The silence that speaks volumes

“He who spares his words has knowledge. He who is even tempered is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is counted wise. When he shuts his lips, he is thought to be discerning.”

Proverbs 17:27-28

In a day of instant opinion and broadcasting of folly, it is rare to find the individual who maintains a solid disposition and yet feels no compulsion to enter the fray of argumentative debate.

Solomon relates that it is the even-tempered person who has understanding. When emotions run high, foolishness cannot be far behind. And yet, one of the most difficult aspects of spiritual vigilance is to not speak out just for the sake of being heard.

The marketplace of opinion is wide and shallow and typically caters to the loudest voices. Yet it is proven time and time again that the loudest voice is not always the voice of truth. Unfortunately, this appears to be a lesson that needs to be learned generation after generation.

Interestingly, Solomon states that even if someone is legitimately foolish, they appear to be wise and discerning by not always disclosing their opinion. This wisdom is wryly captured in a quote that is commonly attributed to both Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln: “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Those who are truly wise have no need of the popular affirmation that comes from always seeming to have the most correct viewpoint. They are content in knowing their position is correct, and to only speak out when invited to do so.

Learning to have this measure of control and discernment over our opinion-sharing would provide a welcome respite from the incessant and oppressive background noise of this generation. My belief is that if we can be vigilant in abiding by this principle, the world would be a much quieter, and indeed more balanced, place.


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

Overcoming spiritual instability through vigilance

Be vigilant, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strengthened. Do everything in love.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14

As Paul is concluding his epistle to the Corinthian believers, after having attempted to correct their disfunction and internal strife over the fifteen previous chapters, he abruptly includes these five exhortations to summarize his earnest intent for that congregation: be vigilant, stand firm, be courageous, be strengthened, and do everything in love.

We can gain inspiration from these five qualities; however, we can also gain insight by looking at their opposites. By doing so, we can gain a better understanding of what the true state of the Corinthian congregation was.

Instead of vigilance, they evidenced drowsiness and carelessness. Instead of standing firm in the faith they had an unsure footing and understanding of basic doctrine. Instead of being courageous (literally “manly”) cowardice was evident among them. Instead of strength they demonstrated weakness over the smallest matters. And most importantly, instead of exhibiting love with one another they were factious and divisive.

However, at the head of the list, and the quality upon which the others depend, is vigilance. The Greek word in the text conveys being wakeful or perpetually watchful. This implies remaining alert, not allowing distractions, maintaining careful attention at all times.

Alexander MacLaren in his commentary provides the following insights in regard to this term:

‘Watch ye.’ That means one of two things certainly, probably both-Keep awake, and keep your eyes open … there is the military idea underlying it. What will become of an army if the sentries go to sleep? And what chance will a Christian man have of doing his [duty] against his enemy, unless he keeps himself awake, and keeps himself alert? Watchfulness, in the sense of always having eyes open for the possible rush down upon us of temptation and evil, is no small part of the discipline and the duty of the Christian life. One part of that watchfulness consists in exercising a very rigid and a very constant and comprehensive scrutiny of our motives. For there is no way by which evil creeps upon us so unobserved, as when it slips in at the back door of a specious motive. Many a man contents himself with the avoidance of actual evil actions, and lets any kind of motives come in and out of his mind unexamined. It is all right to look after our doings, but ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ The good or the evil of anything that I do is determined wholly by the motive with which I do it. And we are a great deal too apt to palm off deceptions on ourselves to make sure that our motives are right, unless we give them a very careful and minute scrutiny. One side of this watchfulness, then, is a habitual inspection of our motives and reasons for action. ‘What am I doing this for?’ is a question that would stop dead an enormous proportion of our activity, as if you had turned the steam off from an engine. If you will use a very fine sieve through which to strain your motives, you will go a long way to keeping your actions right. We should establish a rigid examination for applicants for entrance, and make quite sure that each that presents itself is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Make them all bring out their passports. Let every vessel that comes into your harbour remain isolated from all communication with the shore, until the health officer has been on board and given a clean bill. ‘Watch ye,’ for yonder, away in the dark, in the shadow of the trees, the black masses of the enemy are gathered, and a midnight attack is but too likely to bring a bloody awakening to a camp full of sleepers.”

Maintaining a watchful eye over our motives at every turn will provide us the footing to remain steadfast in the faith and flesh out our doctrinal understanding. It will overcome our tendency toward cowardice and provide us courage in the face of opposition. It can help us understand our weaknesses and learn where we need to be strengthened. And with vigilance, we can and must destroy all factiousness and divisiveness so that every action and motive is conducted from love.


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

The narrow way of effort and personal sacrifice

Matthew 7:14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

When Yeshua is speaking about the way to life, he in no way signifies ease and complacency. Instead, he mentions the difficulty with which this way is attained, and the relatively small number of people who remain determined enough to find it.

All of this implies that whatever the general crowd is believing about the way of God is very likely not the correct way, because the way to life is constricted and compressed. It is a difficult, narrow way that takes perseverance, determination, and sacrifice to locate and to maintain.

If this concept sounds foreign to us today, it would indicate we have strayed from the truth of God’s word. We have wandered onto the wide path of destruction because it is an easier way. It is a shallow and wide plain that most people travel because it does not take as much effort to navigate, and there is a like-minded camaraderie with others who also want the way to be easy and are anxious to be with others. It is a way requiring no personal risk, the path of least resistance, a mentality of safety in numbers.

Additionally, as much as this may be a foreign concept today, it was equally foreign to Yeshua’s original audience. The path of the religious leadership was the wide way, and most people accepted the rules and regulations that had been added to the simple law of God. However, Yeshua continually railed against the hypocrisy and insincerity of the religious establishment, pointing people to a kingdom where God was their Father, and they were accountable for their own relationship with him. But with that accountability came responsibility, responsibility to really do what’s right at all times, and not just go through the motions of religious man-made dogma. Doing what’s right is hard; it takes intentional thought and effort and personal sacrifice. That is why so few people actually commit to the narrow and restricted way.

However, the vigilant are those who remain alert to their surroundings and are always searching for the specific details of what’s right in God’s eyes, details that can get lost in the blur of activity each day. They are the ones who are constantly on the lookout for the narrow and difficult way in all of their actions, and are willing to put in the effort and sacrifice to stay focused on God’s purpose. Because this is their direction and where they find meaning, they are emboldened with the sense of personal connection and identification with Yeshua and the Father. Yeshua says the narrow way is the way of life, and that life is its own reward.


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

Becoming firmly established in the instruction of God

that we may no more be babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of the teaching, in the sleight of men, in craftiness, being deceived and led astray,

Ephesians 4:14

The apostle Paul is here conveying the vigilance required to stay on the right path of doctrine. No one who thinks deeply about their faith enjoys being tossed about by every wind of teaching. In Paul’s day, there were many voices that vied for the attention of those who were being drawn to Messiah; how much more in our day and age of instant information and self-publishing!

In his hopeful view of all believers ultimately reaching maturity in the Messiah (v. 13), he mentions the provision of God to help believers achieve this.

Ephesians 4:11-12 and He gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some proclaimers of good news, and some shepherds and teachers, unto the perfecting of the saints, for a work of ministration, for a building up of the body of the Messiah,

These resources had been provided for the benefit of all of those in the body of Messiah. It was needful that those early believers had the ability to resist error; besides the physical dangers they collectively faced, the decisions they made and the records they kept would be the basis and constitution of the eternal kingdom.

Paul, Peter and John together stressed the importance of identifying correct doctrine:

2 Corinthians 11:3 and I fear, lest, as the serpent did beguile Eve in his subtilty, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that [is] in the Messiah;

Ephesians 6:11 put on the whole armour of God, for your being able to stand against the wiles of the devil,

2 Peter 3:17 You, then, beloved, knowing before, take heed, lest, together with the error of the impious being led away, you may fall from your own steadfastness,

1 John 4:6 we [apostles] are of God; he who is knowing God does hear us; he who is not of God, doth not hear us; from this we know the spirit of the truth, and the spirit of the error.

The apostles, prophets, proclaimers of the good news, and shepherds and teachers did prove faithful in their generation. We have their words today for us to base our doctrine on. By remaining vigilant in the word or instruction of God that has been handed to us, we can avoid the unnecessary doctrinal winds that toss us from place to place. When we do so, we can put down deep roots in the truth of their examples and lives, and continue to grow toward maturity in the Messiah in each generation.

Ephesians 4:13 until we may all come to the unity of the faith and of the recognition of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to a measure of stature of the fullness of the Messiah


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

Praying for vigilance to stay on the right path

Set a watch, Yahweh, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips.

Psalm 141:3

One of the most typical ways for us to disobey God is with what we say. Many times we speak before fully evaluating a situation, or we pass judgment without understanding other perspectives. Worse still, we may actually share and then act on information that we know is not helpful or may not even be true. All of these frailties come to pass because of ignorance, pride, and vanity.

The apostle James believed wrongful speech was a wild and untameable source of false teaching and factionism in the early congregations.

James 3:6-12 And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehinnom. For every kind of animal, bird, creeping thing, and thing in the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by mankind. But nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth comes forth blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send out from the same opening fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh water.

His conclusion is that a person who can control right speech will be in control of the rest of their life, as well.

James 3:2 For in many things we all stumble. If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.

In like fashion, the Psalmist here is praying for vigilance over the words of his mouth. He is asking God for strength in ensuring nothing destructive should come of his speech, or his actions.

Psalm 141:2-4 Let my prayer be set before you like incense; The lifting up of my hands like the evening sacrifice. Set a watch, LORD, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips. Don’t incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness with men who work iniquity. Don’t let me eat of their delicacies.

He knows that what comes out of his mouth will be the revealing of what is in his heart, and that what is in his heart can lead to actions on a path to wickedness. Instead, he prefers to be brutally corrected, if necessary, by those who are righteous to keep him on the correct path. He is praying for resources outside of himself to ensure he does not sin.

Psalm 141:5 Let the righteous strike me, it is kindness; Let him reprove me, it is like oil on the head; Don’t let my head refuse it…

This poetic plea from the distant past is characteristic of those even today who struggle with the reality of their own weaknesses. The righteous are those who understand their own shortcomings, and yet still seek to stay on the path of life.

When we come to the end of ourselves, we can only find the necessary strength to do what’s right in God and in others whom we trust and know to be faithful. Unyielding vigilance over our speech and actions is a practical outworking of true humility, recognizing our propensity toward wrongdoing yet valiantly persevering in the right way at all cost.

For believers, our strength to accomplish what is right can be found in God. He can provide the resources through his Spirit and through the good counsel of those faithful whom he has placed around us.

Romans 8:13-14 For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as you also do.


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

Sharing the truth responsibly

Core of the Bible podcast #25- Sharing the truth responsibly

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to be highly aware of our audience when we are attempting to share the good news of the Kingdom of God. Yeshua stated it this way:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

In essence, what he is saying is not to share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive. While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles.

In the Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary, the following explanation delves into that a little bit deeper.

“The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.”

This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:

Proverbs 9:7-8  He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man [gets] insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you…

Proverbs 29:27 An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it ​– ​that its works are evil.

Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.

John 3:19-20 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

The apostle John, in his gospel, relates how the depths of Yeshua’s teachings were not always well-received, even by some of his own followers; and yet he made no attempt to console them or win them back, he simply let them go.

John 6:57-69 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.” At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So while the disciples recognized the truth of Yeshua and his message, many others didn’t, and simply stopped following him.

In another place, when Yeshua was sending out the twelve disciples to the cities throughout Israel, he provided them the following direction.

Luke 9:2-5 He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. As many as don’t receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Yeshua cautioned his disciples to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive, primarily as a testimony against them, but also for their own safety and well-being. This is a cautionary reminder to us as well that our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.

—–

As we move to stories of the early believers, we see the apostles also recognized this aspect of the gospel, that it would be best received by those who are most willing to hear it.

Acts 13:44-46 The next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

Regarding the selective nature of whom the apostles were sharing the message with, Matthew Poole in his commentary adds the following:

“The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened, and spake evil of that way before the multitude, Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching to them. The precept doubtless is general, directing the ministers of Christ to administer the holy things, with which they are intrusted, only to such as have a right to them, and under prudent circumstances, so as the holy name of God may not be profaned, nor they run into needless danger.”

I find it interesting that he says believers are to minister holy things “only to those who have a right to them.” While I believe everyone has a right to understand the things of God, not everyone receives it equally well, and we need to be on guard to recognize that. The admonition for believers is to exercise care and discernment in sharing the wisdom of God with those who are not just resistant, but with those who are, or become, aggressive.

Going back to the passage that Matthew Poole referenced in Acts 19, we see this exemplified for us.

Acts 19:8-10 He [Paul] entered into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Here in the Ephesian synagogue, some of the Jews had not only hardened themselves to the message of the gospel of the Kingdom, but they began trash-talking the believers of the true Way. Because of this, in his vigilance and care for the true believers and the integrity of the message, Paul simply separated himself and those who were sincere into a different meeting place. Ultimately, this was for their protection, but also for their edification. As such, this strategy appears to have been successful, as essentially all of Asia ended up hearing the message within a period of about two years.

As an aside, this may be a casual reference to the first recorded regular meeting place of the followers of Yeshua outside of an actual synagogue.

At any rate if we learn to spend our time and attention with those who are most willing to seek God‘s kingdom and to follow his precepts, we will be more successful in fulfilling God’s purpose.

Proverbs 9:8-9 …Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

Today we call this “discipling,” when in ancient times it was known simply as “giving knowledge.”

Yeshua alludes to this giving and receiving aspect of God’s wisdom when he explains to his disciples why he spoke in parables.

Matthew 13:10-17 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, ‘By hearing you will hear, and will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, and will in no way perceive:

for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.

The message of God’s kingdom is one of selective hearing, to be sure, but it is also one of selective teaching. For those who are willfully resistant, the message of the kingdom was preached by Yeshua, but couched in parabolic symbolism. For those who were willing to receive the message, the information was shared freely, and further corroborated and illumined by the Spirit of God within them, as John explains.

1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing which you received of him abides in you, and you need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, abide in him.

If we are to follow the example of Messiah and the early believers, we should likewise be vigilant in recognizing our audience whenever we are sharing the good news of the kingdom. It not only makes sense, but it actually appears to be preferential in the Word of God to spend much more time sharing the truths of God’s Word with believers and those who are willing to listen than to cast our pearls before those who would only throw them back at us in disdain. As we do so, we can become much more efficient in sowing the seeds in the good soil, and less seeds on the rocky soil. In this way, we must take the time and wisdom to learn to not be reckless with the truth.


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

The day belongs to faith, hope, and love

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:6-8

The early believers faced challenges that most typical believers in our American culture today will never see. They were sorely persecuted, chased down from town to town for simply believing in the fulfillment of their prophetic scriptures that the Messiah and the Kingdom of God had come. They were beaten, imprisoned, and killed for their faith. Their hope was that they would be rescued from this persecution, that they would be saved.

Yet through it all, the apostle Paul encourages them to be vigilant and remain watchful. They were to protect themselves metaphorically with a breastplate of faith and love, and to guard their minds with the hope of this salvation that was to come. This was their armor. They had no defensive weapons at their disposal except faith, hope, and love.

While we may not be suffering the persecution they did, we still can take to heart Paul’s admonition to remain awake, watchful and sober. It is easy for us to be lulled into a sense of security because we are at peace, because religion (at least in this country) is currently a protected practice.

Because of this, we are easily sidetracked with the cultural distractions that confront us every day. In our increasingly digital society, we can easily get lost in the sea of information overload, the never-ending stream of digital consciousness that assaults us through our technology. The tools that have helped us to communicate have now become the overlords that demand our constant attention, and lull us to sleep within the confines of our devices.

Just as Paul encouraged the Thessalonian believers to remain alert and watchful, we, too, should always remain aware of who we are among this generation; we are the children of the day. The day is where the light is brightest, and where the greatest opportunities exist for growth. The day is where we work to plant our crops and maintain our fields until the harvest.

Faith, hope, and love are the qualities of the day that can keep us afloat amidst the societal tides that seek to drag us out to the sea of informational darkness. We must exercise vigilance in continually going against the flow of our culture. How?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

The more we build one another up in our faith, the stronger we become at resisting the night. Shake yourself out of your digital stupor, and come together in faith, hope, and love so that we can demonstrate the good news of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God to a generation of darkness.

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

Watching our words

“If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

James 1:26:

Guarding what we say is a critical aspect of every believers life. We may have the most profound thoughts and understanding of God’s Word, yet if we constantly spew nonsense because we are not thinking through our interactions with others, we not only discredit ourselves, but we discredit God.

This is especially true when we as believers are interacting with those who are unrighteous; they will surely seek to find every opportunity to malign and twist the words of believers whenever possible.

“I said, “I will watch my ways, so that I don’t sin with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle while the wicked is before me.””

Psalm 39:1:

The life of a believer is one of vigilance in producing thoughtful and measured responses to the world around us. This means taking time to slow down, absorb and process emotional reactions, and to remain steadfast with the truth at all times.

“Who is someone who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking lies. Depart from evil, and do good. seek peace, and pursue it.”

Psalm 34:12-14:

While the benefits of thoughtful and measured responses are many, one of the most tangible benefits occurs with ourselves and our own situations. By vigilantly guarding what we say, we have an opportunity to prevent a host of negative consequences that could otherwise create stress and hurt in relationships around us, and thereby cause us further distress.

“Whoever guards his mouth and his tongue keeps his soul from troubles.”

Proverbs 21:23:

Instead, when we do speak, let it be of those things that are in a manner that are respectful of our Lord and Master, and are bathed in thankfulness to God. These are the things that make for peace and reconciliation, and bring honor to his name.

Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him.

Colossians 3:17

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

Demonstrating vigilance in redeeming the time

Therefore watch carefully how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

Paul is writing to the believers at Ephesus, cautioning them to be wary of all aspects of their lives “because the days are evil.” The corruption, idolatry and lawlessness of the day was infiltrating their ranks and causing some to fall away, or worse, to become deceivers among the brethren.

His antidote for this influx was to “redeem the time.” The word means literally to “rescue from loss.” We might say today that we need to make the best use of our time before it slips away. Once a day is gone, it has been “lost” and cannot be retrieved.

This is good advice for us today, as well. This is an act of vigilance, of remaining watchful of how we “walk”: the habitual things we say and do, the manners and customs of our lives. Others are watching and seeing if we are living consistently with what we say we believe.

In this passage in Ephesians 5, Paul provides direction in redeeming the time in several key areas of our conduct that we would also be wise to heed.

  1. 8-10 Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is well pleasing to the Lord.
    1. When we walk according to the ways of Yahweh, we are “proving” to others what God approves of. We are living out his Word in practical ways that demonstrate the validity of God’s wisdom even among this generation.
  2. 11-12 Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For the things which are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of.
    1. Sanctification, that is, a setting apart, is the method of demonstrating that we cannot condone the unfruitful works of the flesh. While we cannot leave the world and society altogether, we do not have to participate in their lawless ways.
  3. 17 don’t be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
    1. We can understand God’s will only be being regularly exposed to his Word. When we learn his heart for his own people and how he has participated in the history of his people over time, we begin to understand better how to apply those principles in real time, here and now.
  4. 18-19 be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
    1. If we are speaking and singing these things, this means our hearts are filled with the message of the Kingdom of God, because as Yeshua taught, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” or in this case, sings.
  5. 20 giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father;
    1. Gratitude is the surest way of remaining focused on the will of God. When we become ungrateful is when we take our eyes off of his kingdom and focus instead on ours to the exclusion of all else.
  6. 21 subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of Christ.
    1. Respecting the authority of Messiah is another way to say “fear of Christ.” If we are truly allowing him to be Lord of our lives, then our practices should follow his teaching, which is to love one another. To truly love someone is consider them as someone we subject ourselves to, putting their needs above our own. This is how we subject ourselves to one another.

By being vigilant with Paul’s admonitions, and by remaining faithful to the teachings of Yeshua, we can understand and demonstrate God’s will to our own generation.

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

Being vigilant about what to believe

Mark 1:15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
Luke 4:43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.”

While there are many different religions in the world, all with differing views of God and spirituality, we find that even amidst Christianity there are wide variations among denominations and churches all claiming competing views of biblical faith. They all have “statements of faith” of what they consider the most important things for people to believe. In order to belong to a specific church or denomination, one must believe what their statements proclaim.

Here at the Core of the Bible blog and podcast, I don’t have a statement of faith, and I think that throws some people off because they want to know if I am presenting an orthodox view of the faith (according to them). Instead, I am always striving to present the message of the Bible reduced to its simplest form, not trying to complicate things further with man-made creeds. However, if I was pegged to distill the message of the Bible to one phrase regarding a statement of faith, it would be this: “Just believe Yeshua (Jesus).”

Of course, in saying that, a host of pre-existing and unstated elements would also have to be believed in to arrive at that simplistic statement. To believe in Yeshua, one would also need to believe the Bible is true, and truly depicts his life and teaching. If one believes the Bible is true, then one is understood to recognize that Israel was a faithful caretaker of the words of God. If one believes that Israel was faithful with the words of God, then the God of the Bible is recognized as being the true God. If one believes the God of the Bible is true, then, according to the Bible record, one understands he is the originator of everything that exists.

Everything we believe and know is interconnected to a host of other biases and assumptions about life and the universe. Our individual worldview can influence which things we accept as true and which things we reject as false.

For me, I do believe the biblical worldview. I accept that there is a God of the universe, and that he has chosen to reveal himself through what we call the Bible. The reason I do is because I believe the patterns, stories, and wisdom contained there hold a consistent message about the kingdom of God that has been borne out in real time through the historical circumstances of ancient Israel. I have concluded that Yeshua provided the pinnacle or the culmination of that message of the kingdom, and that the Sermon on the Mount provides a foundational structure that supports the rest of the biblical narrative. By focusing on the principles Yeshua outlines there, I believe a firm footing is achieved for a practical outworking of faith and the kingdom of God through all ages. For me, the message of the kingdom of God in the Bible gives reason for all that exists, and for why we are here.

In the spirit of simplicity, it is my hope that these notes, articles and podcasts will convey that understanding and reason in a way that makes sense to you. If you are ever in doubt about what I am attempting to convey, or you have questions about my stance on a particular thought, feel free to reach out to me at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

And if you are ever in doubt about something particular in a church’s statement of faith, remember: Just believe Yeshua (Jesus), and you will be fine.

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 here.