Imagine you are about to move to a new area. Not just a new location, but a whole new part of the world—surrounded by a new culture and new faces, and without any familiar friends or contacts. Besides the personal, emotional challenges of such a move there would obviously be some significant spiritual challenges to anticipate. Whatever spiritual habits you have in place will be changed or challenged; the fellow Christians by whom you’ve been encouraged and to whom you’ve been accountable won’t be nearby to help you.
The apostle Peter writes to hurting and persecuted Christian believers, who have been “scattered” from their homes and familiar surroundings, and tells them to cast all their anxieties on God knowing that God cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). This is not some puff piece, or academic lecture, or thoughtless encouragement. Peter is communicating to real people, in real pain, and giving them real comfort. God cares about you!
Not long ago our church studied through the Ten Commandments together. In preparation for considering this formidable and famous piece of Old Testament law, it was helpful for me to consider, or reconsider, the goodness of God in all that he does, including giving us the law. More than just a list of do’s and don’ts, Jesus later summarizes all the law, including these “top ten,” in terms of love. So, we might well approach each commandment as an answer to this question first and foremost: how can I better love God and love my neighbor?
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). God is faithful. What a wonderful reminder! God will never give up on what he has begun, he will never renege on any promise he has made. Because God will never give up, we ought to never give up. And yet God’s faithfulness, we are reminded in this very verse of Scripture,
We know that “an idol has no real existence” (1 Corinthians 8:4). Paul, while addressing an immediate problem related to Christian liberty, simultaneously addresses a vital overarching point regarding idolatry. Idols are nothing; they are not just false gods, they are no gods at all. Of course the material, physical stuff from which the idol is made is real, but the god it represents does not exist. There is no need to fear idol gods, and there is certainly no reason to worship them.
What does the church of Jesus Christ really look like? Of course, I am not talking about the architectural style of the building in which it meets, but what a local body of believers looks like. We know the church should be sound in doctrine and zealous in proclaiming the gospel. But how does a sound church really function?
In Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul gives us four specific prayer requests he had for the people of God. And all of them center around the person and work of Jesus Christ: that Christ’s Spirit give you strength, as Christ lives in you by faith, giving you an ever-deepening, familiar knowledge of Christ-love, that you may enjoy the very best, the fullness, of what God has to offer: Jesus!
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me“ (Psalm 23:4). We too often talk about God, without talking to God. We can give mental assent to certain Bible teaching – Jesus is Lord, Jesus is a Shepherd, Jesus is awesome – but not say to Jesus, “Rule my life as my Lord, be my Shepherd, help me to walk in awe of you!”
Worshiping God is both our duty and our privilege, no matter who we are. Jesus responded to Satan’s temptation with the biblical command, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). If Jesus would quote this command even to Satan, surely there is no one exempt from the force of its demands. This is because, as Psalm 95:6 reminds us, the call to worship our Lord God arises from the reality that he is “our maker.” Every creature owes the one Creator their worship.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking we must choose between knowledge and passion; but in fact the two feed each other, especially in relation to Jesus (2 Peter 3:11-18). The more we learn about Jesus, the more we will love and trust him; on the other hand, it is impossible to genuinely love or truly trust someone you don’t even know (Matthew 11:28-29; Romans 10:14). This is why knowledge is so important. And this is why every Christian should be a dedicated, life-time learner. A heart cannot be renewed by knowledge that the head never took in.
“As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!“ (Psalm 40:17). I am poor and needy. Is that your self-description today? It is the reality, whether we recognize it or not. No matter how strong, healthy, or financially secure we may feel at the moment, we are poor and needy because we have nothing in ourselves. But at times we feel it much more keenly than at other seasons, don’t we? There are times when we might read this and wonder
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? … And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Such were some of you. On one hand, what sweet words these are to believers! The church is not for perfect people but for sin-scarred, once-blind, still struggling people.
“Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you“ (2 Thessalonians 3:1). In this single verse Paul reminds of the importance of two of the chief things God has given us to do in the world: prayer and proclaiming God’s Word, both for the glory of God. Pray! Pray for us as ministers of the gospel; but even your prayers for us are ultimately prayers for the advancement of the Word of God.
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh” (Jonah 1:1-2). God spoke plainly to Jonah and instructed him to visit the capital city of Israel’s enemies with a message of repentance and, ultimately, grace. Yet Jonah refused. Why did Jonah — and why do we still today, as recipients of the Great Commission — disobey God?
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1). With these words, the Apostle Paul challenges his young protégé, Timothy, not to grow weary or weak as he endures for the sake of the gospel and the church in Ephesus. The church at this time was experiencing heavy persecution from the Ephesian culture around it, which had little interest in the gospel. But the church was also facing pressure from inside in the form of false teachers. The church, and Timothy, was pressed on all sides.