I Am Only Joking!

Reading the Word

Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, ‘I am only joking!‘” (Proverbs 26:18–19, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s passage deals with causing quarrels with others. When we say inflammatory things or deceitful things to someone, we can expect a strong reaction. It is no good to say “Just kidding!” afterwards, as doing so will likely only infuriate the other person even more. It is like throwing firebrands or “arrows and death” (i.e. deadly arrows). It is throwing gasoline on an open flame. We should expect a large and out of control fire.

It is never good to go looking for a fight. As Christians, we should do all we can to live at peace with others, even those we disagree with. We do not have to hide who we are, but neither do we need to look for opportunities to poke and prod. We need to live wisely and it is the madman who causes quarrels.

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Stop the Fight before It Starts

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.(Proverbs 17:14, ESV)

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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Peace Surpassing All Understanding

Philippians 46 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Philippians 4:4–7 (ESV)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We are living through circumstances right now that are unprecedented in our lifetimes. The whole world is facing the rapid spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as Coronavirus. Many people are afraid because there are so many questions right now and very few answers. So how should we respond?

In our reading for today, we are told that we do not need to be anxious about anything. We can go to the Lord in prayer about the things that are troubling us. He hears us and he cares for us. When we pray to God, we pray to the Creator of all things and the One who is sovereign over all things. Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things for the good of those who love him. So, while the world seems like it is in turmoil, we have a God we can talk to and we can have peace knowing he is in control that he is working for our good.

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Live in Peace

2 Corinthians 1314 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

2 Corinthians 13:11–14 (ESV)

11 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. 12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All the saints greet you.

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Understanding and Applying the Word

It is far too common that we Christians spend a great deal of time and energy fighting among ourselves. And it is all too often that our fights are over meaningless things or things so trivial that they should be easy for us to deal with. How often are grudges formed and does bitterness take hold over carpet colors, the style of seating, the use or non-use of projectors and screens, etc.? There is hardly an end to the things over which we often do battle. This should not be. Believers are called to agree and live at peace with one another. We read this instruction in today’s passage, but it appears in multiple places in the Bible. Look at Mark 9:50, Romans 12:16, and 1 Peter 3:8 as other examples. There are many more.

Why is it important for believers to live in unity and peace? Because we are called to both proclaim and embody the gospel message. The gospel tells us that sin can be forgiven and that we can find newness of life and reconciliation with God and with each other. If we proclaim that message, but our lives are lived in constant fighting and bickering, we undermine the very gospel we preach. A fighting church cannot faithfully preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. We lose our voice.

Let us call out to God to forgive us and let us go to our brothers and sisters in Christ and rebuild the broken relationships caused by our sinful attitudes. Let us preach the gospel to the world with our words, but let us also preach it with our lives.

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True Peace

John 1427 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 14:27–31 (ESV)

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus’ words here were meant to comfort and encourage his followers before his time with them came to an end. He told them that he was leaving peace with them and it was a peace that the world could not give. Jesus’ peace must be understood in light of the cross. His sacrificial death brought peace to all who believe through the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. Those who belong to Jesus no longer have to fear the wrath of God because of sin, but have the hope of eternal life in a new creation without sin. The world can never offer peace because it is steeped in sin and evil that only bring pain and suffering and heartache.

Peace with God. What a wonderful thing! Consider the words of the old hymn, A Mind at Perfect Peace with God:

A mind at perfect peace with God;
O what a word is this!
A sinner reconciled through blood;
This, this indeed is peace.

By nature and by practice far,
How very far from God;
Yet now by grace brought nigh to Him,
Through faith in Jesus’ blood.

So nigh, so very nigh to God,
I cannot nearer be;
For in the person of His Son
I am as near as He.

So dear, so very dear to God,
More dear I cannot be;
The love wherewith He loves the Son,
Such is His love to me.

Why should I ever anxious be,
Since such a God is mine?
He watches o’er me night and day,
And tells me “Mine is thine.”

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A Divisive Message

Luke 1251 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 12:49–53 (ESV)

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Many have the mistaken idea that Jesus and his message were so kind and gentle that there was no way to have any other response than to love him. However, that is simply not true! Jesus rubbed many people the wrong way. That is exactly why they crucified him on a cross!

In our passage for today, Jesus told his disciples that his message would be divisive. It would even divide families. Jesus came proclaiming that all people are sinners and must repent of their sins. All people must believe and trust in Jesus for salvation. There is no other way. So, you are either with Jesus or you are against him. There is no middle ground.

As Jesus’ disciples in the world today, we are called to proclaim the same gospel message that he preached. We must call people to repent and turn to Christ for salvation and warn them that there is no other way to be reconciled to God. Just as in Jesus’ day, many are offended by such a message and wish to silence it. The gospel, while offering forgiveness and life for all who believe, is also a message that causes division. If you desire to live for Christ and proclaim the message of salvation, it will not be long before you face opposition. Do not be surprised and do not be discouraged. The same thing happened to Jesus.

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The Lord Who Is There

Psalm 1399–10 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Psalm 139:1–12 (ESV)

1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In verses 1-6, this psalm reflects on God’s omniscience. He knows everything about us. Then in verses 7-12 this psalm considers the Lord’s omnipresence. He is everywhere. There is nowhere we can go where he is not.

What an amazing thing to consider God’s knowledge and presence. It is such a comfort! Consider that there is nothing that can happen to you or me that the Lord is not aware of. He knows. And there is nowhere we can go where he is not right there with us. No matter who you are or where you are, God is there and is available. And he is the same God who sent his one and only Son into the world to save you from your sins. Why? Because he loves you. Turn to him and you will find peace.

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Like a Child

baby newborn born sleeping

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Reading the Word

Psalm 131:1–3 (ESV)

1 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

3 O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The psalmist voices his trust in the Lord. Some things are too great to be grasped. We are limited in our understanding. When we try to figure these things out or make sense of them, we can become discouraged or frustrated. The psalmist, instead, trusts in God as a young child trusts in his mother for protection, care, and provision.

We can trust God. He is a God of faithfulness and always keeps his promises. His word tells us that he works all things for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). We may not always understand how God is working or what his plans are, but we can trust him. We can take comfort in knowing that he is in control and we do not have to figure all of these things out. We can simply quiet our soul in trust and security as we rest in the arms of the Lord.

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Let Us Go to the House of the Lord

I am currently out of town and working from my phone. Please excuse any strange formatting that may result.

Reading the Word

Psalm 122 (ESV)

1 I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of theLord!”
Our feet have been standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem—built as a city
    that is bound firmly together,
to which the tribes go up,
    the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for[a] Israel,
    to give thanks to the name of theLord.
There thrones for judgment were set,
    the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
    “May they be secure who love you!
Peace be within your walls
    and security within your towers!”
For my brothers and companions’ sake
    I will say, “Peace be within you!”
For the sake of the house of the Lordour God,
    I will seek your good.

Understanding and Applying the Word 

This psalm reflects the thoughts of one in Israel making a trip to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. This worshipper understands the importance of the unity of God’s people and vows to pray for continued peace. When God’s people are divided, their witness to the world is destroyed.

Under the old covenant, the nation of Israel represented God’s people in the world. Under the new covenant, that responsibility belongs to the Church made up of people from every nation. We too must understand the importance of unity among the people of God. We too must seek it diligently and pray for it continually, so that we may faithfully proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

**Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day.