The Last Time

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 19 & 20

Poetry: Proverbs 26

New Testament: Acts 20

     Paul chose to bypass Ephesus based on an urgent drive he felt to be in Jerusalem for Passover, a drive that may have come from God more than himself. He describes himself as “bound by the Spirit” or “bound in spirit” – he is aware the bonds and afflictions await him, but he is not sure that death is near. But he is sure he will never see the Ephesians again. But Paul arranged to meet the church leaders from Ephesus and gave some words of encouragement and warning (Acts 20:18‑35). It is hard to imagine how that meeting must have affected them. A man who basically shaped their community through years of teaching and healing and tears now said he would never see them again, and that some of them would not remain true to the faith. Their greatest concern remained the loss of Paul. They loved and valued him. The news about their future must have been stunning, maybe even sickening, but what could be done? They had already faced opposition. They may even have anticipated that not all who claimed the name of Jesus would stay true to him. But such concerns had to be for later days.

     I wonder what further meanings they drew out of Paul’s words when they looked back on them, not simply as his closing thoughts about his own ministry, but as a commendation about their ministries. Some of his words are so poetic, or they seem so to me: “I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” (v. 26-27). Looking back on it I think this may have seemed less a description of Paul’s own life and more a call to them of danger, for if he was innocent for not shrinking from the task, then that raised the threat that some of them who did so might be condemned for doing so. The image Paul offers of leaders becoming corrupt and seeking to build up themselves is an awful one. I would wish it was presented as a warning to them, something to be avoided, but as with Judas this was simply a prediction.

     A note on Acts 20:28: I prepared these devotions mainly using the 1995 NASB, which has the phrase “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Clearly there is a problem here, as God doesn’t have blood. Meanwhile you might have seen this NRSV wording: “the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son.” Or perhaps you read the American Standard Version: “the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.” Why do these differences exist?

     You may know that the Bibles we read aren’t translated from a single master copy of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek (with a few chapters’ worth of Aramaic). It would be unlikely for a book on paper or papyrus to survive from the first century to today. Instead we have copies of what was written then. And it isn’t easy to prevent all confusion when copying by hand. You could always make just one copy and destroy the original – but that doesn’t remove all risk of errors, though it removes the ability to check if there were any. F.F. Bruce was a well-known Greek scholar, he wrote: “For Caesar’s Gallic War (composed between 58 and 50 B.C.) there are several extant manuscripts, but only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day.” People don’t tend to question the text of Gallic War. The text may be wrong if the error got in long enough ago, but we just aren’t going to know.

     The Bible was intended to be spread widely. And because the Bible was used so widely and copied for people in so many parts of the world we have lots of copies, way more than for most things – about 5,800 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Having those different manuscripts meant they would get looked at, by language experts who wanted to know if they differed and how they differed. As it turned out almost none of the differences matter. The Church historian Philip Schaff (1819‑1893) wrote that in his time he was aware of only 400 New Testament variants that affected the meaning of a passage, and of those only 50 were of any significance. He didn’t think that any of the 50 rose to the level of affecting an “article of faith” (Companion to the Greek Testament and English Version, p. 177). The figures may be higher now, but it still isn’t something to lose your faith over. There are books (I have one) where committees of language experts evaluate the differences and what they think the situation is for each one.

     Back to Acts 20:28, it is an interesting case for involving two options. Is the issue that the text was changed at some point to say “Church of the God” rather than “Church of the Lord” – maybe because that phrase was more common in the Bible and the copyist thought it was what Luke originally wrote? Or at the end of the sentence was a reference to “son” dropped, changing what would have said “blood of his own son”? You can see here what Philip Schaff was getting at. Everyone agrees that Paul was trying to talk about Jesus here, not the Father, and that something got garbled in some of the manuscripts. It is not clear which of the manuscripts has the original intention, but this is not a big issue of doctrine.

     The matter of manuscripts and translation history can be fascinating, or it may quickly seem overwhelming. Rest assured it is not an area you normally need to concern yourself with if you are not interested in it. (For myself, with my history as an editor, it bothered me that the NASB had not addressed the issue in the verse even with a note.) As one more detail on this history, by the year 600 the gospels had been translated into nine languages. The Gospels were usually the first written literature of these languages. People were creating written forms of their languages just to better spread the news of Jesus to their people. I find that beautiful.

Dear Lord, thank you that you allow us to know about Paul’s struggles, and not just his successes. Help us to be more open with each other about our weaknesses, our tears, our losses. Let us be willing to admit that we need each other. It is more blessed to give than to receive, but if we don’t admit how much we need to receive sometimes people will not know to reach out. And help us, at least, who know that we are weak, to recognize that as a real possibility for others and offer them support and compassion and patience and time. We are not always hurting, but it is hard to make up for missing the opportunity of helping a hurting friend. So let me be more aware, more attentive. Let me listen with your son’s ears. And help me to speak with his words more often. Thank you, Lord. I love you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

-Daniel Smead


  1. Why do you think Paul valued meeting with the Ephesian elders? What are some things he may have been hoping for with the meeting?
  2. If you were among the Ephesian elders warned that some of the group would turn against Jesus, what do you think your reaction might be? Do you think that Paul’s statement may have changed how many elders fell, rescuing some?
  3. What do you think the Ephesian elders did when they returned to Ephesus? What kind of message did they have to tell the regular members? How soon?
  4. Did the discussion of manuscripts and translation leave you confused? If so, I’m sorry, email me with your question (

Dig Deep

John 1

John1 29

Hello again!  This week we will be going into the slightly-confusing-at-first-glance book of John.  My hope is that you either find something new from my thoughts today or are just reminded of the truth you already know!

Thought #1 – Vs. 1 – 18: Do you ever want to find the person that wrote this book and say, “You know, you could have written this much more clearly for us and a lot of doctrinal debates would be very different…”?  Because I sure do.  But then again, much of the confusion that comes from this chapter surrounds translation issues and reading out of context, which I’ve noticed our world today does quite often.  To truly get at what the author of this book is trying to say, it is critical to go back to the first translations.  When looking at verse 1, we see “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  And thus starts many doctrinal debates right with that tiny little word ‘was’.  But if we go back to the Greek, we see that the “Word” here is ‘Logos’, a Greek word meaning “plan.”  That little translational difference dramatically changes how people may interpret this first verse.  This entire book is such a great reminder to always dig a little bit deeper.  As someone who is part of the COG faith, I’ll be honest in saying it can sometimes get tiring to feel like I constantly need to defend my beliefs.  And sometimes it’s a little scary because I’m afraid I’ll be proven wrong.  Over the past two years or so, I have been very motivated to dig for truth in Scripture.  At first, it was a little nerve-wracking and truthfully just plain exhausting.  But as I continually found passages of Scripture that aligned with what I believed to be true, I found such joy in the process of digging!  It was so encouraging and grew my faith as I grew in confidence of the God that I believe in.  When having discussions with other Christians with different perspectives, it is important to come with an open mind and heart.  It’s also important to be comfortable answering difficult questions with “I’d like to look into that more, can I get back to you?”  Don’t rush the process, detectives don’t solve a case in a day!  Sometimes after difficult conversations with others I would find myself praying later that day for wisdom in how to respond, and BOOM, someone somewhere would lead me straight to a Scriptural reference or two to help.  You will find an answer if you’re willing to DIG.  Have you become tired or afraid of defending your beliefs?  Have confidence in our God; find joy in the process of digging into Scripture with an open mind to seek truth!

Thought #2 – Vs. 46-51: Jesus is a little sassy, and I love it.  In these verses Nathanael has no faith that Jesus is the true Messiah.  When he does believe, Jesus basically tells him, “Oh my friend, you haven’t seen anything yet.  I’m just getting started.”  I wish that I could have been there to witness that!  It would’ve been a perfect “oooooh snap” moment.  The best part is, Jesus has every right to say these things!  He is the true Messiah, and he was about to do some absolutely amazing things that would radically change the entire world FOREVER.  We are right in the midst of the Easter season, and these verses come at a great time to remind us of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth.  I can’t even imagine being alive during Jesus’ time on earth and how COOL that must have been!  To witness miracles, to witness him simply being the promised one that I had been hearing about probably since I was born!  And he was just getting started!  I wonder if Jesus’ followers at that time were just as confident as he was when speaking to Nathanael, or if there was still some hesitation and doubt.  As we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, pause and reflect for a moment.  How do you react when faced with doubt about truths within Scripture?  Do you stand up with confidence as Jesus did, or do you question like Nathanael first did?

Thanks for sticking with me during this longer post!  I look forward to continuing John with you in the next few days.

~Sarah Blanchard


A New Thing for the New Year

Jer 29 13

I thank God for you – the readers who are reading today.

I thank God for those who have written devotions for us for the past two and a half years – and for those who will commit to writing a week in the New Year ahead.

I thank God for what He has done and what He will do!  For me.  For my family.  For the Church of God.  For God’s World and for His Plan for the Ages.  He is always at work!

I thank God for revealing himself through His Word!  How incredible that He has chosen to share Himself with me – and you – there in each and every page, chapter and verse of His Inspired Word.

God can choose to reveal himself in an earthquake, fire or thunder from heaven.  And, sometimes He has and He does and He will.  But more often – each and every day – He is ready to reveal Himself – His love, His faithfulness, His majesty, His holiness, His righteousness, His wisdom, His commands, His Son, His plan of salvation, His light, His life, His Coming Kingdom.  God reveals himself to those who seek Him in His Holy Word.

I am excited about a New Year starting this week and I would love to encourage you to join with us at in reading through the New Testament (as well as Proverbs and various theme weeks).  We will be reading one chapter from the Bible every day and you can sign up to receive daily devotions based on the chapter assigned for that day.  Each week we will get to hear the thoughts of another Church of God writer to guide us in seeking Him in His Word.  If you wish to sign up for the daily emails visit  On your computer – click on the follow button in the right hand column.  On your phone – click Menu, About and then the follow button.

The rest of this week we will be looking at the importance and benefits of God’s Word, and then on Sunday, January 6 we will jump into Matthew chapter 1, reading one chapter each day.  We chose a Bible reading plan that would not be too challenging or daunting for any age or experience level, and could still be combined with another plan for those already committed to a different Bible reading plan.  So grab a friend or family member, youth group or small group to help motivate and build accountability to together spend 2019 seeking Him in His Word.

Praying for Your Faith Walk,

Marcia Railton

What’s Your Motivator?

Isaiah 10-13


Wednesday, February 8

As we continue on with Isaiah, we also continue on with scripture about judgement.  The book of Isaiah as a whole can be split into two sections: judgement (1-39) and restoration (40-66).  Therefore, if you aren’t a fan of this judgement variety, then just stick with it and the restoration will come at the close of Isaiah.  However, even if you aren’t a fan of the judgement material, valuable lessons can still be learned from it.

When reading the judgement material throughout Isaiah, I get a bit tense.  I get tense because the judgement that is coming for so many is severe.  We see the sin of Israel and the surrounding nations causing God to become angry with people, and in reading Isaiah, we are assured that God’s wrath will come out sometime.  The following snip-it’s from this reading give a sense of the kind of judgement coming: “the LORD will utterly destroy,” “shall be cut off,” “destroy both soul and body,” “anger will be directed to their destruction,” “kill the wicked,” “destroy its sinners,” “destruction from the Almighty,” and “fierce anger”.  This is what is coming for those who do not turn their lives over to God.  Furthermore, from Isaiah 13: 6, 9, and 22 we know this day is coming soon.  Although turning our lives over to God to escape this punishment should not be our main focus or motivator, it is still a motivator nonetheless.  I know personally, I do not want this punishment that many will receive.  We know many will receive this destruction as God says, “I will make people more rare than fine gold,” (Isaiah 13:12).  Last time I checked, there wasn’t just a bunch of fine gold laying around.

Yes, escaping a severe punishment that many will receive is motivation to give our lives to God.  However, the greatest motivation of all is found in chapter 11, and that motivation is the Kingdom of God.  One thing the Church of God as a whole is great at is keeping the focus on the Kingdom of God.  One of the great Kingdom prophecies is found in Isaiah 11:6-9.  This passage describes the peace that will take place in the Kingdom.  It describes that a nursing child will play over the hole of the cobra.  Last I checked, no parent in this present age won any parenting awards for leaving their babies next to cobra holes.  However, in this future Kingdom, there will be no death, mourning, crying, nor pain in the coming Kingdom.  The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD.  The Kingdom is a never ending celebration.  I know that I want a part in this.  To do this, we must turn our lives over to God.  Let the hope of the coming Kingdom drive you in growing closer to God every day of your life.  The reward for living a life for God is beyond imagination.

-Kyle McClain

(Photo credit:

A Call to Be Holy

Isaiah 7-9

man in praise

Tuesday, February 7

I hope you all have enjoyed the first six chapters of Isaiah thus far.  Today, we get to continue with chapters 7 through 9, and we will get right to it.

Chapter 7 has an interesting phenomenon that some scholars within the Church of God call “agency”.  Pay special attention to who is talking when (this may seem complicated).  In 7:3, we see that God is talking to Isaiah, and God instructs Isaiah to relay a message to King Ahaz in 7:4.  7:4-9 is the message that Isaiah was to tell Ahaz.  Then in verse 10, it states, “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz.”  God was not talking to Ahaz in the first place though; rather, God instructed Isaiah to speak to Ahaz.  Furthermore, in verse 13, the being who was talking to Ahaz says, “my God”.  Therefore, although it says “again the LORD spoke to Ahaz,” in verse 10, I believe that it was actually Isaiah speaking to Ahaz.  In summary, there are two reasons as to why I believe it was Isaiah speaking to Ahaz:

  1. God wasn’t talking to Ahaz in the first place, so the word “again” would not make sense in this context if it were indeed God talking. However, Isaiah was previously talking to Ahaz, so it would make sense to say “again” if it were Isaiah talking to him.
  2. In verse 13, this being talking to Ahaz (either God or Isaiah) says, “my God”. As we all know, the LORD does not have a god, so it wouldn’t make sense for the LORD to say this.  Also, in verse 14, it talks about the LORD in 3rd person.

This idea of “agency” is found in several passages throughout the Bible.  The idea of agency is important when at times Jesus is connected to the term “God”.  It is important to understand to defend the oneness of God.  If this interests you at all or if I made absolutely no sense (which is very well possible) but still want to learn more, then the following article can give some clarification.

Isaiah 7:14 is one of the most well-known Immanuel (God with us) prophecies.  The Immanuel, which is Jesus Christ, was prophesied to be born from a virgin.  As far as I know, there aren’t many people born from a virgin mother.  It totally contradicts what we all learned in health class.  However, Jesus himself was born from a virgin.  This alone was a miracle, and it was to be a sign for the people.

In chapter 8, there was one thing that stuck out to me found in verse 11.  It is a call to be holy.  To be holy is to be set apart or different from others, and this is exactly what the LORD told Isaiah to do.  He instructed Isaiah “not to walk in the way of this people,” meaning that he should act differently.  The people in Isaiah’s time were wicked people.  Isaiah 9:17 states, “for everyone is godless and an evildoer.”  We also know this from all the judgement in the previous chapters.  I think most of us would agree that we also live in a society that is very godless and full of evildoers.  We too then should be set apart from society.  We should not walk in the way of the people in our society.  There should be differences between you and the common person.  Are you living differently than others?

Isaiah 9:6 is a controversial verse within the Church of God that probably made many of you uneasy when reading it.  It is a verse that needs to be considered and given thought.  Similar to 7:14 it is prophecy about Jesus Christ.  However, in this prophecy, it states that the son shall be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  This verse, along with a few others throughout the Bible, has a Trinitarian feel to it.  I do not have all the answers myself, but this verse cannot just be ignored.  I urge you all to look more into this, and make some sense out of it rather than just ignoring it.

I hope you all have a great day!

-Kyle McClain

(Photo credit:

Your Spiritual Genealogy (I Chronicles 3-5)

Tuesday November 15


These chapters continue the genealogy starting with the sons of David.  We see some great people listed.  David ruled as king, and is considered one of the greatest kings of Israel, although he was definitely not without fault.  Solomon, who was granted great wisdom, and used that wisdom to judge the people of Israel.  He also had his faults and downfalls.   In this list are also people who turned against God’s plans and did evil.


Yesterday, I wrote about the genealogy of the country, and the families.  Something I read about this genealogy mentioned the spiritual genealogy that is in this list also.  These leaders listed sometimes helped improve the people’s relationship with God, and helped increase their faith.  Others tore down their faith.  This goes across family and ancestral lines.

We have a genealogy of our faith too, and will be part of others genealogy.  There are people who have affected the faith of each of us.  Some people have built it up and others have torn it down.  The people who affected us were affected by others.  The people who founded your church have affected you, because they brought the church family together and passed their knowledge and experience down through generations.  Those that founded the Church of God, and the Bible College have affected your faith through training of pastors, among other ways.


All of us are influencing others, and not just those we encounter personally.  A Sunday school teacher can plant the seed that develops into a passion to be a pastor, a missionary, a teacher, or something else.  A friend can be the seed that brings a new person to church, and causes their family to know God.  On the other hand, someone can lead those around them into sin, cause them to doubt God, or something else negative.  This could stop them from being an influence for God.  Our actions can spread much further than we ever expected.


As a shepherd boy, how could David have ever expected to be king of Israel, or to be an example listed in the Bible that generation after generation of children learn.  Please consider the question, “What will my part be in the spiritual genealogy of those around me, and those that I don’t even know?”


I encourage everyone to pray that we will each see how we can build up the faith of those around us, so that they can build the faith of those around them, etc.  Our spiritual genealogy is much more important than our family genealogy.

– Andrew Hamilton


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