“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” -Matthew 1:23 NRSV

From the onset of creation, God has been with us. Abraham walked with him. King David felt his presence. The prophets heard his still small voice. Yet when the angel appeared to the Virgin Mary a new age of “God is with us” began. God would be with us in a way never experienced before. He would become a human and live with us.

This is the true message of Christmas. God with us in human form. Fully experiencing human life. The high and the lows. Laughter and tears. Tempted in every way and yet sinless. God fully knows what it is like to be one of us. In like manner, when we read about the life Jesus we know what God is like. When we see him, we see God.

Open our eyes Lord. Open our minds. Open our hearts. Help us to embrace Emmanuel.

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


Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. -Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

There is a prevalent paradigm that embraces the idea that some work is sacred and some just secular. I love how this verse teaches us that all work can be sacred when we it is done in service to the Lord Jesus. A plumber's work can be sacred when done with excellence and integrity. A doctor can perform divine works of healing when it is done unto God.

The truth is that we are Christ's body and are his ambassadors to the world. It is a cliché, but true none the less, that we are the only Jesus that many will ever see. When we love others it is Christ loving through us. Our work can be a great expression of that love and service. It is why Paul admonishes us to see our work as sacredly done as unto the Lord.

Enlarge our hearts and minds Lord, to see our work as a sacred service done for your glory.

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


Forgive us as we forgive others. -Matthew 6:12 GWT

There is such a relational aspect to forgiveness. We need to be forgiven as much as we need to forgive. In a sense one cannot truly forgive unless they have experienced forgiveness. Both things, giving and receiving forgiveness, are so necessary to our spiritual, emotional and mental health. And yet there is something needed to complete the circle.

For one to be forgiven they must first acknowledge their need of forgiveness. Practically this means that I can forgive you but you will not experience forgiveness if you do not think that you did something that needed to be forgiven. In such a case, only the forgiver will reap the blessing of forgiveness. And sadly the circle of forgiveness will remain broken.

Create in us a heart to forgive Lord. And forgive us as we forgive others.

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


It is one thing for you to speak ill of the Son of Man. People will be forgiven for every sin they commit and blasphemy they utter. But those who call the work of God the work of Satan utterly remove themselves from God, and those who blaspheme God’s Spirit will not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come. -Matthew 12:31-32 VOICE

I think that blasphemy is a much misunderstood word. I like this definition of it:
Blasphemy (blasphēmía) "switches" right for wrong (wrong for right).
It calls what God disapproves, "right" which "exchanges the truth of God for a lie."
In the verse above Jesus puts the word in context as he compares forgivable to unforgivable blasphemy. This small space is inadequate to delineate the many views about what it means to blaspheme the Spirit. Yet I offer a few thoughts.
  • There is a sin that will not be forgiven. This seems to be at odds with the idea that everyone will be in heaven.
  • This blasphemy seems to be an intentional sin of the heart. It is deliberate and is not repented of.
  • In the case above it seems to be committed by religious leaders. It gives me concerns for heresy hunters.
  • It reminds me that quenching and resisting the Holy Spirit can have eternal consequences.
Come Holy Spirit. We invite your presence. Help us to be those who bless and do not blaspheme you.

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


I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. -Philippians 4:11b NLT

Sometimes contentment is misconstrued as resignation. A better word, for me anyways, is optimization - making and living the very best in whatever situation we find ourselves. Such was the case when the Apostle Paul wrote these words from a prison in Rome. He was, as it is sometimes said, an example of blooming where you are planted.

That said, I think that the concept is very challenging to people who do not understand what it means to be content. For some it resembles a weird form of victimization and a means of hopeless acceptance. And for the egocentric it resembles a strange form of self abasement. Yet for many contentment is a path full of hope and promise.

In you Lord, we live and breathe. And in you, we are learning to be content.

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


“Anything is possible if a person believes.” -Mark 9:23 NLT

These were the words that Jesus spoke to the father who questioned his ability to heal his son. The father's response to Jesus was a cry to help him overcome his doubts. Most of us can relate to these struggles. We understand that anything is possible for God but find it so hard to believe that He will actually do the impossible when we pray.

That said, I think that it is good for us to remember a few important points about this verse.
  • When Jesus says "anything is possible" he is using hyperbole.
  • Hyperbole points us to a greater truth but often breaks down in the details.
  • It is not about believing for something but in Someone.
  • God makes things possible when we believe in him.
  • The impossible came because Jesus only did what he saw the Father doing.
Finally, things are only possible in prayer if they are in accord with the revealed will of God. So don't ask God to make you rich, give you laser vision or the ability to fly. Ask for things that advance the kingdom of God.
    Father, we confess that we are hindered by doubts. Help us to believe more in your ability than our own.

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


    God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. -Ephesians 2:8

    I resonate with what this verse teaches when it says a gift is something that we "can’t take credit for". Yet to actually be a gift, the thing given must be received. For example, a person can give you a check for $100 but it will be of no effect unless you endorse the check. That does not enable a person to claim credit for the gift but only makes the gift useful.

    So it is with salvation. Apart from the grace of God we are unable to receive the gift of salvation. Yet apart from saying yes to the Holy Spirit, this grace is rendered useless. I find this to be true of the full length of eternal life. The Holy Spirit is there giving gifts of grace and we simply say yes to them. And as we cooperate with the Spirit, he works in us.

    Lord, help me to be one who cooperates with your Spirit and receives yours gifts.

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


    These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world. -John 16:33 NASB

    In looking at the definition for the word translated here, I read that "bold courage means living out the inner confidence that is Spirit-produced". It reminds me of this quote by future missionary Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire:
    "I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within."
    Tribulation is experienced externally but often penetrates our very being. It can wreck us with worry. To this Jesus says that in Him we have peace. He speaks to us of taking hold of this inner divine confidence that overcomes tribulation.

    Eric Liddell, like many in history, saw the race to the end because of this divine courage from within. These are examples to us of what it means to have courage. To never quit. To always believe. To take courage and overcome the world.

    Help us today Lord to pick up the courage you have deposited in us and run the race with confidence.

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


    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. -Psalm 23:1 ESV

    This is one of the most famous sentences in all of human history. The image of God as a divine shepherd seems to transcend language and culture. Jesus referred to himself as a shepherd. Church leaders throughout the ages have taken on the title. It communicates two important truths. We are sheep and we are in need of a shepherd.

    The verses following this one speaks of how the shepherd leads us, comforts us and watches over us. I love the metaphor but understand that, like all metaphors, it presents a simplistic view of the dynamics between sheep and shepherd. The image is most representative of a spiritual shepherd who cares for our soul and leads us by his spirit.

    Lead us, O Divine Shepherd, to the place where we do not want for love, joy or peace.

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


    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.


    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.

    The Veil

    Whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of
    the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.
    And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
    -2 Corinthians 3:16-18 NLT

    Using the veil that covered Moses face as a backdrop, Paul speaks of a religious veil that covers our minds so we cannot understand the truth. He teaches us that this veil is removed when we turn to the Lord and surrender to the Holy Spirit. I have found that to be an ongoing process. It is like the veil has many levels that need to be peeled back.

    As each layer of that veil is removed we become more and more like Jesus. With each removed layer our vision of God becomes clearer. This speaks to me of the transforming and unveiling ministry of the Spirit in our lives as he prepares us to be an accurate reflection of God's glorious image. This is the unveiling journey of someone who turns to the Lord.

    I am in need Lord. My vision is obscured. Come Holy Spirit. Remove the veil that clouds my vision.

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


    From such a vantage, He is able to save those who approach God through Him for all time because He will forever live to be their advocate in the presence of God. -Hebrews 7:25 VOICE

    The Greek word entugchanó is translated here as advocate. In other translations it is rendered intercessor. This word, used here to characterize Jesus, is also used to describe the Holy Spirit. The word speaks to me of how God is forever for us. When we sin, he forgives. When we hurt, he comforts. When we are accused, he defends us as an advocate.

    This image of God stands in stark contrast to the one that mischaracterizes him as a lightning bolt throwing deity that is angry with us. It is the image that rings true in my soul because I know Jesus as the one who is for me and loves me unconditionally. This Jesus is the one that I see ministering in the Gospels. The one who gave all that we might be whole.

    We are not worthy of you advocacy Lord. Yet we are thankful that you are for us when everything seems against us.

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


    Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NRSV

    These verses teach me about the interconnectedness of joy to prayer and the giving of thanks. The words 'always', 'without ceasing' and 'all' point me to an integrated life - lived from within. In reality no one can live these out 24x7. Yet the heart of these verses seem more about an inner attitude than an outer performance. And a life connected to God.

    Jesus put it this way: "Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water." The promise of the new heart is the promise of connection to God - the source of joy. This joy flows like a river from our heart as we connect with God through prayer and the giving thanks. In a sense prayer and thanksgiving are the gateways to these springs of joy. Always.

    Open our eyes Lord to the joy that is ours when we pray and give thanks.

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


    A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. -Matthew 7:18 ESV

    I love the way this version uses healthy and diseased to represent the Greek words that are more precisely translated good and evil. It begs the question of whether an unregenerate person is, in a spiritual sense, healthy. Certainly the context (v23) of this verse reveals that the unhealthy person is one who does not know God and is not known by Him.

    In his letter to the Galatians Paul speaks to us about what a healthy person looks like. The apostle tells us that a spiritual person is, and is becoming, loving, kind, joyful, gentle, patient, peaceful and faithful. These model goodness and self control. Such fruit can only be produced from a root system that is connected to God. Such is a healthy person.

    Help us Father to draw strength and health from our spiritual root system. Cause us to be like your Son.

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


    To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery,
    which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. -Colossians 1:27 NIV

    Strong's Greek dictionary refers to the word doxēs (translated here as glorious or glory) as "the unspoken manifestation of God". Paul tells us here that this manifestation is a mystery and it is the very thing that we hope for. A mystery because the ways and workings of God are not easily discerned. And so hopeful because Christ is living in and threw us.

    That I think is the heart of this verse. We have hope of being glorious, both now and forever, because Christ is in us. Being united with Jesus means we are united with glory - the glory of the Son of God. In Him we are the unspoken manifestation of God. His glory is on display each time we love unconditionally and serve sacrificially. Simply glorious.

    Lord, please help us to walk in ways that manifest your presence and reveal your glory.

    ... 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 Hebrew word חָ֫סֶד (checed) is translated here as kindness. In other versions it is rendered mercy, faithfulness or goodness. Each of these words communicate an aspect of life to be cherished. Who has not been the recipient of mercy? Have we not all been witnesses to extravagant acts of kindness. Are these not reflective of God's goodness?

    When I think about the word I am drawn to memories of my father. He was a kind man. He was merciful in his actions and in his speech. He seemed to have a desire to always speak well of others. Perhaps this is where we all stumble in our quest to be kind. It is so easy to see the faults in others and in ourselves. It is an act of kindness to overlook them.

    Teach us to walk the path of kindness Lord. Help us to see others as you see them. With mercy and compassion.

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


    "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." -Luke 19:40 NIV

    Such was the response of Christ to the Pharisees as he entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. This seems to be the first time that Jesus openly acknowledged his divinity. In saying this he affirmed the worship offered to him as people waved palm branches with shouts of Hallelujah. Indeed, the worship all creation, even stones, is due him.

    Yet in just a few moments, he would say of Jerusalem that their enemies "will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you." The contrast is great. Stones crying out. Stones being torn down. Would that mankind would have recognized God's visitation. Would that our voices would silence the stones.

    Our need is great Lord. Help us to not be silent. Cause our hearts to sing out your praise.

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


    Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. -Ephesians 6:11 ESV

    We are not able to stand against evil by ourselves. It is why we need the armor that Paul speaks of in this verse. He goes on to describe this armor as both defensive and offensive in nature. Truth and righteousness protect us. Evangelical feet cause us to stand against lies. Salvation protects our minds. Faith guards us as a shield and scripture as a sword.

    Each aspect of this armor is actualized when we pray. Paul puts it this way: "praying at all times in the Spirit". As we pray the Spirit opens the eyes of our heart to truth. He wraps us in His righteousness. He leads our feet to walk in paths of peace. He gives us the mind of Christ. He cause us to overcome by faith. He awakens our hearts to the Word of God.

    Lord, help us to arise and, through prayer, clothe ourselves with your armor. That we might stand as your child.

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


    Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." -Luke 10:18 NCV

    Satanan, the Greek word used here, could be translated 'adversary'. Other Greek words like diábolos (slanderer) and peirazōn (tempter) give us further insight into the nature of Satan. Yet some wonder. Is Satan an individual entity or a description of evil. I am not sure that it makes a great difference. To stand against Satan is to stand against evil.

    When we refuse to gossip and slander, we stand against Satan - the father of lies. Saying no to temptation is saying no to the Tempter. Each day we are confronted in small and large ways with Satan. The lure of evil confronts us in every aspect of our lives. In the end the Adversary can only be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

    Lead us Lord. Not into temptation. Deliver us from evil. We stand by grace. We trust in your name.

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


    The joy of the Lord will make you strong. -Nehemiah 8:10b NCV

    I have found this to be true in my life. Joy strengthens me in hard times. Reminds me of this Victor Hugo quote:
    "Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."
    There is something about joy that helps us persevere. Sitting in the presence of joyful friends can lift our burdens.

    Some think that joy is different from happiness. I am not one of those people. Some say that joy is internal while happiness is external. In my view a person that is happy only on the outside is not happy. Joy is a heart state that bubbles into happiness. Joy, or the lack of it, affects every part of us. When it is not there we are weak. When there we are strong.

    Help us Lord to trust you in hard times that we might experience your joy - an evidence of your Spirit in our lives.

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


    When you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you. -Matthew 6:5-6 TLB

    Much of life is done secretly. Our unvoiced thoughts. Things done when no one is around. Cries of our hearts offered to the One who knows our secrets. In truth prayer is so much more than the words we utter out loud. In a very real sense it is an inner (and secret) expression of our love and worship of the One who speaks to us in the secret places.

    So today I offer a challenge to anyone reading here. Find moments to pray in secret. Be aware of secret places. Pray in your car. Offer praises in the shower. Cherish your moments of solitude. Be still and know that the Holy Spirit is with you when you feel alone. Cry out to God in your still moments. In dark times invite his light. And offer thanks to God.

    Grant us grace Lord that we might make time to go away. To be all alone. To shut the door to all and open a door to you.

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


    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. -Mathew 5:3 NRSV

    In the passage described as the beatitudes Jesus lists eight things that invoke a blessing. He mentions meekness, mourning, mercifulness, purity of heart and peacemaking. He mentions blessings of kingdom inheritance, comfort, mercy, adoption and divine vision. Nowhere to be found in this list of blessings is wealth or any other earthly thing.

    This list of blessings is so counterintuitive. It goes against the grain of what many consider to be blessings. Perhaps it is because the word 'poor' (πτωχός) used in this verse means 'reduced to being a beggar'. In this upside down divine kingdom, spiritual beggars are blessed. Spiritual pride is vanquished and spiritual beggary is rewarded.

    I am proud. I repent. Forgive me Lord. Create a beggar heart in me that I might see the kingdom of God.

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


    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6

    Truth is a word that is sometimes discussed in religious circles. These days it seems that many use the word in a variety of contexts. Some use it in connection to the scriptures. That connection reminds me of this question that I once read:
    “Is a thing true because the Bible says it is, or does the Bible say a thing because it is true?”
    The question seems to present truth in a way that seems to miss the point of this verse in John. Jesus is truth. Any image of God in the bible that agrees with Jesus agrees with truth. Anything that does not is not truth. It is that simple.

    For example. Many read of evil acts done at the direction of God and see this image as a true picture of God. Others read of that same evil, compare it with the image of God that we see in Jesus, and recognize that it is not true.

    Open our eyes Lord, that we might accurately discern things that are true from those that are false.

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


    The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. -Corinthians 3:17 (NCV)

    Not sure that many think of it this way, but I think freedom is a really spiritual word. For sure image of America's fight for liberty from an oppressive British monarchy comes to mind when folks ponder the word. But, in a sense, freedom from one oppressor often delivers us to a different oppressor. We are never really free unless we are spiritually free.

    I am not speaking of religious liberty - sometimes religion and religious texts can enslave. As Paul tells the Romans:
    Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law.
    Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.
    When we follow the Spirit we are truly free. Sin is no longer our master. Love has set us free to love freely. No longer are we mastered by hate. No longer by bitterness. No longer bound by carnality. Christ has set us free. We are free indeed.

    Help us Lord to stay free in You and not return to the bondage of sin.

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


    Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body and vindicated by the Spirit. He was seen by angels and announced to the nations. He was believed in throughout the world and taken to heaven in glory. -1 Timothy 3:16 NLT

    Religious people sometimes use the word mystery when they are confronted with a part of their theology that they do not understand. Yet the word used in the New Testament does not really communicate that. Consider this:
    The word mysterion (μυστήριον) is used 27 times in the New Testament. It denotes not so much the meaning of the modern English term mystery, but rather something that is mystical. In the biblical Greek, the term refers to "that which awaits disclosure or interpretation".
    I like that. In a very real sense God was a great mystery until He was mystically revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. No longer did humanity need to wonder about the nature and character of the Divine. In three short years Jesus gave us an image of God that trumped every other image. He was revealed in a human body that we might know who God is.

    Open our inner eyes Lord, that we might see the mystical and unfolding revelation of Christ in our lives.

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


    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.


    Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. -2 Timothy 3:15 MSG

    The Greek word rendered "God-breathed" is theopneustos and is most often translated "inspired by God". This verse is the only place in the bible that this Greek word is used. Even so, I love the image of God breathing on the writers of holy writ and inspiring them. Yet I think that the imagery gives room for differing views on what it means.

    Some suggest that this solitary word indicates that God breathed every word written in the scriptures. I do not see it that way but see it much in the same way that God has breathed on his followers throughout history. I have experienced such moments. The veil between heaven and earth seems to compress. Those times are precious and very inspirational. In the moment I seem to be hearing God so clearly. Then time passes and my understanding of the inspiration deepens.

    Breathe on us O Spirit of God that we might be inspired to help your kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

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


    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; -Proverbs 3:5 NiV

    These words echo in my soul every time I am challenged with pain. When my brain, body and emotions are overwhelmed with torment these words echo in every fiber of my being. Trusting the Lord only matters when nothing else matters. Yet trusting God can be so hard when we are tempted to lean on our 'logical' brains instead of our trusting hearts.

    Isaac Watts once wrote: "Learning to trust is one of life's most difficult tasks." The key word there is 'learning'. In reality trusting God is a learning process. And like many learned things, trusting takes time and is often fraught with failed learning experiences. Even so, trusting God takes us places that nothing else can. It is why it requires all of our hearts.

    I trust you Lord. Teach me to trust you more.

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


    So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. -Luke 15:20 NIV

    Some of the most moving images in all of scripture is the ones of Jesus being moved by compassion when he saw the many needs of his Jewish brothers and sisters. What do you think that looked like? How did the disciples know that he was being moved by compassion. My thinking is that they saw the Lord crying. And as he wept they watched him heal.

    In this passage we see such an image of the heavenly Father. His prodigal son is returning from years of raucous living and wasted resources. The temptation to anger and disappointment is great. Yet the Father is filled with compassion for his son. It is a true reminder of how we must react towards those who have disappointed us and let us down.

    Lord, please give us compassionate feet that run with weeping towards those who need us the most.

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

    Royal Law

    If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. -James 2:8

    The royal law of love, not the Law of Moses, is the divine standard of life. This law, unlike all other laws, reflects the timeless will of God. Moses' commands display something that is not timeless therefore cannot be a reflection of a timeless God who never changes. In truth, if everyone chose to love then no civil law (like Mosaic law) would be required.

    I have found that loving God and loving each other is the plumbline of life. Obeying civil law focuses on externals like not stealing or murdering. It pales in comparison to the law of love which speaks to inner issues like not coveting or hating in your heart. Would that this divine law be embraced, instead of laws that are more arbitrary in flavor, by all humans.

    Help us Lord to obey the spirit of the law and love each other as you love us.

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


    This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
    If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. -1 John 1:5-7 NIV

    Do you find it interesting how John describes God? I have heard it said that darkness is defined as the absence of light. Evil as the absence of good, Sin as the absence of righteousness. In a real sense spiritual darkness, sin and evil can be summed up as the absence of God in one's life. These things cannot exist when God is present.

    So what does it mean to walk in the light? Is it a matter of following external rules? The truth is that rules themselves can be a form of darkness placing us in bondage instead of making us free, I think that walking in the light is allowing our darkness to be exposed by the light of God's Spirit. We find freedom to follow Jesus when we do.

    We need to be purified each day Lord. Teach is what it means to walk in the light as you are in the light.

    ... 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. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

    I was getting frustrated with a slow driver yesterday and I heard this in my mind: "Love is patient Bob". Yikes. It is so easy to embrace an intellectual view of love and forget that love is best defined by attitudes and actions. Paul speaks to us in these verses instructing us with regard to the attitudes and actions of love. He tells us that real love never fails.

    I love the four "always" statements as they speak to us of the true nature of an attitude of love. When we love we are on such firm ground. We protect. We trust. We hope. And we persevere. Love is the lighthouse in the storm guiding us to safe shore. These verses instruct us and tell us what love really looks like. They tell us how to live a life of love.

    Teach us Lord what it means to love and to develop an attitude of love as we travel through our lives.

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


    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
    And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it,
    and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27-28 ESV   

    The Hebrew word radah can be translated reign, rule or have dominion. Interesting how God gave the world to mankind. He could have retained dominion over the earth but chose to delegate dominion to those he blessed and created in his image. Nothing seemed to be withheld in this dominion. Whatever the choices that humans made stood.

    I suspect that a part of this delegation of authority is rooted in the idea that we are made in His image. As such we have the freedom to choose how we rule. Yet, unlike God, we do not seem to have the ability to always choose rightly. We choose bad over good. Hate over love. Our lives seem to point us to the reality that we are created good but often choose bad. And when we choose to do bad the earth, humanity and all we have dominion over suffers.

    We have failed Lord. Our wars are evidence of our failure to exercise godly dominion. Help us to rule as you would.

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


    Justice is a great word. I think that some would differ in how they define it. I like what the bible says about justice:
    • Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
    • This is what the LORD says: “Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed.” (Jeremiah 21:12)
    • This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another.” (Zechariah 7:9)
    • Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. ( Isaiah 30:18)
    That said, I think the definition many have of justice might resemble the human view which includes retribution and satisfaction. This is the way that a favorite author of mine puts it:
    "There is a biblical concept of “judgement” or “wrath.” Jesus warned frequently that the people were calling judgement on themselves and called them to turn (repent) from the course they were on. Judgement or wrath is the consequence of sinful or hurtful action. It follows from sin like falling is the consequence of jumping off a cliff. Paul writes in the Romans that “the wages of sin is death.” The wage, the thing you get as a result, what you have coming to you, is death. “but the gift of God is eternal life.”

    God who is a God of love (compassion) and justice (making this right) desires not to see us die, but to give us life. God desires to break us out of the vicious cycle of consequence and to therefore bring about justice—to make things right again, to restore us to where we where meant to be. Not by saying that it is of no consequence that we are bleeding and broken, but by taking us out of the treadmill of death, by liberating us from the tyranny of hurting and being hurt. That is what biblical justice is all about. It is not in conflict with compassion, it is rooted in compassion."
    Yes, rooted in compassion, not in conflict with it. Not in conflict with the nature of our God who ever seeks to reconcile.

    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.

    Times and Seasons

    Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. -1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 ESV

    There are two Greek words in the New Testament that are interpreted as 'time'. Kairos is translated as 'time' 64 times. In this passage, and 12 other places, it is translated 'seasons'. Chronos occurs 33 times and is mostly rendered as 'time'.

    Two interesting words with different nuances of meaning. Chronos is the root of our English word chronology and denotes the passage of minutes. Kairos seems to focus not on the passage of minutes put on the value of them.

    When I consider kairos, I remember that life is all about making time count. There are seasons of our life that pass and never come again. The clock still ticks but seasons of young children and youthful bliss pass on to new things.

    It reminds me to make this season of my life count because it will never come again. Instead of counting the minutes I am encouraged to live fully into, and get the most out of, each hour. It is what Jesus did when he entered earth's time.

    Teach us Lord, to be wise stewards of our time, to count our days and live fully into them.

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


    By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. -Hebrews 11:3 ESV

    I think that the issue is not so much the "how" of creation but the "Who" of creation. By faith we can understand that God created all things. But faith does not necessarily dictate the how of creation. There is a mystery to creation regardless the way you interpret it. We only understand in part. We see it in glimpses through that proverbial cloudy glass.

    There is a unity of faith in the many interpretations of the Genesis account of creation. Though they do not agree on the specifics, these views agree that God is the creator. It is important because the idea of a divine designer gives meaning and purpose to life as it is presents our existence as intentional and not random. On that people of faith can agree.

    Marvelous are your ways Lord God. Teach us revel in the people that you have created us to be.

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


    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; -Colossians 1:15 NRSV

    Often we cannot reconcile our different views because we begin with different images of God. Some use the image of primitive people who saw God like Job saw him. One who metes out good and evil. One who gives and takes away.

    Some begin with the view that the life of Jesus is the defining image of God. One who did not create the storm but spoke peace to it. One who did not cause anyone to suffer but suffered in their place. One who did not hurt but healed. One who showed us that God only did good and loving things and never did one bad thing.

    In this world where religious people often paint a picture of a fallen God, there is nothing that speaks more deeply to me about God than the things that I read in the gospels. When I wonder what God is like I am reminded that Jesus Christ told Phillip that anyone who has seen Him has seen God. Jesus began his ministry by saying that He had come with:
    • good news for the poor;
    • freedom for prisoners;
    • sight for those walking in darkness;
    • liberty for those being oppressed and 
    • a message of favor and acceptance.
    These words teach me that many have a skewed image of God. Some well meaning people simply teach bad news about God and paint him as one who causes bad things. These folks walk in bondage and seem to embrace a blind darkness about the true nature of God revealed in Jesus Christ. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.

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


    All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. -2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV

    What does it mean for the bible to be inspired by God? Are the writings of biblical authors perfectly written divine dictations? Did these men (yes only men wrote the books of the bible) hear the voice of God differently than people today? Some think that they did. Some see the patriarchs, prophets and disciples as infallible ancient popes.

    Yet some see the scriptures a bit differently. I love the humanity of biblical authors. David was a bad dude who did bad things. Yet some of his writings speak so deeply to me. Moses was one of the greatest leaders. Yet he seemed constrained, as we all are, by the culture he lived in. In these men I see divine inspiration in such a different light.

    Help us Lord to find inspiration in the way that you used fallible people to write the scriptures.

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

    Where you do not wish to go ...

    Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” ... When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” -John 21:18,21-22 NRSV

    I love how fearlessly Peter is when he speaks to Jesus. He seems to verbalize the kind of questions that I often ask. It is hard to understand why "bad" things happen to some and not others. Peter would be crucified and John live to an old age. Each were followers and friends of the Lord. Yet each walked a different path as they followed God in their lives.

    The phrase "take you where you do not wish to go" is so tough yet so true. It reminds me about how little control we have over the big things in our lives. Cancer hits the healthiest of us. Kids can break our hearts. Accidents happen. These things have the power to instruct us and teach us to trust the Lord for both the present and the future.

    You are trustworthy Lord. I commit myself and my future into your loving arms. With your help, I will follow you.

    ... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.

    Do you love me?

    He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” -John 21:17 NRSV

    John tells us that this was the third appearance that Jesus made to the disciples after the resurrection. The Lord meets them on the beach and, over breakfast, questions Peter about whether he really loves him. It was such a difficult, yet important, conversation. Peter needed to be reminded that just days before he denied the Lord three times.

    I do not think that Peter left that breakfast the same man. With each humbling question came a command to tend and feed the Lord's flock. It was as if Jesus was telling Peter that he needed more than words. He needed to put his love into action. It is a reminder to all of us, who profess to love the Lord, that divine love demands divine action.

    We fall short Lord. Our mouth speaks of our love but our actions contradict our words. Help us to love in word and deed.

    ... this devotion is part of an ongoing series on the Gospel of John.