The big issue of fellowship

Fellowship is a big issue among us. Not a few books have been written about it to define what it is, to whom it extends, from whom it ought to be withdrawn.

Fellowship deserves attention. After all, we were created for it. Christ redeemed us so that it could be restored. A whole cluster of words describe it in Scripture. The noun for fellowship, communion, participation, koinonia, is found in the New Testament 17 times, but the teaching on it goes far beyond that group of terms.

In the first chapter of 1 John, the apostle states that our fellowship is with God, Christ, and one another. Continue reading “The big issue of fellowship”

Be faithful even if it means death

Write to the messenger of the congregation in Smyrna: ‘The First and the Last, the One who died and lived, says these things: I know your distress and poverty, but you are rich. I also know the slander of those who call themselves Jews, and are not, but they are the synagogue of Satan.’” (Revelation 2:8-9 McCord)

Most who are Christians, at least in the Western World, have never suffered persecution as the Christians did in the first century. Although we may be aware that this is always a possibility in a changing and volatile world, in our minds any persecution that might come would be from someone we don’t know, from someone who does not even acknowledge God.

Yet the early persecution we read of in the book of Acts came from Jews, those who thought themselves to be God’s people. And it was against fellow Jews who had become Christians, followers of the Messiah. Jesus had warned about this. Continue reading “Be faithful even if it means death”

Blind to duty

Don’t me and my family require the highest degree of concern and protection? Me first. Then, maybe, I can do something or other for my family. That is, if they’re good to me. After that, if there’s any extra time, money, or good will, we can think about church and neighbors, and throw in a stranger or two for good measure. And for my country? Nah, why bother with patriotism for a nation well on its journey down the tubes?

Isn’t that pretty much the idea these days of priorities and commitments? Gone is any sense of duty beyond me and mine.

So the following words from Lot sound like they come from another planet. Continue reading “Blind to duty”

Shattered dreams … yet joy lives?

As young people we might have envisioned how our lives would unfold. We looked forward to achieving a college education followed by a successful career. Or maybe as adults we anticipated how the potential we saw within our children or grandchildren would blossom in marvelous ways as they reached adulthood. Still yet, there might have been the expectation for just a normal healthy life filled with a long marriage and children.

Then the unexpected occurred. The dream was ripped from our hands. Neither the specific details how this happened nor the details of our dreams matter. What is significant is that a hammer shattered our aspirations and hope for what would be. Perhaps disbelief turned into bitterness. Can joy ever thrive again? Continue reading “Shattered dreams … yet joy lives?”

For love’s sake

Love is the most powerful force known to man. Nothing is stronger. It should not surprise us then, that love is the key motivating factor in scripture.

The apostle Paul wrote to a friend and brother from whom he had received much joy and comfort (Philemon 1:7). This letter was written concerning a new brother in Christ, a slave named Onesimus, who had left the household of Philemon. Paul wanted Philemon to forgive Onesimus, and to receive him not as a bondservant but as a beloved brother (Philemon 1:15, 16). As an apostle, Paul had the power to command (Philemon 1:8). Yet, that is not the way Paul approached this situation.

Continue reading “For love’s sake”

Hands pointed toward heaven. Man's duty.

What it means to be truly human, or the whole duty of man

In our Urbanova congregation, we memorize a Bible verse each week. For this twenty-fourth week of 2019, our verse is Ecclesiastes 12.13. I also used it as the text for my message June 9.

This month at Forthright Magazine, we highlight the theme of duty. So I’d like to share the points I mentioned in my message yesterday from Solomon’s great conclusion to his book.

He wrote in verses 13-14: Continue reading “What it means to be truly human, or the whole duty of man”

Sign: Word Harder

Learning to do more

There is a quote from Jesus in his “Sermon on the Mount” that challenges me. It is within Matthew 5:46 and is, “what do you do more than others?”

Let’s get an idea of the context of this statement. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus warned his disciples and by implication all of us, that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees, we will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do more.

Jesus called us to abandon anger (Matthew 5:21f). He called us to abandon lust (Matthew 5:27ff). The Lord warned us to watch our tongue (Matthew 5:33ff). Then we are challenged to love the unlovable (Matthew 5:43-48). Continue reading “Learning to do more”

Difficult decisions

“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” Hebrews 13:2 NKJV).

We are all aware of the importance of hospitality in the Christian life. There are many commands to practice love towards Christian brothers and sisters (Hebrews 13:1), neighbors (Luke 10:27), and even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Practicing love is not something to do only when it is easy or comes in “feel good” situations. John defines love as extending charitable help in times of need, whether or not it is easy or convenient to the giver (1 John 3:17-18). Continue reading “Difficult decisions”

God works good out of bad

It can be difficult for Christians living in the 21st century to realise the intensity of the hatred of Jews against Christians in the 1st century. As we read through the book of Acts we find that the Jews were the ones who persecuted Christians. When Paul was preaching it was the Jews who stirred up opposition against him, to the point of pursuing Paul from town to town.

Perhaps it is ironic that one of the first persecutors was Paul himself, known as Saul of Tarsus. The persecutor became a proclaimer of what he had persecuted, and was then persecuted himself! The Jews wanted Paul dead. They had stoned him once and made plans to eliminate him several times. Perhaps they hated Paul intensely because, in their minds, he had switched sides and because they could not answer his arguments about Jesus from their own scriptures. Continue reading “God works good out of bad”

Don’t Look Back

No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, ESV).

When I had a more fitting location than my present one, I used to grow a decent-size garden. We tried to grow pretty much everything: tomatoes, beans, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, weeds.

We grew a lot of weeds.

These days, I only have space for a few tomato plants. Not nearly as rewarding, but much less work. Continue reading “Don’t Look Back”