“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV).
Today the word “surrounded” has a predominantly negative connotation. It brings up images of “Custer’s Last Stand” (aka, “The Battle of the Bighorn”) where a small detachment of cavalry was overwhelmed by thousands of Sioux warriors. Similarly we may think of the Battle of the Alamo where approximately 200 “Texians” were wiped out by Santa Anna’s Mexican army. Jack London fans may think of the two Alaskan dog-sledders who were stalked by a large pack of famine starved wolves at the beginning of “White Fang.” Being surrounded is mostly not such a good thing. Continue reading “Surrounded”
When Paul visited Thessalonica he did what he did wherever he went – he went first to the Jews to tell them the good news of Jesus. For three straight weeks he taught in the synagogue from the Jewish scriptures – the Old Testament – about the Messiah, that he would suffer, and that he would rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah” (Acts 17:3 NIV).
The reaction he received was both positive and negative. “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the market-place, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.” (Acts 17:4-5). It got so bad that Paul and Silas had to be sent away from Thessalonica – they went initially to Berea and then Paul ended up in Athens. Continue reading “Concern … and answered prayer”
I avoid sensationalism, preferring the understated approach. Sex is one of those subjects that turns a lot of heads. In Brazil, money and religion are volatile subjects. So when addressing them, we try to deal with them in all sobriety. Last week, I posted for the congregation in Brazil 26 summary points on the biblical teaching about sex and marriage. Maybe I’ll share it here one of these days. (Update: Read them here.)
The points reinforced a lesson to the church on sexual immorality. To be holy means, in part, knowing how to deal with our sexuality.
Modern society is soaked in sensuality. The word is counted as a good thing. Not so in Scripture. It’s the door to immorality. Continue reading “Sundries: Sex, memory, and a bad sort of minimalism”
I’m not sure if a preacher should be admitting this, but sometimes I don’t feel like worshiping. We might as well be honest, sooner or later we will suffer spiritual dejection.
Did you know that no less a person than the apostle Paul got discouraged? I wonder if many of his brethren were aware of this?
One dark night while he lay in bed and contemplated the tumultuous events of the day, God spoke to him: Continue reading “Discouragement”
Would you like to see the weedy patches in my garden? I thought not.
There is a new trend on social media to display our less-than-perfect living spaces and gardens. This concept and practice evolved from a backlash against the depressing notion that we cannot attain to the perfection of our neighbors’ lives, as portrayed by only showing the good and not the bad.
This trend has also morphed into an ugly fad of “keeping it real” by picking apart and pointing out flaws in people. It has become popular to pick out the flaws in formerly respected historical figures, national leaders, and even our church leaders.
People aren’t perfect? What a surprise! Continue reading “Keeping it real”
Yes, I talk to my flowers. It is almost always in the most gentle of tones; not because researchers have indicated that this helps them thrive, but because I love them. It’s also very nice that they don’t talk back! It’s better on some days to hear nothing at all than to hear discouraging words.
Some say that music also helps plants, but I’m not going to torture the neighbors by singing to my flowers. Continue reading “If you don’t have anything nice to say…”
The world around us seems to be devoid of hope. In Great Britain many are worried about leaving the European Union – after all, for most people, this is all they have known. ISIS continues to cause people around the world to worry, as well as the unstable situation in Korea. People worry about what is ahead of them in life. Perhaps the problem is that they see this life as all there is.
When Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, we find Christians who were worried about the Christians who had already died. Paul wrote, “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 NET). Continue reading “A people of hope”
“For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope” (Romans 15:4 NET).
As we live as Christians we sometimes become discouraged. When we are “down” it can seem difficult to continue going on. But there is something we can “take” for that! Often when we are physically sick we are told to take a pill, to take medication which will help to pick us up again. The solution for when we are spiritually discouraged is God’s word. Continue reading “The encouragement of the scriptures”
“After we tore ourselves away from them, we put out to sea, and sailing a straight course, we came to Cos, on the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went aboard, and put out to sea. After we sighted Cyprus and left it behind on our port side, we sailed on to Syria and put in at Tyre, because the ship was to unload its cargo there. After we located the disciples, we stayed there seven days” (Acts 21:1-4 NET).
One thing that becomes very apparent as we read about Paul’s travels is that he desired to be with Christians. It wasn’t that Paul wasn’t with Christians all the time – he was travelling with a group of at least seven other Christians (see Acts 20:4 and the “we” statements in Acts 21, indicating that Luke was also with him). Continue reading “The need for fellowship”
How many times have I have heard someone say: “I left that church because they weren’t meeting my needs.”
The thing I’m struggling with is the vision of a church as a place where our needs ought to be met, as if we were entering a shop, then storming out because the service did not meet our expectations. All of which begs the question: Is the purpose of a church to meet my needs? Is that why we join a church – in order to be served? Continue reading “It’s the church’s responsibility to meet my needs”