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 https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service.

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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 https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ 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: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvR_aNEyA7WEZJtF4B8fZ6g

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

The foundation of peace

Forgiveness may be simple, but is rarely easy.

Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

To be a peacemaker is to be one who overcomes conflict. An online dictionary defines someone who pacifies as a person who “quells the anger, agitation, or excitement of” others, or a specific situation.

In personal relationships, this can most simply be accomplished through forgiveness. The biblical concept of forgiveness conveys ideas of dismissal or sending away of a burden; a release or letting go of insult or injury; a covering over of an offense or transgression. According to Yeshua, these are the characteristics of the true children of God.

While this may be the simplest way to create peace, it is not always easy. Forgiveness involves rejection of natural feelings of anger at having been offended, or overcoming hurt and real emotional pain. These symptoms of anger and hurt are natural, while indications of forgiveness can seem forced and unnatural. This is why it is difficult and rarely practiced in genuine ways. True forgiveness involves dying to self: the right for the self to be angry, the right for the self to inflict pain back for pain received.

But Yeshua calls us to this higher path of dying to self. Self-sacrifice was the object lesson of his life, culminating in the most widely known object lesson of all; crucifixion of self for the sake of others. Even in the enactment of this ultimate object lesson, he was forgiving those who were physically nailing him to the cross.

Luke 23:33-34 – And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

Forgiveness can be offered when one realizes that those causing the offense may not be totally aware of their actions; they are likely acting out reflexively or under the compulsion of their own misguided nature. To rise above these situations is to reject the compulsion to respond in kind, and to choose instead the way of peace and forgiveness.

I was struck recently in learning that the root of the word Jerusalem means “foundation of peace.” That meaning has far-reaching applications throughout biblical interpretation, but none so meaningful as being the eternal habitation of God with his people.

Revelation 21:2-3, 7 – And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. … He that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

According to writer of Hebrews, believers have inherited this city already. As such, this “foundation of peace” should be our base of operations, our current and active environment.

Hebrews 12:14, 22-24 – Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness ​– ​without it no one will see the Lord. … 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 Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant…

If this is where we live, having died to ourselves, then this is how we should act. We should pursue peace with everyone. This is what sets God’s people apart; this is who we are.


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 intentional practice of holiness

Holiness is not some mystical status that is conferred upon believers, but is the result of the believer choosing to become a slave to righteousness.

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14

This verse has been often quoted, but what is this holiness that is being discussed here? Other versions will sometimes render this word differently than holiness, and use instead the word separation or sanctification:

Young’s Literal Translation
peace pursue with all, and the separation, apart from which no one shall see the Lord,
Literal Standard Version
pursue peace with all, and the separation, apart from which no one will see the LORD,
World English Bible
Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord,
English Revised Version
Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord:
NASB 1995
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

The context of this verse is tucked in amidst many admonitions alluding to passages from Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Proverbs and Genesis to do what’s right even if being disciplined by God. The believers were encouraged to:

12 …strengthen your limp hands and weak knees. (Isaiah 35:3)
13 Make straight paths for your feet, (Proverbs 4:26) so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God, and that no root of bitterness (Deuteronomy 29:18) springs up to cause trouble and defile many.
16 See to it that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his birthright (Genesis 25:34).

To seek peace with all men and pursue holiness is what these things are all about. Pursuing holiness involves a separation or sanctification from the things of this world (sexual immorality, godlessness) and being a peacemaker (ensuring there is no root of bitterness, strengthening the weak).

Sometimes we can gain additional insight by finding where else the same form of a word in the text is used in other places in the Bible. In this case, this specific form of this word for holiness is used twice, but in only one other passage.

Romans 6:15-23 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Reviewing all of these admonitions from the letters to Rome and the Hebrews, we see a picture emerging of a holiness that is the fruit or result of conscious and intentional effort at removing sinful practices. Holiness is not some mystical status that is conferred upon believers, but is the result of the believer choosing to become a slave to righteousness, eliminating everything that is unrighteous in their lives. The writer of Hebrews says without this effort, without this separation or sanctification, no one will see the Lord.

As we consider ways in which we can build others up and eliminate unrighteous behavior in our own lives, we then have the promise of being separated out from the rest of the world. Only then can we truly begin to see, understand, and know 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.

The trucker’s way of making peace

When we provide forgiveness, we give people room.

“How blessed are those who make peace, because it is they who will be called God’s children!

Matthew 5:9

Being a believer in Messiah carries many different challenges and exercises with which we are tested and tried every day. Yeshua desires his followers to be beacons of peace and forgiveness with those around them, so as to provide every opportunity for others to see the uniqueness of God, and us as his representatives in this world.

Being a peacemaker is one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging, of all aspects of the believer’s life. With all of the constant static and swirling, chaotic mass of right and wrong that confronts us in every interaction with others, Yeshua calls us to be messengers of peace. An illustration from driving in traffic may provide an analogy for us to consider.

Let’s assume that a three lane highway has a merging on-ramp with other cars that are seeking to join the main highway traffic. Where the ramp intersects with the freeway is the merging point of both lanes of traffic. Both lines of vehicles have come from different directions and yet are looking to become aligned into a single unified flow of traffic. In order to accomplish this, cars on the entrance ramp need to match their speed to that of the main highway in order to seamlessly merge in between the other cars. However, when traffic has slowed to a crawl, the merging happens less seamlessly, and tempers can flare when on-ramp vehicles begin forcing their way into the existing traffic on the main highway.

What I have noticed is that long-haul truckers that are involved in these types of congested traffic merges have adopted an interesting strategy. Because their rigs are less able to provide instantaneous stop-and-start accuracy with the cars around them, they typically choose to go at a very slow, but steady speed. This allows for large gaps in the traffic to form ahead of them, and the smaller cars around them have much more room to change lanes and join the flow of traffic on the main highway.

In effect, these truckers are acting like the “peacemakers” of the merge; their slow, constant speed provides additional room for cars to zip in and out of the lane ahead of them while they continue slowly and cautiously through the frenzy of lane changing and merging around them. This can be an analogy for us when we are considering our interactions with those in our lives.

If we look at the course of our day as the highway, then the people who come and go in our lives throughout our day are merging with us for a while and then exiting off our path or highway onto their other destinations. If we adopt the trucker strategy and allow them the additional “room” to merge and exit, we can find that our lives are much less stressful. We are not having to constantly hit the brakes or accelerate to accommodate their entrance and exits. We can still move toward our destination, albeit a little more slowly than we may have hoped, as we encounter this inevitable “traffic” in our journey each day.

This trucker strategy of giving people room is one of the most practical ways to keep peace.

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 steep price of obtaining purity of heart

God has a refining process for every individual who is seeking purity of heart.

Flee from youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

As Timothy was a young leader within the Yeshua movement of Judaism, Paul was encouraging him to focus on being a positive example to the believers. His commitment to the Messiah would need to be evident in every aspect of his being so that people would sense his sincerity, thereby spurring confidence in his teaching, and honor towards his Lord.

This admonition comes amidst a discussion on faithful workers versus those who had been spreading falsehood among believers. Paul was encouraging Timothy to stick to these basics of kingdom living to ensure he would remain separated from falsehood. He uses a metaphor of the varieties of uses of household utensils to illustrate his point.

Now in a large house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of clay. Some are for honor, and some for dishonor. If anyone therefore purges himself from these, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, and suitable for the master’s use, prepared for every good work.

2 Timothy 2:20-21

To pursue righteousness, Paul argues, one needs only to focus on faith, love and peace within the community of Messiah. This will breed pureness of heart among the believers and all will be encouraged.

While this may come across as being too simplistic, it certainly was not an easy task for the early believers. Maintaining faith in an environment of doctrinal oppression and intense persecution was a lifestyle of daily challenge. Demonstrating real love not only for the brethren but also those who were opposed to the gospel of the kingdom was a monumental task. And pursuing peace with everyone who was essentially against the teachings of Yeshua required the deepest levels of reliance on the spirit of God working in them to establish God’s kingdom in that generation.

Yeshua demanded his followers have purity of heart, but this purity of heart would come at a steep price. Paul himself suffered intense persecution, and he knew it was a reality for believers who were separating from falsehood, but that they should remain steadfast in their faith.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you remain in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.

2 Timothy 3:12-14

Being set apart for God’s use, a gold or silver utensil to be used for honorable purposes, required a refining process that would test them at every turn until they came forth in their purified quality, ready and useful to God for his special purpose in each and every opportunity. This is the end result and the goal of holiness; being set apart for God’s use.

How like those early believers we should strive to be! By demonstrating righteousness through faith, love, and peace, we will be honoring their memory along with their sacrifice and example through intense persecution. But we will also be honoring the God who calls us to the same life of useful work in our generation. As his people become set apart for his use, he is glorified in every age and his kingdom continues to fill 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 here.