Which is worse: being shut up in your home for several weeks, or suffering persecution for your faith? The answer is obvious.
The apostle Paul was ushered out of Thessalonica because of persecution. The brothers carried him away from danger to the city of Berea. Some time later, he wrote to the new congregation with love and concern. He closed his letter with rapid-fire imperatives, concerns of his for their spiritual well-being under pressure, 1 Thessalonians 5.12-24.
His words have something to say to us as well. Continue reading “4 concerns in difficult times”
1. Stick with the Word
Some saints want to show themselves to be intelligent by dabbling in the philosophies of the world, the theologies of the denominations, or the politics of the nations. But the world has more than enough of these. Our message has to distinguish itself clearly from all these. We preach an almighty God whose love encompasses all of history and who glory has revealed itself in terms we can grasp. From creation we move quickly to the Book of Life, whose final author knows us better than we know ourselves. The Bible is the best argument for God’s existence. His power lives in it and from it people can be convicted of the truth.
How do we stick with the Word? Continue reading “How to be a Christian in a topsy-turvy world”
By Johnny O. Trail — The book of Judges offers some interesting history about the Israelites and the relationship they had with the Philistines. Samson had humiliated the Philistines by destroying their standing crops with fire. Since Dagon was a god of grain, this was a direct challenge to their deity. The biblical text says in Judges 15.4-5,
“And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.”
This outrage was swiftly answered by the Philistines. They sought out Samson at Etim and asked the Israelites where he might be found: Continue reading “Have we surrendered?”
Being a child is an exciting, terrifying time. Growth can occur at extreme rates. Every activity is new, or otherwise offers some new experience. But with all this growth, there are inevitable growing pains. Children who are learning to walk often fall. Children who are learning to climb often fall from less than comfortable heights. Bumps and bruises often accompany growth. Yet growth must be pursued, with vim and vigor. To children, stubbed toes and a bloody nose are small prices to pay for the reward of increased speed and dexterity.
Just as physical, emotional, and intellectual growth can be painful for children, spiritual growth can be painful for adults. But unlike most children, whose desire for growth is insatiable, adults are often content to wane rather than wax. Learning new things can be awkward, and we are often very uncomfortable in our awkwardness. So, instead of developing, we accept dying.
Continue reading “Stubbed toes and a bloody nose”
By Johnny O. Trail — As I drove to my office on Wednesday, I was listening to XM Satellite Radio. I seem to continually scroll through stations until I find the song I want to hear. Oftentimes I land on country music stations and listen to a great variety of artists. On this day, the disc jockey was talking about an artist who is now deceased.
I had heard of this country music performer via a compilation of people in the performance industries who were listed as being members of the churches of Christ. In addition to this performer being on the list that was provided on social media, he was singled out by many who knew him as being an excellent example of Christian living and service. Continue reading “I wish more people were dull”
The Bible begins with the creation of light by a word from God, Genesis 1.3. It ends with a mention of the light of God, tying it with the privilege of his people reigning forever: “Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever” Revelation 22.5.
Light is important as a Bible theme because:
1. God is light, 1 John 1.5
Light comes into being as a result of God’s power. The creation started with light. God spoke and it existed. Its creation before the heavenly bodies speaks to its nature as emanating from God. We speak, rightly so, of the moon not having its own light but only reflecting the light of the sun. Similarly, no heavenly body — sun or stars — has, in one true sense, any light of its own. God put them there. He caused them to exist and to shine. He is the only real source of light. Continue reading “Light from beginning to end”
The young man in his mid-20s worked behind the counter of the bread store on the plaza next to my office. He served up coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and bread toasted on the grill. His conversation centered on the weekend. He labored five or more days a week, but lived to party on Friday and Saturday nights. His weekdays were nothing more than a countdown to living it up in noise, drink, and carousing.
He worked a dead-end job with a dead-end life. Continue reading “Are you living for the weekend or the world’s end?”
This is an excerpt from Randal’s upcoming book, tentatively entitled “Total Transformation.”
In God’s eyes, holiness is the goal. Without it, we are nothing and can go nowhere, spiritually. “Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord” Heb 12.14. Holiness is the basic condition for seeing the Lord. It arises out of Christ’s sacrifice for us, so it is not strange to read this statement in the book of Hebrews. The Lord makes the effort effective. But without the effort there is no change and no chance of a future with him. Continue reading “Holiness is a big deal”
Behind sin works a living, personal, spiritual force called Satan. He opposes God and he considers mankind his battlefield. We know little about his origin, but we have learned much about his tactics and objectives. These should be studied carefully.
When we speak of sin, therefore, we are actually speaking of the work of Satan against God’s special creation of mankind.
It cannot be controlled. It is the lion crouching just outside the door ready to pounce and kill, Genesis 4.7; 1 Peter 5.8. It is the kudzu that will not stop growing until it has covered every good intent and smothered all good works. There is no dabbling in sin, no setting limits for sin, no negotiating with sin. Continue reading “Five hideous truths about sin—and one great truth of hope”
Basil has a very nice quality in that it self-sows year after year. This is why I have a nice crop of something not-so-affectionately nicknamed “stinky basil.”
It was given to me a few years ago by a friend that knows that I love all the different basils in my garden; opal basil, Greek columnar basil, cinnamon basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, for instance.
This one was a stark exception. Continue reading “Stinky basil”