Stand Your Ground

Man standing on mountain

Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory” (2 Samuel 23:11-12).

The passage above describes the valiant efforts of Shammah, one of King David’s “mighty men” (2 Samuel 23:8).* The notable event recorded about him was his defense of a piece of farmland. He “took his stand” and refused to back down, even though he had to fight alone. Of course, he was not truly alone even though “the people fled.” The text makes it clear that “the Lord brought about a great victory” on that day, but he had to be willing to stand his ground and fight.

What is interesting about this passage is that there is no indication given as to the location of this plot of ground. There is no mention of who owned it, what city was nearby, or the region in which it was located. The only information that is given about this land, besides what was grown there, was the fact that the Philistines had gathered in that place to fight. Because the enemy was there, that was the place where Shammah took his stand to fight.Continue Reading

The Result of Following Your Heart

Walking shoes

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

A popular idea in our modern culture is that we should “follow our heart.” While this is popular, it is not wise. Our heart, on its own, will not direct us in the way we need to go. Jeremiah said, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). In the passage quoted at the beginning of this article, the Lord said that man’s heart is “deceitful” and “desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). The rest of that chapter elaborates on this idea.

In this article, we are going to examine that chapter (Jeremiah 17) and see what happens when we follow our heart. However, we first need to understand the context. Jeremiah had been warning the people of Judah about destruction that was coming. They had rejected God, embraced idolatry, and refused to repent of their sin; so God was going to punish them through the Babylonian army that was coming against them. Though we live in a different time and under different circumstances, the basic points are the same. We will experience the same pitfalls as they did if we also “follow our heart.”

What happens when we follow our heart? This chapter describes six consequences that will come from this.Continue Reading

Lessons from the Farmer

Farmer

We are living in anticipation of the Lord’s return. Jesus promised His apostles, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). We are looking forward to that same hope. All the faithful – living and dead – will “meet the Lord in the air” when He returns and then “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This is a comforting thought for the Christian (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Peter spoke of the certainty of this event, but explained that the timing of it was unknown: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). We can be assured that this day is coming, but we do not know when it will be.

Since this is the reality of our existence here on the earth, James encouraged us to be patient. In doing so, he cited the example of a farmer to make his point:

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 4:7-8).

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God’s Plan for Worship

Family in Church

‘Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth’” (John 4:20-24).

In this chapter, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman by a well. The discussion covered several topics, one of which was the issue of worship. After she “perceived” Jesus to be “a prophet” (John 4:19), she brought up a question about worship. In Jesus’ answer, He explained to her some basic principles about worship. These instructions are helpful for us as well.

In this article, we are going to look at what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman and what He teaches about God’s plan for worship. There are four basic points we can take from His instruction on this occasion.Continue Reading

The Reformation and the Restoration: A Tale of Two Movements

Martin Luther and Alexander Campbell

The New Testament repeatedly warns about drifting; in particular, drifting away from the faith. This can be done either individually or collectively.

  • The Hebrew writer warned the Christians to whom he wrote that they “must pay much closer attention to what [they had] heard, so that [they would] not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
  • The Lord Himself rebuked the church in Ephesus because they had “left [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4).

There is always a danger that any one of us – or any one of our churches – could drift away from the faith. However, Paul also warned about a great apostasy that was coming not long after his lifetime.

Let no one in any way deceive you, for it [the return of Christ, as] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5).

Paul explained that this “mystery of lawlessness [was] already at work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). As he described this “man of lawlessness,” he was not referring to one person, but an attitude. This apostasy would take place over some period of time. It was a spirit of error, an attitude that led Christians to depart from the pattern revealed in the New Testament. It was “restrained” for a time (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7) by the persecution from the Roman authorities. However, once that opposition was removed, the departures from the faith would increase exponentially.Continue Reading

The Ancient Paths in a Digital Age

Man with Phone and Bible

Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it”’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

In the context of the passage above, God’s people had departed from His ways; therefore, judgment was coming against them. However, God offered them an opportunity to repent and avoid calamity – to return to the “ancient paths.” Sadly though, they were not willing to do this.

Today, while so many have turned from God, there are still faithful individuals like Jeremiah who echo this call – to return to God and His word and to follow the Lord’s ways. Even with all of the changes and advancements that have taken place in our society, this message is still just as needed.

Regarding the changes and advancements we have seen in our time, perhaps the most significant is the rise of the internet and social media. It has been noted that we are living through “the biggest communication shift in the last 500 years.”* We are now able to communicate with people all around the world and do so instantly. We have access to more information than at any time in human history. The advent of the internet and social media has been as significant in our time as the invention of the printing press was in its time. Of course, not everyone was able to read then, just as not everyone uses the internet and social media today; but its impact is undeniable.

There are many potential uses for digital communication and social media – news, information, entertainment, sports, connecting with family and friends, and so on. However, what we want to focus on here is how we can potentially use these mediums for good and to help lead others to Christ.Continue Reading

Modern Methods of Giving

Texting

[Note: The following article was included in the updated edition of my study, Now Concerning the Collection: A Study of Giving. I am posting it here for the benefit of others who may be considering different methods of giving that have been made available by our modern technology.]

I wrote the original study, Now Concerning the Collection, in 2006 after preaching a lesson (by request) on the topic of giving. At that time, the standard practice for churches to take up the collection – at least the congregations where I had attended – was to pass a basket down each pew into which those in attendance would place their contribution, either in the form of cash or check. This was the way we took up the collection.

Over the fourteen years since then, we have seen many changes that have taken place in our world – including changes in how we use money and make transactions. Many churches now offer online giving that allows someone to give using a credit or debit card online. Other churches offer the option of text giving (via text message) or a mobile giving app.Continue Reading