Ezekiel 37:1-14 Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1-14 is a prophecy. In this prophecy Ezekiel is taken to a valley in which he sees the skeleton remains of a fallen army that was slain long ago and never buried. This army represents the people of Israel after the fall of Jerusalem. What he sees happen is a source of great hope for God’s people. He sees in the resurrection of the bones the revival of God’s people. This passage looks forward to a day when God will gather the remnant of His people to Israel again. He will breath new life into them in such a way that the whole world will see the miraculous hand of God.

Ezekiel began his prophetic work around 591 BC, was taken into exile in Babylon in 587 BC, lived through the destruction of Jerusalem ten years later, and continued his work until at least 571 BC. He was designated as a sentinel and was commanded to warn people of the coming destruction. This visionary experience probably happened in 580 BC, when hope for the restoration of Israel was at a low ebb from a human point of view. Israel was defeated militarily, its people were taken into exile, and it suffered because it abandoned God. Israel was alone, exhausted, discouraged, impoverished, and as good as dead-but God had other plans.

Before we can understand the events in this passage and their symbolism, we have to understand how burials were done in ancient Israel, as well as how the people expected the resurrection of the dead to take place. When someone died, his or her body was placed in one of several chambers that lined the walls of a large family tomb, which was typically cut out of rock. The tomb was then sealed until another member of the family died. When the family reentered the tomb, they would find that the body had decayed, and the only part that was left intact was the skeleton. The skeleton was then taken from the chamber and placed in a common bone coffin in the middle of the tomb. This common coffin, called an ossuary, contained the bones of many family members. The bones were often separated from their usual skeletal positions in order to make the storage of bones more efficient. For example, a rib cage might be placed next to a foot. The purpose of the ossuary was to group everyone in the family together as they awaited the resurrection. The resurrection would take place in reverse order of the decay of the body. Instead of beginning with a full body of flesh and ending with bones, the resurrection would begin with bones and end with a full body of flesh.

The Israelites were like us. They were hostile to people who weren’t part of them, and we often show the same hostility. The Israelites were a special group, but they weren’t supposed to be special for themselves. They were to be special for the nations. God was going to make them a light to the nations so that all the nations would come to God and know His Name. The people thought that it was all about them, their land, their sanctuary, and their buildings. God told them to change their ways or they would be driven out, but they rejected Him and His Laws.

Sometimes we get transported into a valley. Perhaps there is a diagnosis of illness that leads to uncertainty. Perhaps relationships that were loving and tender become sour and argumentative. We lose a job, lose a loved one, lose our way in the world in which we thought we were living. Things are going well, and then all of a sudden we enter a valley. What do we find in the valley? Bones. What do our bones look like? Are they strong and solid, or frail and brittle? DO they hold us up or weigh us down.

There is a two-part formula for revival in this passage. The first ingredient is the preaching of the Word of God. Prophecy essentially means preaching God’s Word. The second ingredient is the Spirit of God. Only God can bring genuine life, and so these assembled bodies do not come alive until God places His own breath in them-much as Adam did not become a living soul until God breathed into him the breath of life. The appearance is there, the promise of life is there, but life does not come until God Himself breathes His own life into the slain.

God Himself interprets the vision for the people: “The whole house of Israel” had been ejected from its land and vast numbers of the people had died because of their rebellion, yet one day God would bring a remnant of His people back to the Promised Land. Then He would begin to prosper them, and finally He would bring about a nationwide revival in which He would restore their hearts to Himself.

God accomplished His plan through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to pay for human sin by giving up His own life and then rising from the dead. God’s Spirit came to breathe new life in us, guiding us to know the Lord and trust Him for forgiveness and salvation. Spiritual awakening is something that all Christians want to see take place. It doesn’t matter if this is in our own neighbourhood or throughout the world. We are going to ask God to do what He did in Ezekiel. For those who have no hope, or who are dead in their sins, their spiritual life can come back to life because of the power of Jesus. God’s breath can give them new life. They can be reborn because of Christ.

The Israelites thought of themselves as a dead people. They were dead for so long that they could not imagine any life coming back into them. They were dead politically, socially, and religiously. They weren’t united to their God, but that didn’t matter to God, because He had a plan to bring His people back from the dead. Ezekiel was given the task of proclaiming this plan to the people. He must do what He promised so everyone will know that He is Lord.

Spiritual dryness comes when we become too busy with life that we don’t take time to be alone with God. Sin is another reason we feel dry and distant from God. Yielding to sin and being too busy to worship God quickly lead to a divided mind and heart. If we continue along this track, we will begin to spend more and more time doing other things and less time in prayer with God. Before we know it, we will feel tired, drained of energy, and just plain worn out. That’s when the devil begins to tempt us with sin.

The physical return of the Israelite exiles to the Promised Land began with the decree of Cyrus, the Persian conqueror of Babylon, in 539 B.C., which was a few decades after Ezekiel preached hope to the exiles on the basis of this vision. The end of the Exile and the beginning of an orthodox community of faith signaled the dawn of a new age, whose brightness could be seen only when Christ arrived, and whose fullness is yet to come.

Perhaps you feel like the Israelites did. We are all just a pile of dry, dead bones until we receive the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you are alone, dejected, and watching a scene of physical or spiritual death unfold before you. Do not worry. If the God of Ezekiel is your God, then know that even the dry bones before you can live again. In His grace they can live and stand upon their feet.  God’s Word from Ezekiel offers hope to everyone who has suffered terrible ordeals in their lives. The days we live in may be dark, but God will offer us comfort in these days. He will help our hurts to heal. All we have to do is ask God to breathe His Holy Spirit into us by remembering the words of the hymn “Breathe on Me, Breath of God:”

Breathe on me, breath of God.

Fill me with life anew,

That I may love what thou dost love,

And do what thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, breath of God.

Until my heart is pure

Until my will is one with thine

To do and to endure

Breathe on me, breath of God,

Till I am wholly thine

Until this earthly part of me

Glows with thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God.

So shall I never die,

But live with thee the perfect life.

Of thine eternity

God’s spirit can breathe new life into our bodies, minds, and dreams. God will give us the resources and chances to make the dreams He has given to us realities. We have to be still, pray, and watch God move in our lives. If we speak life, renewal, and provision for our dreams, we can know that God’s plans for our lives will take place with faith and hard work.

God has provided a way out of spiritual dryness, but we have to do our part:

  1. We must be willing to listen to the Word of God. When we are in a dry place with no hope and no apparent answer to our problems, we must accept God’s Word. It begins the process of deliverance from disorder.
  2. We must be willing to respond in obedience to the Word of God. It is our willingness to act on what is spoken by God that continues this deliverance from our “dry bones” state of existence.
  3. We must be sensitive to the movement of God’s Spirit. God’s Word gives us order, but the Spirit gives life. The Holy Spirit provides the power to bring the truth of God’s Word to fruition.

Unless we are ready to respond to the hand of God which would lead us to the bones and make us dwell among them, we are not prepared for the work of raising them to life. The work cannot be done at a distance. We have to preach the word of God to dry bones and to do this God will take us and push us, shake us, and place us in the middle of those valleys of dry bones and demand that we should preach His word to them.

The application of the vision involves the restoration of the nation of Israel, but it also refers to reality. God knows the location of every bone, every fragment, every molecule, and every grain of dust of all the saints of the ages. One day He will supernaturally bring our human bodies together, breath His Spirit into us, and equip us physically for eternal life. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, the process of death will be reversed one day, and death will be swallowed up in victory.

Ezekiel has not interrupted a prayer service to tell the people God is rewarding them for their fidelity. This is a familiar story. God takes the initiative to come to a people in slavery, either because of a conquering nation, or by their own sins (which describes us today). God offers them and us a free gift of salvation, without prerequisite merits of their own. What must they do? It is the same thing we have to do today-accept God’s free offer and then live changed lives. Does that sound like Lent to us?


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1098)
  2. Stuart, D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 20: Ezekiel (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1989; pp. 331-336
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. Hatch, Edwin, “Breathe on Me, Breath of God.” Printed in Common Praise (Toronto, ON: Anglican Book Centre; 2000)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. The Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, “My Spirit Makes My People.” Retrieved from www.lutheranhour.org
  7. “Bible Pathway-Sept. 11, 2017.” Retrieved from www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/biblepathways/
  8. Pastor Victor Robert Farrell, “Dream Word-METTLE.” Retrieved from crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. “It’s Never Too Late to Dream.” Retrieved from crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. George Young, “With God’s Spirit in Us.” Retrieved from today@thisitoday.net
  11. Emma Danzey, “A Prayer for Spiritual Awakening.” Retrieved from www.crosswalk.com/faith/prayer/
  12. Dr. David Jeremiah, “The Vision of Dry Bones.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  13. Dr. Tony Evans, “Revival in the Valley of Dry Bones.” Retrieved from www.christianity.com/devotionals/alternative-view/
  14. “Prophesy to the Bones.” Retrieved from www.ucc.org
  15. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, First Sunday of Lent (A), March 26, 2023.” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org

Jeremiah 7:21-27 Obey God

You have likely heard the old saying about getting a taste of your own medicine. It means having something done to you that you do to others. We see a good example of this in Jeremiah 7:21-28. God was disgusted with the Israelites. They had provoked Him to anger. Now they would get a little taste of what it felt like to be provoked. Enemies would come upon them. They were no longer to be the object of Jeremiah’s cries or of his prayers. The protective covering that they had was removed because even the ordinary things of life were contaminated by idolatry.

The people were still very religious outwardly, but Jeremiah told them that they were being hypocritical. Several times Jeremiah said that they refused to listen to God. They practiced what is called “syncretism,” which is the combination of what otherwise would be two or more distinct religions. We are the same. We claim to believe in God, but often we act as if everything depended on us, our efforts, and wisdom, our ability to keep all the little planets of our concerns in perfect orbit around the great blazing sun of our inner control freak.

One of the greatest problems of our time is our isolation from each other and from God. We don’t want to ask for help, and we are afraid of being thought of as being “needy.” Some of us will walk in our own counsel right off a cliff rather than show our vulnerability to another human being, or turn to God in prayer. Jeremiah would agree with that assessment. The world tells us to follow ourselves and trust ourselves, but God tells that if we do that we will go backward and not forward. We are just as God made us, and that includes being needy. God made us to fit together. We are interlocking parts that hold Creation together. He wants the best for us, but like the Israelites sometimes we do not listen, even if we have heard the voices of the prophets, the disciples, God, and Jesus.  

The key to Scripture is obedience to God. The Israelites did not want to hear that one day they would have to pay for their sin. They were stubborn. Today, we don’t want to hear that there will be a day of reckoning. We do not want God to have any deadlines. We want to continue saying “we are delivered” even when our ways are horrible mockeries of God’s ways. When God told Jeremiah to stop praying, His voice was heard only in the confines of Jeremiah’s heart. The voice of gladness, the sounds of mirth and celebration that God had intended their life to be, would be cut off. Jeremiah cut his hair and sat on the high place that should have been filled with wonder.

The whole thrust of Jeremiah Chapter 7 is that for sacrificial worship to be acceptable to God, we must come to the altar with yielding and believing hearts and a purpose to do God’s will. The Israelites failed to understand that they were a holy people, called out to a new life of total obedience to God’s will.

As He does frequently, God invited His people to remember the past. He told them that God would bring discipline on Jerusalem. The people had maintained the mechanical traditions of burnt offerings and sacrifices while forsaking God’s true commandment: “Obey My voice.” The nation had forgotten God after the death of King Josiah.

God wants us to be prosper. He wants us to be whole, balanced and growing and fruitful and fulfilling His purpose for our lives. We have to ask ourselves, “What do I desire? How am I acting on it?” He wants us to listen to Him and do what He says. Is that too much for Him to ask?


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 974)
  2. Guest, J., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 19: Jeremiah, Lamentations (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1988; pp. 72-75
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles: 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Lucado, M: The Lucado Life Lessons Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1031-1032
  6. Rev. David Mainse, “Jeremiah 7:23.” Retrieved from www.100words.ca
  7. Molly Baskette, “Functional Atheism.” Retrieved from dailydevotional@ucc.org
  8. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Getting Better.” Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org

Isaiah 1:10-20 The Meaning of Redemption

In Isaiah 1:10-20, we see another case where the Israelites have turned away from God. The Israelites were still offering sacrifices, but they used them to attempt to manipulate God, so God rejected their worship. God wants worship from a sincere heart. He will not accept the so-called worship of those who mistreat others.

Once again God offered the Israelites redemption from their sins, but He also gave them three instructions:

  1. Listen and stop. God told the people that He will not tolerate the mixture of temple prayers and idol worship that the people offered to Him. The Israelites wanted the best of both worlds. They sacrificed to the popular idols of the day while offering prayers to God. They tried to cleanse themselves by offering sacrifices, burning incense, saying many prayers, and gathering together in solemn assemblies. Yet their hypocritical and sinful hearts remained. God reminded the people of the first commandment that “you shall have no other Gods before me.”
  2. God called for a halt to the calling of evil assemblies that were substitutes for the Lord’s day. His commandment to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” was nonnegotiable.
  3. Cease and desist. God asked for repentance. Repentance and a return to right conduct-by promoting justice in the land-would bring God’s mercy. All three steps are involved in repentance. A sinner must be open to inward cleansing, which is shown by a personal rejection of the past and a public demonstration of change.

God asked the Israelites for positive evidence of repentance. There are five parts of a new life:

  1. Learn to do good. Even with inward cleansing, old sinful habits have to be unlearned and new habits of righteousness have to be cultivated.
  2. Seek justice. Personal repentance will lead to a renewal of social conscience.
  3. Remove oppressors.
  4. Become an activist on behalf of children who are without fathers because of abandonment, divorce, or death.
  5. Become an advocate for defenseless women who are most vulnerable to schemes and scams that rob them of their sustenance.

When we fall short of God’s expectations, when we miss the mark, when we go astray, or when we turn our backs on God and what we know is right, we commit sin. We are all afflicted with the disease of sin. As Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:6, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Sin is like a pile of dirty laundry that has been sitting around for some time-it stinks!!!!

As proof that He has not given up on His people, God invites them to talk with Him as intelligent and rational beings. Dialogue builds relationships. Genuine prayer has all of the qualities and characteristics of a deeply meaningful conversation  between two people. This image of God and man sitting down together for a good talk is a good example of prayer.

Can we say that we have felt or heard God’s invitation to come to Him? He wants communion with us. He wants to hear from us about what keeps us from communing openly and honestly with Him. He wants to know why we are hurting. He wants to know what is keeping us from giving our lives completely to Him. That’s what He says to each one of us. It’s a miraculous thought indeed that He cares that much about us.

The phrase “reason together” means to “come to a legal decision, debate a case.” God is our judge, and He calls His guilty people to acknowledge their sins before Him. As a judge, God would rather pardon the sins of His people. The image of sin as crimson and scarlet suggests hands full of blood, while the image of snow pictures the removal of sin through forgiveness. The context indicates that this cleansing is contingent upon their changing their sinful ways and obeying God.

As much as He wants His people to repent and turn to Him, He will not force them to return. This is a great insight into God’s character. Even though He has the power to control both the universe and human history, He would not renege on His own creative act. When He made us in His own image, He also gave us freedom of choice and took the risk that we would rebel. If we repent, we will join Him in heaven and take part in the heavenly banquet. If we continue to resist Him, we will suffer eternal consequences.

In Old Testament times, a sinner had to take an unblemished animal to the priest at the temple. In front of the priest, the sinner would grasp the animal with both hands and confess his or her sin. The guilt of the sinner was transferred to the animal. The priest would then give the sinner a knife, and the sinner would kill the animal so that it was obvious the animal died as a result of the sinner’s action.

There is a misconception today that since Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, we are automatically forgiven. That idea is false. We overlook the vital truth that we have to grab the Lamb of God with our hands of faith and confess our sins. Then we have to acknowledge that Jesus was slain for our sins as surely as if we have plunged the knife into His heart. When we do, the Lamb of God becomes our High Priest and offers His own blood on the altar of the Cross on our behalf. God then accepts our sacrifice and we are forgiven.

Being willing to repent means more than saying “God, if you want me to prosper, I’ll prosper.” It means that we apply the force of our wills and determine to receive by faith what God has promised, no matter how impossible the circumstances may seem to be. We have to be willing to act. We have to be prepared to do what God wants us to do. Many Christians want to do just enough to get by. They don’t like responsibility. Those who carry the greatest loads are also the ones who seem to be the most blessed, and that’s because they are willing to do what God asks them to do. Many people want to be successful, but they do not want to do what is necessary to obtain success.

God does not want the empty thoughts and prayers of people who continue to tolerate injustice. God wants us to act to end all forms of injustice, especially those we hear so much about: gun violence, children separated from their parents, and refugees denied justice, to name a few. God wants us to use our hands, feet, and voices in action, because action for justice “fills up” our otherwise empty thoughts and prayers in meaningful ways.

Have you accepted God’s offer of salvation? Or do you say things like, “I’ll think about it,” or “I want to do some fun things first”? Jesus paid the price for you to have your sins forgiven, but you must accept the free gift of eternal life He offers.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 881-882)
  2. McKenna, D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 17: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1993; pp. 54-59)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Gloria Copeland, “Get Aggressive!” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  6. Jerry Savelle, “Be Willing to be Successful.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  7. Marvin Williams, “God Cleans the Stains.” Retrieved from www.odb.org
  8. Kathy Adam, “Isaiah 1:10-18.” Retrieved from communic@luthersem.edu
  9. Anne Graham Lotz, “Wonder of Wonders.” Retrieved form info@angelministries.org
  10. Harold Sala, Ph.D., “When We Fall Short.” Retrieved from info@guidelines.org
  11. Pastor Jack Hibbs, “Come Now.” Retrieved from devotion@reallifewithjackhibbs.org
  12. Hazel W. Merret, “Dumb Excuses.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org

Romans 5:12-19 The Grace of Christ

“We won! We won!” shouted August as he dashed into the house. “Our team won the archery competition at school today, and look what I got!” He held out a blue first-prize ribbon.

“That’s great!” said Mom. “And you’re always saying you’re no good at archery. How many points did you make?”

“Only two, but it didn’t matter, because I was on the best team–Jonathan’s team. He’s the best archer in the whole school.” August grinned. “I could never win an archery competition on my own–most of the others on my team couldn’t either–but Jonathan won it for us. He made so many points we wouldn’t have had to make any. But the whole team got first-prize ribbons.”

Mom smiled. “Well, I’m glad you had a good time today.”

A couple days later, August and his parents attended a service at their church. On the way home, Mom commented on the message. “August, I thought of your friend Jonathan when Pastor Curtis talked about Christians being righteous in God’s sight.”

“You did?” August asked curiously. “Why would that make you think of him?”

“You told me you’d never be able to win first place in archery on your own, but the points Jonathan made in the competition counted for everyone on his team, right?” Mom asked.

“That’s right,” said August.

“Well, no person can ever be good enough to win eternal life with God on their own either,” Mom said. “We’re all sinners who have done wrong and fallen short in God’s eyes. But because of what Jesus did on the cross, everyone has the opportunity to go to heaven. Jesus won eternal life for us when He died on the cross for our sins and rose again, and all who trust in Him are on His team. Just like all the kids on your archery team shared in Jonathan’s victory in the competition, all Christians share in Jesus’s victory over sin and death.”

“Wow! Then we’re members of the very best team of all, aren’t we?”

Dad nodded. “As Pastor Curtis pointed out, when we trust in Jesus, God sees His righteousness in us instead of our sin. Then we all share in His victory and receive the prize of eternal life with Him. We’re members of his eternal team.”

In Romans 5:12-19 Paul talks about the struggle all Christians have with the four monarchs of sin, death, grace, and life. Satan was the original violator of the righteousness of God, but sin entered the world through Adam and death entered the world through sin. Paradise was polluted by sin. The fact that sin entered the world is not always treated with the solemnity that it deserves.

Part of the problem is that in our preoccupation with sin and our struggle against sin, we ignore the fact that Adam’s sin was a calculated decision to disobey God and accept the consequences of his actions. When man introduces something new into human experience, the human race will always be left to live with the consequences. When sin entered the life of a man, it also entered the experience of a race as yet unborn. Even though there was no law, death was universal because people were still sinful. They died because they inherited the nature of death from Adam, not because of their sinful acts.

Because humanity was exposed to sin, it was also exposed to the horror of death. As sin entered, abounded, and reigned, so also did death. When God spoke to Adam about obedience He made it clear that disobedience would lead to death. God was not referring to physical death because Adam and Eve survived the Fall for many years. God was referring to spiritual death, or alienation from the life of God. Adam experienced that alienation, and the human race is still largely alienated from God today.

Christ in His obedience corrected the wrong Adam did in his disobedience. Christ is not Adam’s successor but his Saviour. They are alike only in the sense that both had universal significance: Adam for death, Christ for Life. The key is the phrase “much more.” Whatever humankind has inherited from Adam, they have much more in Christ. By using the words “abound” and “reign” to describe the action of sin, death, and grace in human experience, Paul used the reality of sin and death as an illustration of the reality of grace, which is not always easy to understand.

Christ’s one act of salvation was far superior to Adam’s one act of rebellion. One Bible commentator said,” that the one single misdeed should be answered by judgment, this is perfectly understandable: that the accumulated sins and guilt of all the ages should be answered by God’s free gift, this is the miracle of miracles.” Christ’s reign in life is greater than Adam’s “reign” in death.

The Law of Moses applied to the people of Israel. They were under the reign of sin, but when the Law was applied to their lives, their hidden sin came out into the open. The most appalling example of this was their rejection of Jesus as Messiah when they shouted, “Crucify him, crucify him!” When Pilate washed his hands of the controversy, the Jewish leaders said, “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” At that moment sin was abundant, but grace was even more abundant. When the soldiers hammered in the nails, sin was abundant, but when Jesus said “Father, forgive them,” grace was more abundant. When He was insulted by one of the thieves and the other one asked for forgiveness, grace was very abundant when Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Christ’s obedience is greater than Adam’s disobedience. Adam was in an environment conducive to obedience (the Garden); still, he disobeyed and brought death. The second Adam (Jesus) was in an environment that hindered obedience (the fallen world), yet He obeyed and brought life.

The reign of Christ’s grace is as far-reaching as the reign of sin. Through Adam the entire human race was reached by sin, but it was also touched by Christ’s grace. Through birth all are related to Adam; through faith “the many” are related to Christ. Adam’s people suffer death, but Christ’s people enjoy the all-pervading reign of grace, eternal life, and righteousness.

In verse 17 Paul writes that “those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” The other three reigns speak of powers or principles under which human beings live, but the reign of grace speaks of the quality of life which redeemed individuals are to demonstrate.

One of the hardest things to do is to be saved by grace. There’s something in us that reacts to God’s free gift. We have a tendency to create laws, systems, and regulations that will make us “worthy” of our gift. Why do we do that? It is probably because of pride. To accept grace means to accept its necessity, and most people don’t like to do that. Accepting grace also means that one realizes his or her despair, and most people aren’t too keen on doing that either.

Those who receive Christ are born to the heavenly palace and have the royal blood in their veins exclusively through Him. It is what He has done and who He is in their lives that alone makes reigning in life a possibility. With Him all things are possible; without Him we will fail. With Him we can stand in the presence of God without a sense of fear, guilt, or inferiority, and with no consciousness of sin.

If we are tempted to think that our sins are too great for God to forgive, we must remember that the power of God is infinitely greater than our sin. When God looks at us He doesn’t see us in weak, defeated, or leftover positions. He sees us as rulers and royalty. We have His royal blood flowing through our veins. God uses our sin to motivate us toward greater spiritual achievement, to quicken our compassion toward sinners and to show God’s tender heart for the fallen.

If we are tempted to think that Satan is too powerful to resist, we must remember that the power that raised Christ from the grave lives in us. If we are tempted to doubt our salvation, we must remember that it is well with our souls because Jesus has perfectly paid the price for our sins. Our justification happened at the cross. It means God has acquitted us of our sins, vindicated and pronounced us righteous in His eyes. We are as much justified the hour we first came to Christ by faith as we will be for all eternity.

If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, then through the application of the principles in God’s Word we can see every situation in life turn out positively and for our good. This does not mean that we will never suffer hardship. Being able to live supernaturally above the circumstances of life is conditional; it is based on us receiving God’s overflowing grace and the free gift of righteousness. These gifts can’t be earned. They were paid for by Christ’s blood. They are precious gifts from God that we can only receive in the same way we receive anything else from God: by faith. When we realize that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, that we are in right standing with God, the works of Satan in our lives are forever destroyed. Grace restores our relationship with God and frees us to live the life Jesus offers. His grace allows us to face our past, to confess our sins, and to repent and lead in a new way today. It frees us to apologize to those we have hurt and guides us as we make amends.

Are you on God’s team? There’s no way you can have victory over sin and death and win a place in heaven on your own. But Jesus has already won the victory, and He invites you to share in it. Will you trust Him as your Savior today? Then when God looks at you, He’ll see Jesus’s goodness–His righteousness–and you’ll be on His team forever!


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1550)
  2. Briscoe, D.S., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 29: Romans (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 117-126)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Jerry Savelle, “A Revelation of Righteousness.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  5. Jerry Savelle, “Reign of a King.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  6. Jerry Savelle, “Revelation of Righteousness.” Retrieved from paul@ncmcanada.com
  7. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Christ Arose and We Won.” Retrieved from web@ltw.org
  8. Max Lucado, “An Undeserved Gift.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Joel Osteen, “Reign in Life.” Retrieved from devotional@e.joelosteen.com
  10. Selwyn Hughes, “Grace-Greater Than All Our Sin.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  11. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Justification.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
  12. Hazel Marett, “The Best Team.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org

Titus 1:1-16 The Necessity of Sound Doctrine

As a young pastor, Titus needed more than a brief greeting and a pat on the back. He needed a plan. He also needed a strong word of encouragement from his coach, friend, and father in the faith to steel him for a daunting task. That came in the form of the apostle Paul.

Paul knew that establishing and pastoring multiple churches on the island of Crete would be difficult, especially because false teachers posed a threat. Paul reassured Titus that he (Paul, as a seasoned mentor) understood the difficulty of the task that Titus faced. Paul encouraged Titus to stand strong and speak boldly. Paul also gave Titus a practical plan for strengthening and bringing order to the churches.

While the purpose of Paul’s Letter to Titus was to instruct Titus and the Christians in Crete in some practical matters that had to be corrected, Paul began the letter by establishing his authority to give such instructions on the basis of his own commitment to the truth revealed in Jesus Christ.  Part of his authority was the fact that he called himself “a bondservant of God.” A bondservant was the least valuable of slaves in biblical times. Paul expressed his utter devotion to the Lord in verse 1.

While Paul presented his credentials, he made a profound doctrinal statement of his understanding of the truth. His authority was grounded in “the faith of God’s elect.” His apostleship and his authority were consistent with the faith which the people of God received. This truth was “according to godliness.” Doctrine becomes deadly when it is divorced from godly living. Truth must produce goodness, or else it is not truth. Paul emphasized the truthfulness of God, who cannot lie, in contrast to the Cretans, who were liars. The Christian faith rests on the trustworthy character of God-strong ground indeed.

Godliness consists of expressions in everyday living of the character of God. If God is love, godliness consists of loving in word and deed. If God is mercy, godliness consists of being merciful. If God is patient and kind, godliness is expressed through patience and kindness. Our expressions and behaviours will never achieve godly perfection. We are called on to reflect God’s nature through our obedience and devotion to Jesus.

Paul also referred to “the hope of eternal life.” It was promised by God before time began. It is now manifested through preaching, and Paul’s preaching of this was commanded by God. Eternal life is a hope because it is not a complete reality in our experience. In one sense we have eternal life in Christ now because we have accepted Him as our Saviour, but in another sense it is yet to come because we only get eternal life when we die, and then only if we have accepted Christ as our Saviour.

Paul’s doctrine of truth can only be achieved if we as Christians have dedicated, faithful leaders. One problem in the fledging church in Crete was the need for sound leadership, perhaps in response to false teaching. Paul placed Titus in Crete to lead the people toward a life that would be a faithful expression of Paul’s doctrinal standards. Sound doctrine comes from studying, teaching, and applying God’s Word. Faithful ministers have a twofold task: to encourage sound doctrine in their preaching and to refute and convict those who contradict the gospel. When it is done right, preaching opens the eyes of all who hear and leads them to believe the truth. Truth in turn brings the hope of eternal life in their souls.

A pastor’s first step to setting things in order is to appoint elders. The quality of leadership determines the quality of the life of the congregation, and leadership is a responsibility that is shared by the pastor and the people. Leadership development begins by having a set of standards that are agreed upon and articulated to the people, especially the people who have been chosen to lead the people. In listing the qualifications of elders, Paul elevates character and lifestyle above duties, talents, or skills. Their lives must be above reproach, able to withstand slanderous criticism that would compromise the gospel.

The phrase “husband of one wife” does not necessarily exclude a single man from leadership, but if he is married, he must be faithful to his wife. The phrase “faithful children” means exercising godly conduct. Faithfulness and leadership at home prepares a man for faithful leadership within the church.

One of the problems that pastors, church leaders and Christians have to face is that of false teachers. The problem has existed since the church was established. When false teachers get a foothold in a church, their influence can be most damaging. In that way, they are similar to the devil. Satan starts by introducing a little lie and casting doubt. False teachers do the same thing.

The characteristics of false teachers stand in stark contrast to the characteristics of faithful elders. These false teachers are rebellious, deceptive, and motivated by personal gain rather than by concern for the gospel. For example, some false teachers on the island of Crete taught that the Gentiles had to be circumcised and observe Jewish laws as part of their faith. This teaching caused confusion and dissention in many churches during Paul’s time. It was ultimately addressed at the Jerusalem Council, which is referred to in Acts 15.

How can we detect false teachers? The best way is to use a method that is similar to how doctors diagnose illness. Doctors diagnose illness by the symptoms a patient has. They have several diagnostic tools that can be used including observation, X-rays, and other tests. In the same way Paul has given us some diagnostic tools to recognize false teaching. He tells us to observe their character, their tactics, and their motivation. False teachers are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers. They upset whole families and play to the culture. Finally, they are motivated by shameful gain such as money.

Paul urged Titus to silence and rebuke false teachers and bring them into the truth rather than simply removing them. At some point, removal may be necessary but correction is the first strategy. The goal is to produce a soundness and wholeness of faith. It’s easy to lose sight of this goal when confronting false teachers.

Pastors, church leaders and Christians must ensure that their faith is shown by their behaviour. As the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Part of our faith includes holding fast to the Word of God. If our faith is not validated through our behaviour, then we must ask ourselves if we even have a genuine relationship with Christ. The apostle Paul didn’t like what he saw on the island of Crete. They proclaimed Christ with their mouths, but their behaviour looked no different than the behaviour of those who did not claim Christ. We must heed the words of 1 Peter 1:7-8 and pray that our faith will be “proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1727-1729)
  2. Demarest, G.W., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol 32: 1,2 Thessalonians/ 1,2 Timothy/ Titus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1984; pp. 308-318)
  3. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Os Hillman, “Faith Proved Genuine.” Retrieved from tgif@marketplaceleaders.org
  5. T.M. Moore, “Confronting False Teaching.” Retrieved from noreply@ailbe.org
  6. Matthew Harmon, “3 Ways to Handle False Teaching and False Teachers.” Retrieved from BibleStudyTools@crosswalkmail.com
  7. Tony Evans, “Do You Believe God’s Word?” Retrieved from www.christianity.com/devotionals/alternative-view-tony-evans/alternative-view-may-19.html#

Psalm 27:1,5-13 God is Always There for Us

“David, your mom is waiting for you.”

David was startled at the sound of his teacher Gloria’s voice “Where?”

“At the playground,” she answered kindly.

David hurried down the stairs that led up to the home he had known for almost a whole year. He was one of thirty children who lived in the home that served as a refuge for children who needed protection.

He looked around. Nearby on a bench, watching a toddler play, was a young woman, who was apparently expecting another child soon.

“Mom!” David ran to her and gave her a big hug.

She hugged him tightly. “David, you’ve grown so much. Tell me what you’ve been doing. What have you been learning at school? Are you happy here?”

David started talking and smiling, telling his mom about his classes, his friends, and the fun activities he got to do with his foster family. He played with his little brother and held him. But, after a while, his mom got up, put her bag on her shoulder, and took the toddler’s hand. “It’s time for me to go,” she said.

Pain struck through David’s heart. He threw his arms around her. “When can I go back with you?” he asked, fighting tears.

David’s mother had a sad look on her face. It was too hard to explain her situation to her little boy. That the safest place for him was there. That she needed a safe place too.

As the door closed behind her, David turned and ran. Gloria found him behind one of the slides.

“David,” she said gently, “it’s not that your mom doesn’t love you. But she needs help too and can’t take care of you in the way she wants to right now. But you’ve been learning about a strong Father who is always there for His children. He’s with you, even if others can’t be. Who is that?”

“God,” David answered, looking up through his tears.

“That’s right. God is our refuge–our place of help and comfort. Jesus understands the hurt you’re feeling because He experienced the pain of our broken world too when He came to save us. Would you like us to pray to Him right now?”

David nodded. “Yes. And let’s pray that He will help my mom too.”

Psalm 27 reminds us that in times of joy or in days of distress, when we look for God, we will find Him when we remember what He has done for us in the past. We also find Him when we turn to the cross and the empty tomb. Jesus assures us that God has not forgotten us. God has said, “Seek my face,” and He is waiting to be found because, in Christ, He first sought and found us.

In verses 5-6, we see how David dealt with his fear and trouble; he looked to his confidence and his salvation-God. When believers encounter trouble and put worshipping God as the centre of their lives, He lifts their heads and hearts. Seeing the greatness of Almighty God changes one’s perspective on trouble.

When David prayed in his times of trouble, he realized how dependent he was on God’s provision. In humble submission, he sought the Lord’s presence, counsel, and fellowship, and then resolved to wait for and do whatever God told him to do.

In calling God by name, as David does, we enter into a direct relationship with God. David asked God not to reject him and not to be angry. David also reminded God of His goodness in the past. David did not want to be abandoned by God. In ancient Israel, abandonment by family was a death experience.

David mentioned “a time of trouble” in verse 5 and of his head being lifted above his enemies in verse 6. His prayer for God not to abandon him is also related to God’s using his enemies as instruments of judgment. David prays for God’s path and direction to be made clear. To be led in that way means to be taught by the Lord and to be guided on a smooth path through our enemies. David’s actions exposed the deception in the attacks from his enemies. If God delivered David to his enemies, that would be improper judgment upon David.

Even though the people closest to David might abandon him, the Lord would always be concerned about and care for him. Similarly, even if the people closest to us might abandon us, God will always be concerned for us. He will always care for us, and He will never abandon us.

The most serious illness today is not COVID-19 or other respiratory diseases. It is the loss of hope. With the exception of pockets of Christians there is an atmosphere of gloom in the air. We, like David, need a renewal of faith so that we may see God’s goodness, His kingdom in our day, in the land of the living.

The primary way God guides us is by reminding us of what we have read in the Bible. That’s why we read the Bible. We store its words in our minds, and the Holy Spirit helps us remember. He also guides us by giving us impressions and ideas. When we respond to impressions and ideas, He will fill in the details.

God wants to bless us, even when we face hardships. We can be confident that we will see God’s goodness in our lives here on earth. Our outcomes may not always be what we want them to be, but we can always expect God’s favour to find us because the Lord of Creation lives inside of us and His essence is love itself.

If we tear open a cocoon to set a butterfly free, the creature’s wings will be severely underdeveloped. This is because the very act of struggling to leave the cocoon strengthens the butterfly’s wings, preparing it for flight. We also have times of transition and change, but our remedy is similar to that of the butterfly. If we try to escape from God’s cocoon before He’s done transforming us, we risk undermining and delaying what He is trying to do. When we are in God’s cocoon, all we have to do is relax! In the stillness, we hear God. In the waiting, our characters are formed. If we wait upon God and allow Him to release us from the cocoon, we will be strong and prepared to fly in ways we never could have if we had left the cocoon too soon.

Fear is a powerful emotion that can take our attention off of God—if we allow it. Psalm 27 will help us overcome fear if fear has become part of our daily lives. In the words of former United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” David was able to stand firm even though he experienced some difficult and scary circumstances. Instead of giving in to fearful thoughts and feelings, he claimed God as his light, salvation, and stronghold.

When God gives us His Light, we don’t have to be afraid of the dark. We don’t need to fear the power of our enemies when we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can expect and trust to receive God’s help and salvation right now, in the heat of the battle with our enemies. We need to live with the same attitude David had. God directed David’s steps, and He can direct our steps. God brought the right people across David’s path when David was in trouble, and God can bring the right people across our paths when we face life’s challenges. 

Certain situations use up all of the emotional, physical, and spiritual strength we have. When we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, we can carry it on our own or we can look to God. Our burdens are light to Him. As we meditate on His promises when we face the storms of life, and listen for His guidance, He will remind us that our situation is not the end of the story. He is the God of possibilities and hope. He gives us a bright future.

We should never be downcast or sad. Christ has achieved victory over evil, our misses, and death. Our days of turmoil and our days of joy will mix and mingle with one another and add up to a lifetime. If they are lived well, they will look like Jesus.

A man was bored in retirement, so he became a Wal-Mart greeter. The customers loved his cheerful and engaging personality, but there was a problem. He was always late for work, so the manager called him into his office. He said, “Without question you are one of our best greeters, but you are always late. I know your career was in the military. What did they say when you showed up late?” The man replied, “Well, they usually said, ‘Good morning General. May I bring you a cup of coffee?’”

Do you ever think God is late? Do you ever wonder if He will show up to help you? The truth is that God’s timing is always perfect. Our waiting on Him deepens our closeness to Him. God will always show up in the nick of time, and He is always worth the wait.

Are there times when you feel alone? Have you been disappointed by people you expected to be there when you needed help or love? Even the people who love us the most aren’t able to give us all we need. People will fail because people are imperfect and we live in a broken world. But our heavenly Father will never fail us. He gave us His Son, Jesus, who is with us no matter what. His love never fails.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 723-724)
  2. Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 13: Psalms 1-72 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1986)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2006)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Joel Osteen, “It’s in His Hands.” Retrieved from www.goto.joelosteen.com
  6. Charles R. Swindoll, “Frozen by Fear.” Retrieved from info@insightforliving.ca
  7. Paris Renae, “Why.” Retrieved from Oneplace@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Dr. Ed Young, “God is Never Late.” Retrieved from ministry@winningwalk.org\
  9.  Pastor Rick Warren, “Two Ways the Holy Spirit Guides You.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  10. Steve Arterburn, “Time in the Cocoon.” Retrieved form Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  11. Dr. David Jeremiah, “The Weight of the World.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  12. Rachel Avallone, “David’s Refuge.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org

Hebrews 7:23-8:7 Priesthood and the Old and New Testaments

In the passage we heard from Hebrews, the writer is explaining Jesus’ death on the cross in terms the Jews could understand. The writer talks about the fourth and final qualification of the high priest in the Temple-purity. Before the high priest could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, he had to offer sacrifices for his own sins and those of his household. The writer emphasizes that Christ is superior to earthly high priests. Sacrifices were offered all the time because the people sinned all of the time. They needed a perfect priest and sacrifice to provide access to God permanently. Jesus is that permanent and perpetual priest.

Christ as the great High Priest had no need to offer a sacrifice for Himself because He is sinless. Because the eternal, unchanging Christ is the High Priest of every believer, He is able to shepherd God’s people all the way home to glory. No other priest will ever be necessary.

The Levitical high priests kept changing for two reasons. In the Levitical system, a priest could serve only between the ages of 25 and 50 according to Numbers 8:24-25. Also, the high priests died. Jesus the High Priest will never be replaced and will never die. The earthly high priests had to be without physical blemishes. They could not be lame, blind, mutilated in their faces, or have a limb too long. They could not have an injured foot or hand. They could not be a hunchback or a dwarf. No mention was made of the moral or spiritual requirements for priesthood.

Purity means cleansed and set apart for a holy use by God. Purity also involves moral purity-the primary moral quality of a person or thing which itself is pure without cleansing. One who has a pure moral quality is utterly pure in God’s eyes and will not yield to temptation. The one who does not yield to temptation is the one who knows its full power. That describes Jesus.

Jesus did not know any evil intentions. He had no false motivations. He spoke simple truths. He healed the sick and was good to all people. He was so filled with love that His reaction to injury was love. When He was on the cross, He prayed for the soldiers who were crucifying Him: “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” He knows how to minister to us in the way that will most benefit us and that will best bring us to maturity in Him. He makes no mistakes and always has our best interests at heart. Because of the covenant God has made with us, we have been freed from anything the devil would try to use to keep us bound by sin. Jesus became a Man to represent us in the presence of God and to pay the price for our sin so we wouldn’t have to.

Verses 26-28 summarize everything the writer has said about Jesus as High Priest since Hebrews 5:1:

  1. He is holy, always doing what pleases God.
  2. He is innocent and blameless.
  3. He is undefiled-morally unstained.
  4. He is higher than the heavens, seated at the right hand of God.

His everlasting perfection in all these ways makes Him a fitting mediator for us. In fact, He is presently seated at God’s right hand in heaven. He intercedes with God on our behalf.

Jesus’ priesthood is superior to the Old Testament priesthood in that:

  1. He did not have to offer a sacrifice for Himself, because He was sinless.
  2. He offered up a once-for-all sacrifice-Himself.
  3. His priesthood is for both Jews and Gentiles. It is for every nation, every people…anyone who will accept the free gift of salvation by placing their faith in Jesus.

Verse 28 provides a final contrast between Jesus and the Old Testament priests. The Old Testament priests were sinful, weak humans who were appointed by the Old Testament law. Jesus, the perfect Son, was appointed an eternal High Priest. Jesus, the Great High Priest, has gained victory over sin and death for His people and intercedes before the Father on their behalf.

The word “true” is not used in Hebrews 8:1-6 in contrast to something false. Instead, it means “original,” in contrast to something that is a copy. Moses’ tabernacle was just a copy of the true tabernacle in heaven. Jesus Christ is the true High Priest who ministers in the true, heavenly sanctuary. Likewise, according to theologian William Barclay, “Earthly worship is a remote reflection of real worship; the earthly priesthood is an inadequate shadow of the real priesthood.”

The Old Testament covenant depended on words from God written in stone. Because no one could keep the Old Covenant due to human sinfulness, it was condemning. The Mosaic Covenant, the covenant of the law, was conditional: “If you will…then I will…” It consisted of commandments that revealed God’s righteous will, judgments that regulated the social life of Israel, and ordinances that laid out the requirements of Israel’s religious life. Jesus’ death and resurrection led to a new covenant in which God writes His thoughts upon the hearts of His redeemed children through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Under the old covenant, God gave specific instructions that regulated the sacrifices that were made and to whom they were to be given. In the new covenant, God has given His people instructions about how to give in response to Christ’s sacrifice. We are imperfect and He gives us perfection. We are to blame forz our sin, but He presents us blameless. He changes us to the degree that we’re no longer sinners saved by grace. In Christ, we’ve become saints who sometimes sin.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1752-1753)
  2. Evans, L.H. Jr., and Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 33: Hebrews (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 121-124,142-145)
  3. Stanly, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers: 2006)
  5. John MacArthur, “Jesus: Our Great High Priest.” Retrieved from internetministry@gty.org
  6. Bayless Conley, “For All People.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  7. Vikki Burke, “You Have a Covenant With God.” Retrieved form dbm@dennisburkeministries.org
  8. “Once For All-the Template for Christian Stewardship.” Retrieved from Christianity.com@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Pete Briscoe, “Experiencing LIFE Today.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com

Ephesians 4:17-32 Forgiveness is Part of God’s Truth

“Mom, what are we having for dinner?” Clara tapped her pencil against the table.


Mom turned around from stirring the big pot on the stove. “Venison and veggie stew. Do you need any help with your homework?”

“I can’t focus,” Clara said with a groan. She scowled. “I keep thinking about what Emerson said to me.”

Mom sighed and headed over to the table. “Clara, your brother apologized and received a punishment–days ago. Why are you stewing over this?”

“Huh? Stewing?” asked Clara. “We haven’t even eaten the stew!”

Mom laughed. “No, it’s a homonym. Like what you’re working on in school.” She tapped Clara’s paper. “Like a dog’s bark and a tree’s bark? Stew has more than one meaning. Sometimes, it can mean you’re thinking about something with agitation or resentment–you’re dwelling on it.”

“Kind of like our food stew has been in the pot for hours?” asked Clara. “And I’ve been dwelling on what Emerson said for days?”

Mom nodded. “Here’s a question for you, Clara. What has your stewing done for you?”

“I guess it’s made me more upset…and a little distracted,” Clara admitted thoughtfully.

“When we choose to focus on forgiveness and allow God to be the Judge, it softens our hearts and gives us freedom.” Mom drew a heart on Clara’s paper.

“Even if the person who did something wrong doesn’t deserve it?” Clara asked.

Mom looked into Clara’s eyes. “We didn’t deserve Jesus’s forgiveness, and yet He died on the cross for us. When I start dwelling on what someone did, I talk with Jesus and think about what He did for us. I remember the kindness and compassion He has for me and the person who hurt me. And that allows me to forgive.”

Clara sighed. “It’s hard sometimes, but you’re right. I’m making ‘ew stew’ in my mind and heart, and I would rather be brewing something yummy.”

“Like coffee?” Mom winked.

“Oooh, yes, with extra sweet creamer!” Clara giggled. “Kindness and forgiveness coffee.”

Mom handed Clara an empty coffee cup. “Yum! I’ll take some of that, please!”

A sense of urgency marks Ephesians 4:17-32. Like most ancient cities, Ephesus was morally corrupt, and Paul wanted these believers to understand that Christianity requires a revolutionary change in their lives.  Christians can no longer live as they once lived; God calls them to a new and righteous lifestyle.

The church has placed less emphasis on the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of Christianity. Social sins have screamed so loudly in their impact on humanity that the church has had to confess its sin of uninvolvement, insensitivity, and apathy. The church has invested its energy in social concern and change. This can never leave out personal morality. The time has come to multiply places of sharing where struggle and contemplations are closely related to daily living.

In verses 17-19, the term “Gentiles” means people who actively reject the knowledge of God, not Gentile believers. Such people may consider themselves enlightened, and they may even be quite intelligent, but their separation from God makes their thinking unproductive and blind. Their lack of spiritual understanding makes them callous about morality and leads to sinful behaviour such as lewdness and greed. Their hearts were hardened, and they gave themselves to “lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Paul says that we as believers have been delivered from this.

If we continue to deny the truth of God’s Word, our understanding is darkened. The more we deny truth, the less capable we become in understanding and appreciating truth. Every time we surrender to temptation our hearts harden their sensitivity and narrow the range of future choices. When we reject God’s Word we become alienated from Him, and we destroy the source of mental, moral, and spiritual health. We don’t ask ultimate questions, and we develop a lack of concern.

Paul said that believers “should put off…the old man,” rejecting that former way of life and its corruption. We have to make a conscious, moment-by-moment choice to depend on the Holy Spirit’s power to change us into the likeness of Christ.  Those who trust in Christ have been given a new position in His new creation, but they must daily choose to live His way. Believers can and should participate in the process of putting off the old man and putting on the new man, but ultimately the process and outcome belong to God. He is the one who changes people. Every believer can be assisted in the all-important work of being renewed in his or her mind.

A Christian’s uniqueness in the world should be apparent in his or her morality, mood, money, mouth, and manners. To avoid sinning in the heat of anger, God’s people should not nurse, rehearse, discuss, or project their anger onto others. Instead, they should control their anger and deal with it quickly to prevent the enemy from gaining any ground in their hearts. Paul also calls us to honest labour as a sign of the newness of life. This honest labour is to be used to create something that can be given to someone who is needy. We are also to be kind to each other.

Verses 17-28 explain how Christians should walk; verse 29 offers helpful advice on how Christians should talk. They need to choose words that encourage, exhort, and impart grace to others. When Paul cautions against corrupt words, he uses a Greek term that describes the decaying body of an animal. Such conversation is deadly enough among unbelievers and should never be heard among God’s people.

God’s example is the model for how we forgive others. Forgiving others is not about a feeling. It’s about a promise and obedience. When we forgive someone, we make a three-point promise:

  1. We will not bring the matter up with that person again.
  2. We will not bring the matter up with anyone else.
  3. We will not bring the matter back up to ourselves.

One scholar wrote, “Of all deeds, words are the most revealing, the most instantly available, the most freighted with personal significance.” In Hebrew, thought, word, and deed are not distinct from one another. To say something was to do something.

The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer discovered the truth of this saying, and he witnessed to it in the Flossenberg Prison, where he was condemned to die during Word War II for opposing Adolph Hitler and the Nazi party. He walked the narrow corridors visiting prisoners and encouraging them. He laughed and joked with them, reminisced with them, and prayed with them. His words were his main means of ministry, but his words were deeds. He wrote, “God has put His Word into our mouths in order that it may be communicated to others. The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs that friend again and again and again.”

Have you ever had a hard time forgiving someone? When we find ourselves in this situation, we can remember the forgiveness God shows us through His Son, Jesus. Forgiveness means releasing your desire for revenge and giving it over to Jesus, the good Judge who will one day take care of every wrong. If you have asked Him to be your Savior, you have His power to help you forgive.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; pp. 1645)
  2. Dunnam, M.D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 206-215)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Dr. Paul Chappell, “New Clothes.” Retrieved from daily@dailyintheword.org
  6. Allister Begg, “The Reason We Forgive.” Retrieved from newsletters@truthforlife.org
  7. “Ew Stew.” Retrieved from info@keysforkids.org

Isaiah 2:1-5 Hope for the Future

A retired priest once told me that the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the New Testament, and the reading we heard from Isaiah 2 is a good example. Isaiah talks about the coming of the Lord, which was fulfilled when Christ came to earth on the first Christmas over 2,000 years ago.

Isaiah had a vision for Jerusalem and the nation. He called for a spiritual renewal and a re-commitment to the covenant and trust in God. Isaiah saw Jerusalem and the Temple as potential beacons for all the nations. He called the people to be faithful to God, to put aside plans for a military solution to their problems and instead seek peaceful ways.

God had a vision for His world that was fulfilled when Christ came. The phrase “in the latter days” refers to a time in the future when God would visit the earth to bring judgment and salvation. From the perspective of the New Testament, this takes place at the second coming of Christ. This will mean salvation and blessing not only for Israel but for people from all the nations who will learn God’s ways and worship Him.

Does God have that same purpose for His world today? Are we as members of the contemporary church to teach the spirit of righteousness and show justice? We don’t have a choice between one ministry or the other. Our primary tasks are conversion and conscience. Jerusalem served as the centrepiece of Isaiah’s prophecy in Old Testament times, and we are called on to be the agents of God’s truth for our world.

 In front of the United Nations headquarters in New York City there is a sculpture of a man beating a sword into a plow point. Under it there is an inscription from Isaiah 2:4: “…..they shall beat their swords into plowshares…” The United Nations is a secular embodiment of the vision God gave to Isaiah. The United Nations and its predecessor the League of Nations were formed with high hopes that they would provide a forum for nations to work out their differences in a rational manner and usher in the vaunted day of world peace. The usefulness of the United Nations cannot be argued, but we are still light years away from a world where humanity lives in harmony.

While the vision of Isaiah and the framers of the United Nations is similar, the source of the vision is very different. People who put their faith in the United Nations as the means to that peaceable kingdom are placing their trust in human rationality and good will. This will meet with disappointment because it has underestimated the depths of human selfishness. For Isaiah and for people of faith, the peaceable kingdom is an act of God which God will create in His own time and in His own way. This kingdom will not be achieved until all people submit to God’s lordship.

Isaiah’s vision of peace is linked to the concept of God as Judge. Isaiah 2:4 states that God will judge between nations. There is a lesson for us here. Conflict results when we insist on judging things from our narrow, human perspective, but peace and harmony come from God and His point of view.

What would happen if the spirit and the law of God were in practice today? In the religious wars of the world, God would make judgments against aggressors and rebuke both sides for fighting in His name. He recommended three policies for world peace:

  1. Economically the nations of the world must change military spending into peaceful production in order to stimulate growth and serve the people.
  2. Politically, a peace pact needs to be signed that will stop the fighting.
  3. Militarily, the training for war must cease.

When Christ returns and sits on His throne in Jerusalem, the world will enjoy uninterrupted peaceful conditions. Warfare will continue to characterize human history until Christ returns. When we learn God’s ways we unlearn the ways of war. When we walk in God’s light, we leave behind the dark and evil places where lives and civilizations are snuffed out by war and violence. Who among us hasn’t wished and hoped deeply for peace in the midst of conflict, fighting, and war, especially with the war in Ukraine? The challenge of the future is that it is a dream. Too often peace seems to be a dream.

The reason we will turn the weapons of warfare into the tools of cultivation and agriculture is not just because we won’t need them to fight anymore. It will also be because we will  catch the wave of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. We will be eager to get at the holy and divine work of growing things to feed all creatures and all people at the never-ending Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

God’s ideal for His house is that it will be “the light of the world, school of the nations, temple of the earth, seat of judgment, throne of God, and symbol of peace.” All of Isaiah’s prophecies and God’s promises are aimed at a glorious future. Isaiah’s vision points to the promise that God’s Law will one day bring the same sense of identity, stability, and moral purpose to all the world. There will come a time when all the nations and peoples will be the beneficiaries of God’s good rules that structure life so that all human beings flourish. Because God will reign and justice will come from observing the Law’s fair rules, there will be no need to fight. People will live together in peace all over the world. Isaiah gives us no timetable for this, and Jesus warns that the day of fulfillment is known to God alone, but the promise is true and the hope is real.

Isaiah’s prophecy gives us hope. We live by faith because we lean into a vision that is yet to come. We embrace God’s truth and walk in God’s ways. We believe that the day will come when Isaiah’s vision of universal peace, of the lion laying down with the lamb, will be our reality. In the meantime, we wait and watch for it, we work for it, we claim it as God’s vision for us and for all creation, and we allow this vision to give purpose and direction to our lives. When we walk in the light of the Lord we give peace a chance to happen in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Isaiah’s vision can spur people to make the vision true in their own lives and to work to see it come true in the surrounding community. It should stir us to put aside violent and aggressive ways with which we try to force our will on others; to urge us to turn the weapons of war into instruments of peace.  

Since the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, people and nations have been streaming into God’s kingdom. Jesus’ followers have gone out to spread the good news to the ends of the earth, as Jesus commanded us to do in Acts 1:8. When He returns, the words of Revelation 21:24 will come true: “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” There will be peace in God’s kingdom.

Advent is a season of preparation, so how can we prepare for Christ’s Second Coming? We can “beat our swords into plowshares” by:

  1. Removing violent words and expressions from our speech.
  2. Not watching violent movies or TV shows or playing war-like video games.
  3. Praying for peace in other parts of the world and in our own communities.
  4. Reaching out to be reconciled with those with whom we have been in conflict.
  5. Encouraging our children to be more peaceful in language, games and behaviour with other children
  6. Praying for wisdom to see where in our personal and business lives we need to beat our swords into plowshares.
  7. Supporting individuals and groups working for reconciliation to conflicts.

So how are we to respond to Isaiah’s prophecy? The key is in Isaiah’s invitation to “come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.” We will see in God’s teaching the transforming spirit of righteousness and the wise law of justice change us and our world. We will be in the world’s foremost classroom because we will be seated at God’s feet. He teaches us His ways, so that we can walk in His paths. If we try to go it alone in our faith, we will never grow as God wants us to.

Isaiah invites us to acknowledge the darkness of our personal lives. Isaiah’s prophecy encourages us to turn to God for forgiveness and healing. We will have to “climb the Lord’s mountain”, and that is not an easy task. In fact, we can’t do this on our own. Only with God’s help can we accomplish His call to live in peace with one another. Peace can only happen when we turn to God for instruction, live under God’s judgment and respond to His arbitration.


  1. Jeremiah, David, The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 882)
  2. McKenna, D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 17: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1993, pp. 68-71)
  3. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Br. David Vryhof, “God’s Promise of Universal Peace.” Retrieved from www.ssje.org
  6. The Rev. Dr. Charles Qualls, “Let Us Go Up to the Mountain of the Lord!” Retrieved from www.day1.org
  7. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 1st Sunday of Advent, -A-, December 1, 2019.” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  8. Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 1st Sunday of Advent, -A-.” Retrieved from firstimpressions@lists.opsouth.org
  9. Anderson, Russell: Lectionary Preaching Workbook, Series V, Cycle A (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Company; 1995; pp. 17-21)
  10. Scott Hoezee, “Isaiah 2:1-5 Commentary.” Retrieved from https://cepreaching.org

Luke 1:20-28 Encounters with Angels

If an angel said to you, “Your prayer is heard,” what would it mean for you? What is the “too good to be true” news in your life? You may have given up believing God can bring it about. You may think you’re too old to start something new and exciting. Remember that people in their nineties have written plays and governed nations. Whatever it is that might seem too good to be true for you, remember Zacharias.

His reaction to all that the angel had predicted was disbelief. It was all too good to be true. He was like Thomas, the disciple who doubted the Resurrection and said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand in His side, I will not believe.” He was given proof, and he believed.

After priests performed their temple duties, they normally came out to the people to pronounce a blessing. Zacharias’ delay signaled that something unusual had taken place-but whether a blessing or a judgment, the people did not know. Although Zacharias could not speak, he gestured to communicate. From his gestures the people realized that he had seen a vision. This was remarkable, because for more than 400 years since the close of the Old Testament writings, God was silent. He did not raise any prophets to speak to His people. Could it be that God was now ready to begin stirring up things again?

Elizabeth stayed out of public view for five months after she and her husband conceived-about the length of time it takes for a pregnancy to show-perhaps to remove herself from curious eyes until the growth of her belly revealed the truth. There is no hiding a pregnancy when it gets far enough along. There is no hiding God’s work either when it comes to the point of birth. Quiet times are normal, and it’s okay to step back and let God do whatever He’s doing with you in a quiet place and out of sight-until the day He makes it public.

It might also have been an act of devotion out of deep gratitude to the Lord. In Old Testament times, childlessness carried a reproach in a culture where blessings were tied to birthrights and family lines. Barrenness could occasionally be a sign of divine disfavor, but it was not always so. In time God removed this disgrace from Elizabeth’s life. Elizabeth kept her eyes focused squarely on God.

Sometimes there is value in taking things slowly-in simply sitting still and watching God carry out His good promises. God does things in His own time and in His own way. We don’t always have to be running, shouting, announcing what God is doing. There is a time for that, but there is also a time for praying, thinking, and rejoicing in the Lord. Elizabeth and Zechariah did that, and we can do that too.

God told Elizabeth that her son would be the one to prepare the way for the Lord. That meant that the Messiah was coming-that God was about to redeem His people from the power of evil, as He promised in the past

Gabriel is God’s announcing angel. His conversation with Mary probably took place in her home in Nazareth, a city of questionable reputation. For example, when the apostle Philip told Nathaniel that he had seen the Lord, Nathaniel replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Why would God choose to send the Messiah by way of Nazareth? Mary was a pure woman in a wicked city.  She showed that it is possible to live a holy life in an unholy place. God met Mary where she was, and God meets us where we are. We don’t have to make our own dreams come true. All we have do is be faithful and do what God has given us to do. Then, even with all things our heart may look for and long for, hope can find us like hope found Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah.

Mary was troubled. Perhaps because of her humility, she may have been thinking, “Why me? I’m too insignificant to find favour with God.” On the other hand, perhaps she had the innate wisdom to comprehend something at the very heart of the mystery of life and the mystery of God-that those highly favoured by God do not have a life of unbroken happiness.

Most of us have felt the same way that Mary did. We look at our ordinary lives and find it hard to believe that God-the Creator of the universe-could be bothered to keep track of us, much less be interested in us. The truth is that God is in fact watching over us. He uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. He is watching over us far more closely than we may give Him credit for. In the words of a famous Christmas tune:

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re awake

He knows when you’ve been bad or good

So be good for goodness’ sake

Most of us don’t have encounters with angels. Our life-changing experiences are usually based on God’s Word. He changes our lives and uses us to do His will and work. In His wisdom He often does not show us His entire plan for our lives. He takes us on a journey, one step at a time. Even if we do not understand the path God is leading us on, we must simply trust and obey Him. The result might just be miraculous.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1382)
  2. Larson, B., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 29-36)
  3. MacArthur, J.F.Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  4. Dr. Kari Vo, “On a Schedule.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  5. Dr. Kari Vo, “Things Are Starting to Stir.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  6. Dr. Kari Vo, “Vindication at Last.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  7. Dr. Kari Vo, “Taking It Slow.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
  8. Raul Ries, “Rejoice, Highly Favoured One.” Retrieved form www.crosswalkcom/devotionals/somebody-loves-you-radio-w-raul-ries/
  9. Joni Eareckson Tada, “The Annunciation.” Retrieved from communications@joniandfriends.org
  10. James MacDonald, “Hope on Arrival.” Retrieved from OurJourneyOnline@WalkintheWord.com
  11. Greg Laurie, “A Thermometer or a Thermostat?” Retrieved from www.harvest.org
  12. Dr. Kari Vo, “A Quiet Pause.” Retrieved from www.lhm.org