Category Archives: Week in the Word

Jude — Exposé of False Teachers

A popular form of journalism is exposé, the unmasking of pretenders and the uncovering of behavior meant to be secret. The exposé appeals to people’s desire for the truth and for their public officials and institutions to be open to public scrutiny.

The Book of Jude is the New Testament’s exposé of false teachers who tried to infiltrate the body of Christ. Using graphic word pictures and recalling a rogue’s gallery of deceivers from the Old Testament, Jude documents a history of subversive forces that threatened to destroy Israel and would likewise harm the early church. Watch out, the letter warns, because “certain men have crept in unnoticed…ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 4).

By blowing the whistle on such imposters, Jude makes sure that they will no longer go “unnoticed.” He doesn’t offer any advice on how to deal with the false teachers. He merely urges his readers to be alert and guard themselves by strengthening their own faith (vv. 20-22). The best protection against deception is to have a clear perception of God’s Word.

The Book of Romans

The Gospel Explained and Applied

What does it mean to be a Christian? Do you know? Many people today who call themselves Christians would be hard pressed to explain the term. Some would talk in generalities about doing good. Others would say Christianity means love and putting others ahead of self. Still others would say it means following Jesus, though they have only the vaguest idea of what that really means.

Every Christian needs to read the Book of Romans. It was written to give a reasoned explanation of the faith and to present a lifestyle based on that faith. While the Gospels tell the story of Jesus, Romans examines the message of Jesus. It shows that His gospel is far more than just nice feelings or high moral sentiments. It is truth. It has intellectual content. It makes a difference in the way people think, and therefore in what they believe and then how they live.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.    Romans 12.1-2

An Assembly of Sinners

The Corinthian Correspondence

Have you ever wished our church could be more like the first century church? I have and do. No doubt we have the image of a small, closely knit community of believers who are radically committed to each other and, despite their numbers, turning their town upside down with the gospel. What an exciting ideal!

Unfortunately, the reality of the early churches do not exactly match that image.

The church in Corinth is a good example. It had several excellent teachers and leaders, yet it struggled with many of the same problems that plague churches today. It is a good example of what a church looks like when it is carrying out its commission to “preach the gospel to every creature.”

1 and 2 Corinthians, though dealing with serious problems, make for encouraging reading. They point out the fact that there is no formula for instant spirituality. Discipleship is a process. It requires change, and change takes time.

So if at times we lament we are less than Christlike, we should take heart! Our brothers and sisters at Corinth walked this same path before us. Like us, they were a work in progress, an assembly of sinners saved by grace, and committed to conform to the image of Him who called them out of darkness and into the light of God’s kingdom.

“A Certain Disciple Named Ananias”

Acts 9.10, 12-13, 17; 22.12

Saul of Tarsus, the iron fist of the Sanhedrin, the strictest of all Pharisees, the prosecutor of religious heresy, was en route to Damascus with authority in hand to bind and imprison the heretical Christians of that city. Among the disciples residing there was a man named Ananias. Perhaps he had heard that Saul was heading his way and had begun to mentally prepare himself to be hunted down, arrested, imprisoned, and eventually killed for following the new movement called “the Way.” Whatever the case, I am sure he was stunned by the Lord’s command to go meet this dangerous enemy face-to-face! His words of protest, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem…,” attest to his alarm and fear.

But twice God commanded him to “Go,” and to his great credit, though fearful for his life, he went – and what a night to remember! Instead of finding a fire-breathing persecutor, he found a man humbled from having personally met the risen Lord on the Damascus highway. Three days and nights of fasting and prayer had prepared Saul for Ananias’s simple message, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me to you that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit…arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (9.17; 22.16).

The story of Ananias challenges us: Who might God want us to approach with the message of His grace? Who do we know who is the least likely to respond to Christ – yet just might if someone would only reach out to them in faith?

– Bill

Extraordinary Acts of Ordinary People

The Book of Acts

Tradition has assigned this book the title “The Acts of the Apostles,” as if Peter, Paul, James, John, and a handful of other spiritual giants performed the significant work of the early church by themselves. But in reality the Book of Acts shows that the Holy Spirit and a whole lot of ordinary people took the transforming message of Christ into all the world.

Acts is a great book, always timely and relevant, because it is the record of what happens when everyday, ordinary people, filled with God’s power, apply their faith to everyday life and society.

“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to the church daily those who were being saved.”

“Doomsday” – The Signs of the Times – Mark 13

Wars and rumors of wars…earthquakes and famines…pestilence and disease…worst disasters ever! Looking at current events certainly causes a bit of anxiety as to what the future holds, especially for our children and grandchildren.

Jesus’ teaching in Mark 13 (parallel accounts in Matthew 24 and Luke 21) speak to these issues. They certainly made an indelible impression on His disciples. What touched off the discussion was the disciples’ comments about the solidity, strength, and magnificence of the Temple buildings. Jesus was not impressed, telling them they were only temporary structures and would someday be torn down with not one stone left standing on another.

The disciples, thinking such destruction could occur only at the end of the world, asked the Lord when it was going to happen. Jesus replied it will happen when there are wars and rumors of wars, pestilence and disease, famine and earthquakes, persecution and trial, when family turns against family, and when deceit and deception are common place.

Those conditions characterize any and every age – the “time” is always at hand. Jesus concludes His teaching with these provoking words: “Watch therefore, for you do not know when the Master of the house is coming – in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning – lest, coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all – Watch!”


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Nehemiah – Cupbearer to the King

By His providence God often places His people in strategic positions in order to accomplish His purposes. Nehemiah was just such a man.

nehemiah rebuilding jerusalemAs the king’s cupbearer, Nehemiah held one of the most important positions a court attendant could have in the ancient world. Cupbearers tasted a ruler’s food and drink so as to test its safety and ensure against poisoning. In the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian courts, notorious for political intrigue and assassination, the position of cupbearer carried an enormous responsibility.

Usually foreigners, cupbearers often became trusted confidants of the rulers they served. Given the nature of their position, they tended to enjoy unusual political privilege and prestige. It was in a ruler’s self-interest to keep his tasters happy, so their requests were heard and their wishes frequently granted.

Nehemiah used his trusted position not for his own advantage but as a means to serve God and His people. Unburdening himself to the king concerning the situation at Jerusalem, he requested and received a leave of absence and letters of authority commissioning him to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.

The lessons of Nehemiah are clear: Where has God placed us in order to accomplish His will? What positions and responsibilities do we hold that might be useful to do good, to serve others, and most importantly, to serve God?


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Esther – “…for such a time as this.”

Xerxes I of Persia
King Xerxes I of Persia

Her Persian name was Esther. (It may have meant “star”; her Jewish name, Hadassah, meant “myrtle.”) She was the orphaned daughter of Abihail and an unnamed mother. She was adopted by her cousin Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin.

She lived in the royal palace at Shushan (Susa), the capital of Persia and became a part of the royal harem. She eventually married Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), the king of Persia (486-465 BC).

Esther is the classic story of a person being at the right place at the right time to do the right thing.

“Providence” stems from a Middle English, Anglo-French word derived from Latin which means “to make provision,” in other words, “to take care of something or to provide.” Divine providence is when God uses people, events, and circumstances to accomplish His will.

During the waning years of their exile, the Jews faced a very real threat of extermination. Through a set of seemingly ordinary circumstances, a beautiful young Jewish woman had become a member of the king’s harem. As the plot to annihilate her people was about to be initiated, she risked her life by appearing before the king uninvited in order to plead for her people. The king heard her appeal, the plot was thwarted, and the plotters were executed.

Was Esther’s position just a fortunate circumstance, or was it the work of Divine providence to place her in such a position “for such a time as this”?

– Bill


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The Reality of Angels – The Book of Zechariah

Zechariah has more references to angels than almost any other book in the Old Testament. Because of the apocalyptic nature of his writing, some are tempted to see angels as figurative or mythological. But the Bible reveals that angels are real spiritual beings who serve God and His people.

  • Abraham was visited by angels (Genesis 18.1-2; 19.1), and Jacob saw visions of angels (Genesis 28.10-12; 32.1-2).
  • The Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3.1-2) and led the Israelites through the wilderness (Exodus 14.19).
  • The Angel of the LORD confronted Balaam’s donkey and caused the animal to speak (Numbers 22.22-35).
  • Gideon was called by the Angel of the LORD to lead his people against their enemies (Judges 6.11-24).
  • An angel stood by and helped Elijah during his flight from Jezebel (1Kings 19.5-8).

It’s notable that the prophets who preached before the Exile rarely mentioned angels, yet the prophets after the Exile, especially Daniel and Zechariah, frequently refer to them. Maybe it was because the Exile was a terribly dark time spiritually, and God wanted to reassure His people He had not forgotten them.

This Week in the Word Reading the Bible together in 2009

The Reality of Angels – The Book of Zechariah

Zechariah has more references to angels than almost any other book in the Old Testament. Because of the apocalyptic nature of his writing, some are tempted to see angels as figurative or mythological. But the Bible reveals that angels are real spiritual beings who serve God and His people.

· Abraham was visited by angels (Genesis 18.1-2; 19.1), and Jacob saw visions of angels (Genesis 28.10-12; 32.1-2).

· The Angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3.1-2) and led the Israelites through the wilderness (Exodus 14.19).

· The Angel of the LORD confronted Balaam’s donkey and caused the animal to speak (Numbers 22.22-35).

· Gideon was called by the Angel of the LORD to lead his people against their enemies (Judges 6.11-24).

· An angel stood by and helped Elijah during his flight from Jezebel (1Kings 19.5-8).

It’s interesting to note that whereas the prophets who preached before the Exile rarely mentioned angels, the prophets after the Exile, especially Daniel and Zechariah, frequently refer to them. Maybe it was because the Exile was a terribly dark time spiritually and God wanted to reassure His people He had not forgotten them.

Daniel – Living for God in a Secular Society

The Book of Daniel divides into two sections. Chapters 1-6 give a biographical and historical narrative of highlights in the lives of Daniel and three other Jewish captives, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Chapters 7-12 record visions of future events that were given to Daniel by the LORD, beginning about 533 BC.

Daniel is the only known Hebrew prophet to have lived almost his entire life in a pagan society. Probably born in Jerusalem, he was deported to Babylon in 605 BC, where he was immediately placed in a re-education program to prepare him for service in the Babylonian government. Eventually he became the most powerful Jew in the Exile and its aftermath. He served at least three kings and two governments in a career that spanned nearly 70 years. He is a powerful example for people of faith who live and work in secular societies even until today.