: "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." As we walk with him he shows us the divine walk of love. A Lamp shines brightly on our path as we follow his example.

As you light our way Lord, help us to illuminate the paths of others with your light.

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


You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. -Genesis 50:20a NLT

Such was the response of Joseph to his brothers who sold him into slavery and lied to their father.

A few questions and thoughts for your consideration:
  • Did Joseph’s brothers sin? My take is that they most certainly did.
  • Did God cause Joseph’s brother’s to sin? My take is that He most certainly did not.
  • If Joseph’s brothers did not sin and sell him into slavery could God have accomplished His plans another way? My take is that He could, and would, have if the brothers’ evil sin did not get in His way.
God will always trump our sin, we cannot obstruct His will, but I believe that He much prefers it when we cooperate with him and not sin. The cross is similar to other events, like Joseph's mistreatment, where people sinned but God trumped their sin. In my thinking God would have had people accept their Messiah rather than murder Him.

Help us Lord to be vessels that you work through instead of obstacles that you work around.

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


He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. -John 3:18 NASB

The Greek word used twice in this passage is krinó. The word is sometimes translated 'condemned' but the more precise meaning seems to be judged. Notice that this verse does not speak of judgement in a future sense but in the past tense. This speaks to me about how our life decisions have consequences that can take us in dark journeys.

In contrast the Lord Jesus seems to speak to us about a believing life that is freed from self-inflicted judgement. A life transformed from death unto life by the power of the Holy Spirit. This kind of believing is not something we do but something we live. It is reflective of a person who knows God. For the one who knows God simply cannot unknow him.

In you Lord Jesus is life and freedom from judgement. Thanks be to you for initiating a glorious relationship with us.

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


There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. -Hebrews 4:9-10 NIV

When I consider what Sabbath-rest means I think of a rest that is intentional. Whether we are discussing the physical, emotional or spiritual side of life, rest is something that has to be prioritized. So, in a spiritual sense, what does it mean to intentionally enter God's rest? Does it mean to schedule Sunday activities around religious services and the like?

I am thinking that Sabbath-like observances, be they on Saturday or Sunday, have nothing to do with spiritual rest. This verse tells us that entering the rest of God is analogous to resting from what we do. It speaks to me of intentionally resting in the love and grace of God. That place where we feel accepted and feel no need to do anything to earn His love.

It is hard for us to rest Lord. Many of us are wired to perform to be accepted. Teach us to rest in You.

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


Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. -Romans 3:25 NASB

I love what theologian Derek Flood says about this verse and the word propitiation.
So how did the word "propitiation" get into Romans 3:25? The original Greek word is hilasterion. Hilasterion is the Greek rendering of the Hebrew kapporeth which refers to the Mercy Seat of the Arc. Luther in his translation of the Bible renders Hilasterion as "Gnadenstuhl" which is German for Mercy Seat. In context this means that "God has set forth Jesus as the mercy seat (the place where atonement and expiation happen) through faith in his blood". Jesus is thus "the place where we find mercy".
Derek explains it further saying:
The idea of propitiation includes that of expiation as its means. We are "made favorable" (propitiation) when our sin is removed (expiation). The problem is not that God is unwilling or unloving (propitiation), but that our sin causes a real break in relationship. As with any relationship, that break must be mended. This is what expiation refers to. Expiation is about cleaning or removing of sin and has no reference to quenching God's righteous anger. The difference is that the object of expiation is sin, not God.

Grammatically, one propitiates a person, and one expiates a problem. You cannot expiate (remove) a person or God, nor can one propitiate (make favorable) sin. Christ's death was therefore both an expiation and a propitiation. By expiating (removing the problem of) sin God was made propitious (favorable) to us. Again not because God then suddenly loved us, but because the break in the relationship was mended.
Lord we come thanking you for the mending of our relationship to you. We thank you for sending your Son.

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


I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world. -John 16:33 NIV

The Greek word thlipsis, translated here as 'trouble', is sometimes rendered tribulation. The word communicates a sense of feeling pressure and being hemmed in with no options. I can relate to that kind of trouble. Sometimes life has a way of hemming us in. People and events can pressure us to conform to the image of this world. This is trouble.

In response Jesus speaks to us of peace and overcoming. In times of trouble peace can be so hard to find. Religious clichés do not bring it. Nothing external seems to comfort our minds when pressures come. Yet often, in the midst of gut wrenching times, something rises up from within and helps us overcome and find peace in the midst of the storm.

Come Holy Spirit. We take heart that you are with us. Lead us in paths that lead to peace.

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


  • Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. -Hebrews 4:16
  • Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God. ... This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. -1 John 3:21, 5:14

The Greek word translated confidence in these verses is parrésia - a word that that seems to describe a bold freedom. So interesting how this word is used in connection to prayer. While other religious folks seem to cower before God these scriptures instruct us to come with freedom and boldness. It speaks to me about how God is our heavenly Father.

It also teaches me that God is more approachable than our earthly fathers. We are free before Him to speak from our hearts with no fear of retribution. His grace emboldens us to pray as ones who have had condemnation driven from our hearts. Confidence rises up in us as we embrace the heavenly will. In tthe end we rejoice because we know he listens.

Boldly we come. Confidently we stand. You are our Father. We delight to do your will.

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