Taking refuge in God

Psalm 91:2: “I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.””

Throughout the Bible, and in the Psalms especially, is a phrase in Hebrew which is variously translated as refuge or trust. This term implies an action based on an intimate and deep-seated bond of faith in Yahweh as creator God.

To take refuge somewhere is to seek safety from danger. It is an action based on the belief that where one seeks refuge one will be safe. This is one of the clearest and most striking depictions of what faith in God is.

By contrast, one does not take refuge in a place where one does not feel safe or does not expect it to withstand an onslaught of aggression.

A refuge is a fortress of protection and safety. A refuge can provide calmness and reduce anxiety of risk or danger. However, a refuge only works when one is within its domain. Once a person leaves a refuge, they are exposed to danger like anyone else. They are liable to lies, dangers, and capture by the enemy.

Jeremiah 16:19: “Yahweh, my strength, and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of affliction, to you shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited nothing but lies, vanity and things in which there is no profit.”

According to Jeremiah, outside of the refuge there is nothing but lies, vanity (or emptiness) and things in which there is no profit. Jeremiah continues in the next verse to speak of the tendency of men to manufacture artificial alternatives to the true refuge of Yahweh.

Jeremiah 16:20: “Shall a man make to himself gods, which yet are no gods?”

Whether the idolatry of graven images, or of placing one’s trust in the weakness of men, both options are fraught with danger.

Psalm 118:8-9: “It is better to take refuge in Yahweh, than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in Yahweh, than to put confidence in princes.”

It is a comfort to know that Yahweh knows those who have placed their trust in him and he honors their commitment by fulfilling their needs for safety and deliverance.

Nahum 1:7: “Yahweh is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who take refuge in him.”

Through his Messiah Yeshua, Yahweh has been shown to be a God who keeps his promises. Because he keeps his promises, we can have confidence that our trust in him is not misplaced. Our faith can be securely established in him.

Hebrews 6:11-12, 18-19: ” We desire that each one of you may show the same diligence to the fullness of hope even to the end, that you won’t be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherited the promises. … that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have a strong encouragement, who have fled for refuge to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast…

For believers today, we can know that our faith in God provides safety and security beyond the reaches of this world and its designs against us. God desires all men to place their faith in him, and so be under his protective care and watchful eye.

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 at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The holiness of fidelity

It is the very definition of irony then a meaningful lesson on fidelity should come from the hand of Solomon who is famous for seducing a multiplicity of women in the later years of his reign as king over Israel. Yet, who better to warn of danger than one who has seeing the depths of disobedience?

In giving instruction to his son, Solomon yearns to instill in the young mind of his child the significance of remaining faithful to one’s spouse.

Proverbs 5:18-19: “Let your spring be blessed. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe and a graceful deer— let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Be captivated always with her love.”

This type of love for one’s spouse, Solomon says, should be one that is captivating. The word itself has broader meanings to include exhilaration, or intoxication, or being led away by your senses. Different Bible versions may make use of some of those various terms.

  • may you ever be intoxicated with her love
  • always be enraptured with her love
  • be exhilarated always with her love
  • be lost in her love forever

But as strongly as Solomon urges to maintain that feeling with one’s spouse, he equally cautions his son to avoid that feeling with another. This leads us to understand how Solomon may have been let astray by so many women in his later years.

Proverbs 5:20: “For why should you, my son, be captivated [exhilarated, intoxicated, enraptured] with an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another?”

This same term for captivation, exhilaration, or intoxication is also used as the end result of the one who experiences this type of relationship indiscriminately with others, or who stops listening to the words of knowledge.

Proverbs 5:23: “He will die for lack of instruction. In the greatness of his folly, he will go astray [be lost, be captivated or intoxicated].”
Proverbs 19:27: “If you stop listening to instruction, my son, you will stray [be lost, captivated, intoxicated] from the words of knowledge.”

It’s as if the desires and lusts of this world are represented as a villainous folk-tale witch, casting a spell on the prince who yields to her ways, leading him in a haze and stupor, oblivious to the reality of the world around him.

This is why Yeshua also urged extreme caution around others that one is not married to. This captivation or intoxication can easily cause one to stray from the path of righteousness.

Matthew 5:27-28: “”You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery;” but I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Holiness is about maintaining a clear head, a mind focused on the instruction of God, and an obedient and thankful heart filled with his spirit.

Ephesians 5:18-20: ” Don’t be drunken [intoxicated] with wine, in which is dissipation, but 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; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father…”

If we keep our focus on God and his word, seeking to be filled with his spirit, only then we can avoid in the distraction, captivation, and intoxication of worldliness. This is how we maintain our fidelity and our holiness before him.

1 John 2:16-17: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, isn’t the Father’s, but is the world’s. The world is passing away with its lusts, but he who does God’s will remains forever.”


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 modern idolatry of cultural acceptability

Throughout its history, the prophets of Israel had to continually contend with a nation that was distracted with practices other than those that God had provided for them. They were perpetually seduced by the culturally acceptable practices of the nations around them, the very thing that Moses had warned them against when they became a nation.

Deuteronomy 8:19: “It shall be, if you shall forget Yahweh your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish.”

Deuteronomy 12:29-31: “When Yahweh your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go in to dispossess them, and you dispossess them, and dwell in their land; take heed to yourself that you not be ensnared to follow them, after that they are destroyed from before you; and that you not inquire after their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? I will do likewise.” You shall not do so to Yahweh your God: for every abomination to Yahweh, which he hates, have they done to their gods…”

By the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the country had become so corrupt that they were openly worshiping the local gods (the “queen of the sky”) in blatant defiance to the word of God that had originally been given them by Moses along with the urgent warnings of the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 44:16-17: “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of Yahweh, we will not listen to you. But we will certainly perform every word that is gone forth out of our mouth, to burn incense to the queen of the sky, and to pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then had we plenty of food, and were well, and saw no evil.”

The logic of the people in that day was that their rebellious practices actually provided a bountiful economy for their people, so they had no intention of changing their practices. This was a fateful choice that led to the destruction of the nation.

It’s easy to view these ancient examples and point the finger at the unfaithfulness of the people of that time. But how we are like our faithless spiritual ancestors! We attempt to worship the one true God in amongst the cultural distractions of our day, claiming a similar necessity to maintain the status quo within our society.

This culture today, at least in my corner of America, is infected with the philosophies and practices of many different idolatries: polytheism, gender rebellion, environmental authoritarianism and self-directed hyper-tolerance. These are only some of the prevalent new gods of this age.

We must be vigilant in maintaining our devotion to the one true God in the face of these culturally acceptable norms that are diverting this generation, and succeeding ones, away from God.

These idols, and many others like these, have arisen due to our lack of vigilance in successfully implanting our faith in our children. We have allowed the seductive nature of unregulated online communication and social media to easily capture their attention, exposing them to unhealthy spiritual alternatives which quickly take root among the fertile soil of immature spirits.

While there are many positive aspects to digital communication in this age, we must actively engage in helping them discern what is true and right, not only what is flashy and trendy. We must continually ask for God’s help in alerting this generation to the social errors they are repeating within the cycle of worshiping false gods of cultural acceptance that they are not even aware of. Our vigilance must be firmly placed in God’s Word as we seek to help them to recognize the truth of who God is and to be cognizant and respectful of his sovereignty in this world.


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 integrity of knowing and doing God’s will

The Hebrew word for integrity (tom, pronounced tome) has been discussed before as meaning simplicity or completeness. But one of the other variations for this word comes from the stones that were used by the high priest to determine God’s will in any situation.

Tom is a basis for the word thummim (pronounced too-meem) as in the “Urim and Thummim.” Thummim means perfections, and Urim (pronounced oo-reem) means lights. Therefore, in some versions of the Bible, instead of simply transliterating Urim and Thummim in the descriptions of the high priest’s breastplate, they will use the phrase “lights and perfections.”

Exodus 28:30 “Place the Urim and Thummim [lights and perfections] in the breastpiece for decisions, so that they will also be over Aaron’s heart whenever he comes before the LORD. Aaron will continually carry the means of decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the LORD.

Leviticus 8:8 Then he put the breastpiece on him and placed the Urim and Thummim [lights and perfections] into the breastpiece.

Numbers 27:21 “He will stand before the priest Eleazar who will consult the LORD for him with the decision of the Urim [lights]. He and all the Israelites with him, even the entire community, will go out and come back in at his command.”

Nehemiah 7:65 The governor ordered them not to eat the most holy things until there was a priest who could consult the Urim and Thummim [lights and perfections].

There has been much speculation as to how these stones worked, or what mechanism was involved in order to determine what God’s will was in any given situation. Some think the stones would be used kind of like holy dice. Others think that the stones lit up when a certain question was asked. However, regardless of the method, the result was that God’s will would be determined through the use of these stones. It was a simple method and it was complete in that the determination would be final.

What is interesting to me about the Hebrew language is that all the word meanings within a root group tend to blend together and overlap. The simplicity and completeness of integrity is also a means for determining God’s will, just as the stones were for the high priest. The continuity of Hebrew thought comes through the completeness of the root word tom culminating in the perfections of the word thummim. To be complete is to be perfected.

If we view integrity as being the simple choice in any given situation, we may find that we are operating within the ethics that God prefers. Understandably, the simple choice is not always the easy choice, but it is typically the clearest path to doing what’s right. If we are to maintain our integrity in any given situation, then we should have the clarity of purpose and direction that God’s will provides.

The Greek word telios (pronounced tell-ee-os) carries this concept into the New Testament writings. For something to be telios is to reach its fullness, maturity, or completion. This is why Yeshua could instruct his disciples to exhibit this most essential characteristic of their heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The apostle Paul said that believers could determine God’s perfect will through being transformed by the renewing of their mind.

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Whether in Hebrew or Greek, this clarity of purpose and understanding of God’s will is provided by the simplicity and completeness of integrity, just as the perfections of the stones did for the high priest.

For believers today, we don’t need physical stones to understand God’s will and act with integrity. God’s will is best determined by having a thorough understanding of his word and by allowing our minds to be renewed by God’s Spirit as to how to apply it in day to day actions. Therefore, it can be said that those who live lives of integrity are truly living their lives according to God’s word.


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.

How to recognize false teachers

Core of the Bible podcast #32 – How to recognize false teachers

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to constantly be on guard against false teaching and exposing those who are leading others astray. For us to do so, we must be able to accurately identify them.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20

A way of paraphrasing this can be expressed as: Beware of deceitful religious impostors. You will recognize them for what they truly are by looking closely at the results of their words and actions.

Vigilance involves being on guard against all manner of deception to avoid following a false way.

Job 15:34-35 “For the company of the godless is barren, And fire consumes the tents of the corrupt. “They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity, And their mind prepares deception.”

Ephesians 5:6  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

1 John 2:26  These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.

Romans 16:17-18  Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.

Colossians 2:8  See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity [of devotion] to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear [this] beautifully. … For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Believers are warned over and over again to avoid deception and be sure that they are not being led astray.

If it was true for them in their day, how much more this is timely advice in this current day and age! We have become inundated with information overload; we must carefully pick and choose the sources of our teaching to ensure we are remaining on the narrow path laid out for us.

This admonition of Yeshua to beware of false prophets was of utmost importance to his first-century flock, as the nation was full of those who would try to gain a hearing, and a living, from the ignorant and willing among them.

Mark 13:22 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Thankfully, Yeshua provided a touch-stone, a type of verification of identity of false teaching and those who promote it: “You will recognize them by their fruits.”  Their fruits are their actions and their words; do they align with what they are promoting? Do they align with the Word of God?

DETERMINING FALSEHOOD

The apostle Peter had no shortage of words for the deceivers that were prevalent in his day. What he has laid out in a few verses in his second epistle can provide us an outline of identifiers of false teaching.

2 Peter 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

In this passage, the apostle vividly expanded on describing more specifically what some of those fruits of false teachers are that Yeshua mentioned as the method of identifying them.

  • secrecy
  • denying Yeshua as Messiah
  • sensuality
  • greed
  • exploitation of believers
  • false words
  • speaking against the way of truth

What are the fruits of Bible teachers today? Can their doctrine and their lifestyles be matched up to this list that Peter has provided us? I believe that by taking a closer look at Peter’s outline and asking some relevant questions, we may begin to put together a picture of what these false teachers look like, how they act, and what they are erroneously teaching.

THE WAY OF TRUTH

One of the key indicators that Peter provides is that among false teachers the way of truth will be blasphemed. Depending on the version being quoted, this is variously represented as maligning or speaking evil of the way of truth. Since, as believers, we are very anxious to make sure we are following the way of truth, we can start with this identifier.

First, let’s see how the Bible defines this way of truth. Yeshua taught:

Matthew 7:13-14  “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

John 14:3-6  “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, [there] you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

So we see Yeshua identified himself and his teaching as being a key to understanding the way and the truth which leads to life.

The apostle Paul, when confronted by his accusers that he was abandoning the law of Moses, says:

Acts 24:14  “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets…”

Based on these few passages, the Way (or the way of truth) can be discerned as “a way of life based on God’s word culminating in the teaching and life of his Messiah.” So if people are speaking against God’s Word or the Messiah as the fulfillment of his Word, they are blaspheming this way of the truth that God has revealed.

Now you might be saying, “Well how can Bible teachers be speaking against God’s Word or the Messiah? Isn’t that what they teach?” Well, it would seem so, but there are ways they can still speak against God’s word while claiming to teach it.

For example, many groups today teach that the law or sections of the law have been abolished and no longer apply to believers today; things like food laws or observation of the Sabbath, or God’s annual calendar days. They teach that Yeshua’s death on the cross did away with everything prior from the Old Testament; essentially three-fourths of the Bible they carry around has been nullified! But this maligns God’s Word and his Messiah, since Yeshua was very clear that this would not be the case.

Matthew 5:17-19  “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

For something to be fulfilled is not the same thing as being abolished. Because there is so much confusion over these points, I will be doing some future studies on how we can know which laws have been fulfilled (but never abolished) and which ones are designed to be fulfilled only as we fulfill them in our lives. Understanding these distinctions brings the whole of God’s word into the vitality of our relationship with God. All of God’s Word is for all believers in all ages.

But this process of picking and choosing what we are going to follow from God’s word is one of the main ways that his Word is maligned and blasphemed today. We need to be on guard to identify these aspects with those whom we consider teachers among us.

QUESTIONS FOR EVALUATING TEACHERS

Regarding the other characteristics or fruits of false teachers that Peter warns about, here are some questions to consider that may provide further insight into false teachers and their doctrine.

Secrecy or stealth (v. 1): Are the teachers promising a secret message “just for you” or for only a limited few among the group? Do they promote secret practices that only certain people can be privy to? Do they have a hidden agenda that underlies a more favorable public message? Do they have a different lifestyle in private than they are in public? Hidden motives and secrets are a key indicator of false teachers.

Denying Yeshua as Messiah (v. 1): the word means to contradict or disown Yeshua. Is Yeshua not central to their doctrine? Is Yeshua just one path among many to God? Do their teachings contradict what Yeshua taught, but still sound “biblical” and reasonable? This applies to what we previously mentioned about speaking evil of the Way.

Sensuality (v. 2): the word conveys more of a meaning of rejecting restraint, committing acts or saying things that are shocking to public decency. Are these teachers’ lives bad examples on public display? Are expressions of riotous behavior acceptable within the group dynamic? Are clear commands of God being downplayed or eradicated?

Covetousness and Greed (v. 3): Are they constantly asking for money to assist in their “ministry” and for goods and properties that do nothing in the cause of helping those in need or sharing the good news of the kingdom?  Do they live a lavish lifestyle on the contributions of the congregation? This ties closely with the next indicator of exploitation.

Exploitation (v. 3): This word also implies “to trade in,” as if their followers are a commodity to be used. Are they taking advantage of believers’ trust through their greed? Are they manipulative and seeking to be in control? Are the members of the group being pressured to donate unreasonable amounts of their time and money to support their lifestyle?

False words (v. 3):  Are they making false promises that never come to pass? Are they creating artificial or fictitious scenarios to lure people further into deception? Simply put, are they just making stuff up and passing it off as God’s truth?

Yeshua declares the end of false teachers or “every tree that does not produce good fruit” as being “cut down and thrown into the fire,” (Matt. 7:19). While they may look good on the surface, they will not survive their worldly aspirations designed only to better themselves. While the context of Yeshua’s statement applied to the coming destruction of the corrupt system of his day, in no way does that diminish God’s view of those who are promoting falsehood and tradition over the Word of God today.

Psalm 119:29, 128  Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law [torah]. … Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.

Believers are right to hate every false way when we recognize it. This is a built-in zeal for righteousness that believers cultivate as they yield to God’s Word and the inspiration of his Spirit. This zeal yearns for the truth to be known and for right ways to prevail over injustice and deception.

Instead of simply going along with these aberrational doctrines and practices, we should be vigilant and dedicated to exposing the falsehood of their teachings. We need to be bold enough to confront and expose these unfruitful deeds, as Paul explains to the Ephesians.

Ephesians 5:6, 11, 15-16 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. … Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; … Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

CONFRONTING FALSE TEACHERS

To expose these falsehoods is to rebuke and chasten the ones who hold to deception, demonstrating the falsity of their claims so that others will not be mislead by them. Those who blatantly teach falsehoods need to be aggressively confronted and shown to be in error. This was the pattern of Yeshua and his disciples.

Yeshua did not hesitate to confront the error of the religious leaders of his day.

Matthew 23:27-28, 33  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. “In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.  … “Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 21:12 – Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.

The early believers also carried this essential teaching of Yeshua into their congregations. We have already seen how Peter called out false teachers; and here we can see how Jude, in like fashion, and almost the same wording as Peter, expressed the need for this vigilance among believers. The whole letter of Jude is essentially a diatribe against false teaching. Here are some excerpts:

Jude 1:4, 8, 11-13, 16, 19  For some people … have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.  … In the same way these people ​– ​relying on their dreams ​– ​defile their flesh, reject authority, and slander glorious ones. … Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, have plunged into Balaam’s error for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion.  These people are dangerous reefs at your love feasts as they eat with you without reverence. They are shepherds who only look after themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn ​– ​fruitless, twice dead and uprooted. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever.  … These people are discontented grumblers, living according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage. …These people create divisions and are worldly, not having the Spirit.

If we don’t have this same type of view of false teachers, we are destined to be weighted down with bad doctrine in every generation. We need to be bold enough to confront these teachers and to hold them accountable to the truth of God’s Word and the Way of Messiah.

HELPING OTHERS WHO ARE CAUGHT UP IN FALSE TEACHING

Now, as much as I would love to end on such a fiery denunciation of falsehood, I feel compelled to provide further insight on the general membership of believers who have become caught up in their rhetoric. Because we know how destructive falsehood can be, it is quite natural for us to become emotionally upset with those who promote doctrine and beliefs that are not true. However, in the same way we are commanded to be vigilant in confronting teachers of falsehoods, we are also commanded to be respectful and balanced toward those who may be led astray by them. As believers it is our duty to call out the false teachers among our ranks, but to be helpful with love and gentleness to those who have followed false teaching.

To this end, Paul encouraged Timothy to select leaders who could be firm, but not bullying or quarrelsome.

1 Timothy 3:2-3  An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy.

2 Timothy 2:23-26  But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses [and escape] from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Paul intimates here that those who are holding to falsehood are in need of “coming to their senses.” The word is used to describe those who are in need of sobering up from intoxication. They have become captive to false ideas that cause them to act in ways that are adversarial to the will of God and the way of truth.

Confrontation is never easy; if it is, then you’re not doing it right, or you have some further self-examination to do. Confronting falsehood effectively takes maturity and diplomacy, which is why Paul was instructing Timothy to ensure that potential leaders have qualities of balance and maturity.

This level-headedness was sorely needed in the volatile environment of first-century Palestine where conflict, both civil and religious, was rampant.

INTERACTING WITH FALSEHOOD AROUND US IN OUR CULTURE

Our current environment, at least here in the American society, appears to be moving in a similar direction. While our primary focus of correcting falsehood should be aimed at those within the ranks of the Kingdom of God, we are equally challenged with the turbulence of the current secular age, where mere opinion and personally-defined rights are flaunted and shouted as if they were to be recognized as legitimate by all. Bitter divisiveness exists on every topic where vanguards of common sense and respectful dialogue are thrown to the ground and savagely trampled. It is tempting and easy for us to fall into the same pattern of degradation of communication in an effort to stem the onslaught of so much negative and false information.

However, we are called to a higher standard in our interactions with others, especially those outside the kingdom. We are to be doers and makers of peace, not dissenters stoking the flames of bitter rivalry and mistrust. It is our job to resist without engaging, to simply stand firm while holding out the truth of the Way.

Our message is a message of hope and peace which cannot be adequately communicated by the tip of the sword.  We have to remember that those outside the kingdom do not hold to the same standards, values, or worldview we have. To try to force them to adopt ways that are foreign to them only fans the flames of bitterness, distrust, and mockery they may feel towards us. Freedom of speech, whether theirs or ours, is no right to force others to adopt personal and subjective views.

Instead, we need to exhibit love towards those around us in an effort to demonstrate that we are not their enemies, but their helpers desiring only what’s best for them. We have to believe that the message and wisdom of the Bible, exemplified through our loving actions, is capable of drawing and leading them toward God.

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

SUMMARY

We have much work to do in being vigilant about the truth of God, especially when it comes to confronting false teaching. Look at the fruits of your teachers: what they promote or endorse, how they esteem the Word of truth. By reviewing the principles outlined by Yeshua and his disciples, we can become more aware of the falsehoods being promoted within the kingdom, and emboldened to confront false teachers with wisdom and diligence.

Our brothers and sisters who have been led astray also need to be confronted, but in gentleness and with love, as many times they have only been doing what they have been taught or brought up to believe.

Our vigilance needs to be not only in identifying and overcoming falsehood within our ranks, but equally toward being faithful with outsiders in exhibiting the truths we have come to know and believe in. This can be a challenging balancing act: guarding and protecting the inside while actively promoting the truth on the outside, and accomplishing both with the balance of wisdom and love.

Yet this is our lot in life, our calling. As masterfully and aggressively as Yeshua fought for truth within the ranks of the leaders of Israel, he equally demonstrated a compassionate quest for sharing that truth with the lost and wandering sheep. Our goals should align with his in each culture and generation. This is how the kingdom is not only maintained internally, but how it grows externally. Our vigilance in these areas provides for the continuation of the truths of God’s message to all people for all time.


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.

Choosing to seek first the kingdom

When God established his natural kingdom on the earth at Sinai, he made it abundantly clear that the kingdom of God could not coexist with idolatry.

Exodus 20:3-5: “”You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourselves an idol, nor any image of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: you shall not bow yourself down to them, nor serve them…”

The history of Israel and Judah is transparently laid out through the books of Kings and Chronicles. In reading these accounts, it is apparent that kings who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord prospered, and those who did not suffered at the hands of their enemies, and at the hands of God‘s justice.

2 Chronicles 28:1-5: “Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign; and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem: and he didn’t do that which was right in the eyes of Yahweh, like David his father; but he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for the Baals. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree. Therefore Yahweh his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Syria; and they struck him, and carried away of his a great multitude of captives, and brought them to Damascus. He was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who struck him with a great slaughter.”

In his blindness to the things of God, Ahaz even went so far as to blatantly worship the gods of his enemies because he figured that they had helped them against his own army.

2 Chronicles 28:22-23: “In the time of his distress, he trespassed yet more against Yahweh, this same king Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which struck him; and he said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, so I will sacrifice to them, that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel.”

In it’s national and natural form, the kingdom of God was being demonstrated and lived out through each of the kings that had arisen to power. Time and time again, the good kings prospered, while those who did what was wrong in God’s sight did not prosper. These examples in the natural realm were the model and pattern for the spiritual kingdom which was to follow.

The apostle Paul spoke to this issue in his letter to the church at Corinth. Today many people interpret this passage as applying to marriage; however, the context actually applies to the believers coming out from amidst idolatry in their society which they had turned away from to follow God. Paul was encouraging the believers to maintain separation from the idolatry around them because, as God had stated on Sinai and as the natural history of Israel and Judah had proven, the kingdom of God cannot exist alongside the kingdom of darkness.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18: “Don’t be unequally yoked with unbelievers, for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what portion has a believer with an unbeliever?  What agreement has a temple of God with idols? For you are a temple of the living God. Even as God said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Therefore, “‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord.  ‘Touch no unclean thing. I will receive you.  I will be to you a Father. You will be to me sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty.””

We, as believers today, are the kingdom of God on earth and we are his representatives. If it was critical in ancient times that the entire nation of Israel and the groups of early believers were to come out from the idolatry around them, it is just as critical and important for us to do the same. According to Paul, the two cannot exist side-by-side and work in harmony. We must choose whether we are seeking first the kingdom or if we are choosing to compromise with the corrupted standards around us.

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first God’s Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.”

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 timeless heritage of compassion

“She opens her arms to the poor; yes, she extends her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:20

The woman of Proverbs 31 has generally been understood to be the example of a faithful wife. But when all of her qualities are viewed holistically, it becomes apparent that it would be highly unusual for one individual to be able to accomplish all of those different tasks successfully and sustainably.

However, if we view this woman from an allegorical perspective of those who are faithful to God, a beautiful picture emerges of responsibilities he has tasked us with in this world.  From this vantage point, we see the various things that we are challenged with in our walk with the Lord. One of the outstanding characteristics displayed here is care and compassion for the poor and needy.

If we view some of these terms a little more closely, we find that the meanings extend farther than what we might just consider to be those who are beggars hoping for handouts, or homeless individuals and families camped alongside the road. The word for poor can mean those who are depressed in mind or circumstance, or who are afflicted in some way. The needy can be more fully described as those who have a sense of want either in physical needs, but even in feelings. Based on these descriptions, it becomes apparent that there are likely many individuals who cross our paths who would qualify for our assistance in meeting those various levels of need.

Caring for the poor is a quality that is evident all throughout the biblical narrative.

Deuteronomy  15:11: “For the poor will never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, You shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your needy, and to your poor, in your land.”

Proverbs 14:21: “He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who has pity on the poor.”

Proverbs 14:31: “He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for his Maker, but he who is kind to the needy honors him.”

Proverbs 19:17: “He who has pity on the poor lends to Yahweh; he will reward him.”

Especially evident within the teaching and practice of Yeshua, he makes it clear that there will always be a contingent of people who will be considered disadvantaged in some way, and we are encouraged to be helpful to them in ways that provide real relief.

Mark 14:7: “You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want…

Luke 14:12-14: “He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, don’t call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your kinsmen, nor rich neighbors, or perhaps they might also return the favor, and pay you back. But when you make a feast, ask the poor, the maimed, the lame, or the blind; and you will be blessed, because they don’t have the resources to repay you. For you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.””

The apostle Paul reminds the Galatian congregation of their responsibility as he shares his deep desire to fulfill this ongoing command.

Galatians 2:10: “They [James, Peter, and John] only asked us to remember the poor — which very thing I was also zealous to do.”

Exhibiting compassion on the poor and needy has been a marker of the faithful all throughout the Bible. In view of the expanded definitions of the poor and needy to include all of those who are suffering from more than just physical or financial destitution, we would do well to remember that we have real responsibilities outside of our own selfish wants and needs. As God’s representatives in each generation, it’s up to us to set the example in our respective societies and generations. We honor our Creator when we honor all of those whom he has created through genuine compassion for their genuine needs.

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.

Those who fear the Lord seek and pursue peace and forgiveness

In previous discussions, we’ve seen that forgiveness is all about creating peace. When we look at the teachings of Yeshua, he relates the importance of being a peacemaker.

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

This is a key teaching that was passed on to the disciples, as is evident in their later writings.

James 3:17-18 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace.

Peter also has much to say on this topic and offers wide-ranging insights that we could spend a lifetime in applying with those around us.

1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you be like-minded and sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble, not paying back evil for evil or insult for insult but, on the contrary, giving a blessing, since you were called for this, so that you may inherit a blessing.

When we are forgiving others, we are able to overlook insults and not pay back evil for evil. But Peter goes further by illustrating these worthy sentiments in a quotation from an Old Testament passage.

1 Peter 3:10-12 For the one who wants to love life and to see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and let him turn away from evil and do what is good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.

Peter here uses a direct quote from Psalm 34:12-16. So we can see that this idea of seeking peace was nothing new from the Old Testament into the New. When teaching about peace, forgiveness, and doing what’s right, Yeshua and his disciples were not teaching radical new doctrine at every turn, they were instead bringing forth the richness of established torah or instruction of God into their current day and situations.

To seek peace is to diligently look for it and to hunt for it until it can be found. To pursue peace is to chase after it once it’s found, as it seems to be an elusive quality that is always active and always moving. And this makes sense, as our interactions with others are not static. In all of our relationships, we are constantly making decisions that affect one another in both positive and negative ways. Therefore, peace needs to be reestablished at every new interaction.

One critical aspect of this peacemaking and forgiveness is provided in the context of the passage from Psalm 34.

Psalm 34:11-14 Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is someone who desires life, loving a long life to enjoy what is good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech. Turn away from evil and do what is good; seek peace and pursue it.

The fear of the Lord is demonstrated through seeking peace and doing good. Peacemakers can be called Sons of God because they fear the Lord. His children are those who believe in him and who have respect for him in all things. If we are not seeking peace and forgiveness with others, we are not exhibiting the basic characteristic required of his children: that we honor and respect God by honoring and respecting others. Forgiveness with the goal of creating peace is not a weakness, but a strength demonstrating a true fear of the Lord.


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.

Trust in God, not these other things

The Bible has an abundance of passages that are familiar to many, extolling the benefits and joy of trusting in God.

Psalm 9:10 And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.
Psalm 25:2 O my God, in You I trust, Do not let me be ashamed; Do not let my enemies exult over me.
Psalm 31:14 But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, “You are my God.”
Psalm 33:21 For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.

Yet the Bible also abundantly cautions us about where we should not place our trust.

Job 15:31 “Let him [the wicked man] not trust in emptiness [vanity], deceiving himself; For emptiness will be his reward.
Psalm 44:6 For I will not trust in my bow, Nor will my sword save me.
Psalm 62:10 Do not trust in oppression And do not vainly hope in robbery; If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
Psalm 146:3 Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words…
Proverbs 28:26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Each one of these verses is easily a sermon or lesson in itself. Yet collectively they illustrate the futility of many of the things we find ourselves continuing to place our trust in day after day.

Our trust or faith is that which we have confidence in or rely on. If our confidence resides anywhere besides God and his provision, then we place ourselves, our lives, our countries, in jeopardy.

God desires us to place our confidence in him, not because he is narcissistic, but because as our Creator, he knows what’s best for us. As a loving parent or a protective eagle, he watches over the faithful to protect and guard our way. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for us.

Psalm 91:1-4 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper And from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

Psalm 40:3-4 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the LORD. How blessed is the man who has made the LORD his trust, And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

Trusting in God is where true joy and blessing resides, because God does not change, and our faith and trust in him has lasting consequences that far outweigh any current circumstance we may be enduring.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Psalm 52:8 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.


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 distinct prayers of God’s people set them apart

One of the aspects that should truly set God’s people apart should be our prayers, specifically the unique aspects of prayer that may not be recognized or practiced by other religious adherents. Historically, people have prayed for millennia, yet Yeshua distinguishes the practice of prayer by God’s people through being extremely specific about what believers should pray for, and how to pray.

While not an exhaustive list of prayer, the following points are comprehensive in the main ideals put forth throughout the New Testament teachings that should stand behind our regular communication with God.

First and foremost in the narrative, believers should pray for persecutors.

Matthew 5:44 “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Luke 6:28 “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Prayer is then identified as a private matter between the individual and God.

Matthew 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Prayer should be concise and specific.

Matthew 6:7 “When you pray, don’t babble like the nations, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. …

From Matthew 6:9-15, Yeshua teaches us that private prayer should include the following points:

  • For God to be recognized as the one true God.
  • That his kingdom would become evident on the earth
  • For personal daily provision
  • For forgiveness based on our forgiveness of others
  • For deliverance from being led astray

Other types of communal prayer are listed, as we are also encouraged to pray with like-minded believers.

Matthew 18:19 “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.
1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.
James 5:16 …confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.

We are to pray continually.

Luke 18:1 Now he told them a parable on the need for them to pray always and not give up.
Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
Colossians 1:3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray constantly,

We are to pray guided by the Spirit of God and with full assurance of faith.

Romans 8:26 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings.
1 Corinthians 14:15 What then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with my understanding. I will sing praise with the spirit, and I will also sing praise with my understanding.
Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, everything you pray and ask for ​– ​believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

Personal and communal prayer should be the distinctives that set God’s people apart from other religious groups in the world. We have been given very specific motives and process on why and how to pray, and yet most of us struggle with doing so. For me personally, I am usually so busy trying to solve my own problems throughout each day that I get lost in the blur of activity and don’t stop to involve God in my process, or to involve myself in praying for others. I find it more natural to think about God and about the Bible than I do to actually participate with him and invite him into my situations for his purpose and plan to be enacted in tangible ways.

Following the command to intercede for all the saints, my prayer for believers everywhere is that we may all learn how to be more obedient and faithful in this practice that sets us apart. If you join with me in that prayer, we are agreeing in faith that this can be so, and God will be glorified through our faith and unity.


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.