Fire from heaven

They were disciples, apostles, and brothers. Along with Simon, whom Jesus called “Peter” (meaning “a stone”), they were part of Jesus’ inner circle. Like Simon, they had been given a sobriquet. The Lord called them “Boanerges.” They were the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).

Perhaps they were powerful preachers. Perhaps they had powerful personalities. We simply don’t know the full reason for the moniker.

James was the first apostle to die (Acts 12:2), John was the last. While Jesus walked the earth, no one was closer to him than the “Stone” and the “Sons of Thunder.” Continue reading “Fire from heaven”

The more important matters

Micah was a prophet sent by God to deliver his message primarily to the people of Judah. He was a contemporary with a prophet better known to us – Isaiah.

“The word of the Lord that came to Micah of Moresheth during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah – the vision he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” (Micah 1:1 NIV)

Micah was from Moresheth, a town about twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem on the border with Philistia. He was not a ‘city-dweller’ but from a more rural background.  His writing style seems to reflect this, being of a common man from the poorer class of society. Continue reading “The more important matters”

Mercy and grace

When we think of the apostle Paul, most would think of a great man of faith. He was someone who put God first in his life and tried his best to live the life he called on others to live, a life worthy of the calling we have in Jesus. But as he begins his first letter to Timothy we get a different view of Paul, one which is his view of himself. Continue reading “Mercy and grace”

A God of mercy and justice

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Speak to the Israelites and tell them, “When you cross over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, you must then designate some towns as towns of refuge for you, to which a person who has killed someone unintentionally may flee. And they must stand as your towns of refuge from the avenger in order that the killer may not die until he has stood trial before the community. These towns that you must give shall be your six towns for refuge.”’” (Numbers 35:9-13 NET).

God is a God of mercy. We can see this in his providing towns of refuge for the Israelites. These towns were so designated to allow someone who had accidentally killed another person to be safe from any ‘avenger’ who might come after them to take their life. If they were within these towns they were safe. In more recent years church buildings have often served this same purpose as a place of sanctuary. Continue reading “A God of mercy and justice”

The letter he didn’t plan to write

“Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3 NET).

Jude (or Judas, as his name really was in Greek) wanted to write a letter to Christians about the salvation we have in Jesus. But that was a letter he couldn’t at that time write because of what was happening to the Christians.

Jude could not write the letter he intended because “certain men have secretly slipped in among you – men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe – ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). Continue reading “The letter he didn’t plan to write”

She has done what she could

What is it about gardening that causes the fun to often descend into a guilt trip? The dreams that seemed so tangible in February and March taunt us as unfinished projects in June and July.

Maybe the same is true with any other activity, but dust bunnies don’t grow and multiply as readily as ragweeds do in the garden. Nor, for that matter, like the real bunnies that nibble the blueberries and tomatoes. Continue reading “She has done what she could”

The System

Matt, a fine young man I watched grow up, made a comment that got me to thinking. Matt’s heart aches over the current situation in Ferguson; it is broken at the comments expressed by some who cheer the grand jury’s decision not to indict. Matt sees clearly what so many are forgetting, that a young man was killed. There is nothing to cheer in this, one way or the other.

What jumped out at me in Matt’s comments was: “…read the comments of way too many white people desperately holding on to the lie that the system is fair.”

“The system”… how it developed is a discussion for another time. What touched me is Matt’s underlying heartfelt plea that the system might be “fair.” Continue reading “The System”

Little snakes

by Michael E. Brooks

“If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. . . . Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things” (James 3:2-5 NKJV).

The intercom at Khulna Bible College rang in my apartment and I picked up to hear the cook, Shova, say only “boro sap” (big snake).

She has almost no English, and I have only a little Bangla, but we can communicate that message at least. All the personnel know that I enjoy seeing the animals, birds and plants that come onto the campus, and they try to inform me when something new is seen.

It is normal for us to have snakes on campus occasionally. Most are harmless and even helpful in that they eat rodents and other pests. Sometimes though dangerous snakes can also appear.

Not long ago we had a small cobra, only about 2 feet long, but still very deadly to anyone who was careless or caught unawares.

This cobra caused much more concern than the two Checkered Keelbacks (non-poisonous) we found at about the same time which were more than double its size.

When it comes to snakes, size means little. Their inherent nature is everything. A tiny snake full of venom is far more dangerous than a huge non-poisonous one.

James reminds us that sin is like that. One does not have to be a mass murderer or serial child molester to be guilty and condemned in the eyes of God.

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

All sin is rebellion and all rebellion separates from God and results in death (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

The tongue is an excellent example. Though it is small, it has influence and power far beyond its size. Like the tiny spark that kindles a great fire (James 3:5), the tongue may incite rebellions, destroy reputations, or cause the loss of innumerable souls.

Many historians credit Adolf Hitler’s rise to power partly to his abilities as an orator. He won the people of Germany to himself and to his evil policies through his popular speeches.

No one can number the lives ruined by malicious lies and rumors. And only God will know the number of souls that will ultimately be lost because they believed and followed “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Even many Christians today however minimize the importance of their speech. “It was only a little white lie,” they say. Gossip, slander, rumors, and half-truths are spread energetically to all that will listen.

Modern communications make the matter even worse. What the “grapevine” took days to spread now may “Twitter” around the world in seconds. Our tongues have more power for both good and evil than ever. How are we using them?

Paul’s command is very timely:

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

It is just as easy to say a profitable word as it is one that is harmful. And it is far better.

James agrees, and notes that the Christian’s tongue must not be divided, speaking both good and evil.

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, such things ought not to be so” (James 3:10).

Little snakes can kill. Little words can destroy. Let us control our tongues and strive to be perfect.

Evangelistic talk

by Richard Mansel, managing editor

Christians must always be sensitive to what they say. Scripture says that the tongue can set our world on fire (James 3:5). Souls matter more than anything else and we must do all we can not to lead them away from God (Matthew 16:26).

In a sense, everything Christians do involves evangelism. Our words and deeds must all be focused on glorifying God (Ephesians 3:20-21). When we violate these goals, we endanger our godly influence and threaten the work of the Lord.

When we are talking to Christians and non-Christians, what we say and how we phrase it will speak for or against God. Accordingly, we must very aware of our speech and demeanor.

Evangelistic talk (ET) means that we see all of life as evangelism and we utilize wisdom at all times. Each time we engage someone, we can do harm or good for their souls.

For example, an unfaithful Christian walks into the building for worship on Sunday morning. With negative evangelistic talk we would say something like, “Where have you been?” We have likely destroyed any chance at their repentance. We should have expressed how thrilled we were to see them and asked them to sit with us.

From the pulpit (in announcements, classes and sermons) we must be careful what we say. Berating the congregation in front of visitors is disastrous. They will have every excuse not to return.

Reproving and rebuking can be done in love and gentleness, if we are wise.

Do we give this any thought when we talk to other Christians? Do we insult weak Christians without realizing it and then wonder why they leave? Are we condescending when we should be gracious?

It is like a marriage. No one in the history of the world has ever become a better husband or wife as a result of nagging. Yet, we think that nagging will improve people’s giving and attendance. On the other hand, positive ET would give them a reason to want to be better and to grow.

“And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long” (Psalm 35:28).

If this would constitute all of our evangelistic talk, the Lord’s church would thrive and unity would have a better chance.

Love, grace and mercy should saturate our speech as Christians. We can still stand strong for the Word while using positive ET with the world and our brethren. Souls depend on it.