Watchful perseverance in love

How to stand firm in the face of opposition.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love.

A few of the final parting exhortations of Paul to the congregation at Corinth reveal some of the deepest foundations for believers in Messiah.

To be alert is vigilance, watchfulness; the idea of keeping awake when everyone else is sleeping. What is he encouraging them to be on the lookout for? If we review some other uses of this term in other letters of Paul, some of these ideas are found:

Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 – So then, let us not sleep, like the rest, but let us stay awake and be self-controlled.

This idea of wakefulness as Paul uses it involves thankful prayer and being self-controlled. When we relax our guard from prayer, thanksgiving, and self-control, we can be led astray. Paul reveals this to be the case by adding to this exhortation of vigilance by saying, “Stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.”

Standing firm in the faith implies persevering. One needs exhortation to persevere only when they are encountering opposition. This is a necessary element of the faith because believers, by default, can appear antagonistic to the world around them due to their opposing world views.

Psalm 37:12 – The wicked person schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.
Proverbs 29:27 – An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

Paul knows from personal experience this is the case, and encourages the believers to literally “act like men.” This bravery, strength, and perseverance in the face of opposition is a necessity among believers, or the implanted word will not bear fruit. This can bring about the situation disclosed by Yeshua in his parable of the sower:

Matthew 13:20-21 – And the one sown on rocky ground ​– ​this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root and is short-lived. When distress or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away.

Notice, Yeshua says “when distress or persecution comes because of the word,” not if it comes about. This is the lot of those who choose to seek out and follow the Way of God in this life, and Paul is simply ensuring those believers in Corinth are prepared.

Paul then finishes his thought on vigilance, perseverance, and courage by summing up the ultimate command for all believers: “Do everything in love.” It literally reads, “All things of you, in love, let be done.” This is the difference between the believer and the non-believer when confronting these differing world views. According to Psalm 37, the wicked person “schemes against the righteous and gnashes his teeth at him.” Yet, even though to the believer the way of the unrighteous is detestable, they are still commanded to do everything in love.

True vigilance protects oneself through thankful prayer and self-control, all the while extending love to those who disagree with them. This was the path Paul encouraged those believers to navigate in their context of real danger persecution. How much more should we exhibit these characteristics in our comparatively mild day and age?


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.

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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 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.

Purity of heart through the Word of God

If we are to remain holy and blameless, we need to remain steadfast in the faith which has been handed down to this generation.

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

Purity of heart is what sets believers apart, what makes them holy. Purity and blamelessness are characteristics of a life that has been changed and influenced by the power of God’s presence and his Word.

Ephesians 5:25-27 – Husbands, love your wives, just as Messiah loved the congregation and gave himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. He did this to present the congregation to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.

Psalm 24:3-6 – Who may ascend the mountain of Yahweh? 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 Yahweh, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who inquire of him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Seeking the face of the God of Jacob and inquiring of his Word; these are the characteristics of the congregation of the Messiah, the ekklesia, or the assembly of called-out ones. The congregation of the Messiah was the example for all those who would come to faith through their testimony and witness. They were set apart through the Word of God, and through the sacrificial example of the Messiah.

Colossians 1:21-23 – Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him ​– ​ if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.

If we are to remain holy and blameless, we need to remain steadfast in the faith which has been handed down to this generation. God’s Word is maligned in the marketplace of ideas in which we live, but its timeless truths stand forever. Just as the apostle Paul became a servant of the good news of God, we also demonstrate its power when we live obediently by its dictates, when we show the world that we are inherently different through the Word that has changed our hearts. Our loving actions toward one another are the distinction that can illustrate the truth of God’s Word to a world in desperate need of stability and hope.

Philippians 2:14-16 – Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life…


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.

Finding good and attaining happiness

Trust in Yahweh to genuinely experience the goodness and happiness that only he provides.

Proverbs 16:20 Whoever is prudent and circumspect with the word will find and attain good, and the one who trusts in the LORD, how happy and blessed he is!

Trusting in Yahweh and in his word or instruction allows individuals to find and attain good. The Hebrew word tov implies that which is pleasant and agreeable to the senses. It carries ideas of fruitfulness and prosperity, kindness and ethical goodness, beneficial and valuable things.

When these things are realized through thoughtful consideration of his instruction or his word, then esher or happiness and blessedness results.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – The person who trusts in Yahweh, whose confidence indeed is Yahweh, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.

Notice that drought may come, but the one trusting in Yahweh has a source of water (strength and nourishment) that is not readily available to others. There is no need to worry about what others worry about.

The words of Yeshua echo this sentiment of Jeremiah:

Matthew 6:31-33 – “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ‘ or ‘What will we drink? ‘ or ‘What will we wear? ‘ “For those of the nations eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

When we are truly trusting in Yahweh, we are seeking his kingdom to be expressed on this earth. This provides both an objective and a place of safety, a refuge from which to operate.

Psalm 34:8-10 – Taste and see that Yahweh is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him! You who are his holy ones, fear Yahweh, for those who fear him lack nothing. Villages may lack food and go hungry, but those who seek Yahweh will not lack any good.

To fear Yahweh is to trust him; it is an expression of respect, awe, and appropriate reverence for the power and might of the one true God. The psalmist encourages people to “taste,” that is, to perceive with the senses, to see. Trusting in Yahweh is not just a belief or exercise of the mind, but an ongoing act that involves all that we do and say. Trusting in Yahweh means we recognize, act, and abide by the authority of his word. It is not just a head full of abstract beliefs, but a heart from which actions spring with the understanding and wisdom he provides.

Proverbs 16:20 strikes me as addressing one of the deepest desires of mankind: to attain tov or good which brings true happiness and blessedness. The things in this world that we seek to fill that void are vain shadows of this attainable reality. It is up to us to “taste and see,” that is, trust in Yahweh to genuinely experience the goodness and happiness that only he provides.


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 kingdom of humility and wisdom

Humility can be likened to an empty cup, ready to be filled. As the saying goes, “The more you know, the more you learn what you don’t know.”

Core of the Bible podcast #23- The kingdom of humility and wisdom

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of the Kingdom of God, and how the individuals making up this ever-expanding kingdom have hearts of humility and are filled with wisdom.

Yeshua stated it this way:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

A paraphrase to expand on the meaning of this passage conveys that to have an empty spirit, ready to receive and obey the slightest instruction, you will be blessed as the kingdom of heaven is yours.

To be poor in spirit is to remain humble amidst an abundance of wisdom and provision. It is a recognition of personal lack in the face of great resources. As the sayings go, “The more you learn, the less you understand,” or, “The more you know, the more you learn what you don’t know.” It is an acceptance of this spiritual type of destitution as a foundation for understanding.

To illustrate this, the Rev. Joseph Benson in his 19th century commentary, conveys the following.

By this expression, “the poor in spirit,” [some] understand [this to mean] those who bear a state of poverty and want with a disposition of quiet and cheerful submission to the divine will; and [others] interpret it of those who are ready to part with their possessions for charitable uses. But it seems much more probable that the truly humble are intended, or those who are sensible of their spiritual poverty, of their ignorance and sinfulness, their guilt, depravity, and weakness, their frailty and mortality; and who, therefore, whatever their outward situation in life may be, however affluent and exalted, think meanly of themselves, and neither desire the praise of men, nor covet high things in the world, but are content with the lot God assigns them, however low and poor. These are happy, because their humility renders them teachable, submissive, resigned, patient, contented, and cheerful in all estates; and it enables them to receive prosperity or adversity, health or sickness, ease or pain, life or death, with an equal mind. Whatever is allotted them … they consider as a grace or favour. They are happy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven — The present, inward kingdom, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, as well as the eternal kingdom, if they endure to the end. The knowledge which they have of themselves, and their humiliation of soul before God, prepare them for the reception of Christ, to dwell and reign in their hearts, and all the other blessings of the gospel; the blessings both of grace and glory.

Benson concludes by quoting from the prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Isaiah 66:1-2 Thus says Yahweh, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of house will you build to me? and what place shall be my rest? For all these things has my hand made, and [so] all these things came to be,” says Yahweh: “but to this man will I look, even to him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my word.

Let’s look a little more closely at some of those descriptions.

To be of a contrite spirit is to be smitten or afflicted in spirit. This is a very strange way of describing a heart that is ready and yearning for God. One English dictionary describes contrite in the following way:

“Someone who feels remorse or guilt is contrite and in addition to feeling sorry, part of the definition includes wanting to atone for having done something wrong.”

Based on this type of understanding, it makes sense to describe a remorseful individual as someone who has had their heart smitten.

It appears that God is saying he is able to teach individuals who recognize their own humble standing before him, the God of the universe. The passage in Isaiah 66 is speaking of individuals who tremble at God’s word. To tremble at God’s word is to have a recognition and acceptance of his authority. If an individual recognizes that God is the ultimate authority and has concrete standards, then one has a perspective of either abiding by or defying those standards.  When an individual realizes their actions have transgressed the requirements of God, and they are truly remorseful about those transgressions, then they can be said to have their hearts or spirits smitten, and they become willing vessels, open to correction and training by the Spirit of God through his word. This is the type of individual who, according to Yeshua, is blessed, and who is a participant in the kingdom of God.

To be poor in spirit is also to be humble. In the Hebrew Scriptures, a word to describe this condition is shaphal, meaning depressed, as in, lower than other things, not depressed emotionally. This condition of lowliness is illustrated as something God honors. By that reckoning, humility should be a primary characteristic of all of God’s people.

Let’s take a look at how consistent this idea of humility and lowliness is throughout God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 8:14  “be careful that your heart doesn’t become proud and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.

2 Samuel 22:28 You rescue an oppressed people, but your eyes are set against the proud — you humble them.

Job 5:8-11: “”But as for me, I would seek God. I would commit my cause to God, who does great things that can’t be fathomed, marvelous things without number; who gives rain on the earth, and sends waters on the fields; so that he sets up on high those who are low, those who mourn are exalted to safety.”

Job 10:16 “If I am proud, you hunt me like a lion and again display your miraculous power against me.

Psalm 138:6: “For though Yahweh is high, yet he looks after the lowly; but the proud, he knows from afar.”

Proverbs 16:5 Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to Yahweh; be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:19: “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor, than to divide the plunder with the proud.”

Proverbs 18:12  Before his downfall a person’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 29:23: “A man’s pride brings him low, but one of lowly spirit gains honor.”

Isaiah 57:15: “For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

Ezekiel 17:24: “All the trees of the field shall know that I, Yahweh, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish; I, Yahweh, have spoken and have done it.”

In modern terms, this concept of lowliness might be conveyed by saying an individual is an empty cup, ready to be filled. The cup, in its “poor” state, lacks the liquid with which it desires to be filled. However, recognizing that it is empty, it is willing to receive with joy the liquid wisdom as it is poured out.

By contrast, a cup that is already full of its own liquid cannot receive any further instruction, since it is already full. This individual has no room for growth or further revelation.

Yeshua confronted the leaders of his day because they were so full of their own teaching and doctrine, they had overshot the commands of God and had created their own un-keepable system of rules and regulations.

Mark 7:6-7, 9: “He answered them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ … He said to them, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”

An individual’s heart or soul that is full of something else cannot receive what God originally intended for it. In the extreme sense, Yeshua even confronted his own disciple Peter when Peter was introducing his own agenda into God‘s purpose and plan. This was in the context of Yeshua explaining to the disciples his impending crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

Mark 8: 32-33 Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. But he [Yeshua], turning around, and seeing his disciples, rebuked Peter, and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you have in mind not the things of God, but the things of men.””

Injecting one’s own intent upon God‘s will and purpose is so objectionable to Yeshua that he labels it with the most egregious of titles: that of the satan or the ultimate adversarial position. Once an individual is consumed with their own passion and desire above that which God intends, their life has essentially moved to an adversarial position against the things of God. If that is the case, then that individual is no longer inside the kingdom, which is why Yeshua could confidently say within a parable to those tradition-filled Jewish leaders:

Luke 13:27-28 – …’I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from me, all you evildoers! ‘ “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.

Certainly, we don’t want to place ourselves in that position, so we need to be mindful of that possibility while yet remaining firm upon the truth and power of God. To that end, believers have been provided a wealth of resources and strength through the Spirit of God and his Word so they can always know the right things to do.

For example, the apostle Paul writes about his duty to ensure that the word of God was available to God’s people among the nations.

Colossians 1:25 “I have become [the servant of the assembly], according to God’s commission that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known…”

John also conveys how this combination of their written instruction along with the anointing of God’s Spirit within the believers provided the ability to know the truth and overcome adversity and false teaching.

1 John 2:14, 20  I have written to you, children, because you have come to know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you have come to know the one who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, God’s word remains in you, and you have conquered the evil one. … But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

Paul also conveys this same understanding about the ability of believers to understand spiritual things.

1 Corinthians 2:10-12: “But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God.”

If we, then, are seeking to follow in the footsteps of these early believers by remaining faithful to God’s Word and by seeking to be filled with his Spirit, we should have the same abilities to understand the truth and overcome adversity and falsehood.

To be poor in spirit is to keep your cup empty. This way, as we remain humble and teachable, we can then have plenty of room to receive whatever wisdom and instruction God is willing to pour into us. And in this fashion, the kingdom will continue to grow for his purpose and glory, and not our own.

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.