Christianity 201

March 24, 2021

Scripture Medley: The General Epistles

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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It’s been a long time since we’ve done anything like this, so today we’re back using the services of to check out some of the most sought-after verses in the general epistles, those books lying between Paul’s writing to Philemon and the book of Revelation. The number which appears next to “Bible Rank” is its overall position in searches. Note that I did skip some verses in order to select others, so refer to TopVerses for actual ranking. All quotations are NIV.

This may seem like such a random exercise. Why do this? Don’t treat this a throwaway devotional. My hope is that something will jump off the page for application to your situation today. Or that you’ll be reminded of a scripture that has settled in the recesses of your memory and now returns to the foreground. Or that you’ll see something which perhaps you’re meant to share with someone in the hours or days to follow.

See also the notes at the bottom for more ways to engage with today’s verses.


Hebrews 11:1
Bible Rank: 44
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 4:12
Bible Rank: 58
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 12:1
Bible Rank: 67
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

Hebrews 11:6
Bible Rank: 87
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 4:15
Bible Rank: 251
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.

Hebrews 1:3
Bible Rank: 252
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.


James 5:16
Bible Rank: 59
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 1:2
Bible Rank: 92
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds

James 1:5
Bible Rank: 111
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:17
Bible Rank: 149
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows

I Peter

1 Peter 3:15
Bible Rank: 122
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect

1 Peter 2:9
Bible Rank: 131
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 3:18
Bible Rank: 213
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

II Peter

2 Peter 3:9
Bible Rank: 153
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance

2 Peter 3:4
Bible Rank: 189
They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

2 Peter 1:21
Bible Rank: 276
For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 3:18
Bible Rank: 677
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

I John

1 John 1:9
Bible Rank: 41
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 4:1
Bible Rank: 148
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 1:7
Bible Rank: 194
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

II John

2 John 1:6
Bible Rank: 1,757
And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

III John

3 John 1:4
Bible Rank: 1,192
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

3 John 1:11
Bible Rank: 1,436
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.


Jude 1:3
Bible Rank: 1,228
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that the Lord has once for all entrusted to us, his people.

Jude 1:5
Bible Rank: 1,352
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe

Jude 1:24
Bible Rank: 2,474
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy –

[a verse to which we have to add the 2nd half]

Jude 1:25
Bible Rank: 17,451
To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

What’s next? – I remember when The Navigator’s scripture memory system was more popular, you might see people on public transit with index cards memorizing key verses, or what we might call rehearsing these truths. I encourage you to do the same here. Choose one or two verses on which to meditate, or simply start at the top again and, more slowly, read through the list one more time.

Option 2 – Go back to, and instead of working your way through particular Bible books, use the topical index — it appears first — to explore texts which resonate with where you are today.

With both options – Find a Bible or Bible online and read beyond individual verses to get the full context of what’s being said.

June 11, 2015

The Word in Song

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Col 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

While I also love the hymns, I am grateful for the new songs that God has birthed in the present generation of worship leaders. It was through the “choruses” that most of our churches started using in the 1980s that I committed a lot of scripture to memory, as well as through the music of the early Jesus Music pioneers such as Andrae Crouch.

But lately I haven’t been finding as many songs that have resonated with me as strongly (see the sidebar at right for some we’ve used here) and haven’t been posting as many with the devotions.

I once asked my kids, after a particularly long devotional time, if they could tell when it was the author speaking, and when it was a scripture quotation. They claimed they could. I think it’s a reasonable response, the scriptures speak with a greater authority. (Maybe there was something in my voice that would read them differently, too; I don’t know.)

This is probably true of worship songs as well. There is a greater authority when the lyrics draw directly from scripture (or parallel a scripture narrative as in this example). Plus, we gain a vehicle which makes memorization easier. The Scripture In Song movement, which originated in New Zealand, was a great example of this, and back in the day hundreds of songs copied that format.

(I think that modern worship music is suffering from a bit of lethargy right now, which is why we’re seeing so much lyrical borrowing from classic hymns, but we’ll save that for another time. They’re also being forced to survive commercially producing material that gets airplay on Christian radio.)

Today we crave teaching, sermons, books, podcasts, etc., but earlier generations of Christians didn’t have all these things; they simply craved the word. The imagery in Ezekiel 3 is a little hard to swallow (bad pun, as you’ll see) but we’re told,

2So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. 4Then He said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them.…”

One of Eugene Peterson’s titles is Eat This Book, and the picture of letting the Word fill us and nourish us and sustain us is something that should challenge us.

I wrote a few months ago how I struggle with this, how I need those sermons and podcasts to shove me off the dock into the water of God’s Word (see the indented section next to the picture). Those things are good, but only if they land somewhere connected to the Biblical texts.

If they only propel you into further consideration of some man’s ideas or agenda, they aren’t accomplishing anything; you would do best to immerse yourself in the text itself; to go to the source.


Read more: In a very short C201 post, I explored the four benefits that scripture promises us.



January 7, 2013

Bible Study Process

john_3.16 license plate

A couple of years back I wrote a piece describing my own Bible study process. It’s not always as orderly and sequential as some would like. But it gets me digging deep. In the last couple of days I looked at a couple of parables Jesus taught from Luke which sent me down all sorts of rabbit trails. But it gave me a greater appreciation for the text.

But first, I want to talk about a memorization process I did last month. I committed myself to learn, in my own words, the early hymn from Philippians chapter two. Here it is from memory without reference to any notes:

You should have the same mindset as the incarnated Christ, who, although he was 100% God, did not consider that something to be leveraged (or we could say leveraged every five minutes) but rather he humbled himself; first by fully experiencing the human condition; second by generally taking on the posture of one who is serving, not leading; third by living out the human situation even to the point of death; finally a death that was that of someone who had done nothing wrong yet suffered the most painful torture the Romans could devise. And then, at the end of all this, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the highest name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to God the Father’s glory.

…You see, I could just memorize it as written. But this way I know the material and you know that I know it. The words have taken on life.

But not content to just rest there, I’m now looking at memorizing John 3: 17-21.  (Okay, verse 16 is in there, too; but we all know that one.)

An old acquaintance from a Christian summer camp I worked at once shared the ordination process he went through to become a pastor in his denomination. You’d expect these to be hardcore questions about deep doctrinal matters, but instead, one of the examiners kicked back and said, “So… tell me about John chapter 1.”  And then, “Now tell me about John chapter 2.” And so on.

It wasn’t what he was expecting.  Let’s consider that line of questioning:

John 1: John’s prologue (there’s one to memorize!)
John 2: The first miracle, the wedding at Cana
John 3: Jesus and Nicodemus (where “born again” originates) and that trademark 16th verse
John 4: Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well
John 5: …uh… see this is where I would phase out…

However, he was caught a bit off-guard by the question and didn’t even do that well.  So let’s go back to chapter three.

Jesus has his meetup with Nicodemus and they hash through Nick’s question about re-entering his mother’s womb in order to be reborn. And then there’s verse 16. And then? What do you think is the key theme of what follows?

One of the best parts of doing this blog is when I write the ‘tags’ that appear at the beginning of each entry. Especially if it’s something that I didn’t write. What is this really all about? What are the key points? What is the defining theme? Who is this for?

Tagging verses 17-21 of John 3, one would instantly recognize that this is a passage about light. The end product of verse 16, the result of God loving the world and giving Jesus is that light has come into the world.

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”  (NLT)

The light has come. People preferred darkness. They stay away from the light because it would expose their contrariness to God’s standards and God’s best for their life. But those who see his way as the best way are actually drawn to the light so the world can see their attitudes and actions.

(The above paragraph is a little too extreme a paraphrase, my end memorization will be something in between that and the original.)

So next time you think about vs. 3:16 — and it’s hard to get away from — think about light. How light dispels darkness. How light illuminates those who choose to walk in the light.

And that’s a bit of my personal study.

P.S.: Before anyone thinks me to be super-spiritual, let me hasten to add that my November memorization project didn’t get finished.  I’m still working on solidifying Titus 3: 3-7; which is another passage I would recommend.

Some translations present the clauses of Phil 2: 7 & 8 in a different sequence.

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