Joy, Prayer, and the Holy Spirit

When we read, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5.18), we should sit up and take notice. God’s will is always the best for his children. The will of God for followers of Jesus is this: — Verse 16 – Rejoice always. — Verse 17 – Pray without […]

What should followers of Jesus do?

Paul summarized what he wanted followers of Jesus to do in two verses. An outline of what he called the church to do contained six points. They have been essential behavior for Christians for centuries. 1 Thessalonians 5.14-15 – And we urge you, brothers and sisters, to admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the […]

Responsibilities for Leaders and Followers

There is a familiar saying that, “If you’re a leader and no one is following you, then you’re just taking a walk.” A reality about leadership is that God has appointed some people to lead and others to follow. The followers are no less important than leaders, and are essential to the successful completion of […]

Lessons in Jesus’ Classroom

When you enter Jesus’ classroom, his important lessons are evident and often repeated. Dallas Willard has written about the lack of ethical teaching in major universities. A person can graduate with an advanced degree and never have a course in correct behavior. When you sit under the teaching of Jesus, you may not learn higher […]

What actions please God?

Faith always has to do with living and behaving according to that faith. From the very beginning, God’s standard for his people was: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19.2). Our Heavenly Father is pleased when his children reflect his character. God is holy and faith in him […]

May Love Increase

Paul told the church in Thessalonica that he prayed for them night and day. He followed that statement with a summary of what he asked God to do for them. 1 Thessalonians 3.11-13 – Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make […]

Faith Under Fire

If you want to know whether the power of God is real, put the experience of God’s grace under pressure. No sooner had the Thessalonians come to faith in Christ than persecution arose. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were driven from the city and the church came under severe opposition. Paul was not able to return […]

The Source of the Power

I often describe the communication of the gospel as “one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.” That statement captures the humble stance humans adopt when helping another person experience God’s grace and salvation. What the statement doesn’t state is the presence of God’s activity in the process. Paul writes about the work of […]

It’s not all about me!

Today, I’m asking blog readers to go beyond personal needs and intercede for nations that are in trouble. Hopefully, the words of these psalms will fuel our prayers for those in need. Psalms 9 and 10 are linked together because as an acrostic psalm every second poetic line begins with a successive letter of the […]

Where do I fit in God’s world?

Psalm 8 is the first song of praise in the Book of Psalms. As God’s essential character is displayed, the place humans have in the world is illuminated. The Psalm begins with the sacred Hebrew name for God. It is designated in modern language translations by printing “LORD” in small capital letters. My YouTube Bible […]

A Prayer for Refugees

When I read the first line of Psalm 7, “O Lord my God, in you I take refuge,” I thought of refugees. Refugees are people who need refuge. While studying Psalm 7 I learned about 50 refugees from Venezuela being flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew seven families from San […]

O Lord, Heal Me

Psalm 103 proclaims the benefits of a relationship with God. Bless the Lord, O my soul,and do not forget all his benefits— Who forgives all your iniquity,who heals all your diseases. (Psalm 103.2-3) How do we approach God when we realize that he has not healed “all our diseases” and that we are facing a […]

The Cost of Lying

Alex Jones told lies about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. A Texas judge has awarded 49+ million dollars from Jones to families who were harmed by his lies. This week, a court in Connecticut will determine another amount Jones must pay families who were harmed by his lies about Sandy Hook being […]

Hope for the Hopeless

Long-term suffering often affects the way people think about God. They may go so far as to echo the accusation hurled against King David. Many are saying to me,“There is no help for you in God.” (Psalm 3.2) “No help from God,” people tell themselves. — God may love me, but he doesn’t show it. […]

Whose Side Will You Choose?

Can you imagine the brazen arrogance of the devil when he tried to convince Jesus to join his side against God? Matthew records the devil’s third effort in this matter. Matthew 4.8 – Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, […]

What Makes For A Good Life?

If you ask Google about what makes for a good life, you can choose from 7.6 billion answers to the question. Young adults answer the “good life” question like this: — 80% believe that personal wealth is the perfect ingredient of the good life. — 50% would like to be famous in their quest for […]

Not Just Talk!

Paul claimed to deeply care for the church in Thessalonica. He wrote to them, “So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves because you have become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2.8). As someone whose vocation […]

Persecution Everywhere!

Paul preached the good news of God’s love despite intense persecution from diverse opponents. Rudy Ross and I discuss the nature of religious persecution in the first-century Greco-Roman world in today’s YouTube video. Rudy provides an interesting perspective from a Jewish perspective. Not in Vain Paul’s ministry was quite fruitful, even if there was severe […]

Living a Jesus-Kind-Of-Life

If you are a regular reader of my blog articles, you will know that I am quite fond of Dallas Willard’s phrase, “living a Jesus-kind-of-life.” Today’s passage in First Thessalonians reminds me of Willard’s teaching. Imitate Jesus and Spiritual Giants What does it look like to live a Jesus-kind-of-life. Paul didn’t use the phrase, but […]

Remember the Day

I remember the day, the time, where I was when I learned that President John Kennedy was assassinated. The same is true of the 9/11 attacks and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. I recall July 1967 when I attended a Friday night church service at the Southside Baptist Church. Marvin Graham was the guest preacher […]

Turning the World Upside Down

Paul, Timothy, and Silas had a very brief ministry in Thessalonica. What ended up being a compliment was first meant as an accusation when they said, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also” (Acts 17.6). World views were turned upside down in Thessalonica because people heard the good […]

The Test of Love

Paul knew the power of the crucifixion and resurrection and how it affects all of life. Ephesians 2.14 – For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. Because Jesus unites humanity under the banner of his […]

Love, Yield, Obey, and Pray

Rudy Ross and I conclude our brief study of Colossians with an overview of the remaining verses in the book. Like the letter to the Ephesians, Paul includes instructions about the way members of a household should treat each other. Colossians 3.18-19 – Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. […]

God’s Word in Your Heart

I don’t know if students today diagram sentences, but one of the best ways to understand Bible verses is to diagram them. A diagram of Colossians 3.16-17 will yield treasures of knowledge and wisdom, Colossians 3.16-17 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and […]

Love, Peace, and Gratitude

What if every follower of Jesus were to be clothed with love, peace, and gratitude? It is estimated that 2.56 billion people identify as being Christian. The total population is 8.0 billion people. If nearly one-third of your hamburger were salt, would you notice? If a third of the world’s population lived in love, peace, […]

Taking Your Inventory

Under the heading, “How It Works,” the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous states, “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.” The Fourth Step is very important to the AA program: “Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” I have used worksheets from the Internet to take my […]

God’s Diverse Family

If we are not careful, we will read Bible passages and miss the astounding impact the good news of God made in the first century. Paul’s list in verse 11 includes a wide spectrum of people, who normally would have nothing to do with each other. Colossians 3.11 – In that renewal there is no […]

Living A Balanced Christian Life

On one hand, it was necessary for Paul to counter the demands of extreme religious teachers. He wrote, “Why do you submit to regulations, ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’”? (Colossians 2.20-21) On the other hand, when Christian freedom is proclaimed some may be tempted to say, “God and I have a […]

Think About It!

What should we think about? When God thinks about us what is on his mind? These bullet points from Ephesians 2 declare the reality of God’s thoughts about us. — Verse 1 – We were dead through the trespasses and sins. — Verse 3 – All of us once lived among them . . . […]

The Problem with Negative Religion

An old Baptist preacher (I am old and a Baptist preacher) said, “We don’t drink, smoke, cuss, chew, or go with those who do.” Another preacher turned to him and said, “There’s a graveyard full of people like that!” The question is whether religion is a list of what we are against, or whether it […]

The Value of Religious Festivals

Rudy Ross explains the value of religious festivals in today’s YouTube video on the Bob Spradling channel. Jewish festivals and special days provide a foundation that helps us understand what God has done through Jesus and the gift of the Spirit. Rudy provides a good corrective to the way Paul’s words in Colossians are often […]

What have you done for me lately?

Philip Melanchthon, a contemporary of Martin Luther observed, “To know Christ is to know his benefits.” When we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, there are benefits that we should claim as our own. Paul frequently uses the phrase “in him,” “in Christ,” or “in the Spirit” to describe a living relationship with the […]

Watch Out! Don’t Get Trapped!

One of my most painful memories as a pastor came in the mid-1970s. I uncritically used thoughts from a commentary on the Gospel of Mark when I spoke in a church in North Mississippi. The week before I spoke, the pastor of the church had completed a series of sermons that contradicted my teaching. He […]

Walk This Way!

A short New Testament Greek lesson may help us better appreciate Paul’s message to the church. The indicative mood presents the action or the event as something real or certain, in other words as an objective fact. The verb form used both in English and Greek to give commands is called imperative. When Paul gives […]

Christ in You, the Hope of Glory

Hidden within the final verses of the first chapter of Colossians is a magnificent truth. Paul was a minister of the gospel – the good news of God’s love – because God offered a magnificent gift to people who follow Jesus. Colossians 1.25-27 – I became its minister according to God’s commission that was given […]

The “Holy Ground” of Suffering

Paul would have made a poor “health and wealth” preacher. Throughout much of his letters to the Corinthians, Paul had to defend his willingness to work rather than accept the patronage of wealthy church members. Because of his commitment to Jesus, his health was often compromised. — 1 Corinthians 6.4-5, 8-10 – As servants of […]

How God Makes Peace with His Enemies

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5.9). As the Son of God, Jesus knows the blessing that comes from making peace with other people. He is quite aware of what goes into bringing hostile parties together. Paul described the process […]

Why Jesus Is All We Need

Colossians 1.15-20 is a crucial statement of faith about Jesus. When we think about who Jesus is, we can all declare that Jesus is all that we need. Colossians 1.17-19 – He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is […]

Christ is All!

I am borrowing the title for this article from Dr. David Bryant, a prayer leader in New York. Dr. Bryant is a dynamic man of prayer and a profound lover of God. Paul’s hymn in Colossians presents extremely valuable truths about Jesus. Colossians 1.15-17 – He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn […]

God’s Gracious Rescue Plan

Paul’s prayer for the church included a request for strength and gratitude for God’s gracious rescue. Colossians 1.11-12 – May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, so that you may have all endurance and patience, joyfully Giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share […]

Knowing and Doing God’s Will

How do you know what is God’s will for your life? Once you believe you know his will, what are you going to do about it? Paul gives some insights in his prayer for the church. Colossians 1.9-10 – For this reason, since the day we heard it, we have not ceased praying for you […]

Open to God’s Love

One of the best explanations of prayer is based on Revelation 3.20. Jesus is speaking and says: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3.20). Our problems, internal impulses, and worries are […]

Our Need and God’s Provision

As a servant of God, Paul knew the full range of experiences, both good and bad. He faced, “great endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, and hunger” (2 Corinthians 6.5). While in jail in Ephesus, Paul wrote, “I rejoice in the Lord greatly,” (Philippians 4.10). The word “rejoice” was mentioned more […]

Worried? Let’s Pray

For the second time in two weeks, my blog article doesn’t match the video that Rudy Ross and I produce. There’s a computer reason why this is so, but it is mostly human error. In the words of my friends who have been trained by the Missouri Department of Corrections let me say, “I apologize […]

Spiritual Lessons About Our Thought Lives

Philippians is a short letter, but it is filled with powerful lessons for followers of Jesus. One lesson considers our thought lives. Philippians 4.8-9 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there […]