Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Genesis 1: The Lessons of Creation

Welcome!  Whether you are embarking upon a new plan to read through the Bible or just visiting this page today, I hope that you find encouragement for your spiritual journey.  The Bible's amazing account of God and His activity in history begins with the famous words of Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning..."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Matthew 28: Parting Words

"His Last Command...Our First Concern!"  These words hung on signs in every classroom at the first United Methodist Church in which I served as an associate pastor.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Matthew 27: Who Killed Jesus?

Who killed Jesus?  In studying His last hours, there are a number of parties who could be said to share in the guilt of His death.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Matthew 26: A Story That Must Be Told

"Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her" (vs. 13).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Psalm 50: Sacrifice Is Not A Bribe

"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission."  While there is a ring of truth to that cynical statement as it may be practiced in the world, it would be a tragic mistake to apply such a philosophy to our spiritual relationship with God.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Matthew 25: In The Meantime...

There are three parables in Matthew 25, and they all share one theme in common: What should the followers of Jesus do while we await His return?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Matthew 24: The Boy Scout Motto

"Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Matthew 23: The Horrors of Hypocrisy

Merely a quick scan of Matthew 23 will reveal that Jesus is unloading on his old rivals, the scribes and the Pharisees.  The primary target of his attack is their hypocrisy.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Matthew 22: Stump the Messiah

The Bible contains some vivid scenes of antagonism and opposition.  Shepherd boy David versus warrior giant Goliath.  Elijah's spiritual contest with the false prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel.  Daniel in the lions' den.  Paul on trial before Agrippa.  To this list we must add Matthew 22 with Jesus questioned at the Temple.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Psalm 49: Do You Believe The Ransom Has Been Paid?

"The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough" (vs. 8).  Psalm 49 could be taken as a very depressing song, even one of the "blues."  It is a meditation on the inevitability of death for everyone - rich and poor, wise and foolish, powerful and weak.  At best, the Psalmist's point could serve as a cold comfort to the downtrodden: Don't be overawed when people get wealthy and influential - their time of death is coming, too.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Matthew 21: Fever Pitch

Jerusalem circa 33 A.D. was a pressure cooker.  Roman oppressors alongside revolutionary zealots.  Galileans rubbing shoulders with Judeans.  Pharisees pitted against Sadducees.  Scribes versus sinners.  And everyone had messianic hopes and fears that were reaching a crescendo as Passover drew near.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Matthew 19: Relationships vs. Riches

Matthew 19 is a study in contrasts.  The Pharisees come to Jesus seeking approval for the termination of marriages.  Jesus tells them a marriage is the spiritual merger of a man and a woman into one flesh; it is not so simply ended.  Meanwhile, a rich man approaches Jesus seeking to gain entry into the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus tells him that spiritual perfection for him lies in the renunciation of all his goods.  This the man cannot accept; he would rather cling to his possessions than follow Jesus.

Matthew 18: Childlike Faith

There are many who accuse Christians of being childish; a more apt description, however, is that we strive to be childlike.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Matthew 17: Mountaintops and Valleys

Matthew 17 begins with Jesus and His inner circle ascending a high mountain.  Something incredible and otherworldly is about to happen: Jesus is going to be transfigured!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Psalm 48: The Testimony of Zion's Hill

There is an indelible link between God and His people, between heaven and earth, between the spiritual and the physical.  Many other philosophies and religions make this crucial error: they believe that the divine and human realms are completely separate and never the twain shall meet.  Judeo-Christian faith, however, consistently sees God at work in His world.

Matthew 16: Torn Between Two Kingdoms

Simon Peter is a fascinating individual.  At times, he could be counted on to be a bold and fearless leader of the early church.  At other times, he could not be counted on at all; he would waver and lose faith.  Whether getting out of the boat to walk on water (before doubting and sinking) or denying three times that he even knew Jesus (before repenting and returning), Peter's spiritual highs and lows resonate with the large majority of believers in Christ.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Matthew 15: Cleanliness Is Next To Godliness?

What's more important?  Clean hands - or a clean heart?  Should we be more concerned with what we put into our bodies - or what comes out of our bodies through our words and actions?  Jesus is pretty clear in Matthew 15 that God's is not so much concerned with the raw materials that go into making up our bodies (physical) as He is with what we do with them (spiritual).

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Matthew 14: Narrow-Minded John

What would today's culture make of John the Baptist?  Sadly, I think our world would view him as judgmental and hopelessly old-fashioned.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Matthew 13: Wild Kingdom

Can you imagine describing a vivid sunset to a blind man?  Or a magnificent symphony to a deaf woman?  I believe Jesus faced a similar dilemma when He endeavored to instruct us about the kingdom of heaven.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Matthew 12: Keeping The Sabbath Holy

In Matthew 12, a dispute arises between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the proper observance of the Sabbath.  Jesus seeks to follow the original intent and spirit behind the Sabbath Law; the Pharisees are more interested in enforcing Sabbath traditions set up by men.

Psalm 47: Sing Praises!

Psalm 47 is a call for us to rejoice and praise God, the King of the earth.  All the nations belong to Him.  All rulers serve under Him.  And He has established beloved Israel as His people and put all the other nations under them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Matthew 11: Reaching A Verdict

Matthew 11 contains a lot of imagery about the process of spiritual discernment - coming to a judgment or reaching a verdict about what God is doing.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Matthew 10: Marching Orders

Some of Jesus' sayings are harder than others; His marching orders to His disciples as He sends them out in Matthew 10 definitely fall into the former category.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Matthew 9: Everyone's A Critic! (Almost)

Some advice that I was given early in my ministry career still rings true: If you're not being criticized for something, you're probably not doing enough!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Matthew 8: The Unexpected Messiah

One thing you can say about Jesus: He consistently confounded the expectations that people would have placed upon Him as the Messiah.

Matthew 7: The Underestimated Importance Of Follow Through

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (verse 21)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Psalm 46: A Song For Troubled Times

In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, many Americans turned to the scriptures in search of comfort, understanding, and hope.  I remember Psalm 46 serving as a beloved resource in those troubled times.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Matthew 6: Looking Out For Number One

Who's Number One in your life?  While Matthew 6 includes an array of practical teaching on many spiritual topics, the underlying theme of them all is the importance of giving God the first place in your life.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Matthew 5: The Spirit of the Law

When I was a youth pastor, there was one question I could always count on whenever the topic was sexual purity.  "How far is too far?"  The question wasn't a request for intellectual information; it was all about knowing where the line was - so it could be walked right up to.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Matthew 4: The Devil Went Down To Jordan

Satan looks for the most opportune time to get you off God's plan.  For Jesus, the devil showed up when He was about to start His ministry, perhaps filled with questions about His role and His mission, and coming at the end of a 40 day fast.  If there was ever a moment of spiritual vulnerability in Jesus' life (short of the Garden of Gethsemane), this was it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Matthew 3: Theophany!

You may have heard of "Epiphany" - the celebration twelve days after Christmas which celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the world (especially Gentiles).  This coincides with the arrival of the magi from the East which was described in Matthew 2.  Today's term - "Theophany" - is similar.  It means a striking revelation of God, or a physical manifestation of God.  It is often associated with Jesus' baptism as recounted in Matthew 3.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Matthew 2: The Old Testament Connection

Matthew goes to great lengths to connect the story of Jesus Christ with what has come before in the Old Testament.  In addition to beginning his Gospel with a genealogy that spans the story of the Jewish people, he continues to link events in the life of Jesus with Old Testament prophecies.  He lists four of these fulfilled scriptures in his second chapter.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Matthew 1: Something About That Name

Matthew begins his story of Jesus with a recap of the Old Testament genealogy of the Jewish people leading up to the birth of their Messiah.  From Abraham to King David, 14 generations.  From David to the Exile, 14 generations.  And from the Exile to the Christ, 14 generations.  It is clear that Matthew believes God is doing something BIG in the life of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Jude: Contend for the Faith!

The little book of Jude contains some powerful words against straying from the faith.  If you are in danger of wavering - or of placidly condoning the backsliding of other believers - give Jude a listen to!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hebrews 13: Jesus Is Enough

Wrapping up his letter to the Hebrews, the anonymous author concludes by returning to his theme of the sufficiency of Christ.  Whether comparing the New Covenant to the Old, or considering how to live out our faith in this hostile world, his message is the same: Jesus is enough.

Hebrews 12: Firm Up Your Flabby Faith!

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed" (vs. 12-13)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hebrews 11: The Hall of Fame of Faith

Hebrews 11 is one of the Bible's crown jewels.  With a stunning sweep of Old Testament characters and events, it presents a panorama of what it means to follow the Lord in bold, saving faith.  We are given examples ranging from Adam to the prophets, with Noah, Abraham, Moses and many others included.  Hebrews 11 is truly the "Hall of Fame" of faith!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Psalm 45: Celebrating the King

Psalm 45 is rather unique.  It was originally composed as a wedding ode for a king and his bride.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hebrews 10: It Is Finished

The sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is perfect, complete, finished.  "Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (vs. 18).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hebrews 8: New Covenant > Old Covenant

You might be picking up by now that one of the main themes of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus and His ministry over everything else, even the good Jewish/Hebrew elements that preceded Him.  While the Old Covenant was a gift of God and helped show people the way, the New Covenant is better.  Jesus is the way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hebrews 7: Jesus > Priests

In continuing to extol Jesus as superior in every way, the author of Hebrews goes to great lengths to demonstrate how Jesus surpasses and exceeds the Levitical priesthood.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hebrews 6: Once Saved, Always Saved?

Want to start an incendiary debate among a group of Christians?  Ask them if they think it's possible to lose one's salvation!

Psalm 44: When Bad Things Happen To A Good People

There is an undeniable pattern in the Old Testament: 1. God's people rebel and reject their covenant; 2. God delivers them over to their enemies; 3. The people are struck with remorse and decide to repent, calling out to God for help; 4. God hears His people and remembers His covenant with them and rescues them; 5. God's people prosper and become complacent, soon beginning the cycle all over again.  But Psalm 44 sticks out as a sharp reminder that this pattern does not always apply.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hebrews 5: Jesus the High Priest

In continuing to explain Jesus' identity and role, the author of Hebrews describes Jesus as the high priest.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hebrews 4: Rebellion Or Rest

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion...As in my anger I swore, 'They shall not enter my rest.'"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hebrews 3: Jesus > Moses

How does Jesus compare with Moses, who played such an important role in the covenant established at Sinai?  While both were faithful in all God's house, Jesus is regarded as a Son while Moses is regarded as a servant.  The author of Hebrews again makes the point that Jesus is above all, even one as great as Moses.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hebrews 2: Just Like Us

Even though Jesus is higher than angels (ch. 1) the author of Hebrews strives to point out that He is also just like us (ch. 2)!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hebrews 1: Jesus > Angels

The Book of Hebrews contains a lot of theology.  It begins by exploring the question of just who Jesus is.  Remember that the first generation of Christians had a lot of questions and uncertainties regarding their faith.  Was Jesus the greatest human being who ever lived - or was He something more?  Could He be considered on a par with the angels?

The book's author (whose identity is known only to God) is determined to demonstrate that Jesus, as the Son of God, ranks far above even angelic creatures.

While angels are divine servants, Jesus Himself is divine!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

II Peter 3: The Fire Next Time

Peter mentions three times in II Peter 3 that a judgment by fire is coming upon our world:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

II Peter 2: Examples of Evil

II Peter 2 is a good example of why the Old Testament is relevant to New Testament Christians!  Peter cites numerous examples from the Old Testament to drive home the point that evil is real, and God knows how to judge it and deliver from it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

II Peter 1: The Story That Is True

As a young pastor, I once found myself in hot water with a member of my congregation who objected to my reference from the pulpit to "Bible stories."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Peter 5: The Call to Humility

One of the most overlooked virtues is that of humility.  It is a uniquely Christian virtue in that the world does not see much use in it.  In fact, humility is often scorned and misunderstood because of its similarity to the word humiliation.  But humility actually encourages us to adopt a right view of ourselves and to recognize the need to put others and God ahead of our own interests.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Peter 4: The Difference

Peter argues that, when it comes to living the Christian life, there should be a difference between believers and non-believers.  This difference manifests itself in our behavior, our motives and character.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Psalm 42: Thirsty for God

The Psalmist of Psalm 42 and 43 (they go together) is deeply troubled.  His experience is one of being a joyful worshiper in the past - even a leader of religious pilgrims (vs. 4) - yet now is a time of spiritual dryness.  He remembers being once quenched and satisfied by God's presence, like a cascading waterfall, but now he is as a thirsty deer, longing for a fresh encounter with the living God.

Friday, October 24, 2014

I Peter 3: Deeper Things

Peter is interested in taking our faith to a deeper level.  Rather than focusing on shallow and superficial pursuits like physical beauty (vs. 3) or when bad things happen to bad people (vs. 17), Peter explores the topics of inner spiritual beauty and the call to suffer for doing good.  Peter challenges us to consider what is really important in our marriages and in our dealings with one another.  Obedience and Christlikeness is the goal!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Peter 2: The Rock on the Stone

Peter wasn't always named Peter.  He used to be Simon.  But somewhere along the way, Jesus saw something in Simon that prompted Him to give Simon a new name: Peter, the Rock.  Even though Peter didn't always act like a rock (i.e. Good Friday), the name stuck.  Years later, as "The Rock" wrote his first letter to the Christian believers scattered around the world, he reflected on how his Lord and Master is like a Stone Himself!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I Peter 1: Perishable and Imperishable

I Peter begins by talking about two things that endure forever: our inheritance in heaven (vs. 4) and the seed by which we have been born again by the living word of God (vs. 23).  Everything else in this world - the flesh, as Peter describes it (vs. 24) - fades like the grass.  Even gold, which is tested by fire, is perishable (vs. 7).  In a world of change and decay, it is good news that not everything is perishable!  In fact, it is THE GOOD NEWS itself which is the word of God and endures forever! (vs 25)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mark 16: The Surprising Conclusion

Jesus' story ends like none other.  This is true for two reasons.  First, Jesus is like no other.  And second, His story does not end.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mark 15: The First Penal Substitution

"So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mark 14: The Unanswered Prayer of Jesus

"Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me..." (vs. 36)

Did all of Jesus' prayers get answered?  What if I were to tell you that even the Son of God did not get everything He wanted while on earth?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mark 13: End of Days

As I write this blog entry on October 16, 2014, the world news is dominated by such stories as the spread of the Ebola virus, the conflict with ISIS, and economic uncertainties.  While fears that the world is about to spin out of control may once again prove to be unfounded, it is revealing to find how quickly things can change for the worse.  This may not be the biblical "end of days," but the Jesus assures us that at some point in the future, it will be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mark 12:Q & A

It is Holy Week.  By the time we reach Mark 12, Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem for Passover, cleansed the Temple, and is now available to the religious authorities for their own investigation.  No longer do they have to send out spies and fact-finding teams.  They can look into Jesus' teaching for themselves.  Here are some of the questions that are fielded in the Q & A:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mark 11: Donkey Joy Ride Through a Ticker Tape Parade

If the events described in Mark 11:1-11 were to happen today, I can't help but think that what we would witness is a case of a joyride through a parade!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mark 10: Divorce Is Not An Option

Whenever you want to trip someone up, try introducing a controversial topic.  That's what the Pharisees were hoping to do by "testing" Jesus with a question about the nettlesome issue of divorce.  "Is it lawful," they asked, "for a man to divorce his wife?"

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Psalm 40: Choosing God

You don't have to live very long in this world to have an experience of being in "the pit."  It's a universal human condition.  We're not sure exactly what situation David is referring to in vs. 2 when he sings, "He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog."  But it is clear that God is the One who David turns to, and the One who delivers him from his circumstances.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mark 9: Highs and Lows

Mark 9 is a study in contrast from the ascent on a high mountain to experience the Transfiguration to the descent that brings Jesus face to face with a deaf and mute spirit.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mark 8: Who Do You Say That He Is?

It is a question that all of us must answer for ourselves.  Who is Jesus?  Who do you say that He is?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mark 7: Clean Hands - or Clean Heart?

As we reach Mark 7, Jesus has earned enough notoriety that He is now being investigated by a team of Pharisees and scribes dispatched from Jerusalem.  As they scrutinize His ministry, they make some petty criticisms: "Your disciples are disgusting; they don't wash their hands before they eat!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mark 6: Faith, and Lack of Faith

Can God's power be limited by humans?  The answer to that question is apparently yes, based on vs. 1-6.  Because the hometown crowd found it difficult to put their faith in Mary's boy, Jesus "could do no deed of power there," except for a few healings.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mark 5: Restoration

Three supernatural miracles make up Mark 5: the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, the healing of the bleeding woman, and the resurrection of Jairus' daughter.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Psalm 39: Getting Perspective

My wife tells me that one of my strengths is an ability to be objective when the moment calls for it.  Rather than letting heady emotions run away with me, I can take a step back and look coolly and dispassionately at the situation.  (It's a very helpful skill to have in a threatening or overwhelming crisis.)  Sometimes this is called "getting perspective," and it seems to be what David is doing in this Psalm.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Mark 4: Nature and Supernature

Mark 4 introduces us to Jesus' favorite teaching method: Parables.

A parable, sometimes described as "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning," uses familiar, ordinary, everyday objects and experiences to reveal a deeper spiritual truth.  Many of Jesus' parables are organic devices, using lessons drawn from nature.  Not only was this approach simple enough for His original audience to understand, but the universal, timeless aspects of the elements in His parables allow others of different cultures, places, and eras to likewise participate in the discovery.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mark 3: Jesus: Good or Evil?

C.S. Lewis penned a famous essay that suggests we really only have three honest choices open to us when it comes to forming an opinion about Jesus: that He is either liar, lunatic, or Lord.  In Mark 3, we see each of those conclusions expressed by varying groups of people.  The verdict we reach could scarcely be more important.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Mark 2: Criticism and Opposition

Well, that didn't take long!

Here we are, in only the second chapter of Mark, and we find Jesus as the target of criticism and complaint.  Opposition is already building to this prophet from Galilee, and it is coming from the religious establishment of scribes and Pharisees.  He is confounding them because he refuses to meet their expectations of what a holy person ought to be and do.

From Mark 2:1 to Mark 3:5, there are 5 reported instances of Jesus coming under attack for his words and actions:

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mark 1: Buckle Up!

Of all the gospels, Mark's is the most fast-paced.  Jesus appears on the scene in chapter 1, and is preaching 15 verses into this book.  Mark repeatedly uses the breathless phrasing of "immediately" or "at once" in his transitions between stories.  If you're looking for a story with a lot of "get up and go," Mark is the gospel for you!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Philemon: Text and Subtext

I love the little book of Philemon!  In it, we get a glimpse of Paul's relationship with some of the early Christians, as well as his knack for bringing his strong personality to bear on them through his writing.  We also learn a little about the dynamics of household slavery in the first century.  (Plus, in a single session's reading, you can knock off 1/27th of the New Testament!)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Psalm 38: Looking to the Lord

Psalm 38 sounds like it was written by David in the throes of a serious physical ailment which he took to be a punishment from the Lord for his sins.  Rather than stubbornly digging in his heels in rebellion or angrily proclaiming his innocence, David instead admits his guilt and pleads for mercy.  "I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin" (vs. 18).  How much trouble could we save ourselves (and our loved ones) if we took this same approach?  Rather than prolonging his suffering or making more trouble for himself, David's penitent response clears his heart and makes room for the Lord's cleansing Spirit to flow through and bring him restoration, both physical and spiritual.  This psalm can be a model for our own contrition!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Titus 3: The Gospel in a Nutshell

Have you ever wondered just what is "the gospel?"  There are many places in the Bible that give hints or descriptions of the "good news" (the literal translation of "gospel").  One of those scriptures is Titus 3:3-7.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Titus 2: Priorities

In his letters, Paul is often concerned with the reputation of the early church.  Will the followers of Jesus Christ be known abroad for their gentleness and love - or for upsetting the social order and causing chaos?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Titus 1: Titus in Crete

Although Paul's final letter was most likely II Timothy, Paul's epistles are not arranged chronologically in the New Testament.  (Bonus points to whoever can tell me, in the comments, how Paul's letters are arranged!)  Thus, we pick up in a fresh letter to another disciple of Paul: Titus.

II Timothy 4: Famous Last Words

It is widely believed that II Timothy is Paul's final letter, which would make today's chapter his last words.  They are a mix of personal greetings and public sentiments, bittersweet good-byes and bold challenges.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

II Timothy 2: Remember

"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David - that is my gospel." (vs. 8)

Psalm 37: More Than Meets The Eye

It is a common lament: Why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?  Or, as we may put it in a more modern expression: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Friday, September 19, 2014

II Timothy 1: Before the Beginning?

"Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Jesus Christ before the beginning of time..." (II Timothy 1:8-9)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Timothy 5: Good Advice

Paul's instructions to Timothy about the leadership of a church continue in chapter 5 as he dispenses good advice regarding widows, elders...and wine!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I Timothy 4: Timothy's "To Do" List

Paul's advice to Timothy reaches a crescendo in chapter four.  He is determined to encourage Timothy in his mission of leadership service to the church.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Timothy 3: What Leadership Looks Like

In I Timothy 3, Paul addresses the necessary qualifications for church leadership - what sort of person ought elders and deacons to be?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Psalm 36: The Good, the Bad, and the Almighty

Psalm 36 is yet another appeal to God for His judgment upon the wicked in conjunction with deliverance for the righteous.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Timothy 2: Living in (Biblical) Tension

Do you demand complete clarity in your Bible?  Do you insist everything is a clear matter of black-or-white when it comes to biblical teaching?  If so, you may have difficulty reconciling various passages of scripture that approach some issues differently!  While I agree that the vast majority of scripture is quite plain and straightforward, there do exist areas of tension that arise naturally from the context of the verses in question.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Timothy 1: Dear Timothy...

As we transition into Paul's personal letters, we see a shift from his messages to congregations and groups toward a focus on speaking intimately to specific individuals.  Timothy, Paul's partner in the gospel and "son in the faith," is in Ephesus on Paul's instructions (vs. 3) while the older apostle is in Macedonia.  Both are carrying out their ministry, keeping the other in prayer.  Paul writes this letter to encourage Timothy and give further directions about leadership in the Church.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

II Thessalonians 3: Christianity Is A No Idling Zone

In addition to being interested in the end-times, several in the Thessalonian church seemed to have a problem with idleness.  Paul warns them that such a lifestyle is not appropriate for believers. Rather than being dependent on others for their bread, everyone should work for their own food.  In fact, Paul even coins a new phrase: "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat."  This may sound harsh to twenty-first century American ears, but Paul is concerned for the integrity and respectability of the Church of Jesus Christ.  It is not a place for busybodies or freeloaders.  Independent living ought to be the goal for everyone.

Christianity is a "No Idling Zone!"

II Thessalonians 2: All About The Antichrist

The Thessalonian church was very interested in the end-times.  They wanted to know what to expect - and when.  In fact, some were concerned that they had already missed the return of Jesus!  Paul sets their mind at ease by explaining a few details that they (and all of us) should know about the end.

Monday, September 8, 2014

II Thessalonians 1: Made Worthy

As Paul begins his second letter to the Thessalonian church, he acknowledges their afflictions and persecutions.  But he also highlights the reason they are undergoing such troubles.  It is for their benefit, so that they may be made worthy.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Psalm 35: Vindication

Vindicate \ˈvin-də-ˌkāt\: To show that someone should not be blamed for a crime, mistake; to show that someone is not guilty.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Thessalonians 5: Finding God's Will

After sharing some powerful thoughts about the Return of Christ, Paul concludes his letter to the Thessalonians.  Along the way, he shares three powerful verses that encapsulate God's will for His children.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I Thessalonians 4: The Shape of the Christian Life

I Thessalonians 4 contains some very practical teaching on how Christians should live.  Paul includes several instructions about what a life pleasing to God looks like.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I Thessalonians 3: What Hath Persecution Wrought?

In I Thessalonians 3, Paul reveals that he was concerned about the Thessalonians.  He feared that - because he had been rushed out of town during a time of persecution - the Thessalonians' faith would waver and diminish.  How would this young church fare after its planters had suffered persecution and fled?

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Thessalonians 2: Models of Ministry

Paul spends a great deal of time reminiscing about his ministry in I Thessalonians 2.  He recalls the time when he first came to Thessalonica after being expelled from Philippi.  He reminds the Thessalonians of how he conducted himself among them, for he was always proclaiming the gospel to them - even when he was not preaching.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Psalm 34: Taste and See

This Psalm has a great back story.  While on the run from King Saul, David stopped by Israel's enemy, King Achish of Gath in I Samuel 21.  To avoid being killed as a threat, David pretended to be insane.  Achish let him go.  In response to the Lord's favor and deliverance from a time of trouble, David composed this psalm.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I Thessalonians 1: The Power of an Example

As Paul begins his first letter to the Thessalonians, he warmly compliments them for the example that their faith has set for the rest of the churches in their area (1:7).  Their faith in God is well-known, as well as the hospitality they extended to Paul and his friends when they evangelized among them (as recounted in Acts 17), and how they turned from idols to God.

The Thessalonians are an example to us, too, that we should let our faith shine!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Colossians 4: Echo of Ephesians?

You may have noticed while reading Colossians that some parts sound very familiar.  There are a number of similarities between Colossians and Ephesians.  Both were written by Paul, probably around the same time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Colossians 3: Get Dressed!

Every Christian needs a change of clothes.  In Colossians 3, Paul writes of the "old self" being stripped off for the new wardrobe of righteousness that awaits.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Colossians 2: Spiritual Transactions

Maybe it is good that Paul never preached to the Colossians!  He seems determined to convey to them the core message of his gospel, which we benefit from by reading this epistle.  Just as Paul's explanation of the identity of Christ in chapter 1 is a theologically rich and informative resource for the Church, so, too, is his description of the cross and what transpired there, as well as how it impacts us when we come to faith in Jesus.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Colossians 1: Who is Christ?

Paul's letter to the Colossians - a church he had never met firsthand - contains one of the clearest theological expositions on the nature of Christ.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Psalm 33: What Makes the Difference?

The psalmist realizes he has an important mission: encourage the people to praise God!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Philippians 4: Paul's Greatest Hits

Philippians 4 is a gold mine of Christian sound bites, bullet points and bumper stickers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Philippians 3: Flesh or Faith?

Where do you put your trust and confidence?  In the things of the flesh, or the faith?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Philippians 2: Name Above All Names

Philippians 2:6-11 is a poetic meditation on the pathway of Christ in vs. 6-11.  (In seminary, we learned that its literary structure is chiastic - meaning it descends and then ascends.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Philippians 1: Coming or Going?

As you read through Philippians, be on the lookout for words of "joy" and "rejoicing."  There's a reason this book is called "Paul's Epistle of Joy!"

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ephesians 6: The Stand

There is much to comment upon in Ephesians 6, but one noteworthy observation is Paul's emphasis on the stand of the Christian.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Psalm 32: Good For The Soul?

Although the expression, "Confession is good for the soul," is not found explicitly in the Bible, Psalm 32 does indeed make the case that the confession of our sins to the Lord is, indeed, good for our souls.

Ephesians 5: Light vs. Darkness

In vs. 8, Paul says of the Ephesians: "You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord."  This chapter, taken together with Ephesians 4, is a vivid description of the contrast between the darkness of the lost and the light of Christ.

Ephesians 4: Christian Ethics

How should Christians live?  Paul's letter to the Ephesians contains solid teaching on living as a disciple of Jesus in a fallen world.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ephesians 3: Paul's Prayer

"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (vs. 17-19)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Ephesians 2: Cause and Effects

Ephesians 2 is one of my favorite chapters of Paul's writings!  It encapsulates a breathtaking sweep of what God has done in the lives of His people - and how.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ephesians 1: Glorious Grace!

Ephesians opens with a majestic outpouring of praise toward God and His glorious grace!  Paul quickly recounts all the spiritual blessings that the Ephesians (and all Christians) have in Christ:

Psalm 31: A Mighty Fortress

David's experience in Psalm 31 could be described as "trouble in the world, trusting in the Lord."

Friday, August 8, 2014

II Corinthians 13: Paul Is Coming to Town

"You better watch out, you better not lie, you better not pout, I'm telling you why - Apostle Paul is coming to town!"

Thursday, August 7, 2014

II Corinthians 12: Strength in Weakness

"Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

II Corinthians 11: Authentic vs. Counterfeit

In II Corinthians 11, Paul seems very sensitive to a whispered charge in Corinth that he is not a real apostle - or, at least, not as good as the "super-apostles" making their way around the first-century world.  In response, he unloads a barrage of criticism against them, as well as a strong defense of his own ministry.

II Corinthians 10: Paul in Real Life

What do you think Paul was like in person?  If we were to judge only from his letters, we might envision him as a loud, abrasive, perhaps even pushy preacher.  And maybe he was.  But in this chapter of II Corinthians, Paul gives us a peek behind the veil of his letters to see what may be a different reality.

II Corinthians 9: What Goes Around...

There are several excellent expressions about giving in II Corinthians 9:

Psalm 30: Back from the Brink

In Psalm 30, David tells of a brush with death that he experienced - pleading with the Lord to pull him through.  Like many other psalms, it includes thanks to God for His faithfulness, and a promise to praise Him for His deliverance.  My favorite parts of this psalm include the glimpses of God's grace and majesty seen through the eyes of desperation: "His anger is but for a moment, his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning," and "You have turned my mourning in to dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy."  We have a good God!!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

II Corinthians 8: Comrade Paul?

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."  It's a statement popularized by the Father of Communism, Karl Marx, but it could just as easily be a summary of Paul's writing in II Corinthians 8!

II Corinthians 7: Good Grief!

Did you know that there are different kinds of grief?  In II Corinthians 7, Paul discusses both "godly grief" and "worldly grief."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

II Corinthians 5: Christ's Ambassadors

Christians really hold an incredible privilege in this world: we represent Christ to the world, serving as His holy ambassadors!

II Corinthians 4: Outer Decay, Inner Life

In II Corinthians 4, Paul presents the Christian life as a study in contrasts.

Psalm 29: The Voice of the Lord

In the ancient world, perhaps nothing symbolized the supernatural might of the Lord more than a natural storm.  The people would witness flashing lightning bolts, shattering thunder, and destructive winds.  Although the science of meteorology was beyond them, they knew that an awesome storm represented just a smattering of God's power.  In Psalm 29, David reflects on the majesty of the Lord revealed through such a storm, how His "voice" unleashed amazing devastation.  Today we may better understand the natural forces behind such events, but the created order still reveals a supreme God who stands powerfully above and apart from creation.

Friday, July 25, 2014

II Corinthians 3: Passing and Surpassing Glory

How does the New Covenant relate to the Old?  In II Corinthians 3, Paul describes the Covenant of Law through Moses as "engraved in letters on stone," "fading glory," "veiled," and "condemns man."  This is in contrast to the Covenant of Grace through Christ which is "written with the Spirit on tablets of human hearts," "surpassing glory," "unveiled," and "brings righteousness."  In Paul's view, the Old Covenant has glory, but it is a temporary and passing glory.  The glory of the New Covenant exceeds it in every way, for it is greater and eternal.  Glory!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

II Corinthians 1: "Yes" in Christ

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ" (vs. 20).

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Corinthians 16: Parting Thoughts

As Paul wraps up his first letter to the Corinthians, he turns his attention to practical matters regarding his schedule, his compatriots, and final imperatives he wants to leave them with.

I Corinthians 15: All About the Resurrection

Each of the four Gospels ends with an account of the Risen Christ.  But where do you go with your questions about the Resurrection?  Paul has you covered.  Check out I Corinthians 15.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Psalm 28: Justice and Mercy

David the psalmist is searching for two things in Psalm 28: Justice and Mercy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

I Corinthians 14: Spiritual Gifts (Part Three)

What do you think about speaking in tongues?  Opinions are all over the map, and some Christians can be quite contentious about their viewpoints.

I Corinthians 13: Spiritual Gifts (Part Two)

Sandwiched between chapters on spiritual gifts, I Corinthians 13 gleams like a jewel.  Its words on love have inspired and encouraged many.  Its verses have appeared on numerous plaques and been read at countless weddings.  Yet perhaps one of the best ways to understand the Bible's "love chapter" is to consider it in context - as a part of Paul's teaching on spiritual gifts.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Corinthians 12: Spiritual Gifts (Part One)

What a difference between Christianity and paganism!  Paul begins this chapter by reminding the Corinthians that they used to follow mute, ineffective and impotent idols.  But now these false gods are contrasted with the living, moving, breathing Holy Spirit who works in the lives of believers by gifting them with special abilities for the good of the body.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Corinthians 11: A Hairy Issue

"Why don't we follow these rules about head coverings today?" asked my wife during our Bible reading last night.  "And yet we insist on other laws, like the ones on homosexuality?"

Good question.

I Corinthians 10: Raising the Standard

Paul is concerned for the quality of the Corinthians' faith and their daily living.  After all, we have a stark example from Israel's history that it matters how we live and worship.  What should be the standard for living out our faith?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Psalm 27: Confidence in the Lord

Confidence is defined as "the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust."  The roots of the word confidence (con + fidere) mean "with faith" or "with trust."  This accurately describes David's position toward God in Psalm 27.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I Corinthians 9: Inside Paul's Head (and Heart)

In this chapter, we get a good look at the extent of Paul's sacrifices and his calling.  Paul declares to the Corinthians that he is a genuine apostle, but he also wants it known that he engages in gospel ministry with no salary drawn from his proclamation.  We get a look inside Paul's head as he discloses his thinking with striking transparency.  Paul has chosen to make this sacrifice because of the ability it gives him to present the gospel without any charge of profiteering.  He is so committed to the saving of souls that he will do anything, say anything, become anything - and even serve without anything.  He is sold out, to the point of Olympic-level dedication to his calling.  This is Paul's heart.  Paul's sacrificial commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ is beyond reproach.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I Corinthians 8: Subjective Sins?

Can an action be sinful for you, but not for me?  Or is a sin a sin, regardless of the context?  I'd love to hear a discussion on this in the comment section!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Corinthians 7: As You Were

I Corinthians 7 is a very practical chapter, full of Paul's convictions and advice regarding marriage, divorce and other relationship statuses.  Summing it up would be the phrase: Be content to remain as you are.  If you're married, don't seek a divorce (that's God's will).  If you're single, don't seek to be married (that's Paul suggestion).  Whatever state you were in when you became a Christian - slave or free - be satisfied with remaining that way.  Yet these prescriptions don't carry the weight of a command, but sound more like a philosophical viewpoint.  The important thing, says Paul, is to be heaven-minded as much as possible, remembering that earthly realities are but temporary and transitory things.

I Corinthians 6: Questions That Are Answers

By my count (NRSV), Paul asks 13 rhetorical questions of the Corinthian Church in chapter 6.  He is not honestly looking for answers to his questions - rather, he is making a point by asking them!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

I Corinthians 5: Judge Not?

One of Jesus's oft-quoted statements is, "Judge not lest ye be judged."  (At least, it seems to get quoted to Christians a lot!)  How does this co-exist with Paul's stern exhortation in I Corinthians 5?  "Is it not those who are inside (the Church) that you are to judge?"

Psalm 26: Arguing Our Righteousness

Truth be told, I sometimes have a little problem with Psalms like #26.  Didn't Jesus encourage us to be humble in our prayers and offer confessions for our sins?  In Psalm 26, however, David gives us a model that basically says, "Look at me, God!  I'm holy!  I'm righteous!  Take care of me, Lord, because I'm one of the good ones!"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I Corinthians 4: Fools for Christ

In I Corinthians 4, Paul interacts directly with the Corinthians, examining their situation and his own.  For their part, he says, they are like his children and should acknowledge that they have received everything they have from others.  As far as Paul and the other apostles, however, he considers their state to be hard-pressed.  They have suffered being esteemed as fools in the sight of the wisdom of the world, they have endured hunger and thirst and poverty and brutal treatment, and they are regarded as the "scum of the earth."  Paul has not said these things to shame the Corinthians, but to challenge them - to leave the easy path and do the hard things for Christ.  Paul encourages them to act in the knowledge that he will be coming to visit them...very soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I Corinthians 3: God's Building and Grounds

To drive his point home that the Corinthians are acting immaturely through their divisiveness, Paul introduces a couple of metaphors to illustrate the proper place of human ministry - and God's.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Corinthians 2: The Mind of Christ

Continuing his thoughts about wisdom and foolishness, Paul makes a breathtaking claim in the second chapter: Christians have access to the deep things of God, through the Spirit that searches all things, even God Himself!  Through God's own Spirit, which also inhabits us, we have the mind of  Christ.  What a concept!  So much for foolishness by the world's standard.  I will take the mind of Christ any day!

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Corinthians 1: Sects in the Church? How Foolish!

Welcome to a new book!  Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Church is a true classic - full of deeply practical advice as well as a soaring rhapsody on the supremacy of love, with healthy doses of teaching on spiritual gifts and the resurrection thrown in for good measure as well.  In chapter 1, Paul zeroes in on two issues of immediate import for his audience: sects in the church and the "foolishness" of his proclamation.

Romans 16: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good Night!

Compared to the rest of the book, Romans 16 is the most personal chapter, full of private greetings and remarks.  It is Paul's good-bye to the church at Rome, until he should come there and be with them in person.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Psalm 25: The One To Turn To

Psalm 25 reads like the plea of a desperate man - a man desperate for forgiveness and deliverance.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Romans 15: Working Together

As Paul begins to wrap up his lengthy letter to the Romans, he is concerned that they display humility toward one another as well as unity overall.

Romans 14: The Realm of Opinion

Do Christians have to agree on everything?  I sure hope not!  There are all sorts of issues about which good, well-meaning Christians hold different opinions.  Some that I have come across in ministry: Which is the proper day to consider the Sabbath, the morality of drinking alcohol, the best version/translation of the Bible, the correct mode of baptism, the "right" political party, recommended attire for worship, suitable activities for youth groups, the standard of the tithe, and the appropriateness of Santa Claus!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Romans 13: The Fulfillment of the Law

Looking for clear guidelines from the Bible about how to behave?  You've come to the right place!  Paul continues this very practical section of Romans with a look at how Christians ought to be obedient to authority, fulfill the law with love, and shun sinful deeds.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Romans 12: Concrete Faith

After spending loads of ink on deep theological treatments of sin, salvation, Gentiles and Israel, Paul gets very practical about the Christian faith in the twelfth chapter of Romans.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Romans 11: Broken Branches

Paul completes his three chapters long exploration of the fate of Israel in Romans 11.  He concludes that her estrangement from God is only temporary, serving the purpose of allowing the Gentiles to enter the kingdom while Israel is hardened.

Psalm 24: Something's Coming

Psalm 24 is a traditional reading for Jesus' triumphal entry celebrated on Palm Sunday.  Besides being a beautiful song in its own right, it is full of messianic overtones.  The world had better get ready, David says, because Something's Coming.  Or, more precisely, Someone!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Romans 10: Acceptance and Rejection

Paul paints two very different pictures in Romans 10: one that explores what undergirds acceptance of the gospel, and one that examines the reasons for Israel's rejection of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Romans 9: Some Hard Questions

In Romans 9, Paul begins wrestling with a thorny issue resulting from his theology: what about the unsaved (unrepentant Jews being his chief concern) who have not been included in God's grace?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Romans 8: Where Do We Go From Here?

For several chapters, Paul has been talking about the distinction between the sinful nature and the spiritual nature; this discussion reaches its climax in Romans 8 as he looks ahead to see where these differences lead.  One way leads to death, the other to life - and beyond!

Romans 7: What Is Wrong With You?*

Probably the closest thing we have in the Bible to a tongue-twister is Romans 7:15-21!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Romans 6: Why Not Sin?

In Romans 6, Paul confronts two arguments regarding the interplay of sin, law, and grace.

Psalm 23: The Lord Is My Shepherd

Even though I almost always prefer a modern-language translation for personal Bible study and public teaching, there are rare exceptions when I find myself drawn to the beautiful imagery and rhythm of the centuries-old King James Version.  Psalm 23 is one of those occasions.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Romans 5: Reversing the Curse

"Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men." (vs. 18)

Romans 4: Father Abraham

In Romans 4, Paul is still wrestling with those who want to make righteousness with God a matter of works (i.e. circumcision) rather than a matter of faith.  To buttress his argument, Paul goes all the way back to the patriarch Abraham to explore just what it was about Abraham that justified him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Romans 3: Bad News/Good News

Are you the kind of person who wants to hear the good news first, or the bad news first?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Romans 2: Hypocrisy

"In passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things."

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Romans 1: Not Ashamed!

It is very intimidating to take on the task of blogging commentary on a book such as Romans!  Many regard it is as Paul's masterpiece of theological reasoning.  There is a power contained within it that has changed lives, birthed churches, and launched spiritual movements and reformations.  Yet it is precisely because Romans is such a critically important work that we must give it all the time and attention that we can.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Psalm 22: More Than Coincidences

If you believe, as I do, that God intended to foreshadow the sufferings of His Son in the Old Testament so that prophecies could be fulfilled thus attesting to God's sure plan for history, Psalm 22 could be submitted as "Exhibit A."

Friday, June 6, 2014

Galatians 6: Final Thoughts

How do you handle the biblical "contradiction" in Galatians 6?  Verse 2 instructs us to "bear one another's burdens," while verse 5 teaches "all must carry their own loads."

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Galatians 5: What True Freedom Looks Like

Everyone wants to be free, right?  The problem is that we often mistake slavery for freedom!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Galatians 4: Of Children and Slaves

Paul goes on in Galatians 4 to argue that the position of Christians in the world is that of children coming into their own, rather than slaves who will never inherit the promise.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Galatians 3: Faith vs. Law

Paul's concern in writing to the Galatians is the sufficiency of faith in Christ for our salvation.  After he had preached his gospel of grace in Galatia, Judaizers (those attempting to force Gentile Christians to obey Jewish customs), had come through teaching the Galatians that faith in Christ was not really enough; the new Christians would also have to follow all the Old Testament covenant laws (circumcision, kosher, ritual washing, temple sacrifice, etc.)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Galatians 2: What's At Stake

You may notice that Paul comes across as very passionate in Galatians - and very upset!  Why?  What has motivated him to write this letter and what has moved him to a posture of righteous indignation?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Psalm 21: A Study in Contrasts

Psalm 21 gives us two cases: that of the Lord's friend (the king), and that of His enemies.

Galatians 1: Paul's Gospel

The New Testament is made up primarily of letters written by the leaders of the early church.  Some of these letters, also called epistles, were to individuals, such as to Timothy or Titus.  Others were written to specific churches, or to the Church in general.  Sometimes a letter is called by its author's name (James, I John, Jude, etc.) while at other times the title comes from the party being addressed (Romans, II Corinthians, Ephesians, etc.)