by Stan Smith
Look around. Marriages are in trouble. Indeed, marriage itself is in trouble. Church attendance is declining. Genuine Christians are harder to find. Gross immorality is becoming mainstream. We have bands of young men who think it's fun to randomly knock people down on the streets, crazy youth who decide to shoot up a school, vicious parents who abuse and kill their own children. We have a government that fails to protect its people and provides greater misery instead in the name of compassion. The only genuine source of any moral code is ridiculed in the streets and barred ( Click for more )
What is Christmas really all about? It's about white. You know, "white Christmas", like the one I'm dreaming about. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7).
Yeah, white ... like snow. Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without trees. Trees symbolize Christmas. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" (Galatians 3:13).
The tree is an important component of Christmas. It's not possible to ( Click for more )
Christmas. The term conjures up all sorts of things. Sparkling trees, shiny packages, singing, happiness -- all seem to be components of Christmas. In fact, Christmas has few indispensable elements. First, there is the whole "Virgin Birth" thing. It's the start of the story, after all. Then there are angels who sing to shepherds (okay, the text doesn't actually say they sang) and tell them about the Savior. You have some wise men, some "kings", some magi who follow a star to find the King. These are all basic components of the story of Christmas without ( Click for more )
There's something I've never been able to quite figure out. At this time of year you will find a whole host of movies, stories, and people who argue for the existence of Santa Claus. It's as if some folks believe that prior to the Santa Claus myth, "Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men" didn't exist. Now, to be fair, I suppose I can imagine why those who have no real belief in God or faith in Christ would need this tool. What I don't understand is the number of Christian parents that perpetuate this story to their children as if it is real. Perhaps the fact that ( Click for more )
That's what Paul wrote. And we like that. It's good stuff. In fact, it's as if Paul has lost all hope of expressing what he was trying to get across. "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been ( Click for more )
Behind the holiday is the famous "first Thanksgiving" put on by the Pilgrims in 1621. The Plymouth colonists and the local Indians shared a meal together. It wasn't until 1863 that the holiday became official. President Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November as a national Day of Thanksgiving. Nationally, it made sense back then, but it's somewhat hard to believe today. I mean, religion in the public square is frowned upon. How in the world we get away with having a "national day of Thanksgiving" (let alone the day that follows) is hard to say. ( Click for more )
One of the wonderful promises that we have from God is that He forgives and forgets sin. "I am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25). How wonderful! So while I am pretty good at remembering my own sin, God inflicts Himself with some divine form of Alzheimer's, with some sort of supernatural selective recall where not only does He not remember my sin, but He also doesn't pay attention when I remember my sin. "Dear God," I might pray, "I still feel so bad for that particular sin. Please, ( Click for more )
The numbers of folk even among Christians -- even among "evangelical" Christians -- who claim that the Bible is the Word of God, a God-breathed, inerrant, infallible text handed down to us through the centuries and protected by God for our use today is dwindling. There are a variety of views, of course, but that particular one is passing away. What other options are there? The Bible is not applicable for today. You seem to think that this book can still be applied to the life and times of the 21st century. You think that because some 1century guy wrote against, ( Click for more )
Read through the Gospels and you'll find story after story of Jesus healing people. It seems as if He healed people wherever He went. Why did He do that? You might say, "It's because He loved them." Not in the way you are thinking. "It was because He wanted their best." Again, not in the way you are thinking. "It's what a good God does." Not ... at all. (Think about it. God is good ... and lots of people, even people of faith, are not healed.) Despite the claim by many "health and wealth" teachers, He didn't do it because people are ( Click for more )
It's an interesting passage. Israelites had come home from Babylon to begin rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple. They worked ... for awhile. Then they stopped work on the Temple. The "old ( Click for more )
John 6 begins with John's version of the feeding of the 5,000. You remember that story. Jesus uses 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed a crowd consisting of 5,000 men (and whoever else was there) with 12 baskets left over (John 6:1-13). Good stuff. Next, Jesus sends His disciples across the Sea of Galilee and then does His famous water-walk (John 6:15-21). On the other side in the morning the crowd found Him again. But before they can even get in a good question, Jesus answered them: "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves ( Click for more )
I've been reading Ephesians for the past few weeks. I found this quite interesting. 1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous ( Click for more )
There is a well-known account of the Pharisees testing Jesus with a particularly difficult argument they themselves were having (Matt 19:1-12). "Is it right to divorce for any reason whatsoever?" Most Christians who have spent any time in their Bibles or in church have heard this story and know Jesus's answer. "What God has joined together let no man separate" (Matthew 19:6). I would guess, however, that even more prevalent than that answer is the other answer Jesus gave. "Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, ( Click for more )
It is standard morality in today's society that sex is primarily a recreational pastime that carries no special meaning and ought to be enjoyed fully without any meddling from backward, moral prudes. "You stay out of my bedroom and I'll stay out of your church." Even among self-declared Christians there is a sense that we've been too narrow on our sexual ethics and we need to lighten up a bit. So more couples are "living together in sin" to use a euphemism from an earlier era. More self-professed believers are arguing for the morality of homosexual sex ( Click for more )
Given that Satan encourages people toward "not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (Mark 8:33), think for a moment about the large ramifications of such a thought process. If I am going to avoid Satan's ploy and set my mind on God's interests, not Man's, how would that look? Consider, for a moment, the mundane. Remembering that "from Him (God) and through Him and to Him are all things" (Romans 11:36), how would we think about ... sex? You see, in our normal mode of operation (you know, the sinful one, the one focused on Man's ( Click for more )
There are some verses in the Bible that are, let's face it, just startling. Like when Jesus said, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). Really? Wow! And these typically need some thought and explanation. One of those is this one from the lips of Jesus: "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or ( Click for more )
According to New York Magazine, the total number of people killed in the 9/11 attack was 2,753. That included 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 police officers, 1,402 employees in Tower One, and 614 employees from Tower Two. At full capacity, the Twin Towers had a capacity of 50,000 workers and up to 200,000 visitors, but on that morning only 14,000 to 19,000 were inside. So the death count went from 50,000 to 6,700 to less than 3,000.
On the 4 aircraft that crashed that day, American Airlines Flight 11 lost 87 people, United Flight 175 lost 60, American Airlines Flight ( Click for more )
It is my suspicion that if you have never questioned what you believe, you may not actually believe it. Well, perhaps that's not fully accurate, but the truth is that we always act on what we truly believe. James has an interesting phrase that we very often hear but don't take in. He says "the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (James 1:3). If you haven't had your faith tested, there is a good chance that you lack "steadfastness." Believing what you believe is easy when it's not challenged. The question is what do you do with what you believe when ( Click for more )
The Bible regards Satan as a real being. He isn't a myth, a feeling, generic "evil". He is an actual angel who fell from his first estate (Luke 10:18). He is real. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about Satan. He was in the garden of Eden in the form of a serpent (Genesis 3:1ff) 1. He is called "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), "the prince of the power of the air" (Ephesians 2:2), and other terms indicating a certain measure of power. He brought about Jesus's betrayal (John 13:27) and has "dominion" (Acts 26:18). ( Click for more )
"Why, God?" It isn't an uncommon question. It isn't even a wrong question, at least not necessarily. The Psalms have several passages where people ask God why He allows the wicked to advance or why bad things happen. "Why do You stand far away?" (Psalm 10:1). "Why have You forgotten me?" (Psalm 42:9). "Why have You rejected me?" (Psalm 43:2). "Why are You sleeping?" (Psalm 44:23). And on and on. (Do a search for "why" in the Old Testament and you'll find ahost of these types of questions. In a similar vein, the Revelation ( Click for more )
The Jesus we all know and love is a kind, gentle Jesus who accepts the poor and the wicked and is kind to everyone. He isn't mean or loud or far too pointed. He's just ... nice. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the biblical Jesus. You know, the one in the Temple with whips overturning tables and chasing people out. Or the one in the public square talking about the Pharisees -- the local, highly respected religious leaders. Indeed, Jesus's harshest words were reserved for this group of people. We've come to equate the term "pharisee" with a certain type of person. ( Click for more )
One of the most startling biblical stories to me is the story of the escape of Israel from slavery in Egypt. You remember that one. It has been done even in the movies. (Who can picture Moses today without imagining Charlton Heston?) Moses kills an Egyptian in defense of a kinsman and ends up on the run in the desert for 40 years. There he encounters ... God. The burning bush that didn't burn sends him back to Pharaoh to tell him to "Let My people go." And Pharaoh -- shock of shocks -- says, "No." What follows is a display of power never before or after ( Click for more )
Recently I've seen two of the Sherwood Pictures movies, Courageous and Fireproof. If you haven't, you ought to. Sherwood Pictures is the "movie arm" of Sherwood Baptist Church. They are movie makers who make Christian movies with very good Christian messages. Flywheel, believe it or not, is about a Christian used car salesman who decides to be an honest used car salesman for Christ and ends up, through all the difficulties that entails, having a booming business because people respect honesty. Facing the Giants is about a Christian football coach that leads his team ( Click for more )
What is God's will for my life? Most of us have asked that at one time or another. Sometimes I think it's clearer than we realize. In Paul's first letter to the church at Thessalonica, we read this: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
It all flows together there -- rejoice, pray, give thanks. And it's all in superlatives -- always, without ceasing, in all circumstances. "This," Paul tells his readers, "is the will of God ... for you." ( Click for more )
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