Forgiveness is always in accordance with Torah

The consistency of God’s instruction is revealed when all of the information is reviewed carefully.

The consistency of God’s instruction is revealed when all of the information is reviewed carefully.

One of the challenges that are brought up in regard to the veracity of the teachings of Paul is the tiny epistle written to Philemon. In this letter, Paul is urging his friend Philemon to receive back his former slave, Onesimus, who has since become a believer in Messiah Yeshua. The contention typically brought up is that if Paul is urging Onesimus to return to his former master, then Paul is breaking Torah, because of the command in Deuteronomy 23:15-16:

“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.”

First of all, it must be said that we don’t know all the details of why Onesimus was apart from Philemon in the first place, and many assumptions have to be made to arrive at any conclusions. All we know for sure is that they were separated, at some point Onesimus encountered Paul and became a believer in Messiah Yeshua, and he is now standing once again before his former master holding this letter penned by Paul.

The letter of the Torah command says not to “hand over to his master a slave who has escaped.” We don’t know for sure that Onesimus escaped. The text only indicates they were apart or separated for some reason. In verse 15 Paul states, “For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while.” Either Paul is being extremely diplomatic in his choice of words to soften the remembrance of Onesimus’ escape, or there may have been other circumstances that caused Onesimus to be away; the text doesn’t actually say.

What is apparent from the text, however, is that Onesimus had become unprofitable to Philemon either during or after his departure. For a slave owner, a slave would be a financial investment for a manner of work that was required to be done. Either Onesimus was not a very good worker, or his departure caused a financial loss and hardship to Philemon, as Paul writes, “[he] formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.” The situation may be as simple as Philemon sold Onesimus because he was unprofitable to him.

That Onesimus had been a potentially useless slave is also indicated by the fact that Paul indicates he is willing to make up for any shortcoming Onesimus may be responsible for:

18 – “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account…”

If Onesimus had not resourcefully fulfilled his obligations as a slave, then this would be another strong indication of Philemon’s justifiable unwillingness to receive Onesimus back. If this is truly the case of Onesimus prior to his departure, then there is a reasonable justification as to Philemon’s resistance at receiving Onesimus back, in any capacity, and why Paul is so emphatically and passionately pleading for him.

So if Paul is returning Onesimus, a former slave, to his previous owner, how is it that this is still not a violation of the Torah command in Deuteronomy 23?

Well, for one thing, as mentioned above, we cannot be sure Onesimus actually escaped, which is the crux of the command. Additionally, there is no indication that Onesimus is not choosing to return, only that Philemon may be hesitant to receive him back after past grievances. But lastly, and most importantly, is how Paul states it in verses 15-16:

“For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”

The key reason Torah is not violated is by Paul’s phrasing here that Onesimus is “no longer as a slave.” Paul is not returning a slave to his master to return just to his slave status but is reintroducing a known individual in a new relationship as a brother in Messiah Yeshua. In Onesimus’ absence from Philemon, he became a Messiah believer, and had been helping Paul in his ministry needs while he was imprisoned. Philemon was also a Messiah believer, as Paul names him a beloved fellow worker who had an assembly of believers meeting in his home. Two brothers in Messiah, regardless of social status, should be able to overcome past difficulties through the forgiveness both have received from God.

If this applies even to the most extreme status conflict of that between a former slave and his former master, then how much more can we overcome our difficult relationships through the forgiveness that God desires us to share with others?


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Creating peace in a world of chaos

The believer’s mission in society is all about promoting peace where it does not currently exist.

The believer’s mission in society is all about promoting peace where it does not currently exist.

Romans 12:16-18 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Paul was writing to the Roman believers to instill in them a strong foundation in not only the doctrinal facets of their faith but the practical aspects, as well. In summarizing the believers’ responsibilities toward others, Paul latches on to one of the most profound teachings of Messiah:

Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

Paul conveys this as, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” (Romans 12:14). Why would the Roman believers need to hear this unless they were indeed being persecuted for their faith? Paul goes even further to quote this consistent biblical ethic as it was stated by Solomon in the proverbs.

Romans 12:20 – But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Boiled down into a modern vernacular, what Paul, Solomon, and Yeshua all appear to be saying is that doing nice things to those who are not nice to you results in them feeling the heat of shame at having been mean to you, vividly described as having hot coals poured on their head. To bless them when they are persecuting you means to say and do nice things to them even though they are oppressing you.

But we can only be nice in the face of opposition when we are not reacting with like emotion for like. We have to bring a new resource to the conflict, a resource of forgiveness and desire for love and open communication. Paul says to not repay evil with evil, but instead, to “overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21). This is the only way peace can be promoted within a society of divided interests.

We live in an age where this type of divisive environment breeds at an accelerated pace due to the instantaneous communication channels available to us as the internet continues to link the world together. To make matters worse, many oppressors feel empowered to spread conflict by remaining anonymous behind user names. For those of us who are tasked with being peacemakers, there is no small challenge in trying to remain unaffected by comments and commentary that cannot be unseen or unheard. Yet, as believers, if we are directly confronted by these anonymous pot-stirrers, we are tasked with praying for them and blessing them, which is to speak kindly toward and about them regardless of their harmful attitudes.

Online communication aside, we must not allow those hateful attitudes to spill over into our real world interactions with others. While we have an obligation to remain informed on the important cultural issues of the day, we must withhold the reactive impulse to debate acquaintances and family on the same level of animosity that may be thrust at us. Whenever we are confronting the evils of our day, we must do so with a spirit of gentleness, kindness, and goodness. Otherwise we are simply adding fuel to the raging fires of contemporary debate.

Paul encourages believers, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” For us to do so, we must be thoughtful and consistent in our responses. Our mission is to share the love of God but to do so without compromising the truth of his Word. This may sound simple, but it is incredibly nuanced and at times extremely difficult, as many hard facts about God’s truth can appear intolerant to others. But this is what we are called to do. This is how we, as living sacrifices, are challenged with navigating the cultural debates of our day.

2 Timothy 2:24-25 – The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.

We should never want to be responsible for shutting the gates of Zion to those who most need to gain entrance. If we are faithful to this consistent instruction throughout God’s Word, we provide opportunities for reconciliation where there were previously none. We can learn to be promoters of peace and calm amidst the chaos of popular opinion, but it takes careful thought and reasoned intention. We can become the peacemakers that both Yeshua and Paul encouraged their followers to be.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Operating under the freedom of forgiveness

Being forgiven and forgiving others allows for great collaborations to flourish.

Being forgiven and forgiving others allows for great collaborations to flourish.

Nehemiah 1:11 – “Please, Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant and to that of your servants who delight to revere your name. Give your servant success today, and grant him compassion…”

This prayer for forgiveness was offered to God by Nehemiah as he learned of the disrepair of the city of Jerusalem. During their captivity in Babylon, the city had become burned and its walls broken down. When Nehemiah, a Jewish leader servings the Babylonian king, became aware of the city’s condition, he approached God with a prayer of repentance.

Nehemiah 1:6-7 – “…let your eyes be open and your ears be attentive to hear your servant’s prayer that I now pray to you day and night for your servants, the Israelites. I confess the sins we have committed against you. Both I and my father’s family have sinned. We have acted corruptly toward you and have not kept the commands, statutes, and ordinances you gave your servant Moses.”

This recognition of their humbled state in their captivity then allowed Nehemiah to petition the king to allow him to return and oversee the rebuilding of the city.

Nehemiah 2:4-5, 8 – Then the king asked me, “What is your request? ” So I prayed to the God of the heavens and answered the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor with you, send me to Judah and to the city where my ancestors are buried, so that I may rebuild it.” … The king granted my requests, for the gracious hand of my God was on me.

The rest of the book of Nehemiah then relates the struggles and persistence of the Jewish people to rebuild Jerusalem under the oppression of their enemies. This was a Herculean effort that involved the coordination of many different families and tribes to overcome the adversity to successfully rebuild the protective walls of Jerusalem. Yet all of this work and effort could only be conducted under the recognition of God’s forgiveness and his promise to restore his people to their land.

Nehemiah 1:8-9 – Please remember what you commanded your servant Moses: “If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples. “But if you return to me and carefully observe my commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell.”

The history of this event reminds us of the power of forgiveness and its ability to allow us to operate with passion and purpose again. The Jews had felt defeated and powerless after their captivity, and yet the power of God’s forgiveness and the promise of restoration re-energized them to conduct one of the largest volunteer efforts in ancient times.

When we recognize our own disobedience and are truly repentant before God, we too can be relieved of the oppressive state of inactivity within his purpose. More importantly, even beyond ourselves, when we forgive others, we also release them from the weight of unresolved conflict, allowing the continued growth of relationships and shared experiences to prosper. This freedom afforded by forgiveness is the bedrock foundation of the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of God.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Authentic forgiveness influences others to do the same

The most impactful messages are backed up by the actions of those who are presenting them.

Core of the Bible podcast #70 – Authentic forgiveness influences others to do the same

Today we will be looking at the topic of forgiveness, and how the most impactful and influential examples are made by the consistency and authenticity of those who are living them out.

Luke 23:34 – Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.

One of the main reasons that Yeshua’s teachings have been so influential in the centuries and millennia is not just because of the wisdom, logic, and truth of what he taught, but because he actually demonstrated how to apply what he implored others to do. As was the case in the instance of his crucifixion at the hands of his oppressors, he didn’t just preach forgiveness of enemies, he actually lived it out, praying for God to forgive those who had no intent toward him except extreme harm.

A message of instruction can have impact because it makes sense, or because it is an accepted tradition, or it may be a requirement of an institution or governing authority. However, the most impactful messages are those that are conveyed with consistency and authenticity, and backed up by the actions of those who are presenting them.

By contrast, in our culture today, the opposite happens so frequently that there is the ironic statement expressed by the saying, “Do what I say, not what I do.” This is the epitome of sad weakness in which one may have an understanding of what the right thing may be in a given situation, but they do not have the strength or fortitude to carry out even their own advice. Hypocrisy is powerless.

But wisdom with consistent action makes a difference, especially with hard teachings like those about forgiveness. Anyone can say people should be forgiving of those who are intent on harm, but to do so in the most extreme of circumstances demonstrates authenticity that has power to change lives.

This is corroborated in the lives of Yeshua’s disciples, most visibly in the noble act of Stephen when he faced the same type of hostility of those who would see him dead for his speaking of the truth. When he was called before the religious high court to defend his beliefs, Stephen provides a protracted description of God’s favor with Israel, and then abruptly accuses the religious leaders of his day of forsaking everything they should have been practicing. In boldly speaking this truth, the situation then proceeded toward its inevitable conclusion.

Acts 7:53-54, 57-58, 60 – [Stephen said,] “You received the law under the direction of angels and yet have not kept it.” … When they heard these things, they were enraged and gnashed their teeth at him. … They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. … He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Stephen was so captivated with the powerful example of his Lord in forgiving his enemies that, thrust into a similar circumstance, he responded in the same way. His actions were consistent with his recognition of the truth related by his Master, and he was able to respond with the same level of demonstrable conviction. His righteous actions were so powerful they still influence and challenge us to this day.

In contrast, Yeshua provides an opposite example in stark relief against the nobility of Stephen’s type of forgiving actions. At one point when his disciples were asking him questions, he had responded to Peter’s question about how many times believers are expected to forgive. Yeshua’s answer was couched in a story, a parable, about what this looks like from God’s perspective.

Matthew 18:21-35 – Then Peter approached him and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? As many as seven times? ” “I tell you, not as many as seven,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven. “For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. “When he began to settle accounts, one who owed ten thousand talents was brought before him. “Since he did not have the money to pay it back, his master commanded that he, his wife, his children, and everything he had be sold to pay the debt. “At this, the servant fell facedown before him and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything.’ “Then the master of that servant had compassion, released him, and forgave him the loan. “That servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him, started choking him, and said, ‘Pay what you owe! ‘ “At this, his fellow servant fell down and began begging him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he wasn’t willing. Instead, he went and threw him into prison until he could pay what was owed. “When the other servants saw what had taken place, they were deeply distressed and went and reported to their master everything that had happened. “Then, after he had summoned him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘ “And because he was angry, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he could pay everything that was owed. “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart.”

This parable is so comprehensive and compelling that it leaves little room for any comment. Yeshua sets a clear indication of God’s desire for his people to be people of forgiveness based on on their own recognition of how much they have been forgiven. The apostle Paul carries this forward to the believers in Colosse, as well.

Colossians 3:12-13 – “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

Our ability to forgive should not be based solely on an emotional feeling of sadness or pity toward someone else. There may be times where our emotions are running completely opposite to empathy or pity, and yet, we are commanded to forgive anyway, if for no other reason than we have been forgiven by God. That is the standard that should guide us.

Based on these demonstrations of genuine forgiveness of enemies by both Yeshua and Stephen, can we somehow find it within ourselves to forgive others with this same level of authenticity? If this is the ultimate level of obedience demanded of every disciple of Yeshua, then forgiving those who have wronged us in some minor detail seems much less daunting. Every time we do so, we have an opportunity to provide an authentic response that can influence others to do the same.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Reconciliation in the new creation

Only when we die to ourselves can God then work through us.

Only when we die to ourselves can God then work through us.

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 – That is, in Messiah, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Messiah’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”

This description that Paul gives of his ministry has been debated over the years as to whether this ministry of reconciliation applied only to the apostles, or if this is a quality that all believers should demonstrate. I believe the context of the passage provides an insight into how this principle should be applied.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 – Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Messiah and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

Paul states if anyone is in Messiah, they are part of the new creation. Therefore, anyone who has been reconciled to God through Messiah has been given us the responsibility of helping to reconcile the world to God through themselves. Certainly, the apostles were the greatest and initial examples of this, as it was necessary for God to first to reconcile all of the scattered tribes of Israel back to himself through their message of faith and hope. But then, as others who feared God also were drawn to the message of faith in Messiah, the circle of reconciliation began to widen across the known world at that time, and continues to this day.

Reconciliation is a process of peace, an adjustment of differences usually involving forgiveness and a restoration to a favorable condition. Yeshua taught that peacemakers are blessed, and that they would be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). This is THE defining characteristic of God’s children. In Jewish tradition based on this ancient concept, this is something still hoped for in a future time.

Tikkun means to repair or improve. Olam means the entire world. In Jewish teachings, any activity that improves the world, bringing it closer to the harmonious state for which it was created is considered Tikkun Olam.

Chabad.org, “Tikkun Olam

While Jews today view this process of repairing or restoring as something that will ultimately lead to a harmonious whole, Paul implies that God already reconciled the world through Messiah, and now it is up to his children to champion the cause to become evident in this reality.

Since God was spiritually reconciling the world to himself through Messiah, it makes sense that his children would also do the same in its current physical state. This is possible only when we recognize that we are no longer allowed to view others from our own limited perspective, but from the perspective of God.

2 Corinthians 5:16 – From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Messiah from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way.

We are to view others from a spiritual perspective, in the same way we now know Messiah. We don’t know Yeshua in the same way today as if we were to see him teaching in the streets. He has been exalted to a position of honor and authority at the right hand of God in heavenly places; this is how we relate to him today. Paul says we need to view others in a similar way: from an eternal and spiritual perspective, not from a fleshly one. When we do this, we are then given the ability to look beyond their fleshly resistance or aggression toward God and toward us. We can begin to love them as God does: as a dear creation of his whom he desires to draw to himself.

2 Corinthians 5:15 – And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

But this process involves us dying to ourselves in order to see the spiritual reality behind who they appear to be. Only then can we truly become Messiah’s ambassadors, seeing others in the same way that God does, and allowing him to work through us in continuing to reconcile the world to himself. When this happens among his people all around the world, God becomes “all in all,” and the kingdoms of this world then become his.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Keeping our hearts from unfair judgment

When we criticize, it becomes that much more difficult to forgive.

When we criticize, it becomes that much more difficult to forgive.

Matthew 7:1-2 – “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”

This command of Yeshua to not be unjustly critical of others comes in the context of avoiding hypocrisy.

Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?”

However, beyond avoiding hypocrisy, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can recognize that when we are unjustly critical of others who are close to us we diminish our ability to provide forgiveness to them.

Judgment is the opposite of forgiveness, and harboring critical judgment in our hearts toward someone else numbs our sensitivity to forgiving them if they were to come to us in repentance toward some personal injustice. Because we have pre-judged them, we already have a negative emotion that is easier to act on than a rational acceptance of their genuine repentance which can lead to our forgiveness.

This pre-disposition to unfairly judge others is so common that Yeshua felt it was necessary to issue a clear command to avoid it at all costs.

In the story of the Prodigal son, Yeshua describes how the Father’s love for the son allowed him to suspend judgment on the son’s actions because of the larger benefit and joy of having his repentant son home again. The brother’s reaction was critical because of his jealousy at the prodigal’s apparent avoidance of accountability for poor choices. But it was not the brother’s place to judge the prodigal; it was the father’s, and the father had forgiven the prodigal son. So the brother ended up being judgmental and frustrated for essentially no reason. He could not participate in the celebration of the prodigal’s return because of the unjust judgment that he retained in his heart.

And this is an unintended result of our retention of unfair judgment of others; it robs us of joy. There is nothing happy about wanting to hold judgment over others when there is no reason to do so. This insistence on retaining criticism causes frustration and ongoing hostility. Instead, we should focus on removing unfair judgment from our hearts, especially when it is not within our right to judge someone else, or as in the case of the prodigal, someone else’s son.

Paul uses this logic when speaking of the critical judgments that existed between believers in the Roman congregation:

Romans 14:4 – “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall…”

When we realize it is not up to us to judge everybody else, we can instead focus on building positive relationships and remain open to avenues of forgiveness when inadvertent wrongs are committed and repented of.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Working for peace and harmony

How we handle disagreements is a reflection of our obedience to the instruction of God.

How we handle disagreements is a reflection of our obedience to the instruction of God.

Romans 12:17-18 – “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

This instruction from the apostle Paul comes in the context of a passage regarding living in harmony with others. We know that Yeshua taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44), and this teaching of Paul actually expands on that principle for refining our understanding.

Paul encourages us to think rationally about what the ramifications of our vengeful nature might be, and to “give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” Sometimes, we may be confronted with an individual who continues to push and shove to get their way, and in certain cases our initial response to this may not be what is equitable in the sight of everyone. Paul urges believers to remove themselves from the moment, from the heat of the disagreement, and to step back and look at the situation from a larger, more comprehensive perspective. Doing so can sometimes give us the insight needed to appropriately handle our interaction with that pushy individual to where we don’t act reflexively, but thoughtfully and carefully in light of who we are in Messiah.

Paul adds that we should live peaceably with all, but only so far as it depends on us and how we act or react in a given situation. We can’t be responsible for how other people may react in our interactions with them. We can only work for peace as much as we can, and then leave the rest to God. They may not be receptive to our overtures of peace, and yet that is not a reason to withhold it in the first place. We must always strive for unity when we can, and step away from resistance when we are unable to bridge the conflict. Our goal is to live in peace with all, but some may just not be receptive to it.

Ultimately, as believers, we should be actively seeking ways to forgive and overcome disagreements, especially with brothers and sisters in Messiah. But even with those who are adversarial toward us, we should seek as much as possible to overcome their evil actions toward us with good actions toward them. Most times, if done sincerely from a perspective of overcoming conflict, these good actions will open the doors for peace, and allow fruitful relationships to grow.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

God desires a completely surrendered life

The sincere actions of believers include all of themselves.

The sincere actions of believers include all of themselves.

Matthew 5:23-24 – “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”

This is an interesting statement by Yeshua that can be easily missed in a casual reading of the passage. In stating that the believer should be reconciled before offering the sacrifice, Yeshua is placing reconciliation above the sacrifice. In effect, the sacrifice will be of no effect because the offerer’s heart is not right before God.

This is yet another instance in which Yeshua is emphasizing how important the heart is to a faithful worship of God. The law or instruction of God, even if followed perfectly, means nothing if the believer’s heart is not sincere. Notice, he did not say “go and be reconciled and forget about the sacrifice, because reconciliation is more important.” No, he said to go and be reconciled and “then come and offer your gift.” In this manner, Yeshua is upholding the law of God but also highlighting its intent, as well. A heart that is not right, harboring bitterness toward a brother, will only hypocritically be offering a sacrifice to God, and he won’t accept it. This is a heart that has not been fully surrendered to God.

The nation as a whole had been guilty of this very thing, and at one point had been called out by God through the prophet Amos:

Amos 5:21-22 – “I hate, I despise, your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle.”

And why was this that God was rejecting their sacrifices and offerings? Because the leaders and the people were guilty of abusing the rights of those who they instead should have been protecting and helping.

Amos 5:10-12 – “They hate the one who convicts the guilty at the city gate, and they despise the one who speaks with integrity. … you trample on the poor and exact a grain tax from him … For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the city gates.”

They were maintaining an outward appearance of conformity to the instruction of God and yet with every other breath they were taking advantage of those whom they should have been helping, according to the very law of God they had forsaken. This is the type of hypocrisy that God hates.

Reconciliation and forgiveness can be difficult because it means letting go of wrongs and hurts that may have been inflicted on us by others. But to maintain our own righteous anger towards those individuals is an injustice that rises above our attempts at pleasing God through our outward religious actions.

Consider who in your life you may need to be reconciled with before continuing a shallow and meaningless communal experience with God. He desires all of your heart, soul and strength, a combination of your complete self that can’t be divided by expending the energy of maintaining grudges or unforgiveness.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Honoring God while enduring injustice

Our spiritual perspective in crisis guides our actions and reactions.

Our spiritual perspective in crisis guides our actions and reactions.

Yeshua taught that believers should be following the example of the Father by loving their enemies; that they should speak well of them, help them, and pray for their needs. They should never retaliate, but instead, offer to go above and beyond for those who would be oppressing them (Matthew 5:38-48).

One of the clearest examples of this type of godly perspective is exhibited in the life of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own family, he could have resisted every aspect of his captivity as being unjust and fought tooth and nail to escape at any opportunity he had. And yet, we find quite the opposite taking place. He instead chose to go above and beyond for his captors, and Yahweh blessed his efforts every time.

Genesis 39:2-4 – “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.”

Even though the wife of his master Potiphar created a controversy that threw Joseph into further distress, it appears the Joseph took even that additional oppression in stride as he sought to continually go above and beyond for his new captor in the Egyptian prison.

Genesis 39:21-23 – “And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.”

At every step of the way, Joseph could have struggled and fought against his captors, but we find that was not the case. It appears that throughout his experience he understood a deeper spiritual principle of serving God to the best of one’s ability no matter the circumstance. He appears to have had a forgiving attitude toward his captors, recognizing that they were just doing what they did because that was who they were. Yet, he was somehow able to remain in a mindset that honored Yahweh at all times.

We get a glimpse into his spiritual perspective that helped him through those dark times when, in his rise to power at the right hand of the Pharaoh, he confronts his estranged brothers with his true identity, and offers the ultimate form of forgiveness to them.

Genesis 45:4-8 “…He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God…”

As believers, having and maintaining a perspective that God is ultimately in control of the main events of our lives as we submit to him provides a depth of release that should allow us to act in his best interest and to honor him in all we do. In those situations where we may feel oppressed, we can bring glory to his name by going above and beyond for our oppressors. It not only can soften the yoke we bear, but can be an opportunity for them to see the power of God working through us in situations where others would typically rebel or respond harshly.

Having a Joseph mindset can produce the fruit of the Spirit that include kindness, goodness and self-control in the midst of circumstances that may seem out of control. Recognizing that it is all under the control of the Almighty God can keep us centered and focused on honoring him by honorably serving others, even when (and especially when) our circumstances may appear unjust. It may just be that God is working a greater work that requires us to be placed in a position that may be uncomfortable for the moment but will ultimately result in his mercy and kindness being exhibited to others through our acceptance and honorable service through it.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Seek and you will find

Yeshua reveals that the Father follows his own advice.

The fifteenth chapter of Luke is all about things that are lost and found. Verses 1-7 are the parable of the lost sheep; verses 8-10 are about the woman who found a lost coin, and 11-32 are the parable of the prodigal son.

Zooming out a little further from these three stories in the text, we find them nestled in between other parables in chapters 14 and 16 that have a harsher tone and mention judgments of various kinds. In chapter 14 Yeshua recounts parables regarding invitations to banquets that are rejected or misused, along with a challenging call to discipleship. Chapter 16 is the parable of the unjust steward and then the rich man and Lazarus. Yet, in between these judgment parables are the three stories of redemption and reuniting.

While all of these parables have wonderful messages for application within themselves, viewing them all together also reveals a larger message. Through this intentional arrangement of Yeshua’s teachings, it appears Luke as the author is highlighting the overall tenor of Yeshua’s mission: the willingness of God to seek out and forgive amidst an environment of rejection and judgment. Judgment was coming upon Israel because of their rejection of him, but God was earnestly seeking out any who would be repentant; he was willing and ready to forgive.

Matthew 4:14-17 – …what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” From that time Yeshua began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Just as the good shepherd went and searched for the one lost sheep, or the woman diligently searched for the lost coin, Yeshua reveals that God was scouring through his people, looking for those who were sincere in turning to him. The lost son does not only arrive back at home after squandering his inheritance, but the father runs to meet him as he repents of his waywardness. All of these are indications of how God was anxious for his people to turn back to him from their self-righteousness and hypocrisy. He was earnestly looking for those with pure hearts who were hungry for true righteousness and faithfulness to his Word, his torah, or instruction.

As Israel was meant to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 49:6), we can draw insight for application in our lives, as well. If these parables demonstrate the true heart of God for those who are repentant, then we can have confidence that God is not only willing to receive those who turn to him with true hearts and sincerity, but he will earnestly seek them out.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.