In times of crises and doubt, the book of Revelation is a wonderful reminder of the sovereignty and salvation of God. The times were far different, the suffering had a human cause, but the book highlights the concern of God, a reminder we urgently need today. Read with me, please, the eighteenth chapter of the book.
God caused the great fall of Babylon, in Revelation 18. The name of the city figuratively represented Rome. As the great capital of Babylonia had fallen, so would the center of the Roman empire, whence came the sufferings and persecutions of the saints to whom the apostle John had written. Continue reading “Mighty is the Lord God who judges”
To see the first and last times that a word occurs in the Bible can often produce interesting observations. This, of course, is pretty much an English exercise for most people. Also, since one will be looking at Hebrew and Greek in the original languages, the exercise doesn’t work so well.
Among the versions there will be variations. (I use the NET Bible.) Still, it’s sometimes a fascinating game, much more so than those that most people play.
This month’s theme and key word is work. In the U.S., at the moment, more people are employed (which we assume means they’re working) than ever before, although the coronavirus may change that. Continue reading “Rest from hard work”
Timothy is one of those people that we know a little about but not a lot. As Paul began his second letter to him we see more of who he was, but would still like to know more.
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:6-8 NIV)
We learn that through Paul Timothy had received a gift, presumably one of the gifts of the Spirit. We don’t know what this gift was but we do know that Timothy wasn’t using it. Paul told his young friend that he needed to “fan into flame the gift of God” – he needed to get it burning within him again. Continue reading “Who do we believe in?”
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”
Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with people it didn’t like. Crucifixion was Rome’s way of dealing with enemies. Its gruesome nature was a part of Rome telling people they’d best behave or they might find themselves hanging from a cross one day.
Jesus had a discussion with his disciples that put the figure of the cross front and center. In Luke 9, Jesus told the men following him that if they were his disciples, they must deny self and take up a cross. The condemned was required to carry his own cross to the place of execution. The figure is clear. Continue reading “Following Jesus involves a cross”
“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”
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”
What is it about proclaiming Jesus that stirs up opposition? This isn’t unique to our times. As Paul and Barnabas were traveling on their first journey they were constantly encountering opposition. This came from the Jews. Initially they were curious and wanted to hear more. But as Paul began to attract large crowds the Jews became jealous. They were thrown out of Pisidia.
When they arrived in Iconium “the same thing happened” (Acts 14:1 NET). Here the Jews stirred up the Gentiles and wanted to stone Paul and Barnabas – they fled to Lystra.
“In Lystra sat a man who could not use his feet, lame from birth, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he was speaking. When Paul stared intently at him and saw he had faith to be healed, he said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And the man leaped up and began walking.” (Acts 14:8-10) Continue reading “Opposition to the gospel”
A blinded and humbled man fell before the voice of the Author of life. The soul-piercing question echoes through the ages, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul’s persecutions had begun with the violent stoning of Stephen, and resulted in the scattering of Christians (Acts 8:1-3).
Saul wasn’t satisfied with mere intimidation, he ravaged the church. Later, he would reveal that it was his intent to destroy the church of God through violence (Galatians 1:13). Not content with dispersing believers, in his raging fury, he persecuted Christians to foreign cities (Acts 26:11). It is here, on the road to Damascus, that his pursuit of violence led to a pursuit of peace. Continue reading “The Christian’s pursuit”
Sometimes we may think that we have it bad as Christians living in the 21st century. Our society seems to be turning against anything having to do with Christianity. But when we compare our situation to those living in the first century, what we go through is insignificant.
Nero was the ruler in Rome. He persecuted Christians, resulting in the deaths of many Christians – including, we believe, the apostles Paul and Peter. As the persecution began, Christians found themselves alienated from those around them. How do you face this type of aggression day after day?
Peter began his first letter by reminding them of all that they had because they were Christians. Continue reading “Our secure hope”