Not a pick-and-choose attitude

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I am praying on behalf of them. I am not praying on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those you have given me, because they belong to you. Everything I have belongs to you, and everything you have belongs to me, and I have been glorified by them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one. John 17.9-11

This is a prayer of Jesus right before he was handed over to be crucified. He is praying for the disciples which will be his apostles and will take the message out to the world. There is a principle here that Jesus makes clear for those who want to see it.

Jesus does not pray for the world. Perhaps this is because the world must submit to God to be accepted by him. The world is not one with the Father. The opposite is true. The world is in rebellion to God, Romans 5.10. The death of Jesus on the cross made redemption possible for every person, but it is not a given. One can refuse to obey and accept God’s grace.

Jesus prays for his disciples because they belong to the Father. Jesus states that everything he has belongs to God and vice versa. Jesus prays that God will keep them safe. He then asks that they may be one just as Jesus and God are one. Paul wrote that he taught the same message in all the churches, 1 Corinthians 7.17.

The religious world has missed this message of unity that is based upon the word of God. The Bible is not to be translated to fit my desires. If that were true, we could all have a pick-and-choose attitude. The Bible is like any document in that God has one message that he wants to share, not hundreds. When we take the message in context, remembering to whom it was written and when, the content should be the same. We do not see the same freedom of division in the Bible that we see in the religious world. We need to be one in the Lord having the same mind, Philippians 2.2.

#risingjoy #John #unity

May 23. Jesus Denounces the Scribes and Pharisees in His Last Public Teaching

Mt. 23:1-39; Mk. 12:38-40; Lk. 20:45-47

Jesus turned His attention from the Jewish leaders and began to speak more directly to the apostles and the other people assembled in the temple at that time. He instructed them to follow the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees, but to avoid their examples.

As He spoke, Jesus directed some of His most harsh criticism toward the scribes and Pharisees because of their hypocrisy. They were guilty of making a big show of their religion by the garments they wore, the desire to be in the places of honor and praying long prayers only to be seen of men. Humility is an attribute that was lacking among these people.

By opposing Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees were blocking the kingdom of heaven—not going in themselves nor allowing others to enter either.

Jesus pronounced a series of woes upon the scribes and Pharisees. He denounced them for their hypocritical actions, mistreating of widows, spiritual blindness, attention to small things but overlooking major issues and for having unclean hearts. He compared them to decorated tombs that looked good on the outside, but inside contained dead bodies.

As Jesus continued to warn the people to avoid the sins of the scribes and Pharisees, He began to warn them of the destruction of Jerusalem. He expressed His desire to shelter them as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but they were not willing.


Daily Helps to Ponder in 2020

By Christopher Underwood

Tip Number 1:

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

The following notes may be helpful during the rest of your life during stress and no stressful times.

These tips may help:

  • Go slowly. Stress is tiring and it takes a toll on our mental capacity. Be patient with yourself.
  • Turn off the news. Consume enough to be informed – not consumed.
  • Sleep. And be understanding with yourself if you can’t.
  • Move. Just a 10-minute walk can reset your perspective.
  • Forgive. And that includes yourself. We’re all doing our best.
  • Apologize if you’re wrong. A simple “I’m sorry” can defuse tension.
  • Breathe. Sit quietly for a few minutes and breathe deeply. Give yourself some mental space.
  • Connect with a loved one. (Video chats are great, but you don’t even have to comb your hair for an old-fashioned phone call).
  • Find small things to be grateful for. The hot drink you look forward to each morning. An unexpected peek of sunshine.

Gratitude is good for you, so notice the little things that lift your mood.

#chrisunderwood #encouragement #tips

Is everything relative today?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world. Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. John 17.14-18

Everything is relative today. Whether something affects me or not is relative to my situation and the circumstances surrounding it. So something considered to be true may or may not be relative to my situation. Are you confused yet?

Jesus states clearly what truth is. God’s word is truth. It is not relative. It is applicable to everyone. He first gave that word to his disciples who became his apostles. They went out teaching the word and many times were rejected and mistreated because of what they taught. Generally, it is not the message that the world wants to hear. The world does not want to submit to God, therefore obedience is considered absurd.

Jesus did not call the apostles back from spreading the word of truth. He did not pray that they be taken out of the world, but that they be kept safe from the evil one. When we have problems today, we often pray that the Lord will remove the problem. Perhaps a better response would be to pray for protection from the evil one and wisdom and strength to continue standing for our faith in the midst of the storm.

#risingjoy #John #truth

May 22. Jesus Asks a Hard Question

Mt. 22:41-46; Mk. 12:35-37; Lk. 20:41-44

After the Jews had failed to trap Jesus, He asked them the question, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?”

They replied, “The Son of David.”

This was true in the physical sense, but David had referred to Christ in the Psalms as “Lord.” He asked the Jews why David would call Him “Lord,” if He were His son. They could not or would not acknowledge that He was also the Son of God.

The Jewish leaders did not ask for an explanation, but the common people continued to hear Him gladly.


Something better

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all people. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good. Titus 2.11-14

The grace of God is multifaceted, 1 Peter 4.10, and we can see two facets of it here in Titus 2. Paul is reminding Titus that God’s grace trains us both to reject certain behaviors and to add certain characteristics to our lives.

Grace trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires. Many times while studying with people about the gospel, a person is struggling with the decision to become a Christian and will have a misconception that they can get their life right and then obey the gospel. There is only one problem. Without God’s grace, it is impossible to get your life right. You do not have the power within you to accomplish such a task no matter how hard you try.

Grace also trains us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives now in the present. With all of the problems going on in the world today, one is tempted to give in to the daily battles with sin that is experienced. But, grace trains us to be self-controlled. No matter how bad things get, God’s grace is sufficient to see me through whatever situation.

Jesus died for us to have freedom from every form of lawlessness. Not that it will not exist, but we do not have to give in to it. He calls us to something better, something purer. He calls us to share his good news and to be eager to do good.

#risingjoy #Titus #grace

May 21. The Jews Try to Trap Jesus

Mt. 22:15-40; Mk. 12:13-34; Lk. 20:20-40

The Herodians were Jews, who were loyal to the Herods. They were enemies of the Pharisees, but on this occasion, the two groups united to try to trap Jesus. Since the Jews hated to pay taxes to the Romans, they asked Him, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

They thought that if Jesus answered, “Yes,” the Jews would be offended. If He answered “No,” the Romans could arrest Him for encouraging tax evasion. A perfect trap, they thought.

After the Jews had identified Caesar’s image and inscription on a denarius (coin), Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus had stopped the people in their tracks and they were all amazed at His answer.

The Sadducees were a sect of the Jews who did not believe in angels, spirits or the resurrection of the dead. They believed that a person’s reward or punishment came while he was on earth instead of after a resurrection.

After Jesus had silenced the Pharisees and Herodians, the Sadducees tried to trick Him with a question about the “so-called resurrection.” They gave an example of a woman who had been married seven times to brothers. With all seven brothers claiming exclusive rights to the same wife, heaven would seem like a perfect mix-up in family relations.

Jesus pointed out their ignorance. He taught them that marriage is an earthly relationship that ends at death. There is no marriage in heaven.

It was also taught that there is indeed life after death. God is the God of the living, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and not of the dead. Therefore, the spirits of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive after death and are waiting for the resurrection of the dead.

After Jesus had silenced the Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees, they had a meeting of the minds to determine another way to trap Him.

A lawyer had an idea of another way to trick Jesus into taking sides in a controversial issue. According to Jewish writers, some felt that of the more than six hundred commandments in the Law of Moses, animal sacrifices were the most important; others thought that wearing of phylacteries, or the great feasts or purification were the most important. The lawyer asked Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

The lawyer could only admire and agree with Jesus because His answer was so well worded.

Jesus also complimented the lawyer for being “not far from the kingdom of God.” Being not far from the kingdom of God is not the same as being in it. One who is nearly saved is still lost.

These people did not ask Jesus any more questions because they had been embarrassed three times and they did not want to show any more of His wisdom or their own ignorance.


Be useful

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

So if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2.21-22

Paul is talking of repentance here. The behavior that he refers to is that of profane chatter which leads to ungodliness. The influence of ungodliness can spread through the body like gangrene. It can lead to the undermining of a person’s faith from which they might not recover. However, if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, through repentance, he can be used by the Master for good.

Profane chatter is not the only thing that we should avoid. Paul encourages Timothy to keep away from youthful passions. Maintain control of your actions and your emotions. Think through the situations in which you find yourself.

Now only does Paul tell Timothy what to avoid; he tells him what to pursue. We are to pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love and peace. We are not to pursue these things on our own, all alone. It is so important that we be in the company of other Christians who are faithful to the Lord. If we need help to overcome temptation, it is there that we will find it, as well as encouragement to continue toward the goal.

For the Lord knows those who are his.

#risingjoy #2-Timothy #repentance

May 20. Jesus Teaches a Series of Parables

Mt. 21:28-22:14; Mk. 12:1-12; Lk. 20:9-19

As a means to regain their attention, Jesus asked the authorities another question. “What do you think?”

He then began to relate a parable about two sons. Their father asked each of them to go into the vineyard and work.

The first said, “I will not.” He realized his mistake later, repented and went.

After the second son had said, “I go, sir,” he did not go.

Jesus asked the members of the Sanhedrin which son had done the will of the father. They replied, “The first.”

Tax collectors and harlots, who were the scum of the earth in the eyes of these leaders had believed and obeyed the teaching of John the Baptist. Jesus told these rulers, who were pleasing to God in their own eyes that they had refused to believe John.

In another parable, Jesus presented God as the owner of a vineyard. The vineyard was His chosen people, the Jewish nation.

As time went by, the owner leased the vineyard out to vinedressers and went into a far country for a long time. The price of the lease was a portion of the fruit of the vineyard. When the time for fruit drew near, servants were sent to collect the lease payment. Instead of giving fruit to the servants, the vinedressers killed some and beat others.

The owner, thinking that they would respect his son, sent him to collect the payment. In a society of crooked judges, the vinedressers reasoned that if they killed the heir, they could inherit the vineyard. When he arrived, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Some of these leaders did not understand that this story applied to them and said that these men should be destroyed and the vineyard leased to others. Others did grasp what Jesus was talking about and said, “Certainly not!”

In this parable, the vinedressers represented the Jewish leaders and the servants were the prophets that God had sent before the coming of Christ.

Jesus, representing Himself as the son prophesied that He would be killed outside the walls of Jerusalem. This came true later in that same week.

The Jews were eager to build the Messianic kingdom, but they were too blind to see that this kingdom could not be set up without resting upon Jesus as the chief cornerstone. They were unskilled laborers, who rejected the cornerstone of the building they were trying to erect.

Jesus prophesied that many would fall over this stone and be broken. All who face Him in the judgment and are lost will be ground up by this stone.

When the chief priests and scribes understood that Jesus was talking about them, they wanted to arrest Him, but they were afraid of the people because they were highly outnumbered.

Jesus presented a third parable, regarding the marriage of a king’s son, which also showed the Jews refusing to accept Him.

A more detailed application of this parable shows God inviting the Jews into the eternal home in heaven. Prophets, apostles and teachers were sent to deliver the message of salvation. Many of them were mistreated and some of them were even killed. They refused to accept the invitation and God destroyed their city, Jerusalem. Gentiles were then invited.

When Christ comes at the judgment, many will be present, but some will not be prepared because they have not put on Christ, their “wedding garment” as their savior. Since they had opportunities to prepare, they will have no excuse for their neglect.

These people will be bound to prevent the possibility of escape and thrown into eternal punishment where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.


Hugh’s News & Views (A Writing Ministry)


I enjoy writing and view it as an extension of my ministry of the gospel and the advancement of the cause of Christ. During my senior year of high school at Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, AL I was the sports editor of our little school paper. Being “editor” meant that I wrote the one sports story (maybe occasionally two) for “The Areopagite.” (You will need to read Acts 17:16-21, 34 to see the connection between the name of the paper and the name of my high school). As I recall, Larry Harper, who was a grade behind me, submitted the winning name in a contest to rename the school newspaper. “The Areopagite” only existed for one or two years before it reverted back to its former name, “The Flashlight,” but I liked the name “The Areopagite.” I also served as one of two associate editors of my high school yearbook “Mizpah.” (If you will read Genesis 31:48-49 you will understand the significance of that name). Continue reading

#hughfulford, #writing

Deliberate, not easy

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness,(…) 2 Timothy 2.15-16

The Christian life is a deliberate one. It is also not an easy one. Paul writes to Timothy to make every effort. This is not a picture of being laid back and letting come what may. We have to be diligent in our lives to be what God wants. It does not come by instinct. We must teach the truth accurately. If we never read and study the Bible, it will not happen.

Paul also gives a warning: avoid profane chatter. What do you spend most of your time talking about? Is it politics? Is it books? Is it general gossip? Be careful. Paul warns that if we spend our time in profane chatter, we will stray further and further into ungodliness, exactly where we should not want to go.

Our message should be the gospel. So many are lost and wandering, looking for something to give meaning and hope to their lives. We have what they need. Are you sharing it?

#risingjoy #2-Timothy #meaning

May 19. Jesus’ Authority Questioned

Mt. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8

After Jesus had arrived at the temple to teach another day, the chief priests, scribes and elders (Sanhedrin) confronted Him. Since they were in charge of the temple, they wanted to know who had given Him authority or permission to teach and heal there. He was probably teaching in the large outer court known as the court of the Gentiles.

The Jews wanted to accuse Jesus of blasphemy in order to have grounds to put Him to death. They thought that He would declare Himself to be the Messiah, which would give them this charge.

In His wisdom, Jesus replied with His own question. “The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?”

The Sanhedrin ignored an excellent opportunity to reassess itself and get to the bottom of their quarrel with Jesus. They could have confessed that John was a teacher from God, who taught that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had the proper authority to teach in the temple.

It did not happen. They lied and said, “We do not know.”

Jesus replied, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”


What is your message?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David; such is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship to the point of imprisonment as a criminal, but God’s message is not imprisoned! So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory. 2 Timothy 2.8-10

What is your message? Is it the same message as Paul? If our message is anything other than the death of Jesus, his resurrection and ascension, we are sharing a different gospel. We are not respecting God’s word and his message.

Paul was willing to go to prison because of the gospel. However, that did not stop him from sharing the message with others. He shared with whoever he came into contact. How far are you willing to go to share the gospel?

#risingjoy #2-Timothy #message

May 18. Jesus Cleanses the Temple—Again

Mt. 21:12-17; Mk. 11:15-19; Lk. 19:45-48

Conditions in the temple were the same as they had been three years earlier when Jesus had attended the first Passover of His ministry. Merchants and moneychangers had returned to supply, for a price, lambs and doves for the offerings.

As He had done before, Jesus drove out all of those who bought and sold in the temple. He also overturned their tables and seats.

Caves in the area were used as hiding places for robbers. Because of the extortion of the traders, Jesus reminded them of prophecies by Isaiah and Jeremiah, “Is it not written ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

The popularity of Christ had reached its peak. While He was teaching in the temple, He healed many blind and lame people.

Meanwhile, things were getting out of hand for the Jewish authorities. They wanted to destroy Jesus, but His popularity was far too great for them at this time.

At the end of the day, Jesus and His disciples returned to the Bethany/Mount of Olives area.


Back on the right track

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

So you, my child, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well. Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2.1-3

Timothy was a young man. Paul considered him as a son in the faith. He encourages Timothy to teach faithful people what he himself has heard Paul teach others. These people need to be able to teach others so that the gospel will spread.

Paul is encouraging Timothy to think on some general principles. He gives three examples of people and their situations in life: a soldier, an athlete, and the farmer. The soldier is only valuable if he stays focused on his mission. If he becomes distracted with civilian life, he can lose his focus and put all in jeopardy. An athlete will not be crowned the winner if he does not abide by the rules of the sport. If he breaks the rules, he is disqualified. Finally, the farmer who sows the seed and works hard to have a crop should be the first to reap the benefits of his labor. However, if he does not work then there will be no crop.

Paul encourages Timothy to think about what he was telling him. We understand that Timothy was easily caught up in discussions that were not productive in any way. Apparently he was fearful to take a stand or perhaps to offend. Paul gently points him back to the right track where focus and persistence are necessary.

We need to be careful and heed Paul’s words. We need to stay focused on what is important which is teaching others who can teach others. This is our mission.

#risingjoy #2-Timothy #focus