The Wise Seek Peace

James 318 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

James 3:13–18 (ESV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Divisiveness in the Church, among God’s people, is never good. James calls it “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Titus 3:10 tells us to warn the divisive person and then have nothing more to do with him. It is a serious issue and can render a church ineffective in ministry and cause harm to the name of our Savior. By contrast, the wise and understanding are meek, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. This is what the body of Christ is called to be.

Much of the fighting that takes place in churches is over minor things that we should be able to find room to disagree on. Yes, we should stand against false teaching and unrepentant sin, but we must not make every small thing into a big thing. Beware the person who thinks everything is of equal importance and is ready to go to war to defend every fine detail. The fighting will never cease because you will never have full agreement in every matter. And the fighting will soon consume you.

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The Importance of Teachers

Ephesians 413 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Ephesians 4:11–16 (ESV)

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Christians are meant to grow. We are meant to grow into the fullness of Christ. This may seem like a tall order, but God has not left us to do this all alone. He has given us his word, his Spirit, his people, and teachers (i.e. pastors and teachers). We read here that the role of pastors and teachers is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.” The role of our church leaders is to help us grow to Christian maturity through teaching.

Many have a mindset that all a believer needs is a Bible. I understand the reason for this way of thinking. After all, God’s word is sufficient and we do not want to become reliant on others to tell us what that word means. We should read and study it for ourselves. This is absolutely true! However, God has not called us to live autonomously as his people. We are called to live in community as the Church. And God has gifted fellow believers within the Church in unique ways. Some he has given the ability to teach his word to others and we would be unwise to disregard those who God has given us for our benefit. To do so would be to stunt our growth or maybe even wander off in the wrong direction. We need each other and we need the teachers God has given us so we can grow into the likeness of our Savior.

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The Lord Reigns!

Psalm 971 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 97:1–5 (ESV)

1 The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!

2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

3 Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.

4 His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.

5 The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the Lord of all the earth.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Lord reigns! This is the proclamation of Psalm 97. Notice that it does not say that we need to let the Lord reign. That is not up to us. He does reign. He is the Almighty and all of us will answer to him.

The words of this psalm are a reminder to us that we are under an authority. All of creation acknowledges this truth. The question is what will we do? For those who serve the Lord, there is joy and gladness because he is righteous and just. For the enemies of God, there will be judgment and condemnation.

Know that the Lord is King of kings. Come and serve him!

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The Authority of Jesus

Jesus Teaches the People by the Sea

Jesus Teaches People by the Sea (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 4:31–37 (ESV)

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus’ teaching was shocking to people. It was different than the teaching of the other religious leaders. He constantly went against what others had taught and claimed that he had the authority of God behind him. To prove his authority, he performed miracles in front of the people. In today’s passage, he commanded that a demon come out of a man. Even the demon recognized Jesus’ authority and obeyed him. Jesus’ powerful displays caused his fame to spread quickly.

We live in a world today where everyone wants to decide for themselves what is right and wrong or good and bad. “Who are you to judge me?” is the cry of our culture. We have come to the conclusion that we all get to decide our own “truths”. Jesus turns that idea on its head. He proclaims, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He claims the authority of God and says that if we do not heed his words that judgment and condemnation will come. He also taught that if we repent and believe that we will be saved. Jesus taught with authority. Will we listen?

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Asking “Why?”

John 93 [widescreen]

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do included a suggested Scripture reading.

Reading the Word

John 9:1–7 (ESV)

1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” 6 Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

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I Will Recount All of Your Wonderful Deeds

Psalm 91 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 9:1–2 (ESV)

(1) I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
(2) I will be glad and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Understanding and Applying the Word

O how loving and gracious our God is! Take the time to consider his kindness and grace in your life. As I read the words of verse 1, “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds”, I am reminded of the song Count Your Blessings. Let us do that and let us praise the Lord for he is worthy of our praise.

As we think of the many blessings of God in our lives, let us not forget the greatest gift he has given. The Father has given his Son for our salvation. Jesus Christ went to the cross to bring salvation and life to all who would believe. Let us lift up our voices in worship and adoration for such a great and loving God!

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Hope in a Hopeless World

1 Thessalonians 414 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 (ESV)

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Understanding and Applying the Word

As a pastor, this passage is very familiar. It is a passage that I turn to again and again to give comfort to the grieving when a loved one has died. Paul tells us that Christians should not grieve like the world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. This is true because we know that Christ died and rose again and has promised that all of his followers would be resurrected just as he was. There is coming a day when all believers will be together with Jesus forever. So, we may grieve when a fellow Christian has died, but we know our time apart is only temporary. We have hope.

The secular world has no hope. In a world where there is no God and no afterlife, everything is meaningless. Some try to take away the sting by saying you live for your children or to be remembered well or to leave the world a better place. However, what will all of that matter in the future when the sun has burned itself out and the earth is a cold rock? None of it will matter and none of it will be remembered. In a world without God, death marks the end of a meaningless existence. Now is all there is. Grief is all there is.

Remember Jesus and the resurrection. It changes everything and gives hope to the grieving heart.

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Be Careful What You Say

James 35 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

James 3:3–6 (ESV)

3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We really need to learn to guard our speech. Our words have a great power to do harm to others and ourselves. When we speak, there is always a response, even when words are not returned. We can hurt others or encourage them. We can gain the respect of others or lose it. We can gain a friend or lose one. The power of our words cannot be overstated.

We read James’ words about taming the tongue and we likely agree with him, but many of us fail to do anything about it. Of course, we may be careful in what we say face-to-face, but how many of us are guarded about what we say in our texts or emails? How guarded are we in our tweets or Facebook posts? How quick are we to share our thoughts or opinions without even thinking or caring about how those things will impact others? How often do we do those things because we are fully aware of how they will effect others? The words we type are no different than the words we speak. They have the power to do great good, but they also have the power to set the whole forest ablaze with the fire of hell.

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The Love of God at the Cross

Romans 58 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Romans 5:6–11 (ESV)

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Take out a pen and piece of paper. Write down a list of people that you would be willing to sacrifice your comforts and freedoms for. Now, make a second list of the people you would even be willing to die for. Who is on that list? Family? Loved ones? How many of your enemies are on that list?

Consider this: Jesus Christ gave up his life for us while we were sinners. This means that he died for us while we were the enemies of God. Why would Christ die for his enemies? Because that is how much he loves us! He went to the cross to die because that is what was necessary for our salvation. Do not fail to see the love of God displayed at the cross. The Savior who died for us.

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Grace Carries Us Home

black home area rug

Photo by Kelly Lacy on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

Jude 24–25 (ESV)

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Understanding and Applying the Word

When we preach the gospel of grace we often forget that it is grace from first to last. We could not save ourselves from sin, so God sent his Son to pay our debt and save us by going to the cross. We are saved by repenting of our sin and trusting in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Yet, that is not all. We are also unable to continue to the finish line on our own. We not only need grace to save us, but to carry us home. And that is what God does for us. He gives us the grace we need. It is God who is “able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory.”

When Jude writes about the truths of God’s grace, he does so as he breaks into worship and praise. This should be our response as well. Our God is great! His grace is amazing! He saves us and takes us all the way home. It is all abut him, from first to last.

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