Seek and you will find

Yeshua reveals that the Father follows his own advice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Religious is not always better

The qualities in the heart are what matter.

1 Timothy 1:12-17 – “I give thanks to Messiah Yeshua our Lord who has strengthened me, because he considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry ​– ​ even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Messiah Yeshua.
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” ​– ​and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Messiah Yeshua might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life.”

Most people assume that the apostle Paul here is recognizing that his former lifestyle as a persecutor of the early believers was a shameful episode of his life that he continued to be repentant of. This is not an incorrect conclusion. However, if we look a little more deeply at the characteristics he mentions that he had displayed, we may come to a slightly richer answer.

Paul did mention he persecuted the early believing congregations, and of course this would be a heinous act to one who has come to know the truth of Messiah. But he also mentions he was a blasphemer. How could that be, since he was the strictest of the Pharisees, according to his own admission?

Acts 26:4-5 – “All the Jews know my way of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own people and in Jerusalem. “They have known me for a long time, if they are willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived as a Pharisee.

Philippians 3:4-6 – …If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; … regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

If he was blameless according to the law, how could he have been a blasphemer? Well, today we think of blasphemy as speaking against God, something we could imagine a Pharisee would never do. However, the original Greek word carried a slightly broader meaning of slander toward sacred things or individuals who were of high authority, not just God alone. Timothy was accused of “blaspheming” against Moses and God (Acts 6:11). Peter likewise derides those false prophets among them who were callously slandering authority of “those having glory” whom even angels dared not bring accusations against (2 Peter 2:10-11).

Paul also mentioned he was an “arrogant man.” The Greek word can mean an insulter, or a violent maltreater. It is the root of where we get the English word “hubris,” meaning pride, but in a violent and potentially physically harmful way. Paul knew that Yeshua taught against both blasphemy and evil-acting pride as being negative qualities coming from the heart.

Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. “All these evil things come from within and defile a person.”

Paul knew that even though he was about as religious as he could be, his heart and his actions were still not right. When he came to know Messiah, he recognized that he was defiled because of these hateful and dangerous characteristics that were based in a divisive, arrogant theology mixed with traditions of men and superstitions. Everything he had worked for in his whole life: his status, his understanding of Israel in the world, his role as a teacher in the synagogues; everything had to be reevaluated and whatever was unnecessary needed to be ripped away in repentance and obedience to his Lord and Messiah.

Philippians 3:8-9 – I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord. Because of him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them as dung, so that I may gain Messiah and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Messiah ​– ​the righteousness from God based on faith.

Did Paul receive mercy and forgiveness because he was such a good person? Of course not, none of us has! Paul says he was shown mercy “so that in me, the worst of [sinners], Messiah Yeshua might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life.”

Isn’t that true for all of us who believe in Messiah? If we are being honest with ourselves, it is certainly not by anything we have done or gotten God’s attention for. We have been brought to faith in Messiah so that God can be shown to be the great and Merciful One who forgives even such as we were: faithless, ignorant and self-serving. And we are being changed, transformed into what he desires all people to be.

2 Corinthians 3:18 – We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

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

Transforming the religious and ignorant and unbelieving into his image who accomplishes his will on the earth: this is what the life of a believer is all about. We just need to keep in mind, as Paul reminds us, to recognize how utterly destitute and harmful we were before knowing God and the power of new life in Messiah, and that all of this is solely for God’s glory and God’s kingdom.

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

Faith for those who are about to believe

God counted on visible judgment to spark belief.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 – This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” ​– ​and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Messiah Yeshua might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who [are about to] believe in him for eternal life.

This passage breaks out into two main ideas: v. 15 which relates what must have become a common saying at the time, and then Paul’s encouragement at his example of God’s mercy in v. 16.

The saying “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” was apparently becoming common among the believers as a general declaration of the gospel message. That Yeshua had come to save sinners does sum up this idea; however, in the context of what Paul has written, it appears that it carries an unusual sense of imminency.

This may not be readily apparent upon a surface reading, but I recently noticed that in the Greek text, the phrase that involves believing in Messiah for eternal life is prefaced with the concept of imminency: those being about to, or intending to, believe in Messiah. The literal Greek phrasing is as follows: “I was shown mercy that in me [the] foremost, might display Yeshua Messiah the perfect patience, as a pattern for those being about to believe on him to life eternal.”

It appears as if Paul is implying that something momentous in his day is about to happen that will cause many people to believe in Messiah for eternal life. When they do, they will be able to look at the experience of Paul as a pattern of how gracious God is.

My personal belief is that Paul and the apostles were aware of the impending destruction of Jerusalem as being the motivator for encouraging repentance among the Jewish congregations along with those God-fearers who were participating with them in their worship of the one true God. The urgency with which this judgment and repentance is repeated continually during the message to the scattered Israelites throughout the book of Acts demonstrates this point.

Acts 3:19-23 – “Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, “that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Yeshua, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. “Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning. “Moses said: Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers and sisters. You must listen to everything he tells you. “And everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.
Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 17:30-31 – “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
Acts 26:20 – “Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the nations, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.

The apostles kept this repentance and judgment of God at the forefront of their understanding of the times that they were in, and in their teaching to all the people they ministered to.

Because of this, I believe Paul had a sense that when the judgment was going to be poured out on Jerusalem that many Jews and others among the nations who had heard their message would see and understand those events and would become believers in Messiah for eternal life. The righteous judgment of God upon his rebellious people would spark many at that time to place their faith in the Messiah, and in that way, “all Israel,” that is, the believing remnant inclusive of non-Jewish God-fearers, would be saved.

This is why at the end of his discourse on this concept in Romans 9-11, Paul could exclaim:

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.

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

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

The limits of forgiveness within the household of faith

Is it ever appropriate to not forgive?

Luke 17:3-4 – Take heed to yourselves: If your brother should sin, rebuke him; and if he should repent, forgive him. And if he should sin against you seven times in the day, and seven times should return to you, saying ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Forgiving someone when they have wronged us almost always feels like a huge effort on our part. Whatever they have done or said, we have been slighted, misunderstood, or worse, harmed in some way by someone’s offense against us. If we are able in those instances to gather our senses and relate to them how we have been slighted, they will many times be remorseful and apologetic of having overstepped a boundary. When we remember and enact these words of the Messiah, we can feel very spiritual and obedient by forgiving the harm that may have been done.

But what if that individual turns right around and commits the same offense or another transgression against us? How does that compounded offense make us feel? We even have a saying for it, it’s as if they have “added insult to injury.”

In no uncertain terms, Yeshua commands us to continue the forgiveness and release that we originally offered to them when they are demonstrating remorse at having offended us. Seven times, or “seventy times seven” times, the number is irrelevant, because the emphasis is on the repeated nature of the offense. Usage of the number is not meant by Yeshua to be a literal definition of how many times forgiveness must occur, but a hyperbolic way of illustrating the importance of repeated forgiveness.

Why is this a significant aspect of the believer’s daily walk? Repeated forgiveness is necessary for one very good and simple reason: because we as believers repeatedly ask for forgiveness for our offenses against God. Have you ever approached God sincerely asking for forgiveness for saying something harmful to someone else, only to reflexively and without thinking to do it again later that same day? If we have the expectation that he will forgive us when we are genuinely repentant, then we should do likewise.

But what are we to do in the case of the fellow believer does not repent or does not ask for forgiveness for having wronged us? Are we obligated to continue to fulfill this level of repeated forgiveness?

Yeshua provides some additional insight to this type of scenario in Matthew 18.

Matthew 18:15 – “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.

This sounds right in line with what Yeshua was teaching us in the Luke passage above. However, here in Matthew, he continues with a different portrayal of events, a different reaction by the brother who has offended us.

Matthew 18:16-17 – “But if he won’t listen [i.e., does not repent], take one or two others with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. “If he doesn’t pay attention to them, tell the congregation of believers. If he doesn’t pay attention even to the congregation, let him be like a Gentile and a tax collector to you.

According to Yeshua, the fact that we are to repeatedly forgive repeated offenses is dependent on the repentant nature of the individual who has offended us. If they are not sincere in repenting of a transgression and are instead deliberately causing harm, then Yeshua has also provided a method for dealing with them.

While this formal aspect of congregational involvement dealing with the unrepentant fellow believer is less practiced today, it is no less valid. Of course God desires that we forgive those who may do something against us when they are sincere in recognizing the offense. However, we are not expected to be doormats for fellow believers to take advantage of the generosity of our forgiveness.

Therefore, the limit of forgiveness with fellow believers is non-repentance. There is no obligation for continued forgiveness when there is no repentant attitude on their part. However, there does need to be involvement with others to bring closure to this type of behavior. This process ensures fair dealings and purity within the congregation of believers.

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. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Forgiveness and doing good to others consumes the evil in the world

Believers hold the key to overcome bitterness in relationships with others.

Romans 12:17-21 – Give back to no one evil for evil; providing right things before all men. If possible — so far as in you — with all men being in peace; not avenging yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath, for it has been written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will recompense again, says the Lord.’ If, then, your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink; for this doing, coals of fire you shall heap upon his head; Be not overcome by the evil, but overcome, in the good, the evil.

Forgiveness is all about release and pardon. In order to “be at peace with all men,” an individual has to conscientiously let go of any ill will or hard feelings towards others. If we as believers are serious about our walk with God, we must work to find ways to overcome any bitterness that may exist in our relationships with others.

However, letting go is only half of the equation; within you there must be another aspect to overcoming evil that works to create this peace.

Paul’s view of this and his encouragement to the believers in Rome stems from the wisdom of the Proverbs and from the teachings of Yeshua. In order to overcome actions by others that can appear as evil or that may cause bitterness or harm, do good instead.

Proverbs 25:21-22 – If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
Matthew 5:44-45 – “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

For a long time I struggled with the idea of “heaping burning coals” on someone’s head; it seems so contrary to the idea of actually doing good to them. It is as if I was being encouraged to do good as a way of somehow getting back at them, and that just seems to be the opposite of the intent of the teaching.

The idea is not that you will be putting coals on someone else; it really means that they will be so ashamed of their evil actions, they will feel as if that is the case. Have you ever been severely embarassed in public? Your face was likely flushed, and you could feel the warmth as the blood rushed to your head. This is what the “heaping coals” implies. When someone does something bad to you, and you instead turn around and do something good for them, they will feel ashamed and embarrassed, and are likely to feel truly sorry for their wrongs.

Albert Barnes writes:

Coals of fire are doubtless emblematical of “pain.” But the idea here is not that in so doing we shall call down divine vengeance on the man; but the apostle is speaking of the natural effect or result of showing him kindness. Burning coals heaped on a man’s head would be expressive of intense agony. So the apostle says that the “effect” of doing good to an enemy would be to produce pain. But the pain will result from shame, remorse of conscience, a conviction of the evil of his conduct, and an apprehension of divine displeasure that may lead to repentance. To do this, is not only perfectly right, but it is desirable. If a man can be brought to reflection and true repentance, it should be done.

That the ultimate vengeance belongs to God adds an additional layer to this admonition. This is a truly radical way of thinking about the believers role in the world: in the sense we are speaking about here, our doing good to others is God’s preferred measure of vengeance on wrongdoing. When we forgive others and instead do good, we are acting in a measure of divine judgment that can bring about true repentance. Ultimately, when your enemies are consumed in the fires of this type of judgment, all that remains are friends.

Barnes concludes:

If people would act on the principles of the gospel, the world would soon be at peace. No man would suffer himself many times to be overwhelmed in this way with coals of fire. It is not human nature, bad as it is; and if Christians would meet all unkindness with kindness, all malice with benevolence, and all wrong with right, peace would soon pervade the community, and even opposition to the gospel might soon die away.

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. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

The true power of forgiveness

Our practice of forgiveness is a release for others and for also for us.

If you, O Lord, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored.

Psalm 130:3-4

Forgiveness is powerful.

God’s forgiveness has the ability to turn unrighteous indignation into praise and honor. It can break down the hard shell of resistant non-compliance into willing service. It can unshackle chains of fear and lack of self-worth when recognized by a penitent heart.

While the Psalmist brings this question before Yahweh, how similar its truth rings when applied to our own lives. If we do nothing but keep track of everyone’s sins against us, who can possibly stand before us? We will see nothing but hatred and disgust for those who have offended us in some way or not lived up to our own standards for them. In this mindset, we become critical, demanding and non-caring of the needs of others. We are blinded by our own unforgiveness of others.

However, when we are willing to forgive, we are viewed differently by others. Instead of fear or hatred there is honor as recognition of this forgiveness becomes known. Those who are willing to receive forgiveness understand they don’t deserve it, and that the one who is forgiving is granting them a relational privilege. This can build a sense of respect and honor. Where once there was hatred and fear there is now trust and security.

For those who do not receive forgiveness, they may scoff and turn away, only to spurn the privilege that has been offered to them. However, regardless of emotional reactions of others beyond our control, when we forgive we also release ourselves from the judgment and typically unfair criticism that can result from keeping track of the sins of others against us. They are free to choose their own path, and we are free to live in the harmony and reconciliation we have created in our own world.

Forgiveness is powerful.

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

Fasting and prayer: devotion in the service of others

Fasting is a practice of holiness, or setting apart, which can create an intimate time of seeking to commune with God. But as we will see, it is also a strong metaphor for the concept of whole-hearted devotion to serving others.

Core of the Bible podcast #19 – Fasting and prayer: devotion in the service of others

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of Holiness, and the role of fasting and prayer. This is a practice of holiness, or setting apart, which can create an intimate time of seeking to commune with God. But as we will see, it is also a strong metaphor for the concept of whole-hearted devotion to serving others.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Moreover when you fast, do not be as the hypocrites, of a sad appearance; for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face, that you do not appear unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret: and your Father, who sees in secret, shall reward you openly. Matthew 6:16-18

Now the primary purpose of this teaching by Yeshua was to address the issue of public pride that the Jewish leaders would practice to make a show of their obedience openly. He instead focuses on the private and sincere relationship that believers should have with God. Yeshua does not dissuade the practice of fasting, just the manner in which the Jews were using it to make themselves look better in the eyes of others.

Fasting is a practice of believers mentioned throughout the Bible, typically coupled with intense, focused prayer.

Daniel 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes…

Mark 9:29  And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.

Acts 14:23  And when they had ordained themselves elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

1 Corinthians 7:5  Do not deprive one another, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan not tempt you for your lack of self control.

Of course the admonition of Yeshua is that fasting and prayer should not in any way become a source of pride and vanity, as if you are doing something special that God should suddenly sit up and take notice of. He encourages fasting in the context of the daily routine, without any indication to others that you might be separating yourself apart. This “secret” aspect of fasting and prayer indicates the personal nature of this type of communion with God.

By reviewing how fasting and prayer have been used in the Bible, we can come to a better practical understanding of how God intends us to use this practice in ways that honor him. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but highlights some insights into this misunderstood practice.

Fasting and prayer as an act of repentance

Fasting is related to a humbling of oneself before God. In many English versions, this is typically translated as affliction or humbling; to “afflict one’s soul” was an act of humility before Yahweh. This was specifically listed as a commanded practice on the Day of Atonement each year, a day of seeking God and petitioning him for forgiveness.

And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger who sojourns among you: … It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and you shall afflict your souls by a statute forever. Leviticus 16:29, 31

This corporate fasting was to be for a national representative humbling before God, that the community would always remain obedient to God’s ways and that his acceptance would be evident throughout their land for the coming year. Fasting, therefore, is a manner of self-denial in the service of a larger objective.  

Fasting and prayer was for seeking God’s involvement and favor

These are some additional examples of corporate fasting and prayer that was used to seek God’s will and a hopeful outcome of events.

Ezra 8:21, 23 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Aha’va, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him an upright way for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. … So we fasted and besought our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

It is interesting to note that these examples of corporate fasting were for the benefit of others, or for better understanding God’s purpose and will for their lives.

Fasting and prayer for the sake of enemies

We typically see fasting and prayer as a way of declaring our sincerity before God for our personal requests, yet the Psalmist carries a clear directive of how he was moved to fast and pray for even his enemies.

Psalm 35:11-14 False witnesses stepped forward and questioned me concerning things about which I knew nothing. They paid me back evil for good; my soul mourns. But when they were sick, I wore sackcloth, humbled myself with fasting, and prayed from my heart repeatedly. I paced about as for my friend or my brother, and fell down mourning as one weeps for one’s mother.

This, of course, echoes the later teaching of Yeshua.

Matthew 5:43-45 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Fasting accompanied great times of testing, but also of revelation.

We see that  Yeshua fasted during this pivotal time of testing at the outset of his public ministry. 

Luke 4:1-2 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Likewise, Moses had fasted on Sinai during his time of communion with Yahweh which resulted in the provision of the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 34:28  And he [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Both of these men had fasted in the service of others which resulted in bold empowerment in their public ministries.

Fasting and prayer with the wrong attitude

Isaiah is very bold in denouncing the corrupt religiosity of his day when he confronts Israel with a hypothetical conversation between the Israelites and God.

Isaiah 58:3-5  ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?

Fasting is not a cure-all for the deficiencies of the heart; if our heart is not right, we will not be praying right, fasting or not.  

Through all of these passages, we are learning that fasting is significant, but only if it is done with a right and sincere attitude, and primarily in the service of others, not for our own selfish ambitions.

In teaching of the fulfillment of this kingdom, Yeshua continues this idea of being set apart through fasting. He encourages this practice among believers but cautions them not to make a show of it with others, otherwise their “humbling” would itself become a form of hypocrisy. Fasting and prayer was not to be something for personal benefit or gain, but for the service of others. Yeshua specifies that true fasting and prayer is “unto your Father,” as a means of private intimacy in communication with him.  

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites [do,] for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18

When we fast, we should take measures to be certain it is not obvious to others. Our private works of humility and worship in the service of, and communion with, the one true God should remain private. If we are sincere in preparing our hearts and bodies to be receptive to the leading of God, we must maintain that intimacy.

When our inner convictions become just an outward show, we have denied ourselves and create a mockery of God. Self-adulation and false humility demonstrate a shallow understanding of our spiritual condition for the simple purpose of bettering ourselves in the eyes of others.

Ultimately, fasting reminds us who our Provider is, both physically and spiritually

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 And you shall remember all the ways which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.

In the wilderness, the Israelites were forced to fast as a way of recognizing their dependence on God. Their lack of food provided the example that God would also supply their needs through the manna. They were set apart in the wilderness, a people called to a unique way of life that was to exemplify the kingdom of God on the earth. In this wilderness experience, they were to be humbled, proven. God wanted to find out what was in their hearts. He taught them dependence on him for their physical and spiritual needs.

This whole narrative is an appropriate allegory for us today, as this world system we live in can appear to be a vast wilderness devoid of any life-giving support. God uses this world system to humble and prove us, searching for what is in our hearts. He wants us to recognize him and depend on him for our spiritual and physical needs. This way, the kingdom community can grow and thrive.

The right kind of fasting

Going back to Isaiah, he provides us the clearest insight into God’s view of fasting and prayer:

Isaiah 58:6-11 – “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.

I have always loved this passage in Isaiah because it highlights the fallacy of fasting as a sort of magic charm that can be used to get God’s attention for personal desires. Instead, Isaiah says what really gets God’s attention is denying ourselves (i.e., fasting) through the service of others. The provision of justice and mercy is what true fasting is all about. What makes us holy or set apart from others should be our sincere and tireless efforts in outreach to those in need. Most people in the world are existing for their own wants and desires; God’s people should demonstrate a different mindset, one that seeks to focus on others, even to the point of denying oneself so that others can be benefited.

The apostle Paul writes:

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

In summary of all I’ve discussed here today, denying body and soul is a personal discipline that is meant to take our eyes off of ourselves and our own needs. Making a display of it contradicts everything it is intended to accomplish.

However, maintaining a vital and dynamic intimacy with God through our heart understanding working in concert with our actions towards others provides great personal reward. Fasting with prayer is a spiritual practice that, done for the right reasons and in the correct, sincere manner, will provide a deep level of personal connection with God in the service of others. This practice provides us an opportunity to continually set ourselves apart in seeking God’s purpose within his kingdom. This is an unseen way in which we are strengthened to visibly serve others effectively in his name.

Well, once again, I hope I’ve been able to provide you some ideas and concepts to meditate on further. We need to keep in mind that fasting and prayer is not a personal discipline for our own selfish desires, but a means of humbling ourselves before God in the service of the needs of 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at

Good grief

As believers in Messiah, w are being molded and and shaped by Spirit of God and by his word to have an increased sympathy for the unrighteousness we see around us.

I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned before and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness which they have practiced.

2 Corinthians 12:21

As believers grow in the understanding of their faith, they typically become more aware of the world around them from God’s perspective. His Spirit awakens a sensitivity to unrighteousness that may not have present earlier. As the Potter begins to re-shape the clay of the heart, a recognition of the irregular pottery in the rest of the Artist’s studio comes into clearer focus.

This is a healthy aspect of the setting-apart, which is what holiness is, that takes place in the life of a growing believer. As a new creation in the hands of God, the new eyes see new things and the new heart feels new things.

This was the longing of believers in the age before Messiah:

Psalm 119:18 – Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your torah.
Psalm 51:10 – Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

The New Jerusalem of this Messianic kingdom is the realization and fulfillment of these longings for renewal.

…and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; … And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3, 5

Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

As believers in Messiah, we are being molded and shaped by Spirit of God and by his word to have an increased sympathy for the unrighteousness we see around us, but this is so that we may bring his light and truth to a darkened world. We are being set apart, not to remain apart, but to work from this place of renewal for the good of 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 here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.

The balance of practicing cautious compassion

We are encouraged by Jude to initially show mercy to those who may oppose the message of the kingdom.

Show mercy to those who have doubts. Save others by snatching them from the fire. Show mercy to others, even though you are afraid that you might be stained by their sinful lives.

Jude 1:22-23

The admonitions of Jude revolve around contending for “the faith which once and for all God has given to his people.” The reason this had become necessary was due to the growth of the believers’ assemblies and the mixing in of others who were not true believers.

For some godless people have slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Jude 1:4

According to Jude, the baseline for belonging within the believers’ assembly is accepting Yeshua as Lord and Master; i.e., recognizing his unique role as the leader of God’s kingdom on earth, and abiding by his teachings. He recognized that individuals who did not hold those basic tenets had begun to infiltrate their assemblies.

  • v. 8 “[they] have visions which make them sin against their own bodies; they despise God’s authority and insult the glorious beings above.”
  • v. 10 “these people attack with insults anything they do not understand; and those things that they know by instinct, like wild animals, are the very things that destroy them.”
  • v. 16 “These people are always grumbling and blaming others; they follow their own evil desires; they brag about themselves and flatter others in order to get their own way.”
  • v. 19 “These are the people who cause divisions, who are controlled by their natural desires, who do not have the Spirit.”

How the assemblies of that day had come to admit such individuals, especially in such an apparent widespread manner, is the topic of another study on vigilance. However, the admonition of Jude is to remain cautiously compassionate, even with these types of individuals. He encourages the true believers to “show mercy” to such as these, and any who might be seduced by their selfish doctrines.

This is reminiscent of Paul’s admonition to Timothy

The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but be gentle towards all, able to teach, patient, in gentleness correcting those who oppose him: perhaps God may give them repentance leading to a full knowledge of the truth…

2 Timothy 2:24-25

The caution principle comes in as Yeshua instructs us there is a point where we should recognize that some individuals will unfortunately remain resistant to the truth and possibly become harmful to us as individuals and to the kingdom objectives.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6

Paul also cautions Titus:

Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

Titus 3:10-11

However, our initial response to those who oppose the message of the kingdom is to remain cautiously compassionate, to reach out and offer to assist and answer concerns, because through these gentle initial overtures, many may have had their eyes opened to their own sinful ways and have been encouraged to repent and truly follow the Messiah.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at