A sharp sickle in his hand

The main image of the sickle or scythe that people have is the caricature of death coming to reap (take away) life. Death is called the Grim Reaper. It is a popular image today among gamers. The sickle is an implement with a crescent-shaped blade attached to a short handle, used for cutting grain or tall grass.

In the book of Revelation, it is not Death personified, but an angel of God who wields the sickle. It is in his hand. The hand, in the Old Testament, is that part of the body “that carries out a person’s will” (Richards 324). John shares that perspective. Here, the angel is carrying out the will of God. Frank Cox noted that this angel is in the central part of seven in this part of chapter from verses 6-20 (Cox 90). It is a key section, then. This is an important moment and key action in the book. Continue reading “A sharp sickle in his hand”

Our duty to get up and take action

The columnists of Forthright have been invited to devote themselves during the month of June to the topic of duty. They are free to write about any topic. But we’ll highlight on the front page articles tagged with the word “duty.” A few articles of the past tagged this way are already at the top of the front page. Check them out.

The Old Testament speaks frequently of duties of the priest, Levites, and the king. The NLT has Shecaniah saying to Ezra the scribe, who was laid low by the sins of the people: Continue reading “Our duty to get up and take action”

Compassion, action, and evangelism

By Johnny O. Trail — Compassion is defined as “sympathy for the suffering of others, often including a desire to help.” It might also be defined as “to have the bowels yearn” for the well-being of another. It means for one to have a deep, inward yearning for the good and welfare of another person—even in cases where they are not deserved of our sympathy. The word for compassion is used several times in the Old and New Testaments.

In the New Testament, the word compassion is combined with an action in connection with the expression of sympathy. Simply stated, we need to act compassionately toward those who deal with various physical, mental, and spiritual afflictions. If we wish to be like the Master, we should have the same type of compassion within ourselves. Continue reading “Compassion, action, and evangelism”

The prominent ones

All that hard work, and the garden was a failure…or so it seemed. The beautiful Kwanzan cherry tree was dying out, and the eagerly awaited billows of pink fluffy blooms did not materialize in the splendor of years gone by. 

The tree was the highlight of the patio garden; the central hub for the whole yard, really. Without its expected glory, everything else was lackluster in comparison.

It didn’t matter that the violas under the disappointing tree were particularly robust and colorful this year. The graceful nodding of the Hawera daffodils went largely unnoticed as well. Continue reading “The prominent ones”

Taking action so that others will believe in our ‘favorable future’

Researchers think they’ve discovered a strange phenomenon in the area of persuasion. The more a person believes strongly in a future, the more likely he thinks that others will eventually come around to his belief. But there’s more.

“… partisans believe they are so correct that others will eventually come to see the obviousness of their correctness,” says behavioral scientist Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School, lead author on the research. “Ironically, our findings indicate that this belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality.

Continue reading “Taking action so that others will believe in our ‘favorable future’”

Do it yourself

DIY. “Do it yourself.” Whether landscaping, plumbing, electrical, or painting, my husband (the Yard Boy) and I have done just about all of it.

Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise. Having spent the bulk of our adult lives in the full-time service of various churches, we have never had enough funds to have professional work done on our house. We have learned how to do most repairs ourselves, because there was usually no other choice.

When it became apparent that the septic tank was a hazard to anyone walking over it, since it could never be adequately covered with soil, we decided that a patio with loose stones would be a good remedy for the uneven ground it presented near the back porch. Continue reading “Do it yourself”

The World Is Never Happy

by J. Randal Matheny, editor

“To what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance; we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Matthew 11:16-19 NET

John the Baptist did right. So did Jesus. Each, as different as they were from each other, fulfilled their ministries flawlessly, naysayers notwithstanding.
John’s austerity in dress and food underlined the severity of his message. Away from the centers of population, the Immersor preached a message of repentance, of abandoning the center of human achievement and the concentration of religious power for the quiet but radical change of the individual heart. He thundered forth a call to come out of the edifices of evil.
Jesus, on the other hand, as God-inserted-into-humanity, went to where the people were, a co-participant in their condition, if not their sin, where the joys and sorrows played out in families and towns and cities. Jesus knew he was sent to man, and to man he went, bringing the true hope-and-change message of eternal salvation. He proclaimed reconciliation with a God they had long discarded as too merciful and good.
Theirs was a Jonah society, and God had a messenger for them as well.
They showed their rejection of God by how they treated his messengers. Neither approach pleased them, because neither John nor Jesus fit their mold, so they lodged contradictory complaints. To those who had written their own music, no heavenly tune sounded just right to them.
God’s wisdom, garbed in wilderness austerity or neighborly love, could never please.
Churches and saints must know that good deeds as God defines them are never crowd-pleasers. To bend our efforts in order to appeal to the world is to play its rotten game. The attempt to win sinners’ allegiance by setting aside loyalty to the Lord’s authority is not a winning strategy.
Jesus and John approached their audiences differently, but their message of repentance for the coming Kingdom was the same. People played up their differences merely to discount the messengers and discard their message.
“But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” Time will tell. The long term showed they were both right. Neither yielded to the pressures of critics. And both fulfilled their timely tasks.
We should do no less.

Decide and Do

I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.
Luke 1:3-4 NRSV

Doctor Luke decided and then went out and did what he’d decided to do. By deciding and doing, he wrote a gospel account of his Lord, which then allowed him the opportunity to write a second volume, the book of Acts.

Together, the two books make up the largest block of writings in the New Testament by a single writer. Continue reading “Decide and Do”

Time to Execute

Plans are wonderful, but there comes a time when people must execute their plans. God blesses the effectual doers not the hearers who delude themselves (James 1:22-25).
Getting the job done takes self-control. If you wish to lose weight, you must do the things that call for weight loss — watching what you eat and exercising. Talking about it won’t make much difference.
Self-control is one of the elements of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). Paul told the Christians in Galatia, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). When we focus on the things of God, listen to the teaching that comes from God through his Spirit, we won’t focus on the things of the flesh. We find it easier to say “no” to ourselves.
Self-control and love also leads us to fulfill the work God has given us to do. We touch a soul for Jesus, we teach a class, we encourage the hurting, we feed the hungry, or we sacrifice ourselves a thousand ways to glorify God.
Self-control means making what we ought to do into what we are doing and want to do. Jesus said, “not my will but Yours be done.” He chose to do the Father’s will. Doing the Father’s will, even at such a great cost, was more important to him than his own life.
We do not remember Jesus so much for talking about salvation as we do for acting for our salvation. His death on the cross gave his words far greater meaning. Act, and the blessed will bless God and you for it.