Friday, January 12, 2018

Benefits of a pure heart

Friday, January 12, 2018 - Daily Office: Ps 16, 17, 22; Gen 6:1-8; Heb 3:12-19; Jn 2:1-12

Lord, preserve me--I have no good apart from You!  I delight in Your saints, but those who choose other gods multiply their own sorrows, and I have nothing to do with them or with their religion.  YHWH Is my chosen portion and my cup, and I have a goodly heritage.  YHWH gives me counsel day and night, and by His grace, I will not be moved.  My heart and soul rejoice in God, Who shows me the path of life; in my God are fullness of joy and eternal pleasures.  Lord, vindicate me; purge me of all wickedness; incline to me and protect me; keep me as the apple of Your eye, and save me from  the malice of the wicked, deadly enemies all around!  Deliver me from men whose portion is the life of the world; as for me, God Is my portion forever, and I am content.  Jesus faced uttermost desolation--separation from God His Father; He was mocked, deserted, and murdered unjustly; the punishment that I deserve fell upon Him.  So God exalted Him to the highest place, and the afflicted can rejoice in the goodness and mercy of our God; let us join to proclaim His deliverance, for God has done it!

As humankind multiplied on the earth, mighty Nephilim were born as the sons of God married daughters of men.  YHWH saw that wickedness was great in the earth, and human hearts were only wicked continually.  So He said, 'I will blot out humanity whom I have created, along with the beasts and creeping things and birds.'  But among the living, Noah found favor in God's eyes, a righteous man blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God. 

The Hebrew writer counsels:  Take care, brothers and sisters, lest any of you harbor an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God!  Exhort one another continually, so none is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  We share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.  Don't harden your hearts, as those did who in times past rebelled against God--like those who left Egypt following Moses, but fell away and died in the wilderness before the Israelites came into Canaan.  God does not welcome the disobedient and unbelieving!

Jesus began His public ministry, according to John, by attending a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  His disciples accompanied Him, and Mary, Jesus' mother, was also a guest.  When the supply of wine gave out, Mary said to her Son, 'They have no wine.'  Jesus replied, 'Woman, what have you to do with Me?  My hour has not yet come.'  But his mother, undeterred, said to the servants nearby, 'Do whatever He tells you.'  Standing there were six stone jars, normally used for Jewish rites of purification, each capable of holding twenty or thirty gallons.  Jesus told the servants to fill the jars with water, and they did so.  Then He said to them, 'Draw some out, and take it to the steward of the feast.'  When the steward tasted the water, now become wine, he called to the bridegroom and said to him, 'Every man serves the good wine first; and when the guests have drunk freely, they serve the poorer wine.  But you have kept the good wine until now.'  This was the first sign that Jesus worked, at Cana in Galilee, and thus manifested His glory; consequently, His disciples believed in Him.  After this, Jesus went down to Capernaum, with His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and there they stayed for a few days. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

How does the Bible view deception?

Deception shows up in my ‘home’ translation four times:
1.       In Joshua 9 with respect to the Gibeonites’ deception of Israel, an attempt to survive the Israelites’ genocidal eradication of other communities as YHWH brought His people in to Canaan.  The consequence: ‘But Joshua made them that day cutters of wood and drawers of water for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place that he should choose.’ (Josh 9:27)
2.       In Proverbs 26: Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
    and harbors deceit in his heart;
25 when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
    for there are seven abominations in his heart;
26 though his hatred be covered with deception,
    his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
3.       In 2 Thessalonians 2 (concerning ‘the man of lawlessness): 
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers,not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
4.  And in the second chapter of 2 Peter (concerning false prophets and teachers, verses 10b-13):  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

Various forms of ‘deceit’ appear in that translation 129 times: 83 in the OT and 46 in the NT. 
Eve claims she was deceived by the serpent (Gen 3). 
Jacob the deceiver robs Esau’s blessing and birthright by deceit, and then is deceived by Laban in Jacob’s bargaining for Rachel as his wife (Gen 27 and 29). 
Jacob’s sons deceive Hamor and Shechem after the latter raped their sister Dinah, leading to the slaughter of all the Canaanite men in that community (Gen 34). 
Deception is implicated in sins against God and neighbor (Lev 6:2; Deut 11:16). 
The Gibeonite deception was mentioned earlier (cf also Josh 9:22). 
In the books of Samuel, Saul accuses Michal of deception when she helps David escape his murderous wrath; the witch of Endor accuses Saul of deception when he seeks her help in summoning Samuel’s ghost from Sheol; and lame Mephibosheth tells David of deception by his scheming servant, which resulted in the king’s misjudgment of both Saul’s crippled son and the lying servant (cf. 1 Sam 19:7; 28:12; 2 Sam 3:25; 19:26). 
In Kings, Elisha proves he is no deceiver when he raises a dead child at his mother’s petition (2 Ki 4:28)  And the Assyrian king Sennacherib tries to persuade Hezekiah that God is deceiving Israel by promising their deliverance from Assyria’s army (2Ki 19:8-13).  [You’ll recall how that turned out:  God killed 185,000 Assyrians and delivered Israel as Isaiah had spoken on YHWH’s behalf.] 
Deceit appears several times in the book of Job (12:16; 13:7,9; 15:11, 35; 27:4; 31:5)
The Psalms have many cautions against deceit and its dire consequences (5:6; 10:7; 17:1; 24:4; 32:2; 34:13; 35:20; 36:3; 43:1; 50:19; 52:2, 4; 78:57; 101:7; 109:2; 120:2, 3).  So also in Proverbs (12:5, 17, 20; 14:8, 25; 20:17; 24:28; 26:19, 24; 31:30).
In Isaiah, Sennacherib’s misguided threat is repeated (36:14 and 37:10, cp 2 Ki 19:9ff); the Lord’s Servant is declared free of deceit (53:9), while mockers are called the offspring of deceit (57:4). 
Jeremiah, the ‘weeping prophet’ writes several times about the dire consequences of deceit:  (4:10;; 5:27; 8:5; 9:4, 5, 6, 8; 14:14; 23:26).   Deceit numbs people to real danger, and hardens them against repentance and godly sorrow; it puffs up the rich and mighty; it destroys civility and honesty among neighbors, bringing weariness, godlessness, and murderous malice.  Some who claim prophetic gifts are deceived, and so are ungodly deceivers. The deceitful are likened to failing brooks.  Of human hearts, the prophet says, ‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’ (Jer 17:9).  At least twice, Jeremiah complains that God has deceived him (4:10, 20:7).  Being God’s mouthpiece makes the prophet a special target of deception and vengeance (20:10).  God’s prophet warns that deceiving prophets are themselves hopelessly deceived, and cannot be heeded.  As Jeremiah closes, YHWH warns his people:  ‘do not deceive yourselves’.  And as the women of the king of Judah’s household are being led out into captivity, they acknowledge that ‘trusted friends have deceived you and prevailed against you; now that your feet are sunk in the mud, they turn away from you.’  Jeremiah also prophesies against Edom, who trusted too much in their isolated mountain territory for security; they are self-deceived in the dread they have inspired in others and in the pride of their own hearts; however:  ‘Though you make your nest as high as the eagle’s, I will bring you down from there, declares the Lord.’ (Jer 49:16).  And the prophet gives voice to the lamentation of Jerusalem: ‘ I called to my lovers, but they deceived me; my priests and elders perished in the city, while they sought food to revive their strength.’ 
Deceit arises in the works of other prophets.  Daniel speaks of a future ruler who will cause fearful destruction and for a time ‘by his cunning he shall make deceit prosper’ (8:25)—in God’s providence this deceiver will be broken, ‘but by no human hand’.  In his prophecies concerning ‘the kings of the South and the North,’ Daniel describes ‘a contemptible person’ who will usurp royal authority ‘and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.  Armies shall be utterly swept away before him and broken, even the prince of the covenant.  And from the time that an alliance is made with him he shall act deceitfully, and he shall become strong’ despite leading small forces. (Dan 11:20ff).    
Hosea indicts Ephraim and Israel for their lies and deceit, but praises Judah, a tribe that ‘still walks with God and is faithful to the Holy One’ (Hos 11:12). 
Amos prophesies against God’s people Israel, specifically addressing ‘you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying “When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?  And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?’ (Amos 8:4ff).  For such conduct, God will bring famine, not just for water or bread, ‘but of hearing the words of the Lord.’  (v.11).  Those so famished will wander from sea to sea, but fail in their quest; and ‘they shall fall, and never rise again.’ (v.14).
Obadiah echoes Jeremiah’s prophecy against Edom and their self-deceived and misplaced trust in their lofty dwelling, from which God will tear them down.  They have no allies; former friends have deceived and deserted the Edomites. (Ob 1:3, 7)
Micah prophesied against Samaria and Jerusalem.  They would seek to avoid exile by bribing neighboring kingdoms (Mic 1:14).  But God’s judgment was surely coming; He would not acquit those ‘with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights’ (Mic 6:11).  Moreover, ‘Your rich men are full of violence; your inhabitants speak lies, and their tongue is deceitful in their mouth.’  God will smite them, make them desolate for such sins.  They have gone too far into the counsels of evil and falsehood, and now face desolation and exile. 
According to Zephaniah, when YHWH converts the gentiles and restores the children of Israel, God ‘will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly.  They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue…and none shall make them afraid.’ (Zeph 312-13)
The late chapters of Zechariah address the cleansing of the house of David and of the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  False prophets will face shame and punishment.  ‘On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies.  He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive…’ (Zech 13:4)

Matthew (13:22) and Mark (4:19) present Jesus telling the ‘parable of the sower’ and soils; in both cases, Jesus says that the deceitfulness of riches choke the good seed, the true word about the kingdom of God, and so for those so deceived, the word proves fruitless.  Debating with the Pharisees, Jesus teaches that people are not defiled by what they eat, but rather by what comes out from the human heart: ‘evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.’ (Mk 7:21-22) 
Freedom from deceit was one of the qualities Jesus perceived in Nathanael, the true Israelite (Jn 1:47).  By contrast, the chief priests and Pharisees accosted the officers they had sent to arrest Jesus; the latter came back without Him, having witnessed that ‘No man every spoke like this man.’  However: ‘The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?  Have any of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?”’ (Jn7:45-47)
On their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas, commissioned by the church at Antioch and set out by the Holy Spirit, at Paphos on Cyprus, encountered a Jewish magician named Bar-Jesus, also known as Elymas.  They clashed as the missionaries sought to testify to the local proconsul Sergius Paulus while Elymas sought to turn him from faith.  Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, addressed the magician: ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop make crooked the straight paths of the Lord?’  And the magician was struck blind, while the proconsul believed. (Acts 13:6-12)
Deceit is a great evil in Paul’s Roman letter.  The ungodly who deny the evidence concerning God available to all through His creation, who did not honor or thank God, but became futile in thought, darkened in mind, fools claiming to be wise, worshiping man-made images of creatures, and spurning the Creator and Master of all.  God gave them up to the consequences of their choices—unnatural lusts and fornication.  ‘They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.’ (Rom 1:19ff)  Paul perceives deceit as an element in the unrighteousness of both Jews and gentiles—all under sin’s power: “None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks God.  All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive.”  Their words carry venom; their mouths flow with curses and bitterness; they hurry to shed blood; they create ruin and misery; they have no knowledge of the ways of peace, and there is no fear of God in their sight.’  (Ro 3:12ff)
Sin uses deceit, even concerning God’s law and commandments, to kill those seeking God. (Ro 7:11)  And in his final exhortations to the Romans, Paul appeals to the brothers and sisters ‘to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught’ and to ‘avoid them.  For such persons do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the na├»ve.’  (Ro 16:18). 
In the Corinthian letters, Paul continues to warn against self-deceit and deceit by spiritual and human agents of deception:  ‘Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise [in truth].’ (1 Cor 3:18)  The apostle deplores argument and division among the Christians.  ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Do not be deceived’ – the kingdom is denied to the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers and robbers—just as some among Paul’s audience (and some in this forum) had been:  ‘But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.’  (1 Cor 6, esp. vv.9-11)  And in his concluding discussion of the gospel and of the meaning of the resurrection, Paul exhorts: ‘Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”’  It’s a shame for believers to continue in sin and folly, particularly in the light of the resurrection.  (1 Cor 15, esp. v.33)
In his second Corinthian letter, Paul strives against the influence of false teachers seeking to deceive the congregation. He has labored to keep them a pure and faithful bride to Christ.  'But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ….And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.’  (2Cor 11:3, 12-15)  Paul himself has been accused by some of the Corinthians of deceit (2Cor 12:16).  He strenuously denies this false charge. 
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul confronts self-deception and hubris: ‘For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.’  (Gal 6:3)  We should soberly assess our own works and personal responsibilities, while helping others with burdens too great to bear alone.  ‘Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.’ (v.7). 
The letter we call Ephesians emphasizes unity in the faith and in the faith community; God in Christ has gifted us with apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry, building up the body of Christ.  One result of these God-given privileges and powers is ‘that we may no longer be children, tossed to a fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.’ (Eph 4:14).  As we live out the new life God enables in Christ and by the Spirit, the deceptions and darkness of ungodly living can and must be set aside.  Those outside God’s community ‘are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.’ (v.18)   Instead, we are ‘to put off your old self, which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires’ (v.22).  We are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds and ‘put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.’ (v. 24)
Paul counsels the Colossian Christians, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.’  (Col 2:8)  To do this would be to spurn the fullness of deity, and ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (v.3) in favor of sin and folly.
In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul assures that ‘our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive’—Paul, Silas and Timothy ‘have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God Who tests our hearts.’ (1 Thess 2:3-4)  He answers their fraught questions about the second coming:  ‘Let no one deceive you in any way.’  And he patiently reviews the signs that will precede Christ’s Parousia.  (2 Thess2:3ff)
To Timothy, Paul writes concerning proper order in community life among the faithful.  In what has become controversial in some ‘modern’ circles, Paul asserts that no woman may teach, or have authority over, men—on grounds that ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.’  (1Tim 2:14)  Later, Paul writes: ‘Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons’ (1Tim 4:1)—such demonic doctrines will include forbidding marriage and restrictive dietary laws.  In seeking to prepare Timothy and those he will serve for the challenges ahead, Paul writes ‘12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Tim 3:12-13)  A solid foundation in godly teaching and God’s scripture are a bulwark against these evils.  The sacred writings ‘are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’  (vv.14-17)
To his fellow worker Titus, Paul writes guidance to help him ‘amend what was defective’ in the doctrine and praxis of the Christians on Crete, ‘and appoint elders in every town as I directed you.’ (Tit 1:5).  Paul details the qualifications for an elder; these are high and necessary: ‘For there are many insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers….’ (Tit 1:10)  The godly elder will have a lot of opposition, but will prevail, by God’s grace and power. 
The writer to the Hebrews exhorts those who share a heavenly call, to dwell on Jesus, ‘faithful over God’s house as a son’ (Heb 3:6a)  The Christians are exhorted to take care, ‘lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.’  (Heb 3:12-13)

James addresses deceit early in his epistle, in the context of true faith - acting on what one believes:  ‘Do not deceived, my beloved brothers.’ (Jas 1:16)  Every good and perfect gift comes down to us from the Father of lights, concerning Whom there is no variation, no shadow, no change, no variation.  Our part is to persevere in searching into the perfect law, the liberty God in Christ has given us, and then to act upon what God enables us to believe: ‘Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’ (v.22)  And we guard against deception by bridling our tongues:  ‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.’ (v.26)

In his first epistle, Peter writes of deceit three times:  ‘So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.’ (2:1)  Speaking of Jesus:  ‘He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.’ (2:22)  And guidance for followers of Jesus:  ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit….’ (3:10)

In his epistles, John addresses both self-deception and deceptions from other sources:  ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 Jn 1:8)  John seeks to protect believers who heed his words: ‘I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.’ (1 Jn 2:26)  Again: ‘Little children, let no one deceive you.  Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as [Jesus] Is righteous.’ (1 Jn 3:7). Addressing specific heretical deceptions:   ‘For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.’  (2 Jn 1:7).

Finally, in his apocalypse, John writes of the great deceiver:  ‘And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.’ (Rev 12:9)  Of the ‘second beast’ in his vision, the revelator writes:  ‘13 It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, 14 and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of[d] the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.’ (Rev 13:13-14)  And finally, in the vision of the ‘fall of Babylon’:  ‘21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,

“So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,
    and will be found no more;
22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters,
    will be heard in you no more,
and a craftsman of any craft
    will be found in you no more,
and the sound of the mill
    will be heard in you no more,
23 and the light of a lamp
    will shine in you no more,
and the voice of bridegroom and bride
    will be heard in you no more,
for your merchants were the great ones of the earth,
    and all nations were deceived by your sorcery.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints,
    and of all who have been slain on earth.” (Rev 18:21-24)

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Faithful obedience and enlightenment

Thursday, January 4, 2018 - Devotions: Ps 85, 87, 89:1-29; Josh 3:14-4:7; Eph 5:1-20; 
Jn 9:1-12, 35-38

YHWH, You have been favorable to Your land; You restored the fortune of the family of Jacob.  You forgave their iniquity and pardoned all their sin.  You withdrew your wrath and turned from your hot anger.  God of our salvation, restore us again!  Set aside Your righteous indignation toward us.  Revive us again, Lord; let us rejoice in You.  Show us Your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.  Help me hear what YHWH Elohim will say; let Him speak peace to His people, all who turn our hearts to Him, so that true glory may dwell among us.  Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss one another.  As holy God looks down in righteousness, let God's people look up in faithfulness.  As God provides, let us go in the path of righteousness.  Our God loves Jerusalem more than any other settlement of His people.  City of God, glorious things are said about you!  It is a privilege to be a native of Jerusalem, the city God Most High will establish.  The wellsprings of song and dance are in you, favored city!  YHWH, I will sing of your steadfast love forever; I will proclaim Your righteousness to all generations--they are eternal, unshakeable.  Your covenant is established forever.  Let the heavens praise our God; He alone is true God, terrible before the ranks of spirit beings; none is mighty as You Are, our God!  All that is, You have made; all that exists belongs to You.  Your throne sits on a foundation of righteousness and justice; You are heralded by Your love and faithfulness.  Blessed are all who know the festal shout of worship and praise to our God--who walk in the light of Your countenance, who exult in Your name without ceasing, and who extol Your righteousness.  Our might derives from God alone.  He has anointed the Root and Offspring of David, His own Son, as eternal king.  No enemy can outwit Him; He rightly names God as His own Father.  God's steadfast love will keep Him forever, and the covenant will not depart from Him.  Amen!

God prepared Joshua to lead the Israelites into Canaan.  When the feet of those bearing the Ark touched the waters of Jordan, the waters stood and rose up, upstream at Adam near Zarethan, and the river bed was laid bare.  The people passed over opposite Jericho, as the priests bearing the Ark of the covenant of YHWH stood on dry ground at mid-stream, until all the nation had passed over the Jordan's course.  Then YHWH directed Joshua: 'Take twelve men, one from each tribe; have each take a stone from the midst of the riverbed, and carry them to the west bank, and lay them down in the place where you encamp tonight.'  Joshua did as God directed, and he told the twelve, 'This will be a sign among you; when in days to come, your children ask 'What do these stones mean?'  Tell them that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the covenant of YHWH.  So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.'

Paul's letter we call Ephesians counseled his readers:  Be imitators of God, as beloved children.  Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offer and acceptable sacrifice to God.  Don't even speak of fornication, of all impurity, or of covetousness.  Let there be no filthiness, no silly talk, no levity in your lives together.  Instead, devote yourselves to thanksgiving.  Know this for certain:  no fornicator, no impure or covetous person, no idolater has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words; it is such things that bring down the wrath of God upon those who are sons of disobedience.  Therefore, don't even associate with such people; you also once were of darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  So walk as children of light; the fruit of light is in all that is good and right and true.  Strive to learn what pleases the Lord.  Shun the unfruitful works of darkness; instead, expose them to the light.  It is a shame to speak of things done in secret; but when anything is exposed to light and becomes visible, it can be transformed--anything that becomes visible is light.  For this reason, it has been said, 'Awake, O sleeper, and arise from death, and Christ shall give you light.'  So take care how you walk; proceed as wise people, not fools; make the most of the life God gives you, for the days are evil.  Don't be foolish; instead, understand the Lord's will.  Don't get drunk with wine; that is debauchery; instead, be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart, at all times, in all ways, giving thanks to God the Father for everything ,in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus had almost been stoned by indignant Pharisees for asserting 'before Abraham was, I Am.'  But He evaded them, and as He was going along, Jesus and His disciples passed by a man blind from birth.  The disciples asked Jesus, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, so that he was born blind?'  Jesus answered, 'The blindness came neither from his sins or those of his parents; he is blind so that God's works might be manifest in him.  We must work the works of Him Who sent Me as long as day lasts; night comes, when no one can work.  As long as I Am in the world, I Am the Light of the world.'  Saying this, Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, then anointed the man's blind eyes with the clay, saying to him, 'Go; wash in the pool of Siloam' [the pool's name means 'Sent'].  The man did as Jesus directed, and came back seeing!  The neighbors and others who had known him as a blind beggar conferred:  'Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?'  Some said, 'Yes, it's the same man' and others said, 'No, but he's very much like that fellow.'  The man himself spoke up, 'I am the man.'  They asked, 'Then how were your eyes opened?'  He said, 'The man named Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, "Go to Siloam and wash".  So I did, and received my sight.'  The bystanders asked, 'Where is He?'  And the man said, 'I do not know'.  The people brought the man to the Pharisees.  It was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes [and when he walked to the pool and washed.  After cross-examining the man and his parents, the Pharisees cast him out.]  Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and found him and said, 'Do you believe in the Son of man?'  The healed man answered, 'Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?'  Jesus said, 'You have seen Him; it is He Who speaks to you now.'  And the man said, 'Lord, I believe!'  And he worshiped Jesus.  Jesus said, 'I came into this world for judgment, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.'  Some Pharisees overheard this and said to Jesus, 'Are we also blind?'  Jesus answered them: 'If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say 'We see,' your guilt remains.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Receive His gifts, and see His body grow!

Devotions for Tuesday, January 2, 2018: Ps 33, 34; 1 Ki 19:1-8; Eph 4:1-16; Jn 6:1-14

Righteous ones, rejoice in the Lord!  Praise YHWH with lyre and harp; sing a new song to Him, and play with all your might and skill!  For His word is upright; He is altogether faithful.  God loves righteousness and justice; the creation is filled with the steadfast love of the Lord.  He spoke, creating the heavens; the host of galaxies arose by His breath.  He is Master of the seas and waters.  Let all the living stand in awe of our God; He brings the counsel of nations to naught, while His counsel stands forever.  Blessed is the nation whose God is YHWH, the people He has chosen for Himself.  He sees and knows all that goes on among us on earth; He regards those who rightly fear and honor Him--those who hope in His steadfast love, Who Is our Help and Shield.  Let Your steadfast love rest with us, dear Lord!  Let us all exalt His name together; let us look with love and expectation to God, Who saved me.  Taste and see:  the Lord Is good; those who seek Him lack no good thing.  Anyone with sense desires life and seeks to enjoy what is good--so keep your tongue from speaking evil, your lips from deceit.  Pursue peace, for God regards those who do what is right.  He Is near to the brokenhearted; He redeems His servants; those who take refuge in Him will not be condemned.

After Elijah overthrew and slaughtered the priests of Baal, King Ahab complained to Jezebel, and she threatened the prophet's life.  So the prophet fled to Beer-sheba, and there abandoned his servant.  Alone, Elijah wandered a day's journey into the desert, and then sat down under a broom tree, ready to die.  He lay down and slept there; presently, an angel appeared and touched him, and said to Elijah, 'Get up and eat.'  Near his head lay a baked cake and a jar of water.  So he ate and drank, and lay down again.  The Lord's angel again came and touched him, saying, 'Arise and eat, for otherwise the journey will be too great for you.'  So Elijah arose, ate and drank once more, and in the strength receive thereby, he traveled forty days and nights, arriving at Horeb, the mountain of God.

In his letter, Paul wrote: 'As a prisoner of the Lord, I beg you: lead a life worthy of your calling--with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope, by one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, Who Is above all and through all and in all.  But grace was apportioned to each of us according to the measure of the Messiah's gift.  Thus is it said, 'When He ascended He led a host of captives, and give gifts to men.'  This implies that He had also descended into the lower parts of the earth.  And He Who descended also ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.  And His gifts were that some should be apostles, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, so as to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature humanness, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ--so that we may no longer be children, tossed to a fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him Who Is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which He supplies it, when each part is working properly, effects bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love. 

Jesus traveled to the east side of the Sea of Galilee.  A multitude followed Him, because they had witnessed His great signs in healing many who were diseased.  Jesus ascended a mountain and sat down with His disciples.  It was shortly before the Jewish Passover.  Gazing across the approaching multitude, Jesus said to Philip, 'How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?'  Philip answered, 'Two hundred denarii--more than a half-year's wages--would not buy enough for each to get even a little.'  Andrew spoke up: 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they before so many?'  Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.'  There was a lot of grass at this place, so the crowd--five thousand men, plus women and children--sat down, as Jesus' disciples directed.  Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated; likewise with the fish.  Everyone got as much as they wanted.  And when all had eaten their fill, Jesus directed His disciples to gather up the leftovers.  They filled twelve large baskets with fragments left by the crowd.  When the people saw what Jesus had done, they said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!' 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 5, 6, 10, 11; Jonah 1:1-17a; Acts 26:24-27:8; Lk 8:26-39

Lord, hear my words, my groaning lament; I pray to You, my King and my God.  In the morning, I prepare a sacrifice for You, and watch.  You are holy; no wickedness, no evil can be near You.  Boastful ones cannot abide in Your sight; You hate all who do evil.  You destroy liars and abhor the bloodthirsty and deceitful.  I will enter Your house through Your abundant, steadfast love; I worship in awe of Your holiness and might.  Lord, lead me in and into Your righteousness; make a straight path for me to follow You Home.  Let the wicked face the consequences of their sins and idolatries, their rebellion against You.  And let all rejoice who take refuge in You; defend us, so that we who love Your Name may exult in You.  Cover us with Your favor as with a shield.  Help me abide the wait as I long for You to vindicate and deliver me.  I cannot praise You from Sheol; there is no worship from one who is dead.  Let all workers of evil depart from me!  YHWH hears and accepts my prayer, and He will deal with my enemies.  Lord, draw near; let the arrogant be caught in the traps they have devised for others; let the godless face their desolation.  They deny God and fear no adversity; they smirk and plot; they crush the helpless and expect no divine retribution.  Rise up, Lord; let holy judgment fall on those who deny You and abuse Your creatures and creation.  Nations rise and fall, but YHWH rules forever!  Let God hear the cries of the meek; let Him strengthen their hearts and vindicate the fatherless and oppressed, so that mortals of the earth may strike terror no more.  YHWH tests righteous and wicked alike; He hates those who love violence.  The upright will behold His face; the wicked will suffer coals of fire and brimstone!

YHWH's word came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Get up and go to Nineveh and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.'  But Jonah ran the other way--to Joppa and a ship bound for Tarshish.  ThenYHWH hurled a great wind, and stirred a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship Jonah had boarded was in danger of breaking up.  The mariners tried to lighten the ship; meanwhile, Jonah was asleep in the steerage.  The captain roused and interrogated him, and the crew cast lots to discover the cause of their hardship.  The lot fell on Jonah, and he fessed up: 'I'm a Hebrew, fearer of YHWH, the God of heaven, Maker of earth and sea alike.'  They all realized their predicament was the result of Jonah's flight from God, as he had confessed as much to them.  They asked him what they should do, and he told them, 'Throw me overboard; then the sea will quiet for you.'  They tried to avoid this solution, but the storm worsened; at last, they acknowledged God's right and authority.  In the end, they cast Jonah into the raging seas, and the sea grew quiet again.  Seeing this, the men feared YHWH exceedingly and offered a sacrifice to Him and made vows accordingly.

Paul had spoken in his own defense before King Agrippa and the Roman Porcius Festus.  Festus thought that Paul was insane.  But Paul denied this: 'I speak the sober truth; King Agrippa knows what I'm saying.'  And he addressed the king:  'King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know you believe!'  The king temporized: 'In a short time, do you think to make me a Christian?'  Paul replied, 'Long time or short, I would to God that you and all who hear me today might become as I am--expect for these chains.'  Festus, Agrippa and his queen Bernice withdrew and conferred: 'This man is doing nothing deserving death or prison.  He could have been released, had he not appealed to Caesar.'  And so Paul sailed for Rome, accompanied by Dr. Luke, author of Acts, among others, including the Macedonian Aristarchus from Thessalonica.  Paul was one of several prisoners in custody under Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Cohort.  Their ship passed through Sidon, then in the lee of Cyprus to Myra in Lycia, where they transshipped to an Alexandrian vessel bound for Italy.  With difficulty from bad weather, they came upon Fair Havens, a port near Lasea.  

Jesus also was on the waters, and He calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, enabling his vessel and companions to arrive safely in the territory of the Gerasenes on the eastern side of the lake.  As Jesus stepped from the boat, He was accosted by a Gerasene man possessed by demons.  He had long lived naked, among the tombs.  The spirits threw him down before Jesus, and spoke loudly:  'What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beseech You, don't torment me!'  Jesus had already commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man; it had often seized the man; he had been kept under guard, in chains, but he broke the bonds and the demon drove him into the desert.  Jesus asked: 'What is your name?'  The reply: 'Legion, for we are many,' since many demons had entered the man.  They begged Jesus not to send them into the abyss, but rather into a large herd of pigs feeding on a nearby hillside.  Jesus gave this permission, and the demons came out of the man and entered the swine.  Consequently, the entire herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and drowned there.  Seeing all this, the herdsmen fled into the city and countryside, reporting what had happened.  Then people went out to see what had happened; they found Jesus and the man now freed from the demons, sitting dressed, at Jesus' feet, and in his right mind.  They became frightened, and the witnesses recounted told the newcomers how the formerly-possessed man had been healed.  Then all the Gerasenes asked Jesus to depart from them, for they were seized with a great fear.  So Jesus got into the boat to sail away.  The man whom Jesus had exorcised begged to remain with Jesus; but He sent the man away, saying 'Go back to your home and tell how much God has done for you.'  And he did that, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

His power perfected in my weakness

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 101, 109, 119:121-44; 2 Ki 18:9-25; 1 Cor 8:1-13; Mt 7:13-21

David wrote: I will sing of loyalty and justice to You, O Lord.  I will heed the blameless way.  God, when will You come to me?  In my house, I'll walk with integrity, setting nothing base before my eyes.  I hate the works of those who fall away; let that pattern not cling to me.  Let perversity of heart remain far from me.  May I know nothing of evil.  I will destroy those who slander secretly; I will not endure the haughty and arrogant.  I will favor the faithful, and we will dwell in the land of promise together.  My ministers will be those whose walk is blameless.  No one practicing deceit will abide in my house; no liar may remain in my presence.  Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked--starting with whatever is ungodly in myself, cutting off evildoers from YHWH's holy city.  Let holy God speak, for I am slandered by wicked and deceitful mouths.  They attack me without cause and beset me with words of hate.  They return accusation and hatred, even as I love them.  So I leave these betrayers in God's hands and judgment; let the consequences of their transgressions come upon them by His holy hand.  Let their curses fall back on them; may they be saturated with their own malice.  As for me, Lord God, deliver me, I pray.  I am poor and needy; my heart is stricken; I am shaken off like a locust, weak in the knees, gaunt to extremes.  My accusers scorn me and wag their heads at me.  YHWH my God, help me!  Let Your blessings overrule their curses; make Your servant glad and put my assailants to shame.  And I will praise YHWH alone and amid the multitudes.  For our God stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would put them to death.  I have done right, Lord; don't abandon me to my oppressors.  My eyes grow dim as I watch for Your salvation.  According to Your steadfast love, O Lord, deal with me; give me godly understanding that I may know Your testimonies.  I love You and Your commands above all else, and direct my ways accordingly.  Your testimonies are marvelous, and my soul rejoices to keep them.  Unfolding Your word brings light, and I long for Your commandments.  Be gracious to me, as to all who love Your name.  Steady my steps according to  Your great and precious promises; let no iniquity have dominion over me.  Shine Your face on me, Your servant; I weep as humans ignore Your law.  You Are righteous, O Lord, and your judgments are right, appointed in faithfulness and justice.  Zeal consumes me when Your foes forget Your word.  Your promise is well tried, and I love it; I am small and despised, but Your commandments are my delight.

In the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser besieged Samaria.  Three years later, the city fell to his siege, and Assyria carried the Israelites away to Halah, and along the Habor river, the river Gozan, and other cities of the Medes.  This was the consequence of Israelite disobedience and failure to keep God's covenant--they neither listened nor obeyed.  In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, Sennacharib, now Assyrian ruler, conquered all the fortified cities of Judah.  Hezekiah sued for a settlement; Sennacharib demanded 300 talents of silver and 30 of gold; Hezekiah gave him all the silver in the Lord's house and in the king's house, too.  He stripped the gold from the temple doors and doorposts.  The Assyrian king sent emissaries, the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh, leading a great army against Jerusalem.  They called for the king, and Eliakim, the household executive and Shebnah, the royal secretary, and Joah ben Asaph, the royal recorder, came before them.  The Rabshekah addressed them and dictated Sennacharib's terms:  'Egypt cannot help you, nor will YHWH your God.  My master offers 2000 horses, if you can find riders for them--but you have no cavalry and no chariots.  It is YHWH Himself who has directed me to go up against this land and to destroy it.'

Paul addressed questions from the Corinthian Christians:  Concerning food offered to idols, all possess knowledge; however, knowledge puffs up while love builds up!  Those who imagine that they know something do not yet know as they ought.  But God knows those who love God.  An idol, so-called, has no real existence.  There may be so-called gods on earth or in the heavens--and there are many such--yet for us there is one God, the Father, from Whom are all things and for Whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus the Messiah, through Whom are all things and through Who we exist.  Not everyone knows these things.  As a result, some with weak conscience feel guilty when they eat meat that has been offered to an idol; this defiles their conscience.  Neither food nor abstinence will commend us to God.  Just take care than in your liberty you do not cause the weak to stumble.  Your example may cause someone to eat food offered to an idol.  As a result of your knowledge, this weak person is destroyed--a brother or sister for whom the Messiah died!  And if you thus sin against your brothers and sisters and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against the Messiah.  If food causes my brother or sister in Christ to fall, I will never eat meat, lest I cause them to fall.

As He approached the end of His sermon on the mount, Jesus said: Enter God's kingdom by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who go that way are many.  The gate is narrow and the way hard that leads to life, and few find and follow that.  Beware of false prophets; they come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly, they are ravening wolves.  Know them by their fruits--no grapes on thorn bushes, no figs from thistles!  Sound trees bear good fruit; evil fruit comes from bad trees.  And every tree that does not bear good fruit is felled and burned.  Thus, you can know a prophet's quality by their fruits.  Not every person who says to me 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven--only those who do the will of My Father in heaven.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Kingdom living in a fallen world

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 94, 97, 99; 2 Chron 29:1-3, 30:1-27; 1 Cor 7:32-40; Mt 7:13-21

God of vengeance, shine forth!  Render judgment to the proud.  How long should the wicked exult?  They pour forth arrogance and boasting; they crush Your people, YHWH, and afflict Your heritage.  They slay widow and sojourner; they murder orphans, proclaiming, 'God doesn't see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.'  Listen, dullards and fools:  The One Who planted the ear can hear; He Who formed the eye can see.  The One Who chastens nations, chastises; God Who creates knowledge and is humankind's Teacher knows mortal thoughts: they are but a breath.  YHWH, the mortals whom You chasten is blessed, as are any whom You teach from Your law, to give them respite from trouble until the day of final judgment for the wicked.  YHWH will never forsake His people, not abandon His heritage.  He will bring justice to he righteous, and the upright in heart will follow His ways.  If YHWH had not been my help, I would soon have dwelt in profound silence.  When I have thought my foot was slipping, You upheld and sustained me, Lord!  When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.  The wicked and mighty among humans frame mischief by statute; they condemn the innocent to death.  But YHWH Is my strong, the Rock of my refuge.  God will bring back on the wicked their own iniquity; He will wipe them out.  So let earth rejoice!  Righteousness and justice are foundations of His kingship.  Heavenly beings proclaim God's righteousness; mortals behold His glory.  Idolaters are put to shame; God's disciples hear and rejoice at Your judgments, O God.  You, YHWH, Are the most high, exalted far above all other 'gods.'  YHWH loves those who hate evil and keeps His saints alive, delivering us from the hand of the wicked.  Light dawns for the righteous, joy for the upright in heart.  Let us give thanks to His holy name!  Holy Is He, Mighty King, lover of justice, maker of equity.  Let us worship at His footstool.  Moses, Aaron and Samuel were among His priests; God forgave them, delivered them, preserved them.  Let us worship YHWH, for He Is holy.

King Hezekiah sought to restore worship of YHWH in Jerusalem, opening and repairing the very doors of God's temple there.  He declared to all Israel and Judah that they should gather to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, at God's house there.  Their first Passover was delayed, celebrated in the second month, for lack of consecrated priests and because of the time needed for the people to assemble.  Hezekiah's message: 'People of Israel, return to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that He may turn again to the remnant who have escaped from Assyrian captivity.  Don't be like your faithless, stiff-necked ancestors.  Yield yourselves to God; come to His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, that His fierce anger may turn from you.  Doing this, you and your community and your children will find compassion with our captors.  YHWH your God Is gracious and merciful; He will not turn away from you, if you return to Him.'  Few from Asher, Manasseh or Zebulun heeded this message, humbling themselves and journeying to Jerusalem.  Judah and its princes, however, responded as one, wholeheartedly, obeying the word of the king.  A great assembly gathered in the second month in Jerusalem.  They removed the idolatrous altars from the city, casting them into the Kidron valley.  They killed the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month.  Priest and Levites, stung to shame, sanctified themselves, and began bringing burnt offerings into the Lord's house, and following the priestly offices as Moses had detailed them.  The Levites killed sacrificial lambs for many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun who had not cleansed themselves.  Hezekiah had prayed for them:  'The good YHWH pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, YHWH, the God of his fathers, even though not observing the sanctuary's rules of cleanness.'  YHWH heard and granted Hezekiah's prayer, and healed the people.  The people kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread with great joy, and the Levites and priests praised YHWH ceaselessly, singing to the Lord with all their might.  King Hezekiah encouraged the Levites, and the festival proceeded for seven days.  Then the whole assembly agreed to continue the feast and celebrations for another seven days!  The king provided a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep for sacrifice, and the princes added another thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep!  All rejoiced; there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem since the time of Solomon; and the prayers of priests and Levites for the people came to God's holy habitation in heaven.

Paul counsels the Corinthian Christians:  I want you freed from anxiety.  A man unmarried focuses on the affairs of the Lord and how to please Him, while a married man is concerned about worldly affairs and pleasing his wife.  A single girl or woman focuses on pleasing the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit, while married women are anxious about pleasing their husbands and the cares of the world.  For your own benefit, chaste singleness has great advantages.  But if one is engaged and feels strong passion and deep conviction to behave properly toward his fiancee, let them marry--it is no sin.  But anyone firmly established in heart, without constraint and under control, does well to remain unmarried: he who marries his betrothed does well, but he who refrains from marriage does better.  A wife is bound to her husband while both live; if her husband dies, a woman is free to marry, only in the Lord.  But in my judgment, she is happier if she remains a godly widow.  And I say this with the confidence that I have the Spirit of God.

As He continued His sermon on the mount, Jesus said:  Don't judge, lest you be judged; the judgments you pronounce on others will be applied to you; the measure you give, is what you'll get.  You claim to see the speck in another's eye, but you fail to notice the log in your own eye.  Hypocrite!  Take the log from your own eye--clear your own account; then perhaps you'll see clearly enough to take the speck from your brother's eye!  Don't share what is holy with dogs; don't throw your pearls to swine; it's likely they'll trample your pearls into the muck, then attack you.  Keep on asking, and what you ask will be given to  you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  Everyone who asks, receives; all who seek, find; and to everyone who knocks, God will open the Way.  Consider yourselves:  if a man's son asks him for bread, he won't give the boy a stone, will he?  If one's child asks for a fish, who would give their child a serpent instead?  So consider: if you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!  So: whatever you wish that people would do to you, do so to them; for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.