David Huffstutler

Evaluating the Hearts of our “Church Kids”

A child who loves God will progressively grow in true obedience to parents—generally quick to obey (without the persistent eyeroll, sigh, or stomp) because he or she desires to please the Lord. This child (though certainly not perfectly) will show honor for his or her parents through facial and vocal responses, as well as actions, in an increasingly God-pleasing manner.

Christian parents have the responsibility and privilege to bring their children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:1–4). One of the challenges—perhaps the most difficult—is teaching our children not only to obey, but also to love God.
Children who grow up in Christian homes and churches are somewhat similar to children who grew up in the covenant community of Israel. Jewish parents were to circumcise their sons at eight days old as a sign of the covenant between God and Israel. They were to love God themselves and teach God’s word to their children.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9; cf. Deut 11:18-21)
God also required that each Israelite born into the covenant “circumcise” his heart through personal faith evidenced by love for God and obedience to his word.
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. (Deut 10:12-16)
As New Testament believers, with the law having been put aside (cf. Gal 3:23–29), we are not required to circumcise our sons. The New Testament does not require any rite that places our unbelieving children in the “church community.” Only a believer with a credible profession of faith and repentance is baptized and added to the church in the New Testament.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. . . . So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:38, 41-42)
The difference between the Old Testament covenant community and the New Testament church is clear. But the similarities in bringing up children in both of these contexts are notable. In both, parents love God, and they teach their children about God and their responsibility to love and obey him as well.
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The Structure of Romans 3:9–20 and Its Use of the Old Testament

Paul claims that all are under sin (Romans 3:9) and uses a number of biblical quotations to show the unrighteousness and irreverence of man (Romans 3:10a, 18), giving further explanation of his sinfulness and examples of his sin (Romans 3:10b–17). Addressing the Jews in particular (cf. Romans 2:17, “if you call yourself a Jew”), Paul clarifies that they are the audience of the Law and identifies its purpose (Romans 3:19–20). 

Romans 3:9–20 concludes Paul’s discussion of man’s unrighteousness in Romans 1:18–3:20.
Paul clearly asserts that both “all, Jews and Greeks [Gentiles], are under sin,” that is, under its power, made obvious man’s many sins (Romans 3:9; cf. 3:13–17). “As it is written” then introduces a number of biblical quotations to show the universal sinfulness of man (Romans 3:10).
Romans 3:10–12 quotes much of Psalm 14:1–3 (almost identical to Psalm 53:1–3). Paul claims as David did that “none is righteous” before God (Romans 3:10; notice Paul’s modification from Psalm 14:1, “There is none who does good”). One could literally translate this phrase, “There is no righteous one,” just as Romans 3:18 could translate, “There is no fear of God.” These two instances of “there is” act as bookends for Romans 3:10–18. Romans 3:19–20 then closes all of Romans 1:18–3:20.
As evidence of man’s unrighteousness claimed in Romans 3:10, the quote from Psalm 14 stack the negatives against mankind—no one understands, seeks for God, or does good but rather turns aside and becomes worthless (Romans 3:10–12; cf. Psalm 14:1–3).
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A Theology of Friendship

Until the return of our Lord, wisdom is necessary to discern what genuine friendship with others truly means. Friendship is not based on riches, befriending one another for benefit in return (Prov 14:20; 19:4, 6, 7). Friendship falters from dishonesty and disloyalty (Prov 16:28; Ps 7:4; 15:3; 38:11; 41:9; 55:13), especially if the offense occurs again and again (Prov 17:9). One friend does not mock, scorn, forget, or forsake the other, especially in trial (Job 12:4; 16:20; 19:14, 19). Rather, friendship is marked by pure motives and gracious speech (Prov 22:11). True friendship sticks close in adversity (Prov 17:17; 18:24; 27:10), finds strength in mutual admonition (Prov 27:6, 9), and enjoys fellowship when worshiping God together (Ps 55:13–14).

Who does the Bible identify as a friend? What is friendship?
Words like friend, friendship, or friendly in our English Bible stem from multiple words in the Hebrew and Greek. Below is a survey of these words, leading to a definition of friendship. Though this survey does not include every angle from which to view friendship (e.g., the “one another” passages), this survey does provide a fairly good idea of the Bible’s theology of friendship.1
Old Testament

rēaʿ, used 185x, most often translated as “one another,” “each other,” or “neighbor” ; also translated as “comrade” (Judg 7:13, 14, 22), “companion” (Exod 2:13; 30:29; Ps 122:8), “opponent” (2 Sam 2:16), “fellow” (1 Kings 20:35; Isa 34:14), and “lover,” “husband,” “man” (Jer 3:1, 20; Hos 3:1); often translated “friend” (Gen 38:12, 20; Exod 33:11; Deut 13:6; 1 Sam 30:26; 2 Sam 13:3; 16:17; 1 Kings 16:11; 1 Chron 27:33; Job 2:11; 6:27; 12:4; 16:20; 17:5; 19:21; 32:3; 35:4; 42:7, 10; Ps 35:14; Prov 17:17; 19:4, 6; 22:11; 27:9, 10; SoS 5:1, 16; Jer 6:21; Lam 1:2; Zech 3:8).
mat, used 22x, with 1x as “intimate friend” (Job 19:19).
sôd, used 21x, sometimes as “intimate friend” (Job 19:19) or “friendship” (Job 29:4; Ps 25:14), but also “council,” “counsel,” “plans,” “gatherings,” and “company.”
nkr, used 53x, 1x as “friend” (Job 24:17).
Variants of the common root šlm, “close friends” (Jer 20:10); “trusted friends” (Jer 38:22), “friend” (Ps 7:4); “friendly” (Gen 34:21); and “friendship” (1 Chron 12:17).
ʾallûp, used 9x, sometimes “companion” (Ps 55:13; Prov 2:17) or “friend” (Prov 16:28; 17:9; Jer 3:4; 13:21; Mic 7:5).

New Testament

philos, 29x, always “friend.”
idios, 114x, only 2x referring to “friend”; a reflexive pronoun, literally, “one’s own,” referring to people (Acts 4:23; 24:23).
sos, 25x, 1x as “friend”; a second-person pronoun, literally, “yours,” referring to people (Mark 5:19).
eirēnē, “friendly” (Heb 11:31).
hetairos, “friend” (Matt 20:13; 22:12; 26:50); “a person who has someth. in common with others and enjoys association, but not necessarily at the level of a φίλος [philos] or φίλη [philē], comrade, companion.”2.

After his own word survey, Lee notes that the chief Old Testament characteristics of friendship are loyalty (e.g., David and Jonathan) and sharing, sometimes both expressed in a covenant (e.g., Ps 25:14; 55:20; Prov 2:17; Mal 2:14). Keener likewise identifies loyalty and sharing characteristics in the New Testament era. He explains sharing in terms of confidence and all resources, that is, sharing information and secrets with trusted friends and freely giving of one’s resources, even one’s life, for one’s friends.3 Christ is the best of friends who discloses (or promises to disclose) all things to his disciples, sharing with them all things, including himself and his very life (John 15:13–15; 16:12–15).
Gathering this data together, our initial survey of friendship includes notions of…

Loyalty to one another
Sharing with one another, even one’s own life for the sake of the other
Confidence in mutual commitment (covenant)
Love for one another
Peace with one another

So, here’s a rough definition for friendship: a loving relationship between two people in which they selflessly share with one another, remaining loyal to one another in the midst of conflict or suffering, striving for peace in all circumstances.
With this definition in hand, let’s consider friendship within the framework of the redemptive story.
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A Devotional Summary of the Use of Psalm 110:1 and Psalm 110:4 in the NT

Christ’s sacrifice was once for all, and thus He sits in heaven. And yet, at His seat, He gives Himself to interceding for you and me. What an encouragement that salvation is accomplished through Him, and what further encouragement we have to know that He lives to intercede! Jesus is over all things at the Father’s right hand. From there, He has been “waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” (Heb 10:13), including those who sent Him to the cross (Matt 26:64/Mark 14:62/Luke 22:69).

Psalm 110:1 holds more references in the New Testament than any other verse from the Old Testament. The New Testament quotes it five times and alludes to it sixteen times by either referring to Jesus’ position at the Father’s right hand or to Jesus’ waiting to conquer His enemies.1 The New Testament quotes Psalm 110:4 three times and alludes to this verse four times as well by referring to Jesus’ priesthood according to the order of Melchizedek.2
I’ve grouped the quotations and allusions to both verses into the headings below, giving the data in the first paragraph(s) and a devotional thought in the closing paragraph of each section. 
Jesus’ right-hand seat is a position of authority over all. There He sits as the Messiah and David’s greater Lord (Matt 22:44 / Mark 12:36 / Luke 20:42–43). His seat shows His superiority over angels (Heb 1:13) “with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Pet 3:22).
As proof of His superiority and lordship, He poured out the Spirit at Pentecost: “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this,” (Acts 2:33; cf. 2:34). With this authority, He grants salvation to whom He will: “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).
One can only hope to find forgiveness through repentance and acknowledgement of Jesus Christ as Lord. Sovereign over all at the right hand above, He grants forgiveness and gives the Spirit to all who come to Him. 
Speaking of God the Father, Paul referred to “the immeasurable greatness of his power…that He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:19–20). The Father showed His power by both raising Jesus from the dead and placing Him at His right hand.
It seems that Paul recalled the Father’s power to encourage his Ephesian readers that they, too, would live by this power in the present and join Christ in the future after their own resurrection (cf. Col 3:1). The Father’s power in Jesus’ resurrection and placement at God’s right hand is the very same “immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph 1:19), a fact that corresponds with “the hope to which He has called you,” and “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph 1:18). The fulfillment of our hope and the reception of our inheritance correspond to the Father’s power to us who believe. That power is alive and at work in us right now and will be at work to raise us, glorify us, and bring us to heaven one day! 
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The Glory of the Incarnation (John 1:14)

In the incarnation, the Son of God took on flesh to dwell among man, die for us, be raised for us, and will come again for us one day. In all these things, He is glorious, and as we love Him, we will one day see His incarnate glory forevermore!2

John 1:14 captures the incarnation of the Son of God and the glory thereof in these memorable words: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The Incarnation of the Word
By this point in John 1:14, John has already identified the Word. Summarizing John 1:1–9, the Word was in the beginning with God, created all things, has life in Himself, and is the light of the world. The Word is clearly the eternal Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
By calling Jesus the Word, John repurposed a philosophical term from his day and, more importantly, pointed to Jesus as the One who personifies the acts of God in the Old Testament. Consider these passages: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made”; (Ps 33:6); “Now the word of the Lord came to me” (Jer 1:4); “He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction” (Ps 107:20). As the Word, Jesus is Creator, Revealer, and Deliverer. He created all things, reveals the truth of God, and delivers man from sin and its punishment.
“And the Word became flesh”—the Son of God became human. He was “born of woman” (Gal 4:4), “being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7).
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The Glories of Our Common Salvation in Jude

Because of his electing love, God effectually called us to himself through the gospel (Jude 1, “those who were called”). In doing so, he imparted his very life to us (regeneration), enabling us to exercise our repentance and “most holy faith” (Jude 20; cf. Acts 11:18; Heb 6:1). Whereas we had been stained by the flesh and could only expect the Lord to execute his judgment on us one day (Jude 14–15, 23), we were shown mercy, saved, and snatched from the fire (Jude 22). 

Jude’s purpose in his letter for his readers is clear: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
It’s funny that, even though Jude clarified that he wanted to write about our common salvation but wrote about something else (contending for the faith against false teachers), he did end up saying a bit about salvation along the way. There is actually much of the ordo salutis to be found in this short letter.
First, we see ourselves described as “beloved in God the Father” (Jude 1). This love in the Father goes back to eternity past, a love that moved him in his sovereign grace to choose us unto salvation and all of its blessings (Eph 1:4–5). Here we see our election.
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A Brief Summary of Biblical Sexuality

Homosexuality is another perversion of sex expressly forbidden in Scripture (Lev 18:22; 20:13). It is contrary to sound doctrine and not in accordance with the gospel (1 Tim 1:10–11). Homosexual sex between men or women stems from dishonorable, sinful passions and is a shameless act that abandons natural sexual relations between a husband and a wife (Rom 1:26–27; e.g., Gen 19:5, 7; cf. 2 Pet 2:7; Jude 7). God punishes this sin by giving the sinner over to the sin itself and its various consequences (Rom 1:27).

God created man as male and female (Gen 1:27) with the capacity for sexuality, properly taking place only between a husband and a wife (Gen 2:24; Heb 13:4) for the purposes of procreation (Gen 1:28; 9:1) and relational enjoyment (Gen 2:18, 24). In a fallen world, sex in marriage helps to restrain temptation to sexual sin (1 Cor 7:2, 5).
As Christians, we must remember that our bodies belong to the Lord, are members of Christ, and are temples of the Holy Spirit, having been bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:13, 15, 19–20; 1 Thess 4:7–8; cf. 1 Pet 1:18–19). It is God’s will for us to control our bodies in holiness and honor (1 Thess 4:3–4). When Christ returns, our bodies will be changed to be like the Lord Jesus Christ’s body, perfect and incapable of sin (1 Cor 15:51–58; Phil 3:21; 1 John 3:2).
Unbelievers reject God’s truth, however, and live according to the impure lusts of their hearts, leading to dishonorable actions with their bodies, to one degree or another (Rom 1:18–20, 24; 1 Thess 4:5).
Lust itself is sin, that is, the willful longing for sex outside of marriage. This lust can take place by looking at someone with lustful intent (Matt 5:28; cf. Jas 1:14–15).
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Are You Pugnacious?

Even when we are opposed, we can speak truth firmly but lovingly to others. Are you pugnacious? Christ calls us to a better way. Speak firmly as you are convinced of the truth, and be meek and gentle like our Lord.

Not many use the term pugnacious today. Looking at just the word itself, if I didn’t know any better, I’d guess it referred to possessing a tenacious love for the dog breed pug (pug + tenacious = pugnacious).
Apart from my own nonsense, pugnacious is indeed a biblical term. “Pugnacious” is the NASB’s translation of plēktēs in 1 Timothy 3:3 and Titus 1:7. Other translations use the adjective “violent” (ESV, NET Bible, NKJV, NIV) or go for a noun, “a bully” (HCSB) or “striker” (KJV). When plēktēs is taken as a noun, it refers to “a person who is pugnacious and demanding.”1 Plēktēs stems from the verb plēssō, meaning “to strike with force”2 and could refer to both verbal and physical abuse.3
Whatever the translation, it is a negative character trait that must not be true of a pastor, let alone be the title for someone so described by this trait (“a bully”). In fact, as a pastor must be an example for all (1 Pet 5:3), no one should be pugnacious, especially Christians who are called to love all people and certainly one another (John 13:34–35).
So, what should we be instead?
A character trait that comes immediately after “pugnacious” in 1 Timothy 3:3 indicates what we should be instead: gentle.
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Thanking God as a People; Thanking Him One by One

Think of the many ways in which God has been good to His people. Review His kindnesses to [y]our church. Recall the kindnesses that He has shown specifically to you, and then share these blessings with others so that they can bless God with you.

Thanksgiving comes every year, and giving thanks to God is a standard privilege of the Christian life. It is our obedience: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is also a way to glorify God—notice the parallelism in Psalm 86:12: “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”
So how can we give thanks to God in a way that glorifies Him? Among many passages that could guide us, consider Psalm 65. After firing off four commands for the earth to praise the Lord (Psalm 65:1–4), the psalmist explains why the reader should “Come and see what God has done” (Psalm 66:5a). The Lord did awesome deeds to rescue Israel from Egypt (Psalm 66:5b–7). Then, the psalmist commands again, “Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of His praise be heard” (Psalm 66:8), the reason being that God led Israel through difficulty and yet delivered them “to a place of abundance” (Psalm 66:9–12).
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Live Quietly and Eat Your Own Bread

In frequenting the houses of others to find food, this lazy person would avail himself to the affairs of others, be a busybody, and thus live anything but quietly. Visiting a neighbor is like eating candy—it’s something fun, but one can have too much of a good thing. Proverbs 25:16 warns us not to indulge with honey lest we eat too much and vomit. Similarly, Proverbs 25:17 (the very next verse) warns our feet not to be too frequent in our neighbor’s house lest his welcome turn to hatred.

Some people refuse to work and are intentionally lazy and idle. They know better but disobey the instruction of God and refuse to follow the example of hard-working Christians. They busy themselves in the lives of others, and burden others with their needs. What does Paul say to these people?
In 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12, Paul urges Christians to show love and, in doing so, live quietly, mind their own affairs, and work. These actions make for a good, Christian testimony to unbelievers and a life of independence, not unduly burdening others.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6–15, Paul instructs believers what to do with someone who persistently refuses to work—avoid such a person while admonishing him to work. Such a person is disobedient to God, turns into a busybody, and is an unnecessary burden. In 2 Thessalonians 3:12, Paul directly addresses the lazy person—live quietly and eat your own bread (i.e., work to meet your own needs).
What might the Proverbs add to Paul’s command to live quietly and eat one’s own bread?
Live Quietly
The command to eat one’s own bread implies that these lazy people were eating the bread of others.
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