The Signs of True and False Teachers (Tues, Jan. 17)

The word of the day is “teachers.”  To grow in the faith and life of Christ, we need teachers to nurture and guide us.  But the scriptures warn repeatedly of false teachers that are like wolves among us, the sheep.  How do we know that we have genuine teachers who will nourish us with the Word of life? In today’s reading of James 3:1-10, the apostle writes, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment (OSB vs. 1).  From this short apostolic counsel, we will derive some signs of dependable instructors. True Teachers Are Not Self-Appointed First, we learn from our reading that authentic instructors should not be self-appointed.  James writes, “Let not many of you…” (OSB vs.…

Why the Demons Tremble (Mon. Jan. 16)

The word of the day is “demons.”  In today’s reading of James 2:14-26, the apostle explores the question of faith and works.  For James, “works” are necessary to faith for its “perfection” (vs. 22) that is, its “expression” (vs. 14-16), “fruitfulness” (vs. 16), and “completion” (vs.22 Strong’s #5048). As the apostle argues his point, he makes a startling statement: “You believe that there is one God.  You do well.  Even the demons believe—and tremble” (OSB vs. 2:19).  The devil and his accomplices, the demons, are not atheists. Nor are they skeptics.  In the Gospels, we find that the demons confess who Jesus is.  They say that they know that He is the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24).  Again, the man possessed of a demon shouted, “What…

Two Kinds of Patterns: God’s Mercy and the Godly Life (Sun. Jan. 15)

The word of the day is “pattern.”  In various letters, Paul presented himself as a positive example of life in Christ.  Yet he also admitted that he was a great sinner who had to depend on the grace of God for the promise of eternal life. In today’s reading of 1 Timothy 1:15-17, Paul writes, “However, for this reason, I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life (vs. 16 OSB). Already in 1 Corinthians, Paul directed that his congregation in Corinth consider him their father “through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).  As their father in faith, he instructed his flock…

The Dynamic Power of a Living Hope (Sat. Jan. 14)

The word of the day is “hope.”  The storms of life often threaten to blow us off course.  How can we keep our bearing when the wind and waves of trials and tribulations toss us to and fro?  In our reading of Colossians 1:3-6, the apostle suggests an answer:  “We give thanks…. because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven…” (vs. 4). In the Word of the Gospel, we hear of the hope reserved for us in the heavens (Strong’s #606, 36).  The Greek word translated as “laid up” expresses the sense of a store of blessings that awaits us.  They are “stored up” as a treasure kept under guard until its owner comes to claim it. Begotten to a Living…

Faith Without Partiality (Fri. Jan. 13)

The word for today is “partiality.”  Favoritism is the way of the world.  Human society is so ordered that some are more advantaged, favored, and honored than others.  However, the Gospel opposes and reverses this preferential treatment of the privileged.  In our reading of James 2:1-13, we read, “My Brethren, do not hold the faith our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory with partiality” (vs. 10). The Greek word translated as “partiality” literally means the “respect of persons” (Strong’s #4372, 2160). But the word has the connotation that this regard for others is based on outer appearance, not on inner character.  We hear this undertone when the Herodians flatter Jesus in an attempt to trick Him. They say to Jesus,…

What It Means to be a Doer of the Word (Thurs. Jan. 12)

The word of the day is “doer.”  What does it mean to be a “doer of the Word? This is the season of Theophany. After centuries of darkness, silence, and waiting, we are living in the time of light, proclamation, and fulfillment. Christ is in our midst. The long-awaited Messiah is here among us. God is with us! But today’s reading urges us not to sit back to enjoy the glory of Christ’s coming. We must make use of this “day of salvation. As the apostle puts it in James 1:19-27, we must be doers of the Word. It is in our doing that we are brought into the Light of Christ, that we truly hear the Word of Christ,…

The Difference Between Trials and Temptations (Wed. Jan. 11)

The word for today is “trials.”  Today, we begin our study of the New Testament book of James.  In our reading of James 1:1-8, two topics serve as bookends: trials and temptations.  The apostle asserts that when we endure trials patiently, they are spiritually constructive.  He writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” (vs.2).  Yet, the apostle says that when we give in to temptations, they are spiritually destructive.  James writes, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires…[and] when desire has conceived it gives birth to sin… and brings forth death” (vs. 14-15).  The Divine Gift of Wisdom To distinguish between trials and temptations takes wisdom.  Wisdom is the gift of…

Against a Casual Attitude Toward Sacred Things (Tues. Jan. 10)

The word for today is “refuse.”  In today’s reading of Hebrews 12:25-26, and 13:22-25, we hear that we should not disregard the Word of the Lord when He proclaims it to us.  The apostle writes, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks…” (vs. 25). To understand this warning, we must explain the preceding verses.  Beginning with Chapter 12:18, the apostle contrasts Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Law with Mt. Zion, the “city of the living God” (vs.22).   This heavenly city is the meeting place of angels and the assembly of those whose names are “registered in heaven.”  Thus, it is the company of the righteous who are “firstborn,” firstborn in the sense that they are first in the…

Word Study: The Term “Test”

The word for study today is test. Today’s Epistle  (Hebrews 11:17-23, 27-33) begins with a  reference of the test of Abraham.  Today’s Gospel (of Mark 8:11-21) begins with the attempted test of Jesus by Pharisees who demand a “sign from heaven.”  In both cases, the word “test” is found in the identical phrase, “being tested.”  The word is derived from the Greek for “trial” and refers to being tested, examined, tried out, or tempted. But in today’s scriptures, it means to be “put on trial.” (Strong’s #3985). The Trial of Abraham Both instances of trials are puzzling. What was in the mind of the Almighty that He should put Abraham to such an awful trial? We can only answer with…

Faith Tested and Proven (Mon. Jan. 9)

The word of  the day is “tested.”  In today’s reading of Hebrews 11:17-23, 27-31, the apostle recalls the faith of those who endured numerous and unspeakable trials “by faith.”  The apostle begins, “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son…” (vs. 17). How Faith Empowered and Inspired Consider what faith empowered and inspired the people of God to do: offered up his only son, blessed Esau and Jacob, blessed the sons of Joseph, gave instructions for his burial in the holy land, hid the baby Moses from being slain, left the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace and Egypt and chose to suffer with the people, sprinkled blood on the doorway so that the Angel of Death would Passover their houses, passed through the Red…