2020 is in the rearview mirror. Yet, its impact lumbers forward. What 2021 will be remains to be seen.
In some ways the story of Naomi might resonant with the tenor of our experiences in 2020. Her story descended from pleasantness to dwelling in bitterness. Yet that was not the end of her story, nor need it be our story’s ending. Continue reading “A pleasant or bitter house?”
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name…So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:12-19 NIV)
Perhaps we feel that 2020 has been a year in which we have suffered. The world has had to deal with a global pandemic. It has affected all of us in some way. But this really isn’t what Peter was writing about. We haven’t suffered because we are Christians, although some have tried to characterise some of what we have had to go through in this way. The restrictions we have had to live with have not been because we follow Jesus but simply because we are people. Continue reading “Rejoicing in suffering”
If in Heaven we’re going to play harps for all eternity, I don’t want to go there, said a woefully uninformed person. This perspective reveals that people must be careful not to think of Heaven in earthly, carnal concepts, far from God’s revelation in Scripture. This is also a problem for one masculine-centered religion which sees Heaven in terms of access to hundreds of virgins.
What is going to be in Heaven that motivates everyone, men and women, rich and poor, to make every effort to get there? Here’s a short list. Continue reading “What and who will be in Heaven”
The story of Christianity is the story of victory at great cost.
Hunted, beaten, starved, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered, this was the life for many Christians in the first century. Just as their Savior, they chose temporal suffering for eternal satisfaction.
This contrast between victory and loss is seen in vivid colors in the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Following the great worship scene in chapter four, we find an equally awesome display of worship to the Son viewed as a Lion. But that glorious praiseworthy setting is enhanced by the suffering of that Son who became a Lamb slain (Revelation 5:6-8). Continue reading “By the blood”
Life gets rough. How people respond is well known. “Why did God do this to me?” “How can God be good if he allows this to continue?” Adversity can foster many temptations. What role does God play in all of this?
James’ letter takes us straight to our questions about God. He does not answer every question we might pose. Rather he counsels us how to think about God when we are in the thick of it. Continue reading “How to think about God when life is rough”
When disaster strikes, when sorrow overwhelms, when hardship envelops our lives, the first question we often ask is, “Why?”
We wonder why we or the ones we love have to endure pain. We question if God loves us or if we deserve it. We might even demand an answer from God.
Wanting to know why is understandable. Knowing why promises us satisfaction. But does God always tell us why? Continue reading “From why to what now”
By Johnny O. Trail — On I-24 going toward Clarksville between exits twenty-four and nineteen, there was an electric road sign that read “Rough Road Ahead.” This stretch of highway has been problematic for years. It continually washes out and needs constant patches and repairs. Suffice to say it is a very rough road—our vehicle’s suspension and tires can attest to that fact.
Would it not be nice if we had various road signs in our lives to warn of “Rough Roads Ahead”? In the lives of many, this would be a continual warning about situations they encounter down life’s pathway. What type of signs might one see in their travels? Of course, signs only work when they are read and heeded. Continue reading “Rough road ahead”
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?”
Western culture and most of our societies today are based on making one person happy: me. This has infiltrated the thinking of many who would call themselves Christians. Like me, you have probably been told when certain things happen to us that are perceived as ‘bad’ that you are doing something wrong. The prevailing message often taught by many – and that most like to hear – is that if you do everything right, God will bless you and prevent bad things from happening to you. Those who teach this message seem to have never studied the pages of scripture.
We are to live the best lives we can. Peter wrote about this in 1 Peter 3:8-12, emphasising the need to live good, upstanding lives where we don’t give evil for evil but are a blessing to others. He supports what he wrote by quoting Psalm 34:12-16.
He then said, “For who is going to harm you if you are devoted to what is good?” (1 Peter 3:13 NET). If we stopped reading there, we might get the impression that as long as we are faithful to Jesus and do what is right, nothing bad will ever happen to us. But we need to read on … Continue reading “Suffering for doing good”
“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned’ three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26, NKJV).
Paul’s list of his sufferings while preaching the Gospel are absolutely amazing. The experiences cited above are only a relatively small part of the full list found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. One who reads that account might well feel shame to complain about inconveniences and minor persecutions suffered today.
Yet while the extent of Paul’s experience surpasses that of most others, the fact of suffering and danger is a common, expected aspect of the Christian life. Paul promised, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Continue reading “‘Perils in the wilderness’”