All types of gifts have value in the life of the congregation

The community of Messiah is far more than just a weekly event.

1 Corinthians 12:20-25 – As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you! ” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you! ” On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, which our respectable parts do not need. Instead, God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the less honorable, so that there would be no division in the body, but that the members would have the same concern for each other.

The Commentary of the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges relates the following in regard to this passage of Scripture:

“God had specially provided against this [schisms in the body] by giving to those who occupy the less honourable and ornamental positions in society the compensation of being the most indispensable portions of it. The ‘comely parts’—the wealthy, the refined, the cultivated, the intellectual—obtain honour and respect by the very nature of their gifts. God has signified His Will that due honour and respect should be paid to those to whom it is not instinctively felt to be owing, by so ordering society that we cannot do without them. But our class distinctions and jealousies, our conflicts between capital and labour, shew how little Christians have realized this obvious truth.”

It would seem that we still need to learn these lessons today. While the passage under consideration is less about social class convention and more about differing gifts and abilities, it is true that gatherings of believers have become less community-oriented and more focused on becoming an event that one attends. Those “less honorable” parts of this community are becoming more and more marginalized to where they have less opportunity to participate meaningfully in the life of the congregation. In a sense, class distinctions among believers still persist.

Applying the metaphor that Paul provides, believing congregations represent the body of Messiah to the world. If one is not even caring for the extremities of one’s own body, how can the body function as it should? Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian body is that “the members would have the same concern for each other.” The word used here for concern is actually a Greek phrase meaning “over-anxious to the point of distraction.” It’s the same phrase used by Yeshua in the famous passage in Matthew 6 about not being anxious for tomorrow.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

It seems odd to apply this same type of anxiety to the care and concern believers should be exhibiting for one another. Can we truly say we are “anxious to the point of distraction” about the well-being of others and for the equality of different types of spiritual gifts that may be exhibited in our believing community?

1 Corinthians 12:18 – But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

Paul says that the differences in ability and gifting among us exist for the purpose of causing us to be a diverse community with spiritual abilities far beyond just any one of us as individuals. We need to learn to recognize the value that these diverse abilities and gifts provide the whole for the sake of honoring the God who has put the body together just the way he wants it to be.

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Sowing, weeding, and doing good

A fruitful harvest is the result of vigilance.

Core of the Bible podcast #53 – Sowing, weeding, and doing good

Today we will be exploring the topic of vigilance and how the act of maintaining the purity of our heart and our actions requires constant vigilance and continual grooming.

Mark 4:18-19, Amplified Bible – And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries and cares of the world [the distractions of this age with its worldly pleasures], and the deceitfulness [and the false security or glamour] of wealth [or fame], and the passionate desires for all the other things creep in and choke out the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

In this parable of the sower sowing his seed, Yeshua explains that the seed represents the word of God, and he describes the conditions of the hearts of those upon whom the seed is sown.

The seed being sown among the thorns represents those individuals who receive the word of God, but their hearts are so overcrowded with worldly cares and other ambitions that the seed cannot grow to maturity; it gets choked out and cannot bear fruit.

If we are to reflect on our own lives, how much of our time and attention is spent on the thorny distractions of this age, the deceitfulness of wealth, and passionate desires for other things besides the kingdom? We need to remain vigilant that the weeds and thorns of these other concerns do not overcrowd the truly important and impactful things that surround the kingdom: hearing and understanding the word and bearing fruit.

This process of God sowing his Word in the hearts of believers is commonly misunderstood to be a one-time event. It is believed that once God’s seed is sown that work is done and the seed will either grow or not depending on the condition of the soil. However, this parable of Yeshua along with other scriptural insights teach us that if we receive the Word gladly, it is up to us to continue to sow that good seed for the harvests to grow beyond that which was just sown initially.

For a farmer to have a continual harvest throughout the year, they must be continually preparing soil and sowing the appropriate seed at the appropriate season. Even in ancient Israel there were multiple harvests throughout the year depending on the crop. First was the barley harvest which occurred at the Feast of First-fruits during the week of Unleavened Bread in the spring.  Then came the first of the wheat harvest which took place at Shavuot or Pentecost at the beginning of summer. Finally, the richest and fullest harvest of the other crops took place at the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles in the autumn. Immediately after the autumn Feast of Ingathering, the work of re-plowing the fields and planting for the Spring harvest would begin. Each of these seasons indicates a different harvest for a different crop, but for that to be taking place there must constantly be new seed being sown.

Just like farmers preparing the soil in their gardens, we need to constantly churn the earth of our hearts, ensuring there is sufficient compost and nutrients to receive what is planted so the seed can successfully multiply and grow to its fullest capacity.

Galatians 6:7-8 – Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

Sowing to the spirit means that there are choices that need to be made each day. I think it’s pretty evident how we sow to the flesh, but sowing to the spirit is all about receiving continual seed throughout each day so that we can remain focused on the kingdom and conduct our lives with integrity according to the Word of God. For us to be able to do so, then we must have a continual input of the Word throughout each day.

Consider how much time you may be spending on social media, or watching television, or being involved in worldly aspirations. In reality, none of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but they can easily become time-sucks that draw our full attention away from living in according to God’s Word. In fact, a good indicator that one of these things may be a negative activity for you would be that if you are engaged in it and lose all sense of time until you snap out of that engagement, you may be getting pulled further into the weeds that can choke out the Word.

If these are your primary interactions with others within the context of your world then you may be suffering from a lack of good and and nutritious input for your spiritual life. The digital age we live in provides us many alternatives to be in the Word throughout each day. Besides just Bible podcasts like this one, there are more significant Bible apps and audio Bibles that can help keep you in the actual Word without having to be sitting and reading or studying.

Think of how much time you might spend driving throughout the day, or exercising, or doing redundant chores around the house that don’t require a lot of concentration: things like ironing, or cleaning, or mowing the lawn. I regard these types of activities as “idling” activities, where you may be physically active but your brain is kind of sitting in an idle mode. Instead of popping on the TV or listening to the news, or scrolling through random videos, why not instead listen to an audio Bible on your device while you are doing these types of things? There are lots of free options out there with various narrators and versions of the Bible to choose from.

Perhaps you have some good, doctrinally-sound worship music that can help keep your mind focused on God and his gracious mercy towards us. Using those times to their fullest helps to keep your spirit engaged with God. I have found it becomes much easier to receive personal and private direction for challenges I may be facing when I am interacting with the Word in these various ways.

Another indication that may demonstrate getting choked among the weeds is to consider if you are primarily a consumer or a creator of digital media. As believers and image-bearers of God in this world, we have the ability to use and create informative engagements with the things and people of this world for God’s glory and the furtherance of the kingdom. Social media can help spread God’s Word through written articles and photos, and videos can be created to explain how the Bible has relevance for people today.

As a personal example, one of my goals with is to continue to build a multi-tiered approach to sharing the information in these articles in different platforms: through written articles, weekly audio podcasts, and also through videos. However, through all of this, I am having to be very selective with how I approach each of these areas, as it is dangerously easy to become consumed with editing and posting and monitoring multiple platforms in an effort to maintain effective engagement. I don’t want to get lost in the weeds of the process to where I am losing effectiveness in the content. I am just trying to keep things as simple and to-the-point as possible to maximize the value to each reader, listener, or watcher of the content.

When we consider all of the various ways we receive information input throughout each day, we need to be intentional and purposeful with the time we have so that we can maximize our spiritual growth.

Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it is the source of life.

In a metaphorical manner of speaking, King Solomon as the writer of Proverbs indicates that our heart or our inmost self-awareness is the source of the quality of our life. That source is sometimes compared to a well of water.

This type of metaphor would be readily received and understood in ancient times, since life in a desert or wilderness environment is not possible without water. The quality of that water depends on how we maintain that well; is it overgrown with poisonous weeds, is it unprotected from animals that can trudge through and muddy its waters or destroy its flow? Is our heart becoming defiled through the things on which we constantly focus?

Yeshua even takes this metaphor further by saying whatever is in our heart is what spills out of our mouths:

Mark 7:20-23 – And [Yeshua] said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

Guarding our heart, then seems to be a concern that we should not take lightly, and should prompt us to take the appropriate time to strategize how to maintain the soil our our hearts at all costs.

In our American culture at least we seem have lost a sense of just how impactful the constant bombardment of worldly information flow can be to our lives, and it seems we are even becoming addicted to always having a music playlist going or having the television on in the background. As believers, we need to ensure that the well of our heart is filled with pure and nutritious water, not the potentially poisonous and unprotected muddy water of the world. It is our individual responsibility to guard our hearts; that means to protect what we allow to influence our hearts, because whatever is in there is what will ultimately come out through our speech and our actions. It’s like the old saying, “garbage in, garbage out.” Why not instead turn that saying on its head by changing it to “purity and goodness in, purity and goodness out.”

Even saying such a thing has Pollyana-ish overtones and seems awkward and simplistic. But is it really, or is that just our natural inclination has already become so jaded that we find it difficult to identify with what is good and right about human nature and living according to the positive and kind admonitions of God’s standards?

You know an interesting bit of Bible trivia relating to textual interpretation centers on a specific New Testament verse that has had a defining impact on believers over the last two millennia. And it has to do with the name “Christian.” For some context, allow me to read a passage out of Peter’s first epistle.

1 Peter 3:8-16 – 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. 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. Who then will harm you if you are devoted to what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear or be intimidated, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. Yet do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that when you are accused, those who disparage your good conduct in Christ will be put to shame.

So we can see contextually that Peter is encouraging the believers to have good conduct at all times because this honors God. Now the passage with the textual consideration I mentioned previously is actually in chapter four; I’m going to read it in the YLT because even though it’s awkwardly phrased, it still brings out more of the clarity of the point I’m about to make.

1 Peter 4:15-16 – for let none of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evil-doer, or as an inspector into other men’s matters; and if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; and let him glorify God in this respect;

Let’s look at some interesting commentary on this idea of suffering as a Christian.

Ellicott’s Commentary

(16) Yet if any man suffer as a Christian.—St. Peter purposely uses the name which was a name of derision among the heathens. It is not, as yet, one by which the believers would usually describe themselves. It only occurs twice besides in the New Testament—in Acts 11:26, where we are told of the invention of the nickname (see Note there), and in Acts 26:28, where Agrippa catches it up with the insolent scorn with which a brutal justice would have used the word “Methodist” a century ago. So contemptible was the name that, as M. Renan says (p. 37), “Well-bred people avoided pronouncing the name, or, when forced to do so, made a kind of apology.” Tacitus, for instance, says: “Those who were vulgarly known by the name of Christians.” In fact, it is quite an open question whether we ought not here (as well as in the two places of Acts above cited) to read the nickname in its barbarous form: Chrestian. The Sinaitic manuscript has that form, and the Vatican has the form Chreistian; and it is much harder to suppose that a scribe who commonly called himself a Christian would intentionally alter it into this strange form than to suppose that one who did not understand the irony of saying a Chrestian should have written the word with which he was so familiar.”

Cambridge Bible Commentary

  1. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian] The occurrence of a name which has played so prominent a part in the history of mankind requires a few words of notice. It did not originate with the followers of Christ themselves. They spoke of themselves as the “brethren” (Acts 14:2; Acts 15:1; Acts 15:3; Acts 15:22, &c.), as “the saints,” i.e. the holy or consecrated people (Matthew 27:52; Acts 9:13; Acts 9:32; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 6:1; Ephesians 1:1, &c.), as “those of the way,” i.e. those who took their own way, the way which they believed would lead them to eternal life (Acts 9:2; Acts 19:9; Acts 24:22). By their Jewish opponents they were commonly stigmatized as “the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5), the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the city out of which no good thing could come (John 1:46). The new name was given first at Antioch (Acts 11:26), shortly after the admission there, on a wider scale than elsewhere, of Gentile converts. Its Latin form, analogous to that of Pompeiani, Mariani, for the followers of Pompeius or Marius, indicated that the new society was attracting the attention of official persons and others at Antioch. The word naturally found acceptance. It expressed a fact, it was not offensive, and it might be used by those who, like Agrippa, though they were not believers themselves, wished to speak respectfully of those who were (Acts 26:28). Soon it came to be claimed by those believers. The question, Are you a Christian? became the crucial test of their faith. By disowning it, as in the case of the mildly repressive measures taken in these very regions by Pliny in the reign of Trajan, they might purchase safety (Pliny, Epp. x. 96). The words now before us probably did much to stamp it on the history of the Church. Men dared not disown it. They came to exult in it. Somewhat later on they came to find in it, with a pardonable play upon words, a new significance. The term Christiani (= followers of Christ) was commonly pronounced Chrestiani, and that, they urged, shewed that they were followers of Chrestus, i.e. of the good and gentle one. Their very name, they urged, through their Apologist, Tertullian (Apol. i. 3), was a witness to the falsehood of the charges brought against them.

F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on Acts adds the following:

“Xrestus (“useful, kindly”) was a common slave-name in the Graeco-Roman world. It “appears as a spelling variant for the unfamiliar Christus (Xristos). (In Greek the two words were pronounced alike.)” (F. F. Bruce, The Books of Acts, 368).

So, just for a little mental hypothesis, what if, in the great span of history, believers were being chastised and ridiculed early on, not for being “Christians” or followers of Christ (since people unfamiliar with the scriptures would not know what a “Christ” was) but instead were being ridiculed for being “Chrestians” or “do-gooders”? Non-believers could certainly identify those individuals, and believers faithful to their calling could definitely be accused of that, since they were instructed to follow the “good-doing” of their Lord and Master:

Acts 10:38 – “how God anointed Yeshua of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil, because God was with him.

Galatians 6:9 – Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

2 Thessalonians 3:13 – But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good.

1 Peter 2:15 – For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.

1 Peter 3:17 – For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Of course I would not be dogmatic about this name identification, but it does raise an interesting concept and emphasis that may be lost in our modern understanding of that word. Christian implies that one believes a certain thing, while Chrestian implies that one does certain things. Which one would have been more derogatory? The word Chrestian would have, and indeed did, identify the early believers as do-gooders based on the fact that their Messiah was always doing good.

So what does all this side-bar about the Christian name have to do with the influence of our hearts? Well getting back to our main focus, this would mean that the content of the heart would have to have good intentions implanted there, and that believers would have to be acting out that goodness based on the overflow of their hearts, as Yeshua taught.

You see, without constant attention, the garden soil of our hearts can be quickly overrun by weeds. And when it’s overrun by weeds, it will become unfruitful; we cannot do the good things that we are called to do. It’s not about what we believe, but what we do.

We must weed the garden at all times to ensure that as the seed grows, it is clear of any other obstructions to the light and moisture that it needs. The weeds can block the light and consume the water of the rain and irrigation meant to nourish the seed for maximum growth. Removing weeds can be hard work, especially if we have neglected to review it on a regular basis.

It’s always good to remember that we need to mind the gardens of our hearts with vigilance. When we do so, we will be honoring the Master Gardener by maximizing the return he has planned for the seed that is continually being sown in us.

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

An invisible, present kingdom and a future certainty

The good news of the kingdom is that it will reach its fulfillment when every heart is in alignment with the principles of the God of the universe.

Core of the Bible podcast #44 – An invisible, present kingdom and a future certainty

Today we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how it was established in the days of Yeshua, is present today, and how it will come to certain fulfillment over all the earth at some point in the future.

To understand this further, we can begin by looking at how Yeshua taught about the kingdom.

Luke 17:20-21 – When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Yeshua replied, “The kingdom of God will not come with observable signs. Nor will people say, ‘Look, here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For you see, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

All throughout his ministry, Yeshua spoke of the nearness of the kingdom. This nearness was to be demonstrated through healings and as a witness against those who would not believe.

Luke 10:9 – “Heal the sick who are there, and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near you.’

Luke 10:11 – “‘We are wiping off even the dust of your town that clings to our feet as a witness against you. Know this for certain: The kingdom of God has come near.’

The nearness of the kingdom was also to be the motivation for repentance for his immediate audience.

Matthew 4:17 – From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Therefore, in Yeshua’s teaching, the advent of the kingdom was to be evidenced through miraculous events that would be a witness to those seeing them, and a prompting of repentance for those who wished to be included within it.

In Luke 17, Yeshua is asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom would be established, and Yeshua has to doctrinally reset their expectations. He mentions it would not be something dramatic with an observable political program and a specific location, but was a present reality already changing hearts, minds, and bodies.

This mention of the nearness of the kingdom presents similar challenges even today. Most believers in our day have the same expectation as the Pharisees: that the Messiah of God will come to rule and reign over a physical kingdom, and all nations will be a witness to the power and majesty of God.

However, to hold this view misses the essence of what Yeshua was teaching: the kingdom is not the coming visible manifestation of a political entity, but is an invisible, living community made up of those with changed hearts of obedience toward God.

Commentators have split over the interpretation of the words expressing that the kingdom of God is “in your midst,” or “within/inside you” in verse 21. Even in English, we can sense the similarity of these meanings, and both present different shades of the reality of the kingdom as Yeshua describes it.

Some commentators have chosen to interpret the meaning as “within you,” pointing to the internal nature of being born from above, and how God desired to rule their hearts.

For example, Charles Ellicott had the following opinion:

“The marginal reading, “among you.” has been adopted, somewhat hastily, by most commentators. So taken. the words emphatically assert the actual presence of the Kingdom. It was already in the midst of them at the very time when they were asking when it would appear. The use of the Greek preposition is, however, all but decisive against this interpretation. It is employed for that which is “within,” as contrasted with that which is “without,” as in Matthew 23:26, and in the LXX. version for the “inward parts,” or spiritual nature of man, as contrasted with the outward, as in Psalm 103:1; Psalm 109:22; Isaiah 16:11.

Psalm 103:1 – My soul, bless the LORD, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalm 109:22 – For I am suffering and needy; my heart is wounded within me.

Isaiah 16:11 – Therefore I moan like the sound of a lyre for Moab, as does my innermost being for Kir-heres.

It was in that [inner] region, in the life which must be born again (John 3:3), that men were to look for the kingdom; and there, whether they accepted it or rejected it, they would find sufficient tokens of its power.”

Other modern commentators have sided with the “in your midst” interpretation citing the fact that the kingdom was already being manifested in that day as Yeshua ministered to the people of Israel.

Here is an example from the Pulpit Commentary:

“That kingdom will be marked out on no map, for, lo, it is even now in your midst. It may be asked – How “in your midst”? Scarcely not as Godet and Olshausen, following Chrysostom, think, “in your hearts.” The kingdom of God could not be said to be in the hearts of those Pharisees to whom the Master was especially directing his words of reply here. It should be rather understood “in the midst of your ranks;” so Meyer and Farrar and others interpret it, Luke 17:21″

With these differing opinions, Albert Barnes states what I believe is a reasonable balance between both positions.

“When an earthly prince visits different parts of his territories, he does it with pomp. His movements attract observation, and become the common topic of conversation. The inquiry is, Where is he? which way will he go? and it is a matter of important “news” to be able to say where he is. Jesus says that the Messiah would not come in that manner. It would not be with such pomp and public attention. It would be silent, obscure, and attracting comparatively little notice. Or the passage may have reference to the custom of the “pretended” Messiahs, who appeared in this manner. They said that in this place or in that, in this mountain or that desert, they would show signs that would convince the people that they were the Messiah. Compare the notes at Acts 5:36-37.

Acts 5:36-37 – “Some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a group of about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, and all his followers were dispersed and came to nothing. “After this man, Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and attracted a following. He also perished, and all his followers were scattered.

“Is within you – This is capable of two interpretations.

1. The reign of God is “in the heart.” It does not come with pomp and splendor, like the reign of temporal kings, merely to control the external “actions” and strike the senses of people with awe, but it reigns in the heart by the law of God; it sets up its dominion over the passions, and brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

2. It may mean the new dispensation is “even now among you.” The Messiah has come. John has ushered in the kingdom of God, and you are not to expect the appearance of the Messiah with great pomp and splendor, for he is now among you. Most critics at present incline to this latter interpretation. The ancient versions chiefly follow the former.”

To my way of thinking, there exists a difference of meaning because both interpretations have merit. Both present the obvious truth that Yeshua was making with the Pharisees: whether internal to each individual or already present in their midst, either way, the coming of the kingdom has nothing to do with the setting up of a visible organization or entity ruling over the entire earth, and this is what they were hoping for a messiah to come and do.


How like the Pharisaical expectation is the modern expectation of a returning Messiah to defeat all of the enemies of God and to physically rule and reign from a physical throne in the physical city of Jerusalem. To hold to this view is to disregard passages speaking of the spiritual nature of the New Jerusalem to to which we are called, not the physical location.

For example, after recounting the dramatic appearance of the revelation of God at Mt. Sinai, the writer to the Hebrews says this:

Hebrews 12:22-24 – Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the blood of Abel.

This is the “city” that we have been called to!

The apostle Paul, contrasting fleshly Israel with God’s true spiritual people, writes:

Galatians 4:26 – But the Jerusalem above [that is, the heavenly or spiritual Jerusalem] is free, and she is our mother.

Unfortunately, it appears that Christians today have fallen into the same false hope of the religious elite of Yeshua’s day, and misunderstand his purpose and goal for God’s people. The kingdom of God was established by Yeshua and continues to grow to this day.

That the kingdom of God has already been established during the lifetime of Yeshua and the disciples is a fact that is borne out by several historical factors that are brought out within the Word of God.

One of the most foundational aspects is the fulfilled prophecy of Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

In Daniel 2, the king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that he did not understand, in which he saw an image made of various metals: gold, silver, bronze, and iron mixed with clay. Daniel interprets each of those metals to be representative of various empires that would be established from his days forward into their future.

Almost all commentators agree the final kingdom of iron mixed with clay was the Roman empire. Daniel predicts that the kingdom of God, an eternal kingdom, would be set up or established “in the days of those kings.”

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of those kings, the God of the heavens will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not be left to another people. It will crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself endure forever.

Whatever eternal kingdom God was establishing would therefore have to be established prior to the demise of the final earthly empire of the vision: the Roman empire.

If Yeshua was successful in establishing the kingdom of God “in the days” of the Roman empire, then this prophetic vision has been fulfilled, at least to its establishment in time. The fullness of its fulfilment, the crushing and ending of all other kingdoms, is still in process.

Other indications that the kingdom was established in that first century timeframe was that Yeshua provides some timing markers within various teachings.

For example,

Matthew 11:12 – “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been suffering violence, and the violent have been seizing it by force.

Yeshua is here indicating that the kingdom of God had been in the process of being established since the preaching of John the baptizer which preceded even his own ministry.

In another place, Yeshua says to his detractors:

Matthew 12:28 – “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Essentially, Yeshua is saying that if miraculous healings are taking place by God’s Spirit working through me, these things are outward evidence that the kingdom of God is being established.

Matthew 16:28 – “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Most clearly, Yeshua made reference to the fact that the kingdom would be firmly established within the physical lifetime of some of his disciples.

Based on these various indicators, I believe that the kingdom was being established internally within the hearts of God’s people during the life and ministry of John the baptizer and Yeshua. This invisible kingdom of God ruling hearts was being evidenced by the outward workings of extraordinary miracles of conversions and healings.

After the death and resurrection of Yeshua, the disciples carried the gospel message of this kingdom to the scattered tribes of Israel among the nations. The culmination of the establishment of the eternal kingdom was finalized at the destruction of Jerusalem, when the old system of Judaic sacrifice, symbolized by the temple, was destroyed and eradicated forever, never to be rebuilt.

Because the eternal kingdom was to be established “in the days of those kings,” there would be no end to it. It would continue to grow until it filled the earth.

This is where I believe we are now in the biblical timeline of events. God’s kingdom has been firmly established two millennia ago, and has been growing and spreading, ebbing and flowing like a rising tide throughout the world during each successive generation.

Yeshua told a parable of the kingdom expressing how the kingdom would grow over time, not be established in an instant.

Matthew 13:31-32 – “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. “It’s the smallest of all the seeds, but when grown, it’s taller than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

This parable is a metaphor for how the kingdom would grow over time, like any other living thing God has created. But even as it grows, the kingdom is being manifested every day in the lives of believers through their changed hearts, minds, and bodies. As we learn and place God’s commands within our hearts by faith, we then begin to express outward actions in accordance with his will by that same faith. Those outward actions then influence the individuals around us as an outward demonstration of the inward reality of the invisible kingdom, and the outward reality of the kingdom adds another branch, another area for animals to metaphorically enjoy its shade and perch within its protective covering.

The good news of the kingdom is that it will reach its fulfillment when every heart is in alignment with the principles of the God of the universe. The prophetic certainty is that it will take place, we just don’t know when. Since it has already been going on for over two thousand years, we need to understand the full growth and maturity of the tree in Yeshua’s parable may still not happen for hundreds or possibly even thousands of years. This may sound foreign to modern evangelical ears, but this is the pattern and projection of God’s Word and sure prophecy regarding his kingdom on this earth. Two thousand years in light of an eternal kingdom is only the beginning.

This should not be a cause for dismay, but one of energizing hope for the future of all people, and for our participation in being co-laborers with God in bringing this to pass! Our role is to faithfully pass that baton to each successive generation, and it will all be fulfilled in God’s perfect timing and within his purpose. Each heart won with the gospel or good news of the eternal, invisible kingdom is another place where God’s kingdom is established. It is promised to continue to grow until God is “all in all,” (1 Cor. 15:28). In that day, there will be no need for a physical representative kingdom, because God will be ruling every heart as he intended from the beginning, and all the world will culminate in manifesting his glory and majesty.

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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Identifying the bad fruit of false prophets

Actions speak louder than words.

Matthew 7:15-20 – Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

Like many believers, I have always applied these verses as making sure I am staying away from false prophets and teachers by avoiding false doctrine. I have believed that false doctrine can lead you astray and is the evidence that a teacher is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

While that certainly is true, looking at the verse carefully does not reveal any indication of recognizing false prophets by bad teaching, but by bad fruit. I think, at least for me, in my mind I have always substituted the concept of teaching for fruit. However, in the Bible imagery, fruit always represents two things: actions and multiplication.

As for actions, the actions that are the result of truth should be actions of repentance. This is witnessed by some of the earliest teaching of John the baptizer.

Matthew 3:8 – “Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.

Luke 3:8 – “Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones.

Even the motive of Yeshua’s ministry was that the Israelites would repent of their sinful ways.

Luke 5:30-32 – But the Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners? ” Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a doctor, but those who are sick. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

One of Yeshua’s most well-known parables focuses a great deal on fruit.

Matthew 13:23 – “But the one sown on the good ground ​– ​this is one who hears and understands the word, who does produce fruit and yields: some a hundred, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.”

Luke 8:14-15 – “As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit. “But the seed in the good ground ​– ​these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, produce fruit.

In these two representations of the parable of the sower taught by Yeshua, look at the words that are used in describing the good soil: honest, good, enduring, producing fruit (actions) and large yields (multplication). These are the characteristics of those who are living repentant lives for God.

Ephesians 5:8-10 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light ​– ​ for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth ​– ​ testing what is pleasing to the Lord.

Here’s what Paul tells the Ephesians that the good fruit consists of: good actions, righteous actions, and actions based on truth.

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.

All of the fruit of the Spirit are words that are meant to be action words: love in action, joy in action, peace in action, patience in action, and so on. All of these are actions that demonstrate a repentant lifestyle, one that is no longer choosing to do what is wrong in God’s eyes.

For balance and clarity, Paul also provides lengthy lists of bad fruit (works):

Galatians 5:19-21 – Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things ​– ​as I warned you before ​– ​that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 Corinthians 6:8-10 – Instead, you yourselves do wrong and cheat ​– ​and you do this to brothers and sisters! Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom.

Romans 8:7-8 – The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

These are the works (actions) of the flesh (non-repentance), all types of bad fruit that Yeshua was warning about false prophets. None of these actions are pleasing to God. These are the fruits to be aware of when it comes to discerning the wolves from the true shepherds. If they, as individuals demonstrate these characteristics, or if their followers are being multiplied in these fruits (actions), then these are false teachers.

Paul reminds the Corinthians of how they have come out of those bad fruits into the power of the Spirit of God, being set apart by repentant actions.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Yeshua Messiah and by the Spirit of our God.

While keeping an eye out for those destructive actions in our lives and the lives of others, we should focus vigilantly on maintaining repentant attitudes in all we do.

Colossians 1:10 – so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God,

John 15:8 – “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

David’s recipe for righteousness

We should honor God with purity of heart.

Psalm 101:1-4 – I will sing of faithful mercy and of right judgments; to you, O Yahweh, I will sing.
I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base [Belial].
I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
Perverseness [twisted, distorted] of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.

This psalm is attributed to David, and as such, it would seem that he set standards for himself that would cause him to be known as a man after God’s own heart. Each of these few verses speak to a way of maintaining and kindling purity of heart, which Yeshua mentioned would be a requirement of those who seek God.

Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

David himself also extolled the virtues of those who are pure of heart.

Psalm 24:3-5 – Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not appealed to what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.

In Psalm 101, David lays out some general, practical principles that we can consider in our walk of righteousness.

“I will sing of faithful mercy and of right judgments; to you, O Yahweh, I will sing.” Firstly, David mentions the power of song and singing to Yahweh. Recounting beloved hymns of faith that are correct in doctrine is a key way of meditating on God’s faithful mercy and of his correct judgments. Honoring God in song, even singing softly to oneself or listening to music that honors him can keep the mind focused on him throughout the day.

“I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it?” David expresses his eagerness for learning the way of righteousness. Meditating on God’s Word throughout the day keeps one’s heart in a place of right action when confronted with the challenges that present themselves.

“I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.” He mentions his distaste for the lack of passion for Yahweh exhibited by those who sway from the path. Not that he would not have anything to do with them, but that their reluctance to maintain the right way is a characteristic that he does not want to be associated with himself.

“Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” The Hebrew term maintains that a heart that is twisted or distorted from the wisdom of God is considered perverse; he wants nothing to do with it. To know nothing of evil is to resist exposing oneself to the negative influences of the culture around us, whether on social media or in the workplace. Resisting the distortion of evil is a requirement for maintaining purity of heart.

“I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.” Even in the privacy of his home, David commits that he would not yield to the temptation to focus on something in secret that he would not be open to participate in in the presence of other believers.

The word for anything that is base is the word Belial, well-known in the annals of Scripture for that which draws one away from God.

Deuteronomy 13:13 – Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which you have not known…
1 Samuel 2:12 – Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they did not know Yahweh.

Paul speaks of this unequal yoking of believers with unbelievers, those of Belial:

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 – Don’t become partners with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols?

Paul then quotes a collection of beautiful Old Testament passages illustrating how believers in Messiah are the temple of the living God.

2 Corinthians 6:16-18 – What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

As we recount our position in Messiah, we should honor God with this same purity of heart that radiates from within his temple. By following the example of David and the outline of purity of heart that he provides, we can fulfill our role in this generation of being examples of righteousness to others.

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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

How to endure all in the most bitter of circumstances

No matter how dire, unforgiving or treacherous the situation, God’s love never fails.

Matthew 5:10-12 – Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

As I was reading through Psalms, I came across Psalm 44 and it seemed as if I was reading it for the first time. I understood that the psalmist was feeling dismay over the situation of Israel being scattered among the nations. This would normally be a context of asking for forgiveness for their unfaithfulness, and a plea for restoration.

Psalm 44:9-16 – But you have rejected and humiliated us; you do not march out with our armies. You make us retreat from the foe, and those who hate us have taken plunder for themselves. You hand us over to be eaten like sheep and scatter us among the nations. You sell your people for nothing; you make no profit from selling them. You make us an object of reproach to our neighbors, a source of mockery and ridicule to those around us. You make us a joke among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples. My disgrace is before me all day long, and shame has covered my face, because of the taunts of the scorner and reviler, because of the enemy and avenger.

This would be understandable in the context of Israel’s national sin and constant turning to idols. God had forewarned them that if they did not keep to his commands and his covenant, that they would be sent throughout the nations and there suffer at the hands of foreign gods and other cultures. The psalmist may lament their condition, but it would be as a result of their own sin.

However, I was struck by the larger context of the psalm. In verses to follow, the psalmist recounts how they had not forsaken God, and yet were still suffering at the hands of their enemies.

Psalm 44:17-22 – All this has happened to us, but we have not forgotten you or betrayed your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back; our steps have not strayed from your path. But you have crushed us in a haunt of jackals and have covered us with deepest darkness. If we had forgotten the name of our God and spread out our hands to a foreign god, wouldn’t God have found this out, since he knows the secrets of the heart? Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.

Then I recognized that last line as having been applied by the apostle Paul to their situation in the first century:

Romans 8:35-36 – Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: Because of you we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.

Paul was taking the entire context of this psalm and applying it to the condition of the believers in the mid-first century. They had not forsaken God; they had not betrayed God by worshiping other gods; they had not strayed from the path of righteousness, and yet they were still being hunted down as sheep to be slaughtered. They went without food, without clothes, and were in constant danger for their lives, and yet they were living lives of integrity and faithfulness!

Psalm 44:23-26 – Wake up, LORD! Why are you sleeping? Get up! Don’t reject us forever! Why do you hide and forget our affliction and oppression? For we have sunk down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up! Help us! Redeem us because of your faithful love.

This was the cry of that faithful generation. They longed for God to deliver them from their brutal affliction and the oppression they faced in the company of their own people who had turned against them because of their belief in Messiah. They were savagely treated and violently persecuted; yet, they maintained their hope in the faithful love of God!

Why would they do that? How could they do that? Paul provides an answer in the following verse:

Romans 8:37 – No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Paul knew that no matter what happened to them physically, they could endure because of love; God’s faithful, covenantal love for them which was expressed through the Messiah.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.

That was all Paul needed: the love of God. That was the motivator that allowed them to continue to maintain their integrity in the face of the most intense hatred and persecution that God’s people have ever seen.

Even today, God’s redemptive love in calling his people to himself is so strong that nothing in creation can overcome it. It is a rock-solid destiny for all time.

1 Corinthians 13:6-8 – Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

This is where it plays out in real time. No matter how dire, unforgiving or treacherous the situation, God’s love never fails. When Paul says that “love never fails,” the word he used literally means that love never falls down because the strain is too great. This is the type of love that always endures. Always.

And Yeshua’s admonition is that the blessing of God and kingdom of God belong to those who are enabled to endure all because of, and for the sake of, this type of never-failing 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 at or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at:

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

God’s people are identifiable through this one practice

God simply desires his people to be a compassionate people.

Luke 6:31 – Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.

In one timeless and profound sentence, Yeshua encapsulates everything that God had been repeating to his people time and again through his prophets.

Ezekiel 18:5, 7-9 – “Suppose a man is righteous and does what is just and right: … “He doesn’t oppress anyone but returns his collateral to the debtor. He does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing. “He doesn’t lend at interest or for profit but keeps his hand from injustice and carries out true justice between men. “He follows my statutes and keeps my ordinances, acting faithfully. Such a person is righteous; he will certainly live.” This is the declaration of the Lord GOD.

Zechariah 7:8-10 – The word of the LORD came to Zechariah: “The LORD of Armies says this: ‘Make fair decisions. Show faithful love and compassion to one another. “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor, and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another.’
Zechariah 8:16-17 – “These are the things you must do: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your city gates. “Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love perjury, for I hate all this” ​– ​this is the LORD’s declaration.

This is the great social justice that the Law was designed to create among the nation of Israel: people taking care of one another’s needs, demonstrating love to one another in practical ways.

Romans 13:8-10 – Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and any other commandment, are summed up by this commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Love is the fulfillment of the Law; love toward God first and foremost, and love for others. This is the summary of the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

In our current day, it appears we, as a society, have strayed from both of these aspects. Love for the God of the Bible may be present in our private beliefs, but is not as evident in our outward actions toward others. If we love God, then we should demonstrate compassion and love to those around us who need it most.

James 2:15-18 – If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works.

1 John 2:9-10 – The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother or sister remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.
1 John 3:10 – This is how God’s children and the devil’s children become obvious. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother or sister.
1 John 4:8-11, 21 – The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. … And we have this command from him: The one who loves God must also love his brother and sister.

Yeshua said he didn’t come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. If Yeshua fulfilled the Law through love, then we should, also. This is why John states that if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.

With this much prophetic pronouncement and apostolic emphasis on this topic, there is no doubt that this practice of outward compassion should be the primary characteristic of God’s people.

Micah 6:8 – Mankind, he has told each of you what is good and what it is Yahweh requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.

God simply desires his people to be a compassionate people. He has made it abundantly clear that our lives should be examples of love, mercy and compassion. And in the actual doing of this, people will see God.

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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at:

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Children of God should play nice in the sandbox

Our differences have the potential to
affect many others if we cannot reconcile.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 – See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.

When we are unforgiving toward others, it’s easy for us to repay evil for evil, to repay in kind toward an injustice that may have been directed toward us.

However, Paul here is encouraging the believers to look beyond the injustice to what is good, not only for one another (through a relationship crisis), but good for all concerned.

We tend to lose sight of the fact that all of our relationships have many different tendrils of association beyond just the isolated relationship itself. If an injustice is committed between two friends, the recognition of that injustice can become known to the other associates and friends of that relationship, and can affect many other individuals.

For example, if a romantic couple breaks up due to some differences, then the friends of the couple, who may now know each other independently of the couple who is breaking up, will be affected by the break up. They may choose to continue their relationships as friends, but will need to socially navigate around the issue with the now detached couple-friends.

This is the way issues spread throughout congregations, as well. When social stresses become active within certain relationship groups, it can spread throughout a congregation through shared connections. In the extreme, it can lead to congregations mistrust and sometimes even cause group to split into several groups if it cannot be reconciled.

But therein lies the key to its solution; reconciliation. Paul here is stressing that when these situations arise, that all parties concerned should seek the good of others for the sake of all. What affects one relationship can easily spread beyond the immediate affected group to the wider group through shared connections and relationships. Because of this, the web of unity can become brittle and break.

Paul’s solution is simple, although not always easy: don’t repay evil for evil. If someone has become offended or emotionally hurt in some way, they should not respond in kind, but should seek reconciliation through communicating the offense and working through it until a peaceful result can be achieved. This is a mature response to the casual injustices that occur every day and this should be the evident solution among all believers.

When we are always pursuing what is good for others and for all, we will be operating as peacemakers, and the strength of unity will be reinforced. In this, we can be recognized as acting as true children of God.

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

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

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at:

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

We can’t successfully obey God if we don’t trust him

Trusting in God is the root of obedience to his Word.

Deuteronomy 9:23 – When Yahweh sent you from Kadesh Barnea, saying, “Go up and possess the land which I have given you;” then you rebelled against the commandment of Yahweh your God, and you didn’t believe him, nor listen to his voice.

As national Israel was preparing to enter the land of Canaan, Moses was recounting to them their history over the last 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. This was to put them in the correct mindset so they could be fully prepared to take the land that God is providing to them.

One of the negative occurrences that he recounted was a stark reminder to them to be faithful and obedient to God’s commands. When they had rebelled against God’s original command to take the land, they were routed by the local tribes and suffered heavy losses. Additionally, this act of disobedience was the primary cause of their wandering in the wilderness for forty years. God had to make sure all of the unfaithful among them died off before they could have another opportunity to successfully overcome and possess the land.

Moses stated this process of rebellion as a simple fact: they had rebelled against the word of Yahweh (literally, the mouth of Yahweh) because they did not trust him; therefore, they did not listen or obey him. Rebellion is fostered by not trusting God or his Word, and therefore no obedience to that Word can be had.

The same is true today. When people do not trust God, they do not believe in his Word and they are not likely to obey his commands. Trusting in God is the root of obedience to his Word.

In Hebrew, listening to God is the same thing as obeying him. When one listens to God, obedience is the result. Many of us today may hear what God is saying, but we don’t actually listen to him and take it to heart; if we did, we would obey him.

Mark 4:23 – “If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.”

Yeshua made this statement over and over to the people of his generation. But in doing so, he also knew many of them would not believe, and therefore would not hear and obey in repentance.

Matthew 13:15 – For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back — and I would heal them.

Not hearing God is a condition of a callous heart. The heart, as the source and wellspring of life, is surrounded by bitter thoughts and emotions against God that thicken its defenses. The individual then becomes deaf and blind to the pleas of God.

But Yeshua encourages his disciples. They are the believers, the listeners and doers of the words of God.

Matthew 13:16 – Blessed are your eyes because they do see, and your ears because they do hear.

James also illustrates this contrast between believers who are doers and those who only hear without truly listening.

James 1:22-25 – But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works ​– ​this person will be blessed in what he does.

Those who believe in him are the ones who can obediently carry out his Word to their generation just as the disciples did. The Word of God was spread throughout the Roman Empire to the limits of the known world within a forty year span of time, and all with no printing, no transportation, and no internet. They simply believed God and and followed his Messiah, sharing the good news of the kingdom of God in faithful obedience.

John 10:27 – “My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.

Trust in God leads to hearing the Messiah and obediently following him. If we have not been as obedient as we should be, perhaps we need to reevaluate where we are placing our trust. Once realigned with the proper heavenly perspective and trust in God, we can then bear fruit for him and successfully accomplish his purposes on the earth.

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 or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at:

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Are you holy?

God’s kingdom grows only through those who speak and do what is right no matter the cost.

Holiness is life that is set apart; it is unique and separate from those around it. But not just unique and set apart. Many people today feel that they are special and unique due to some unusual trend they participate in, or some obscure passion they pursue that is far removed from the normal life experience of others. It may be that they are special and unique in that respect, but that does not make what they do “holy.”

Holiness is a life that is set apart for the purpose of God; it is a life that is yielded to his will in such a way that it is uncharacteristic in its divergence from normal societal trends and habits. According to Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12), the life that is unique in the right way, the holy way, has certain characteristics.

It is a life that is humble, not vaunting itself over others. It is a life spent in deep introspection, grieving over personal and societal unrighteousness while remaining desperate for righteousness and doing what’s right according to God’s will. A holy person is merciful towards others, always acting out of a pure heart, one that does not have ulterior motives or hidden agendas. As much as can be possible with them, they seek peace with all others.

What is the reward for all of this noble aspiration? Is it to be praised and loved by others for being so thoughtful and caring, always watching for and acting in the best of spiritual intentions for all others? Sadly, no. According to Yeshua, most of the time, in this life God’s holy ones will be insulted, ridiculed, and in fear for their lives for being diligent in these things. However, he does provide reassurance of a great reward in heaven.

This is the life of those who are holy. This is the type of individual God is calling us to be: someone who speaks and does what is right no matter the cost, because this is how God’s kingdom expands and grows. If we do not do these things, and instead choose to remain safe and secure in our bubbles of contentment and like-mindedness with our brothers and sisters, we will not be impacting the world for God and for his Messiah.

A holy person is not just holy for the sake of being different from the rest of the world. No, a holy person is different for the sake of being an example to the rest of the world, to show the world what it means to be truly obedient to the God of the universe in ways that make a difference in the lives around them; in their homes, in their work, and in their communities.

Becoming salt (a preservative of all that is right and good) and light (declaring the truth in dark places) is the life of a true believer of the Messiah and the God of the Bible.

Are you holy?

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 or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at:

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at