1 Samuel 14, Ezekiel 25, Colossians 4

Read 1 Samuel 14, Ezekiel 25, and Colossians 4.

This devotional is about Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

These verses speak to us about how we speak with unbelievers. Verse 5 encouraged us to to “be wise.” The word “wise” simply refers to skill. In the Old Testament, God called some men who were “wise” in craftsmanship to create the furniture for his tabernacle (see Exodus 31:1-5).

Here, the wisdom we are commanded to have refers to the “soft” skill of communication. Part of our faith, the result of being raised with Christ, means learning how to skillfully talk with unbelievers about Christ. Verse 5b encourages us to think about talking with unbelievers as an “opportunity” that we should “make the most of.” In addition to understanding the gospel message well enough to explain it clearly to someone else, we should develop our conversational skills so that we can speak of Christ in ways that draw the interest of unbelievers. Think about how Jesus skillfully spoke with Nicodemus, the woman at the well, and others about himself. He did not use a canned speech, a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, he engaged the other person at the level of their own interest and then led them to see that they needed him.

What does this kind of evangelistic conversation look like? Verse 6 says it is “always full of grace.” Grace, of course, is an undeserved gift. In evangelistic conversations, we want to get to God’s grace, to tell people what Christ can give them by faith. But I think Paul means more than just filling our conversation with God’s grace. I think he means that the tone of the conversation is giving so that the unbeliever understands we have something to offer them. We have hope and joy and peace to offer them. We can show them how to truly know God, so the way we speak to them should be inviting, encouraging them to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that we can “take refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).

Verse 6 (here in Colossians 4) tells us that these conversations should be “seasoned with salt.” That image tells us that our talks with unbelievers should be stimulating and pleasant. It might be taking the “salt” image too far, but what if “seasoned with salt” means that our talks with unbelievers about Jesus makes them want to talk with us again about him in the future? Of course we don’t ignore the problem of sin or give them reassurances that everything will be OK whether they believe in God or not. Instead, we show them the possibility of a better life–the ability to know God, to feel that he is listening to us, the opportunity to understand why the world is so beautiful but also broken and how the world Christ promises will be the perfect one that we all deeply crave.

What would you need to do to be able to speak the gospel to unbelievers like this? Have you read any books about it or taken a class to learn how to engage in a spiritual conversation like this? This is part of growing in grace–learning to speak gracefully to unbelievers about the grace of God. May God give us opportunities to hone our skills in evangelism and opportunities to practice those skills among unbelievers with hungry hearts.

Four Areas of Leadership (Lombardi)

paper boats on solid surface
Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

Michael Lombardi is a former NFL executive. He’s worked for many teams in the league and has written several books on the NFL, often focusing on leadership.

How successful was Lombardi as an executive? That’s hard to say; however, he has worked for some iconic, successful NFL coaches: Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Bill Belichick. Incidentally, he is not related to the great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi–at least, that’s what Wikipedia says.

Regardless of how successful, or not, Lombardi has been, he is always opinionated. That makes him interesting to listen to and consistently thought provoking.

In a segment about the problems of Urban Meyer in Jacksonville on the Rich Eisen show, Lombardi outlined four areas of leadership that coaches need to do well in order to succeed. They are:

  1. Management of Attention: This means you have a plan.
  2. Management of Meaning: This means you can explain the plan.
  3. Management of Self: This means you govern yourself as the leader. Govern yourself toward the plan? That’s not stated or clear in Lombardi’s interview, but it would make sense in context as well as being an important truth in general.
  4. Management of Trust: Do the people who are supposed to be following you trust you? You can be a jerk as a coach but if you are a consistent jerk, they’ll listen to you. Consistency is the most important quality a coach has to have. 

Here’s the entire segment on YouTube:

1 Samuel 25 Ezekiel 4

Read 1 Samuel 25 and Ezekiel 4.

This devotional is about Ezekiel 4.

God seems to have tailored his revelation to the personality of the one who received it. Ezekiel was an unusual man so the revelation he received and recorded in this book was, likewise, unusual. The opening vision of Ezekiel 1 and the “eat this scroll” revelation of chapter 3 are two examples that we’ve already read about.

Here in chapter 4, Ezekiel was commanded to act out his prophecy. God commanded him to make a little model of the city of Jerusalem (v. 1), then pretend that he was putting the city under siege (vv. 2-3). Then he was to lie on his left side for 390 days to symbolize the sin of Israel and 40 days for the sin of Judah [1]. There are other elements to his act as well; the most offensive was a command to cook food over his own poop (v. 12). God relented on that last detail and let him cook it over animal poo but the point was to show God’s people that the siege would hit them hard, so hard that they would be desperate and would even break their kosher laws.

Why would God command Ezekiel to prophesy in this unusual way? One reason, as I mentioned, was that it fit Ezekiel’s personality. A more important reason, however, was to communicate his word even more powerfully than the spoken oracles of other prophets like his contemporary Jeremiah. Visual aids and object lessons can make a deep impression on our minds and hearts that is more powerful than declarative preaching and teaching.

Note that this kind of visual aid was the exception, not the norm. Declarative preaching and teaching is more efficient at conveying a lot of information. Much of God’s word, then, was given to us that way. But because David was musical, God inspired him to write Psalms. Because Jesus was God, he used a wide variety of teaching styles. Likewise, because Ezekiel was a visual person, God inspired him to prophecy in striking, highly visual ways.

So, if you are a creative person, have you tapped your creative gifts to speak for God? If you are musical, do you write songs? If you like making videos, could you make some that convey truth in an emotionally impactful way?

We should never replace the careful explanation of the Word with drama or video or other creative expressions of truth. But, if we have the gifts and desire, we can and should supplement the careful explanation of the Word using media that can make an impact on people in a more emotional way. This is why I try to find images to use when I am teaching on Sunday morning to supplement my exposition of the word. It is an attempt to tap into the visual part of our human nature so that the truth of God’s word makes a deeper impact.

What gifts has God given you that you could use to serve him?


[1] Note: it is unlikely that he laid there without getting up for all those days. Instead, he did it every day for a period of time each day, probably somewhere public at a time when the most people possible would be likely to see him.

Judges 14, Jeremiah 27

Today we’re scheduled to read Judges 14 and Jeremiah 27.

This devotional is about Jeremiah 27.

God commanded his prophets do some strange things at times. These strange things had a point, however, which was to deliver God’s truth in vivid, memorable ways. Here in Jeremiah 27, the prophet was commanded to take the yoke that oxen would wear and put it on his own neck. (v. 2). People used these yokes to get animals to submit to them and plow their fields. The yoke, then, is a symbol of submission. God told the prophet to use this visual aid to teach people that they should just go ahead and submit to Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king. It would be easier for everyone and cost many fewer human lives (v. 8) than trying to defeat Nebuchadnezzar outside the will of God (vv. 5-7).

This visual aid is unusual but so was the audience for Jeremiah’s prophecy. God told him to spread this message to “the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon through the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah” (v. 3). Most of the time God’s prophets were sent to his people, Israel and Judah. This time God sent his word from the prophet to several nations. That wasn’t unheard of but it was unusual.

The kings of these pagan lands had their own gods so I wonder if they would think it strange that the God of Israel would try to tell them what to do. God anticipated that objection and affirmed his Sovereign right because he is the Creator: “With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please” (v. 5).

Other nations have their gods but their gods are fake. Only Israel’s God–our God–is the true God. Because he created everything, he has the right to rule everyone and require everyone’s obedience. Keep this in mind when unbelievers tell you that they have their own religion or that they don’t believe the Bible so it is not important what the Bible says. These are attempts to evade their accountability to God. But because God is Creator, they are accountable to him. Indeed, everyone on earth will stand before God and answer to him whether they submitted to his word or not.

Every person who ever lived is responsible to obey God’s word. Unbelievers are not off the hook because of their unbelief; to the contrary, their unbelief is one of many ways in which they live in rebellion to the true God. Unbelievers are responsible to obey God but they are not capable of obeying him.

Neither are we.

That is why we needed Christ to come into the world. He obeyed God for us (we call this his “active obedience”) and to die for our sins (this is his “passive obedience”). Unbelievers don’t get out of accountability by denying God or his word; they avoid God’s judgment by receiving his grace.

Genesis 24, Nehemiah 13, Psalm 23

Today’s readings are Genesis 24, Nehemiah 13, Psalm 23.

This devotional is about Nehemiah 13.

Nehemiah was a real jerk. At least, that’s how other people probably regarded him. He insisted on obedience to God’s word. When he found out that others were letting disobedience slide, Nehemiah reacted strongly and emotionally. Consider these incidents:

  1. When a priest allowed one of God’s enemies to have a big apartment in the temple, Nehemiah personally carried his belongings out and threw them on the front lawn (v. 8). When he found out that God’s servants weren’t being paid, Nehemiah called out the civic leaders and made them pay up (vv. 10-12), even designating some stand-up guys to be responsible for this in the future (v. 13).
  2. When he learned that non-Jews who lived in Jerusalem were selling stuff on Saturday (the Sabbath), Nehemiah “rebuked the nobles of Judah” (v. 17), stopped the city gates from opening so that nothing could come in for sale (v. 19) and threatened to arrest those who still came hoping to sell (vv. 20-22).
  3. When he found out that men of Judah had married foreign wives, he “rebuked them and called curses down on them… beat some of the men and pulled out their hair “(v. 25)!

Yep, he was a jerk if it was your hair that he was pulling out. The thing is, he had scriptural reasons for everything he did. He also had some anxiety about it. I say that because of these repeated statements:

  • “Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services” (v. 14).
  • “Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love” (v. 22b).
  • “Remember them, my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites” (v. 29).
  • “Remember me with favor, my God” (v. 31b).

If you want to live a godly life, you will be forced to choose, at times, either (a) to say nothing in order to preserve your reputation and likability or (b) to speak up about sin and be thought a jerk. When Nehemiah asked God to remember him after these incidents, he is showing us the human side of doing what is right. He paid a price in his relationships in order to lead God’s people to obedience; but he did that because he believed in God’s word and trusted in God to reward him for doing the right thing.

Are you up to that? Have you been looking the other way when people sin around you so that people will like you? Nehemiah understood the pressure. I do, too; in fact, I wish I could say I was better and more consistent about showing the kind of moral leadership that Nehemiah showed. May the Lord help us all to be bolder in our stand for His commands.

[Probably not necessary to beat anyone or pull out his/her hair….]