He Set His Heart

September 20, 2022

The Babylonian Captivity is difficult to imagine. The temple was destroyed, and much of Israel’s religious practice had to cease. How do you keep the faith alive in such a hostile environment? Part of the answer is found in the life of Ezra, a priest and scribe.

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10, ESV)

Set His Heart to Study the Law. The phrase “set his heart” is the main verb of this sentence followed by three infinitives, things that Ezra does. Let me suggest that Ezra sets his heart to do each of them, to study, to do, and to teach.* The first thing to notice is that Ezra as priest and scribe studied the law. But I appreciate how it is expressed: “Ezra had set his heart.” The verse not only expresses the idea of Ezra studying but also the commitment that Ezra made to study. Commitment is important in accomplishing goals. As a scribe, Ezra may have made hand copies of Bible scrolls. Having grown up in a world with photo copiers, it is difficult for me to imagine hand copying anything of significant length, but I suspect the discipline would make the text of a copied book very familiar. Study takes effort because it is more than reading. It is the attempt to understand. It involves working through some difficult passages. It requires understanding certain passages in light of other passages.

He Set His Heart to Do It. The study of the Bible is not to be just an intellectual exercise. It is to be applied and lived. Ezra understood that and modeled it. We have sayings like “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” The reality is we need both, but the saying emphasizes that we need to see it lived. Those who proclaim God’s word must also walk the walk. People must see in us that we take the Word of God seriously in our own life. The scripture must be transforming those of us who preach and teach. Ezra is a positive example of this.

He Set His Heart to Teach. In Ezra 8, we see that Ezra is commissioned to return to Jerusalem. He is a prepared man for an important work. When he arrives in Jerusalem, he is confronted with a problem, “the people have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations” (9:1). Teaching also includes correction. One of the great teaching scenes in the Old Testament is in Nehemiah 8:1. The people are gathered to the Water Gate in Jerusalem. Ezra reads from the law from early morning to midday. Helpers were moving among the crowd to help the people to understand (Neh. 8:7).

Ezra had a tremendous task of bring Israel back to Torah. And in fulfilling that task, he leaves us a powerful example. We also need to study scripture, practice scripture, and teach scripture. Ezra was faithful in these things because of his commitment. He set his heart.

—Russ Holden

*Devotions on the Hebrew Bible, ed. Milton Eng and Lee M. Fields; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 161.  


Bringing Up Children in the Lord

September 11, 2022

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NASB 1995) Fathers, what are we doing to bring up our children in the Lord? We have a solemn responsibility placed before us, and if we neglect our duty, the sad truth is that our children will likely not remain faithful to God when they grow up. There are many who have deep regrets that they did not place nearly enough emphasis on the spiritual education of their children when they were young. Now their children have drifted away, and their souls are in grave danger. Don’t let that be you! Let it not be said of us that we didn’t give our all to bring up our children in Him!

What is the discipline of the Lord? It is education and training in the ways of God. It is not merely correcting and reproving our children when they do something wrong—although that would be included—but it is teaching and showing them who the Lord is and what He expects from us. Fathers, you have a charge from the Lord to provide education and training that places Jesus Christ at the very center of your children’s lives.

What is the instruction of the Lord? It is counsel and warning about stopping or avoiding improper behavior. Children can easily get on the wrong track in life. Fathers it is your role to steer them back onto the narrow path of righteousness.

Are you providing for your children’s spiritual education? Are you training them in the ways of the Lord? We place a lot of emphasis on our children’s secular education—learning to read, write, do math, etc. As fathers, we place a lot of emphasis on teaching our children how to do household chores, or throw a football, or cast a fishing line. But are we neglecting the far more important things? The eternal things? What are we doing to teach our children to pray, to worship, to serve others, to love God and His word? What are we teaching and modeling with our example? Do our children see our love for God and His church in us? Do we make spiritual things a priority in our families, or do much lesser things take precedence? Our children certainly see what is important to us and it teaches them volumes.

Fathers, the souls of your children are in your hand! This goes for mothers, too. Let us not neglect our duty as parents. Let us not look back with regret. Our number one priority as parents should be to lead our children to the Lord! May God wake us up and help us in this all-important endeavor.

— Scott Colvin


A Glimpse of a Godly Family

September 6, 2022

God has given us very clear instructions on how a family should operate.  He has given us these instructions out of His love and kindness for us.  They are for our benefit, that our homes and lives would be blessed and happy.  Unfortunately, sometimes we are more apt to follow the teaching and thinking of the world than the instructions of God.  This is to our own detriment.

What are some of God’s instructions that will bring wonderful blessings to our family life?  God has said, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22 NAS95) Of course, the world bristles and rages against such an instruction.  What about us as the children of God?  Will we listen?  Do we want to find God’s favor?  In the same passage, God says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25 NAS95) Husbands, are we loving our wives in this way?  Are you sacrificing for her and putting her needs above your own just as Christ did for the church?  This is the instruction of God.  We will be blessed if we will do it. 

When a husband and wife are working together to fulfill their God-given roles in marriage, fine and beautiful blessings will flow into their family.  We get a glimpse of a godly family in Proverbs chapter 31, and we see in this passage that a godly wife plays a key role in finding God’s blessings. “An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.  The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.”  (Proverbs 31:10-12 NAS95) Later in this passage we read, “Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’” (Proverbs 31:28-29, NAS95) Do you see the blessings flowing from God to the family who listens to God?  The wife has subjected herself to her husband’s leadership.  She does good to her husband all the days of her life.  For his part, the husband recognizes the excellence and value of his wife.  He recognizes that her worth is far above jewels.  He trusts her.  He praises her.  He encourages her to use her gifts in the family and in the community.  The husband and wife set a tone for the family that flows down to the children.  The children rise up and bless their mother.  What a picture of a happy, blessed family!

God wants to bless your family, too.  But we must be doing things His way!  May God bless your family as you strive to take His instructions to heart!      

—Scott Colvin


The Impact of Faithful Sisters

August 30, 2022

When Paul came to Derbe and Lystra on his second missionary journey, he met a young man named Timothy.  Timothy was a believer, and the scriptures say he was “well spoken of by the brethren…” (Acts 16:2, NAS95) Paul was so impressed by this young man that he wanted to take him along on his journey, and he did just that.

Isn’t that something we all desire for our children—that they would be full of faith, even in their youth, and that they would have a good reputation among the people of God?  Don’t we desire that our children, like Timothy, would grow to be dedicated to the Lord and His cause?  How did this young man grow such a faith?

We know a big part of the answer to this question.  Years later, Paul writes these words to Timothy, “For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” (2 Timothy 1:5, NAS95) Timothy’s mother and grandmother had a tremendous impact on his faith.  They must have been remarkable, strong, faithful ladies in the Lord.  When we read of Paul meeting Timothy in Acts chapter 16, it appears that Timothy’s father was not a believer.  It can be very difficult to raise faithful children when the father, who is supposed to be the spiritual leader of the family, is not a believer.  And yet, Eunice, no doubt through much sacrifice and dedication, raised her son in the Lord!  And grandma Lois had a tremendous impact, too!  Think of the influence these women had on the spread of the gospel of Christ.  Think of the souls that were touched directly through their ongoing faithfulness, and indirectly through the ministry of Timothy.

Praise God for women like Eunice and Lois!  Faithful women had a great impact on the world then, and they still do today.  Sisters, if you are a mother or grandmother, dedicate yourself to raising your children in the Lord!  You will never regret it.  It is the most important job that you have.  And know that if you do not have children, you too can have a tremendous impact on the brethren and on the work of the Lord.  What a blessing, what an encouragement our faithful sisters are!  You all have a special role to play in the body of Christ.  May God help you and strengthen your work for Him. 

—Scott Colvin


A Nudge

August 23, 2022

I recently visited the congregation where I attended from infancy through college. It’s nostalgic going back. Of course, I hoped that maybe I would recognize or know someone from the past. I’ll confess that I don’t look like what I did in college, so recognition on their part was going to have to come my name not necessarily my face. And yes, there were people I remembered, and who remembered me.

After the service, the song leader came up and greeted me. I didn’t recognize his face, but once he said his name, I exclaimed, “You’re an important person in my life.” He smiled. He knew what I was talking about, so let me tell you the story.

I was fourteen years old, a church attender, a participant in the youth group activities, but not a baptized believer. I’ve mentioned in lessons that there were times I gripped hard the pew in front of me during the invitation. I was struggling. What was my problem? I was shy and nervous about getting in front of the group. When closing in on 39 years of preaching that may sound odd, but this was my 14-year-old self.

My important Sunday was the beginning of a gospel meeting. I went home for lunch with a friend. We went back to the church building and joined a group doing a nursing home sing. After the singing, the youth who had gone were sitting around hanging out. While I was sitting there in the auditorium with my friend talking, my “important person” came up and sat beside me. He was several years older. I don’t know exactly what he said, but the gist was, “Do you want to be baptized?” I said yes and confessed my fears.

My “important person” stayed with us. When worship started, he seated my friend and I on the second pew and sat with us. It’s not a long walk from the second pew. I now had this support that helped me go forward. And of course, once I was there none of my fears were real.

After I was baptized, I was warmly greeted. But I remember one voice saying, “I thought he already was a Christian.”  My “important person” knew my true spiritual condition, and he was willing to address it.

Would I have become a Christian without this incident? I don’t know. Fortunately, I was wise enough not to turn down help the first time it came my way. Putting off responding has risks. Hearts can cool, and sin can deceive.

In writing about this “important person” who gave me a nudge, I want to encourage you to look around for people in your own life who need a nudge. Many spiritual encounters are not about a long, prepared lesson. It is about saying something meaningful that helps to move someone a step closer to God. It was life changing for me, so I’m thankful for my “important person” who gave me a nudge.

—Russ Holden


Simplicity and Purity of Devotion

August 12, 2022

The apostle Paul had great concern for the church at Corinth because they were allowing themselves to be led astray by false teachers who were preaching a different Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel (see 
2 Corinthians 11:4). The church was being deceived and Paul had to address this problem. He writes, “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3 NAS95) The devil is crafty. His goal is to lead our minds away from Christ through subtle false teachings. It is easy to be taken in, so we must be on the alert.

Notice in this verse how our devotion to Christ is described. Our devotion to Him is supposed to be simple, or sincere. In other words, it is to be heartfelt, genuine, and plain. Our devotion is to be pure. Our devotion to Him is not to be mixed with other extraneous or unnecessary things. Simple and pure devotion—this is what the Lord wants.

But it is very easy to be deceived and to be led astray from God’s ideal. This is especially true when it comes to our worship, which is an expression of our devotion to Him. Sometimes people want glitz and glam in worship. Sometimes the focus becomes great music, a dynamic speaker, dramatic stage settings, or funny and emotional stories. It is so easy for our focus to be turned from sincere and pure devotion of the heart to external things (sights, sounds, atmosphere, etc.). Before we know it, our worship is no longer about devotion to Christ at all, but about our own desires.

Do you see a brother sitting in quiet reverence, singing a simple hymn from the heart to God? Though there may not be much to see externally, and though the fleshly-minded may be thoroughly unimpressed, God is pleased because He sees simple, sincere devotion to Christ! Do you see a sister quietly bowing her head as she partakes of the bread and the cup, just like she does every Lord’s Day? Again, there is not much going on externally. The world may think such a thing to be lifeless and uninteresting, but that’s not what God thinks! God sees simple and pure devotion to Jesus, and it is pleasing to Him!

Let us not be deceived. Let us not be led astray by Satan’s craftiness. Let us not get caught up in the thinking of the world. Simple, pure devotion to Jesus is what pleases our God. Let us offer it to Him on this Lord’s Day.

—Scott Colvin


The Day of the Lord

August 9, 2022

The day of the Lord is coming! The things that will occur on that day are so far outside of the realm of our natural experiences that we can hardly imagine them, and because of that, perhaps we don’t take the reality of it seriously enough. The coming day of the Lord is a reality that should mold and shape how we are living our lives today.

What will happen on the day of the Lord? “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10 NAS95) Can you picture it? Everything in this world is going to be destroyed by fire. The earth and all its works will be burned up. Can you hear it in your mind? The heavens will pass away with a roar. What words could we even use to describe a sound such as that?

Such a monumental truth should have monumental consequences for our lives. Knowing that this day will come should deeply affect us! Peter continues, “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!” (2 Peter 3:11-12 NAS95) Isn’t that a great question? What sort of people ought we be, knowing these things to be true? What difference should it make in our lives to know that everything in this world is going to burn up? We need to keep the day of the Lord firmly fixed in our minds and hearts and let the reality of that day motivate us toward holy, godly living.

Jesus is coming soon! He will come like a thief in the night. Whether we are alive or dead when Jesus comes again, we will all experience that day. Does the thought of it fill you with dread? Faithful Christians should not be filled with dread but with longing! If you are striving to live in holiness and godliness, you can have confidence on that day! You can look forward to that day, for you can be assured that He is yours, and you are His, and that you will be going home to your loving Father, to be with Him always. Are you ready for that day to come?


The Deceitfulness of Sin

July 29, 2022

“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13 NASB)

Sin is deceitful. Sin promises pleasure and fun. Sin promises freedom and fulfillment. But Satan is the father of lies and he uses sin to lure souls into destruction. If we could only see more clearly the deceitfulness of it all! Sin may bring brief pleasure and fun, but in the end, it always brings ruin and death. Sin may promise freedom and fulfillment, but in reality, it always brings enslavement and spiritual poverty.

Not only does sin deceive, but it also hardens. Some may think that they can play around with sin, reap the temporary pleasures, and repent later. But this is a deadly game because sin hardens the heart and sears the conscience over time. Sin can harden the heart so much that a person no longer wants to listen to the word of God and no longer responds to it. Sin can make a person hostile to God and to the truth of His word.

Because of the great dangers of sin, we need to make sure that we are taking care of our hearts. We need to be very careful that our hearts don’t fall away from God. You and I can and should be helping one another with this. We need to be encouraging one another every day, urging one another to stay true to the Lord and to not be deceived by the temporary, deceitful pleasures of sin. We all could probably do a better job of this. It is an important job that each of us have from the Lord. We also need to make a commitment to be assembling with the saints on the Lord’s Day. We need to make that commitment for our own sakes as a way of strengthening our own hearts, and we need to make that commitment for our brothers and sisters. We need to encourage one another! And not just on the Lord’s Day, but every day!

Sin is deceitful. Sin hardens. Sin destroys. Would you reach out to someone today to encourage their heart? Would you reach out to give encouragement to your brethren throughout the week? Let’s strive to help one another in this way.

—Scott Colvin


Jesus, the Only Way

July 26, 2022

We live in a world filled with religious confusion. How many times have you heard someone say something like this: “I believe we’re all going to heaven; we’re just taking different paths to get there.” Or maybe you have heard something like this: “I believe all of the world’s religions are filled with truth and that they all lead people to God.” As commonplace as these statements are, it is even more common for people to have thoughts like this: “I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I’m basically a good person, and I think God will accept me in the end!” Or, “I think the good things I have done will outweigh the bad things!”

These kinds of statements sound religious and can bring people a sense of comfort about death and the afterlife. Sometimes we in the church can even start thinking along these lines. But of course, just because something sounds good and is accepted by most people, that doesn’t mean that it is true! We need to remind ourselves what God has said. His word is the source of what is true and what is real.

In John chapter 14, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his imminent death, resurrection, and ascension back to the Father. He assures them that He is going to prepare a place for them, that He will receive them to Himself, and that they know the way where He is going. “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’” (John 14:5-6 NASB) Listen carefully to the words of Jesus. No one comes to the Father but through Jesus! Jesus is the only way! There are not many paths to God provided through various world religions. There is only one way to God, and that way is through Jesus. There is no path to God that comes from “being a pretty good person.” The only path is through Jesus, not through trying to establish our own righteousness.

No one will come to the Father except through Jesus Christ. No one! We need to know and understand this fact for our own sake, and for the sake of our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances in the world. Because He is the only way, we need to be clinging to Jesus with all our might! Because He is the only way, we need to be sharing the truth about Jesus with as many as we can. Jesus Christ will take us to the Father. May God help us to know and believe this truth.

—Scott Colvin


A Higher Plane

July 19, 2022

Is there a dramatic difference between you and those in the world?  It is easy to profess the Christian life.  The question is, are you living the Christian life?  The life that God calls us to is radically different.  He calls us to holiness.  He calls us to be led by the Spirit, not by our natural impulses.  He calls us to walk in His love.  Knowing God—having a relationship with Him—will have a profound impact on us and will most certainly be shown in the way that we live.

Jesus said, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  (Luke 6:31-36 NASB).  It is natural and common to love those who love you back.  But here is the test:  are you willing to love those who hate you?  When someone is unkind to you, will you treat them with kindness?  When someone speaks evil of you, will you give them a blessing?  Are you willing to do good for those who will never care and never say thank you?  Are you willing to give to those who can never pay you back?

You see, God is calling us to a higher plane!  To live in this way is not natural, but God is trying to get us to move away from what comes naturally to us!  He wants us to be like Him!  God loves His enemies.  God does good to those who do not care and to those who can never pay Him back.  God is merciful and kind.  He clearly demonstrated all of this when He sent His Son to die for us.  When we live like God, it shows that we are truly born of Him.  When we love like God, it shows that we are His children in reality—not just in empty words. 

May the Lord help us to truly live on a higher plane with Him, and thereby prove that we are His children.

—Scott Colvin