"11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil."
The pressures of life have a way of taking over our lives. Our employer or our business demands attention, hours, and commitment. Of course, our bills need to be paid, so we give it our time, attention, and commitment. If you are married your spouse demands attention, and rightly so. If you have kids, they have baseball practice, band practice, piano lessons, school, etc. If you are in school, you have to keep up with assignments and maybe you have a job or extra curricular activities as well. It’s easy to set aside reading and studying the Bible in order to keep up with everything else going on in your life. But is that the right decision?
When we study God’s word we invest not just in this life and honoring God with this life, but in our eternal life. Our spiritual growth is not only good for eternity, it is good for our flourishing in this world. It gives us meaning a purpose in our daily lives as well. The question is, are we living on milk or are we growing so we can eat steak.
There is nothing quite like a good steak dinner. So what does it take to eat steak? Read the text again, it gives you the answers. Be consistent, become acquainted with what the Bible teaches about righteousness, and training yourself to distinguish between what is good and what is not.
Here is a video about 4 basic principles in studying the Bible!
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
preserve my life, Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
to the very end.
What good is the word of God? Does it really deal with the issues we deal with day to day? Isn’t the Bible just a book of interesting ideas that really don’t have anything to do with the life we live today?
The reality is that we are the ones who are limited in our sight and our understanding. Scripture is “God breathed.” That is to say the one who created all things, the one who designed everything, the one who is sovereign over everything is also the one who inspired Scripture. We, you and I, are the ones who are limited in our understanding, not God.
If you have been camping in a context where there is no light, you probably understand the what darkness is. I’m not talking about a camp sight where there is some light, I am talking about camping where there is zero light. Where the sky is overcast and there is no residual light from the moon, but absolute and total darkness. In that context, even a little light gives us comfort and the ability to navigate our surroundings. God’s word is the light that disperses the darkness. God’s word is the light that allows us to step faithfully, to stay on the path, to avoid the pitfalls of wrongdoing.
If this is the case, then our understanding of Scripture becomes essential. Is our mind on the things of this world (money, stability, comfort, etc.) or is it on the things of God? It is easy to focus on the things that meet immediate needs, but our eyes should be upon the things o eternal value. That is where God’s word is vital.
So how do we study God’s word? Start with this, buy and learn to use a good study Bible. Here are a couple to consider:
“19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Growing up my home wasn’t always a pleasant place to be. There were more seasons of my childhood where I felt like my home was a place that even I didn’t belong. I was, in some ways, an outsider in the very place where I was supposed to feel like I belonged. Not having any blood brothers and sisters and being outnumbered by my stepbrothers certainly played a role in this feeling. That isn’t how home is supposed to feel.
Perhaps, this is why I think the family of God combined with the metaphor of a household is so powerful. In this passage the foundation is the apostles and prophets, but Jesus remains the cornerstone. I believe the reference to apostles and prophets here is a reference to the Old Testament that prophesied about the cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16) and the apostles teaching about Jesus who was that cornerstone. The household of God which includes anyone who has put their faith in Jesus becomes the temple where God resides. Think of that, God’s presence among us!
This is the beauty of being welcomed into the family, it is the place we belong, it is our home. We are never the outsider. In fact, this passage is about how gentiles were being welcomed into the family of God. It isn’t reserved for just the Jews. In fact, just a few verses earlier it says, this:
“11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
I’m one of those gentiles being brought into the family of God, His household, being built up…that’s me. That’s probably you too. What a blessing to be included.
What was your home life like growing up? Did you have amazing parents who demonstrated God’s love? Was your home life troublesome? What does it mean for you to be part of God’s family, His household, His dwelling place? Reflect on that privilege and spend some time expressing thanks to God.
1 Peter 2:4-8
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame."
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.”
I want you to reminisce for a moment. Do you remember when you put your faith in Jesus? Even if you don't remember a specific moment, maybe you remember a person who shared the gospel with you. Try to remember what it was like. If you haven't put your faith in Jesus, why not?
Jesus is the cornerstone of our faith! What does that mean? This statement is even more important than saying Jesus is the foundation. The cornerstone is the first stone an ancient builder would put in the ground by which the rest of the foundation is arranged. The shape, size, and arrangement is the key to the rest of the building. This cornerstone will determine whether or not the building is level, square, and so on. It has to be perfect.
While only Jesus is the cornerstone, those who have put their faith in Jesus are being built up into a spiritual house. In this passage, we are the material that is being used to build this spiritual house.
It should not go unnoticed that the one that people rejected God chose and the ones that reject God's choice trip and fall over the one God chose. The wisdom of this world is foolishness. Christians must learn to identify and reject the wisdom of this world and embrace the wisdom of God, specifically the gospel itself. This is where spiritual disciplines come in to play. How do you know the wisdom of God without studying His word, seeking Him in prayer, and being in the community of God's people? The answer is you don't.
Take some time and consider your relationship with Jesus. Are you growing? Is your life reflective of being chosen by God to being used to build a spiritual house? What might you need to adjust?
1 Cor. 3:10-15
10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
In the New Testament Jesus is often referred to as the foundation or cornerstone as Paul does in this passage, but the foundation is not the entire building. That becomes abundantly clear. While Paul laid the foundation, the foundation itself is Jesus and the gospel. But the reference to “someone else” building on the foundation which Paul laid is a reference to Apollos.
People, in this case Apollos, build on top of the foundation of Christ. But we are all building on top of the foundation of Jesus Christ, the question is what we are building and what kind of materials are we using. Our work will be tested by fire and the kind of work we do as an outflow of our faith will be revealed. The followers of Christ bare a responsibility for what is built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.
What is being built? The church. This is done both on an individual level and a corporate level. Paul laid the foundation, but Apollos was building on that foundation. As we move forward in our series, “A Firm Foundation,” we will discover that spiritual disciplines play a big role in building the church. Some spiritual disciplines are individual, and some are corporate. That means each one of us plays a role and the work each one of us do will be tested with fire in the end.
What are some spiritual disciplines that you struggle with? Are they something you do individually or corporately?
“16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
This rather well known and oft quoted passage contrasts what it means to live according to the Spirit to what it means to live according to the flesh. In the flesh, we have all kinds of desires that run contrary to what it means to live according to or be obedient to the Spirit. In verse 22 it lists the fruit of Spirit, one of those fruit is “self-control.” While this word isn’t the same as discipline, it is a synonym.
Socrates considered this to be one of the chief virtues. Aristotle believed that a person who had this kind of self-control (ἐγκράτεια) often had strong desires but was able to suppress those desires. Further the stoics believed that this kind of sel-control actually led to freedom.
Jocko Willink the former Navy Seal wrote a book titled Discipline Equals Freedom. In it he says this, “So often, the easy path calls us: To be weak for that moment. To break down another time. To give in to desire and short-term gratification. Discipline will not allow that. Discipline calls for strength and fortitude and WILL. It won’t accept weakness. It won’t tolerate a breakdown in will.” While Jocko’s book appeals to the strength of the human will, Paul in Galatians appeals to the power of the Holy Spirit and our willingness to cooperate with the spirit by walking by the Spirit.
Take some time and pray for the Spirit’s work in your life and that you would cooperate with the Spirit. Self-control is a spiritual discipline. In what ways do you need to exercise this in your life? Pray that God would give you the strength to do it and then write down a plan to make it happen. Keep your plan modest, take a baby step.
 H. Baltensweiler, “Discipline, Prudence, Immorality, Prostitute,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 494.
 Willink, Jocko. Discipline Equals Freedom (p. 27). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Week 1, Day 1
1 Cor. 9:24
"24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
Have you ever trained for an event like a race or a game? What was that experience like? Many of the coaches I have had over the years have attempted to make practice harder than the performance. The idea is that the actual performance will feel easy if the practices are harder. That approach might not work in all situations, but there is a certain element of truth in it. I am not suggesting that our time with Jesus should be viewed as hard or difficult all the time, but sometimes it might be.
Taking time to have devotions can be hard and arduous sometimes. We might feel like skipping a day or two, but don't. Just as we train our bodies for a race we should train our minds and our spirits to strive for the race set before us. This means doing hard things and difficult things. Take a few minutes and write down some of the things that get in the way of spending time with God daily and then develop a plan to deal with such things.
This devotional is intended to align with a sermon series I will preach in the fall of 2022 titled, “Firm Foundation.” It is primarily a book about spiritual disciplines; not every spiritual discipline, but some of them.
My grandpa was a great man of faith. By that I mean he was a man of depth, a man of knowledge, a man of wisdom, and a man who was disciplined. There is that word again, “discipline.” That is a key word in our endeavors in this book. Although it isn’t used in the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5 there is another word used, “ἐγκράτεια” in the Greek. It means the “restraint of one’s emotions, impulses, or desires, self-control”  This means setting aside those things that grab your attention, those shiny things that draw us to them, those impulses for something better. That is what discipline is, it is the controlling and at times the setting aside the desires of the flesh, the “natural” desires for something better that is controlled by the Spirit. That is what Galatians 5 is about. Discipline plays a key role in that process. My grandpa had that and I’m working on it. Some days I do better than others.
This book requires discipline. It requires you to set aside time to do the work of reading God’s word, meditating on it, and then praying to God about what you are learning. But this book is about fundamentals as much as it is about discipline. I am a Jiu Jitsu brown belt. If you don’t know what that means, google Jiu Jitsu and you will quickly see what it is. A brown belt is an advanced belt. The next belt is black. In some martial arts you can get a black belt in 2-3 years, but Jiu Jitsu is different. It is considered pretty fast to get a black belt in 10 years and often it takes 15 or more years. That is if you are consistent and disciplined in your training. Even as a brown belt, I constantly train and work on the fundamentals. I am constantly making use of the basic positions and techniques. Why? Because they work. The most fundamental aspect of training is consistency in training over a long period of time. That is true with our spiritual life too. This book will teach you the basics of the faith, the fundamentals. If you will practice these things consistently for the rest of your life, you will become strong in your faith.
Last let me leave you with this challenge. The most important thing in your life is your relationship with Jesus. Not your spouse, your kids, your career, your bank account, etc. Those things are important, but they pale in comparison to your relationship with Jesus based on the gospel message itself. Prioritize these practices over everything else in your life. Study, pray, be in a community of faith (church), be generous with what God has given you, and proclaim the gospel. If you do this, you will grow in your faith.
 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 274.
Why write a devotional? There are a million devotionals by authors with more degrees, name recognition, and skill than I have. Yet I am writing anyway. It isn’t because I have a special word from God, I will leave that to Scripture. It isn’t because I am especially profound or wise, although I attempt to be both. No, there is another reason.
This devotional is a burden of love. First, that love is directed towards God. I hope to honor and glorify Him in what I write. Further, I hope that His kingdom will grow and benefit in some small way by what I write. Second it is love towards the church in general and more specifically Grace Fellowship of Lakewood. You are probably part of Grace Fellowship. My prayer is that you will individually benefit from this devotional. I pray that this will help you develop a habit or discipline of reading and studying God’s word in some small or big way. I believe if you are disciplined and take the time to go through this devotional you will grow.
I used another word in describing this devotional, “burden.” It is that. While I don’t mind writing in general, devotionals are not where I thrive. It doesn’t come easy, it’s a burden, but one that gives me joy. It is spiritual and because it is, it is heavy. I pray God’s grace and mercy will be given to me as I write for Him and to you.