1 Peter 4, Reading Through the NT 2015

Read 1 Peter, chapter 4 today.

Because Jesus suffered for our benefit, we now are urged to endure hard times and turn from sin as we follow His example. Peter wants us to know that our lives matter, and how we live them after we have become Christians is important. We are not to live anymore for our selfish human desires, but to do God’s will. We waste so much time doing things that are wrong, and are constantly being drawn into sinful behavior because we are more concerned about what others might say about us than about pleasing God. The world does not understand it when we choose God’s way instead of their way. We are all going to have to account for our actions before God someday, and the choices we make will determine how that goes.

A strong warning statement is given in verse 7 – The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober  mind so that you may pray. Then Peter tells us to love one another deeply, offer hospitality and use the gifts God has given to us to serve. This is what will bring glory to God. We need to unclutter our minds so we can come before God in prayer without distraction. We need to be in fellowship and show love and hospitality to the body of Christ. We need to discover our spiritual gifts, and use them to serve others both in and out of our churches. Those of us who are speakers and teachers – know that when we speak, we have God’s very words to use, because this is His gift to us! We have a limited time here on this earth, and we need to make good use of that time. What do we want to be remembered for and what legacy do we want to leave? The answer to this question will help us formulate our actions as we move forward each day.

We are often surprised when trials and hard circumstances come to us. We are puzzled as to why bad things happen to good people. But God is not surprised by anything. He knows all about our hard times, and is there with us to help us cope and endure. Instead of asking why me, God?, we can ask, why not me? Jesus suffered greatly for us, so that we might receive the gift of salvation and forgiveness. When we suffer because of what we believe, we can rejoice and point people to God’s sovereignty and grace. Praising God in the midst of suffering brings Him glory, and shows others that our hope is not in the things of this world – money, power, success, and prestige. Our hope is in the life we have to look forward to as God’s children, with an inheritance that is eternal.

Because we know what our future holds, we can press on in doing good and continue to be faithfully committed to God. If it is His will that we should face trials, He will also give us the strength to get through them. May we shine as beacons for His gospel truth, so that those who are lost may be found.  Keep on keeping on, so that our lives are a testimony of God’s love to us. We can have joy, even if things are not happy or going well. We know it will be over, and that someday all tears will be dried, all pain taken away and death and sickness will be banished forever! To God be the glory! Amen!

1 Peter 3, Reading Through the NT 2015

Read chapter 3 of 1 Peter today.

Peter writes about those who are married to an unbeliever. Wives who finds themselves in this position should try to win over their husbands by the way they treat them. Our witness is not always in words, but in how we act and what we do. If you have a spouse that does not embrace your faith, submitting to them out of respect will go far in helping them see God’s love demonstrated to them.

Peter talks about the source of beauty, and it is not from what we wear or how we look. This is counter-cultural, because society places so much value on our outward appearance. We should not dress to impress, but be modest and live with a gentle quiet spirit. This is another way that people will see that our priorities are focused on our relationships – with God and with them, and not on outward adornments meant to draw attention to ourselves. Peter used Sarah as an example, and she was obedient to her husband, Abraham. She put her hope and trust in God, and was willing to follow Abraham’s leading, even when neither of them were sure where they were going. Our ultimate trust in God will be the single most important factor in how we deal with life’s struggles. If we are sure that God is in control, we can endure a lot of hardship, for we know it is only temporary. We need not give in to fear, for we are confident that God has our back.

A short reminder to husbands is given in verse 7, to ask for consideration for their wives and to treat them with respect. He calls them the weaker partner, and is most likely referring to their physical stature. Men are built to be stronger and have been placed as the head of the family to be both the spiritual and physical leaders of the household. Protecting their families was a large part of the responsibility of a husband at the time of this writing.

We are to think and behave in a Christ-like manner at all times, and it is not always easy. Peter tells us to be like-minded, sympathetic, loving one another, compassionate and humble. We are not to seek revenge and be careful not to speak evil against anyone. This is another reminder to watch our tongues, and think about what we say before we blurt out that insult or criticism. We are to do good, and seek peace. God is watching us, and He is listening for our prayers. His desire is for us to be serving others and living righteous lives. We don’t demonstrate this lifestyle when we are grumbling and speaking against people. May our words express kindness and love, to show the world what we believe.

Our actions and speech may be mocked or dismissed. There are many who oppose our way of thinking, and want to stifle the gospel message. There are countless Christians all over the world who are being persecuted for their faith, and yet stand strong in their beliefs. Peter tells us that God blesses this behavior. We should not fear, but always be ready to testify to God’s goodness and mercy. We have a living hope, as Peter already reminded us, and this is why we can continue to do good despite opposition.

Jesus suffered for our sake, to bring us to God. Peter recounts the gospel story, and reminds us that He died for us, but was raised to new life in the Spirit. He gives the parallel story of Noah, who with his family was saved from the flood waters, just as we show our salvation through baptism. It is a symbol of our commitment to Christ, and a witness to the world that we believe in God, and are forgiven of all our sin. It is by grace, through Christ, in faith that we are saved. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, waiting for just the right time to return and complete our salvation. We can submit ourselves to His power and authority, just as the angels do, for we have seen His Holy Spirit at work in our lives, and know the hope of eternal life that He brings to us!

1 Peter 2, Reading Through the NT 2015

Chapter 2 of 1 Peter is the text for today.

Peter urges us to get rid of the things that keep us from growing in our faith. Put aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander. These things are detriments to our relationships – both with God and with people. We have seen the goodness of God, and because of that, we are able to follow Him into righteous living, and cultivate our faith more and more each day.

We are called “living stones” that are being used to build the spiritual house in God’s Kingdom! Jesus is the cornerstone that provides the firm foundation on which to build. As we grow and learn from his example, having been chosen by God and precious to Him, we can confidently demonstrate our faith, even in the face of rejection. There will always be those who turn away from God and go their own way. We need to love these folks, and show them we care, for that is what Jesus calls us to do. Our actions may cause them to stop and think about their lives, because they won’t expect kindness, gentleness and love from people they disagree with.

Peter declares some wonderful truth’s about the children of God – we are His chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, special possession and have been called out of darkness into light, to be His people and receive His mercy! If we are ever in doubt, we can remind ourselves of these rich descriptions, and be reassured of our special calling to faith from God.

Living in this fallen and broken world but not taking part in their sinful behaviors is always a challenge. Peter tells us to live such good lives among the pagans, that they will see our good deeds and glorify God. What we do and say tells people what we believe. As the world watches God’s people, we need to make sure they see His love and compassion in our actions and speech. We need to guard against the hypocrisy that Christians unfortunately have a reputation for, and help people see Jesus love at work.

Peter then give us some practical ways to show the world who we are – we are to submit to the authorities that are over us. We are slaves to God’s authority, and He has ordained those who are over us. We need to respect our leaders, and live according to what God has commanded. Verse 17 is our mandate to follow: show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God and honor the emperor.

We are not enslaved as the people of Peter’s time were, but we have bosses and leaders who are over us in our work and communities.  Having a relationship with God compels us to act differently towards our bosses, and even when they are not fair, we should act as Jesus would – by enduring this hardship as Jesus endured His unjust persecution. If it is possible, we should not remain in a bad situation, but until we can change this, we must act as Christ-like as we are able. (not always easy, I know!)

Jesus did not retaliate when he was suffering and beaten. He took His pain to the cross, for our benefit to save us from our sins. He is our great Shepherd and Overseer, and when we were wandering away and going astray, He brought us back into the fold to redeem us and make us His own.

1 Peter 1, Reading Through the NT 2015

We begin the book of 1 Peter today, reading chapter 1.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus and one of His closest companions, writes this letter to “God’s elect,” the believers scattered throughout the area. He wanted them to know that his authority as an apostle came from Christ and those he was writing to were chosen by God to hear the good news and come to faith. God knew us before we were born, and as His Holy Spirit convicted us of our need for a Savior, we made the choice to trust in Him for our salvation. Peter wished these believers grace and peace in abundance. This was a wonderful blessing to them before he said some hard things about suffering.

Peter praised God for His mercy as he reminded his readers of our new birth into a living hope because Jesus went to the cross, died and then rose again so that we might inherit an eternal future. This is what is waiting for us, and what we can actively hope for as we endure this life on earth. We have our final salvation waiting for us, and it will be revealed in God’s perfect timing. We can rejoice in our life right now, because we know this is not the way things will always be. As we endure hard times, we can persevere, because our hope sustains our faith. As we face suffering and hardships, we are being refined and strengthened as we trust God for the outcomes. What are we learning and how are we surrendering our situations to God’s sovereignty? He knows what we can handle, and He will be there to help us through. As we see Him work and teach us, we can testify to His goodness, and help others see His power at work in our lives. We can pray and ask Him to help, refine and guide us as we rely on Him instead of ourselves. We can be filled with joy in our suffering because we know what lies ahead, and have our final salvation to look forward to in the future.

Peter talks about the prophets of old, as they tried to predict the coming of the Messiah and how that would play out in history. It was revealed to them (and we are not quite sure how) that they were prophesying for the future generations (us!) and that the good news of the gospel would be shared through the Holy Spirit’s guidance at a later date. We are the recipients of that gospel, and even the angels are envious of us for what we have been given! We must not take our faith lightly and put it in the background of our lives. We are so privileged to know Christ and His salvation, and to live with the promise of everlasting life. Immortality is something mysterious, but it is the hope we have when we are in the midst of trials. Living forever in God’s kingdom, with all the benefits of being His children should be cause for great rejoicing and joy!

In light of this reminder of our living hope, we should think about how we are spending our time and living our lives. As we set our hope on our future, given to us by God’s grace, we need to turn away from the evil things that draw us away from Him. We are to live holy lives, and be obedient to God’s will. What does that practically mean to us each day? The choices we make, the relationships we have, the way we spend out time and money all play into this. What we do and say shows what we believe! We must not conform to the standards of the world. We are foreigners here, and we must live differently than everyone else. As Christians, we are being closely scrutinized, and if we live just like everyone else, how will anyone see our faith at work? We are constantly being accused of being hypocrites, and we must guard ourselves from this. If our faith and hope are in God, are we living for His purposes or for our own pleasure and motives? Living what we believe may make us outcasts in modern society, but which is more important – being accepted by mankind, or being acceptable to God? If our main goal in life is to bring God glory, we need to live for Him and be obedient to His way of life.

Another point Peter makes is that we are to have sincere love for one another, loving deeply from our hearts. Because we have been “born again” we have reason for hope, and can live out the greatest commandments that Jesus cited – to love God and love others. This is our main goal in this world. When we look to God’s Word to increase our knowledge of who God is and how He thinks about us, it bolsters our faith and moves us closer to Him. His Word is also eternal, and the more we know about Him, the more we can emulate Jesus’ life and apply what we are learning to our everyday rhythms. We are here for just a short time, and we don’t know when that will end. What we do know is what happens to us when that time is over. God’s love and Word endures forever. May we live in that hope every moment of our fleeting days!

James 5, Reading Through the NT 2015

We finish the book of James today, reading chapter 5.

The opening paragraph gives a warning to those who are rich. James reminds us that our possessions and wealth are temporary, and we cannot take them with us. He predicts that the prosperous among us will weep and wail when they realize their quest for more will only result in corrosion and decay. Our hope is in our eternal future and nothing we have now will matter. Our riches lie in our salvation by grace, through faith, and this is the treasure that will last. When we pursue righteousness instead of riches, our final reward is assured by God, our heavenly Father. He is just and will bestow His blessings on us, His children, as we grow and learn to live as He has taught us.

In the meantime, we need to be patient. We await the second coming of Jesus, and while we wait, we should stand firm in our faith, and persevere. Just as the farmer needs to wait for the rain to help his crops grow, we can wait for the harvest of our souls for our final salvation. If we have faith and believe in God’s promises to us, we can be patient and endure whatever happens because we are not without hope. Our attitude while we wait is important. Others are watching us, and want to see how we handle adversity. Do we really believe that God is sovereign and in charge of our lives? Do we trust Him and try to understand what we are to learn in our difficulties? If we are grumbling and complaining all the time, we are not bringing glory to God. We are being selfish and lacking trust that God knows what He is doing. God is watching us, and sees all that is going on. Our task is to stay faithful to Him, and look ahead to our final reward.

James cites the Old Testament prophets who were great examples of patience in the face of suffering. Job is also mentioned, and from these examples, we see how God worked in these lives as He showed compassion and mercy to them in their hardships. We need to remember what God has done in the past, for it helps us be patient right now. As we read about His work in the lives of people in the Old Testament, and then look at the life of Jesus and the disciples, and add to that what we have seen Him do in our own lives, we can be confident that He is in charge and will be faithful to us throughout all time.

When we have doubts, James urges us to pray. We are not to plead and make promises to God that we will not be able to keep. This is what is meant by “do not swear” in verse 12. When we pray, we need to bring our praises and petitions to God and simply ask Him to work His will in our lives. When we are in trouble, we can pray. When we are happy, we can also pray and offer praise to God. When we are sick, we should pray. In all things, we can bring our requests to God and He will listen to us. We can come before the elders in the church for anointing and prayer and God will heal the sick and forgive the sinner. Confession is warranted and brings relief to our troubles souls. Prayer is powerful and effective. We don’t always get the answers we desire, but we always get just what God wants us to have at the time. Our patience is essential to waiting on God’s timing. Not an easy concept in this instant gratification world!

Another Old Testament example is given here, and we are reminded that Elijah prayed that it would not rain, and that lasted three and a half years. When he prayed again that it would rain, God rained down showers, and the land was once again fruitful with an abundant harvest. Prayer is crucial to our lives as believers. It is simply building our relationship with God by talking to Him, and listening to Him in return.

The final teaching from James in this book tells us to help the person who has wandered away from their faith. He encourages us to bring them back and help them see the error of their ways. This does not give us freedom to judge them, but to love them and help them find their way back to a vital and growing relationship with God. Our faith, based on God’s grace, not our efforts, is the story we are to listen to and live out in our everyday lives. We need to put our faith into action, because we want to please God, not get something from Him. Faith in action is how the world will see God’s love at work in our world. To God be the glory forever! Amen!


James 4, Reading Through the NT 2015

James, chapter 4 is the passage to read for today.

James begins this chapter with some questions for his readers. What is causing fights among them, and could the reason for these quarrels stem from the selfish desires inside of them? Often our arguments come from wanting to be right, from envy and coveting what we want but cannot have and from desiring attention and recognition that we are not getting from someone else. James then reminds us that we don’t have because we don’t ask God. Prayer is how we communicate with God, and when we go to Him with sincere requests for help, blessing and healing, He is eager to respond. When we come to Him with our selfish list of desires for pleasure, wealth and success, He sees our heart and motives, and He may turn a deaf ear to us.

To bring his point home, James contrasts what is means to make friends with the world versus devoting our lives to God. Going along with the world means enmity against God. Choosing the world’s values over God’s makes us His enemy. God jealously longs for our hearts, and if we humble ourselves and submit our lives to Him, He is gracious and will show His favor to us.

Some cause and effect statements are made in verses 7-10. Resist the devil and he will flee. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up. Sandwiched in these verses are some tangible things we can do to show we are submitted to God. We need to wash our hands (of the sin we are chasing,) purify our hearts (of the thoughts we are thinking,) grieve, mourn and wail as we repent from doing wrong things. When we respond in this manner, with a sincere desire to follow the purposes and will of God, He will lift us up.

We need to treat one another well, and not slander, judge or speak against our brothers and sisters in Christ. God is the only judge, and we need to be focused on living holy and righteous lives. Concerning ourselves with only what we are individually supposed to be doing keeps us from trying to fix everyone else. This is another example of taking the log out of our own eye before looking at the speck in someone else’s.

Keeping up with our to-do list can be daunting, and we often try to plan out our calendar days, months and even years in advance. Do we ask God for direction and discernment on how we spend our time? None of us knows how long we have on this earth, and each day should be dedicated to what God has called us to do. We need to go to Him in prayer and seek wisdom on what to do each day. If we ask Him to show us, He is faithful and will guide us by His Holy Spirit into what we should be doing. When we make plans without God, James calls them arrogant schemes. God has a plan for each of us, and knows what we will be doing every second of every day. When we are seeking to do His will, we are fulfilling the destiny He created for us, and living for His purposes. Go to God in prayer at the start of every day, and humbly seek His plan for the time and energy you will spend that day. May His will be lived out in our lives as we follow His direction each and every moment of our days!

James 3, Reading Through the NT 2015

Read chapter 3 of James today.

If we have the role of a teacher, James warns that we will be held to a higher standard than others. As those who impart knowledge to the masses, teachers are being watched. People will follow our example because they trust us. We must remain humble and be careful what we do and say, because our witness to those we teach helps them make choices in their own lives. We will not be perfect, for that is impossible. What we must be is honest, and show that we are disciplined in our conduct and speech, so we communicate from God’s point of view and not our own.

In order to bring this point home even further, James brings up a key element to being a good example – our tongue – what we say shows what we believe. He uses two examples of a controlling tongue – a horse’s rein, and a ship’s rudder. Both of these are tools to help steer something larger, and our tongue is small, but can become a huge part of how we are viewed as a whole. What we say matters, and we need to be careful to speak honorably and with the right frame of mind in order to help others see the influence of Jesus in our lives.

Another parallel to the untamed tongue is fire. Just a small spark can ignite a whole forest, and spread destruction far and wide. Likewise, an untamed tongue, that speaks words of hurt or criticism, can spread bad feelings and destroy relationships very quickly. James reminds us that while we can tame wild animals, the tongue is cannot be tamed. Our human nature so often takes over and we spew words that we wish we could retract. It is like a tube of toothpaste. Once you squeeze some of the paste out of the tube, it is impossible to put back!

We need to guard our tongues. As believers, we are often labeled hypocrites because we are seen praising God on Sunday mornings at church, but out in the world on Monday we are spreading lies, gossiping and judging others with our tongues. We must not be double-minded. Our talk must match our walk. There are people watching us and when they see Christians acting just like everyone else, they will not be attracted to Jesus and the good news of the gospel.

How do we begin to gain control of our tongue? It begins with prayer, and asking God for wisdom. When we consult the God of the Universe and ask Him to guide our speech, we can also ask Him to stop us from saying something that will hurt someone or cause conflict among us. One key word we can say to ourselves before we lash out with anger or self-justification is “pause!” If we could just remember to take a second to pause and think about that harsh word or the rant we have rehearsed in our heads, it will cause is to rethink the wisdom of sharing our dark words. We need to examine our motives and put aside our pride and the need to be “right” or to win an argument. Humility should guide our speech, and the only way we can be humble is to surrender our agenda to God’s! James reminds us that when we have envy and selfish ambition, the result will be disorder and sin.

So we are now given a description of wisdom. First of all, it is pure. Next it is peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  These are the elements we need to consider as we speak, and even more so if we are teachers. Our words carry so much weight, and have the power to heal or to harm. We need to pause when we are challenged to an argument with a family member. We need to be considerate of others and be good listeners. Sometimes we talk and talk but never stop and listen to another side of the story. We can be gracious and show real concern to those around us, and impart God’s love to them. Living in peace leads to righteousness. As we bear fruit for God and live for His purposes, may our words glorify Him, and help others see Him at work in our lives.

James 2, Reading Through the NT 2015

Read James, chapter 2 today.

As believers in Christ, we are taught by James not to favor one person over another. Those who are rich are usually given places of honor and prestige in society, and yet God sees all of us the same way. Rich or poor, we are all acceptable in His sight. We need to be aware of our bias towards those whom we might selfishly benefit. As people come into our churches, we should have open arms, and welcome all who are seeking and wanting to know more about the good news of Jesus Christ.

James reminds us that even though someone is poor, they can be rich in faith, and they will share the same inheritance in God’s kingdom. The rich may give money to our churches, but we should not give them special preference because of their money. We must be obedient to Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor is anyone, rich or poor, that we come to know and with whom we share our lives.

The law was given so that we might know right from wrong, and recognize sin in our lives. We cannot follow one law and ignore the rest. If we break any of the laws, we are sinners, no matter how many we try to keep. We will be judged by what we do in our lives, and God will be merciful to us as we show mercy to our fellow man. Justice and mercy go hand in hand, but mercy triumphs over judgment. How we treat others is important, for when we are gracious, merciful and compassionate to those around us, we are bearing witness to God’s love towards us. One of the key ways for people to experience the love and mercy of Jesus is to see it demonstrated in His followers.

James goes on to talk about faith and good deeds. We know we are saved by grace, and that it is a gift from God. But our faith should result in actions that serve others as we see a need. We can talk all we want about how much our faith means to us, but if we never demonstrate that practically by helping the poor and the hungry, we are just blowing smoke.

Verse 18 says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” We need to help people see God at work by the way we behave and the things we do. We don’t do these things to “earn” our way to heaven, because we have already been guaranteed entrance by trusting Jesus as our Savior. We do these things to show that God is alive and active in our lives, and we invite everyone to join us in this journey of faith.

As proof of faith in action, James cites two Old Testament characters as examples. Abraham took action by offering Isaac on the sacrificial altar. He had full confidence that God would somehow save or resurrect his son, and he obeyed by faith as he took that fateful journey to the mountaintop. God showed His faithfulness to Abraham and sent a substitute for Isaac, and Abraham was credited with righteousness for His faith in action.

Rahab, a prostitute, was also a woman of faith. She helped hide the Israelite spies and sent those who were pursuing them in a different direction. She put her faith in action by practically helping God’s people. She is forever memorialized in Scripture, and a good example for us to follow. God can use anyone who has faith, no matter what their background or economic status, to bring glory to Him as we live in obedience to His Word.


James 1, Reading Through the NT 2015

We begin the book of James today. Read all of chapter 1.

James began this letter by identifying his role as a servant of God and Christ. He was addressing it to the “twelve tribes” scattered among the nations. This is a reference to the Christian Jews who had their lives transformed by the gospel, and were now following Jesus, and “scattered” now throughout the region.  This letter is a call for all of us to live as a servant of Christ, despite the difficulties and persecutions we face in our lives.

An often misunderstood statement is penned in verse 2. James urged his readers to “consider it pure joy” when trials come. This seems like a contradiction in emotions, but the purpose of this statement is to help us find God’s purposes and strength despite the trials we are going through. He goes on to say that trials lead to testing, which challenges our perseverance, but in the end, we mature in our faith because of what we have endured. Joy is not the first thing we think about when life gets hard. We are usually worried, fearful, anxious and try to solve these problems ourselves. When we put our trust in God’s hands, and allow His work to be done as He refines us, we can lift our hands in authentic joy, for we know He is in control. If this is hard, James encourages us to ask God for wisdom. When we go to Him in prayer, and ask “why?” or “why not?” we can be sure He will try to help us understand, and be able to endure because we trust Him. Our joy is in our hope and faith. We might not be happy about what is going on, but we can still find supernatural joy in every circumstance.

We are told not to doubt, but we all have misgivings sometimes. If we stand firm in our faith, and wait patiently for God to show us what we need to learn from our situations, He will prove Himself faithful, because He loves us. When we are humbled by the trials we are going through, it is actually a high position in God’s eyes. What the world says is important or valuable is not the same as what God values. What we have in this world will pass away, but God’s love endures forever!

Verse 12 is key to the message here: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him!” There is a reward for persevering and staying faithful to God in our difficulties. This is the hope we can cling to in our trials.

God does not tempt us with evil. That is the devil’s work. We are led down a deceitful path and indulge in sin because of the lure of the enemy of this world. This path leads to death! Faith in Christ leads to salvation and eternal life! James reminds us that God had given us the gift of grace through His Son, and as our great “Father of the heavenly lights,” He never changes. His Word is true, and we are now the children of His creation.

So what does all this mean for us as we try to live our lives devoted to God? James gives us some practical ideas to follow: Be quick to listen, be slow to speak and slow to get angry. Live moral lives, and be humble. Listen to God’s Word and then do what it says! These are the ways we can put our faith into action. When we read a Scripture passage, we need to spend time reflecting on what it says, and ask God to reveal what He wants us to know. If we don’t do this, we will soon forget what we have read, and go back to our own ideas of how to live. God blesses those that do what He asks them to do. This is obedience in action, as we listen to what He is saying and then follow His direction for our lives.

What we say is crucial to our witness, and when we are complaining, gossiping, whining, and being critical with our words, we are not showing a Christ-like attitude. Our speech is being heard by non-believers, and they want to know if we are sincere in our faith, or just acting “religious.” James suggested some tangible ways to show we truly care about others and are willing to serve them – by looking after those in need – the orphans and widows among us. Who are we helping and caring for as we see a need?

James also warned us to keep from being polluted by the world. This is so important for us to think about, because the values and ethics of this world are rapidly changing. God’s Word is our standard, and the life of Jesus is our window into the character of God. This is what we need to familiarize ourselves with, and follow closely each day. Our lives should be a reflection of who God is and what He means to us. May we be humble servants, and live according to God’s Word more and more as we grow and mature in our faith!


Hebrews 13, Reading Through the NT 2015

We finish the book of Hebrews today, ending with chapter 13.

In this final chapter, we are given practical ways to live out our faith in our everyday lives. Loving one another is first. This is the key to everything else we do as we demonstrate to others the love that we have received from God. We do this by showing hospitality and welcoming people into our homes and churches. We show our love by ministering to those in prison – either a physical cell, or maybe the prison of poverty, injustice or abuse. When we give freely of ourselves to others, in love and service, we are giving them a glimpse into the heart and mind of Christ. When we follow His example, and value people above all else, we are being obedient to the great commandments that Jesus taught us – to love God and love others.

The author writes that marriage is an honorable estate, and should be respected, not defiled. Immorality has no place in the life of believer, in both the married or single person. Cherish the mate that God has blessed you with, and cultivate your relationship of love that you vowed to keep on your wedding day.

Being content with what we have is not a modern value. We are inundated with advertisements that insist we buy, borrow and covet whatever is new, shiny and a better idea that what we already have. Right now, we can count our blessings, and find satisfaction in what God has provided for each of us, because He knows what we need, and is always with us as Jehovah-Jirah (God, our provider.)  As we approach the holiday season, may we remember what we have, and be generous to others in need, so that we are givers rather than takers this season. God has blessed us with so much, and as we live out our faith each day, may we find ways to bless others.

Jesus is always the same, and so we can imitate His consistency and devotion to God. We can also emulate those who are our spiritual leaders who teach us, mentor us and guide us in our faith walk. We need to pray for our pastors and the leaders in our churches. They carry a heavy burden in order to minister to their flocks, and that often means sacrificing time with their families in order to help someone in need.

We need to guard our hearts and minds against false teaching, and not be persuaded by fine sounding arguments that oppose our Christian faith. In knowing what we believe, studying Scripture and reminding ourselves of the gospel message on a regular basis, we can stand firm in our faith when others try to pull us away. We are once again reminded that we are under the new covenant, and don’t need to follow the rituals and ceremonies of old. We have the benefit of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, and it covers us from here on out. We are now made holy through His blood, and can look forward with hope to our eternal future with Him.

Once again we are told to have confidence in our leaders and submit to their authority. They are accountable for their ministry and the people under their care. We want our leaders to be filled with joy as they see God working in our lives. Applying what we learn from them is the highest compliment we can pay our mentors. It brings delight to them to see us living out the things we have gleaned from their guidance and teaching. We need to thank them for the work they are doing, and encourage them in their ministry. A note or card might be a nice way to honor them for what they do.

The final benediction from the writer is a prayer for peace, in the name of Jesus, who is the one who equips us to practically live out our faith. May we do His will and seek to please Him and bring glory to God as we go about our daily lives.

This book is wrapped up with some travel information and greetings from others, and then the final prayer for grace to all. May God be glorified in our lives today, as we actively live out our faith, and share His love with all we meet.