Archives For Persecution


Does the Bible offer hope to teenagers who live with emotional and spiritual pain?  What about all the suffering that exists in the world today?  What can we do as Christians to help others through these tough times?  In this post I want to share with you a few different ways to explain to teens how to endure pain and what God is ultimately doing to evil and suffering in the end.

The problem of our pain and suffering has a source and if we do not understand that source then we will not understand the solutions that God provides.  The problem that exists in this world is sin.  If we do not place the blame on sin, then we will not understand the answers God provides in the Bible.  Sin is the cause and reason for pain and suffering.

Sin began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6).  We find in the rest of Genesis 3 that every area of life was dramatically affected by sin.  This sin has touched the world around us.  The entire message of the Bible from Genesis 3 on is how God is dealing with this sin problem.  Let us look at some of the solutions to this problem.

The first solution to the problem of evil and suffering is to understand your purpose.  The Bible tells us that our purpose is to know God (Philippians 3:10).  This may not give a solution but it may give you motivation to endure what you are going through.  There are two ways to find a purpose in your suffering.  The first is to know that God wants you holy, not happy (1 Peter 1:15).  This may mean that the suffering that is taking place is intended to make you a better person.  God does not care how happy you are if you are leading a life that will end up in hell!  The suffering that comes from our personal sin helps us turn back to God.  We must also remember that some of the things we endure make us look to a loving, heavenly Father for answers.  Another perspective from your purpose of knowing God is that the pain and suffering may be a test of spiritual maturity.  Do you love God for God’s sake, or for what you get from God?  Much of the pain we endure can bring about glory for God or can remind us about spiritual truths.  Death is a reminder of our short time on earth.  Suffering as a Christian can be a testament to others who see our faith.  Just enduring suffering with an understanding that God still loves us is an amazing tool for evangelism and encouragement.  These two areas of knowing God help us to look at pain, evil, and suffering differently.

The second solution to pain and suffering is that we need to understand that on the cross, Jesus did the ultimate judo move to sin.  If sin is the ultimate enemy, then what Jesus accomplished on the cross defeats its power.  What is the essence of the marital art of judo?  To use your enemy’s strengths against them!  Think about what Jesus does for us on the cross.  1) He defeated all the political evil that exists in the world.  He was tried and found guilty unjustly by Pontius Pilate.  2)  He also defeated all the religious evils.  The Pharisees and Sadducees called for his arrest and crucifixion.  3)  All the Satanic evil was defeated.  Satan entered Judas’ heart to turn Jesus over to the authorities.  These three areas were turned against themselves with Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection three days later.  There is hope for us all in the fact that the cross took the evil in the world and defeated it!

The third area is my personal favorite.  We need to understand that in the end God makes everything new!  Revelation 21:5 says this, “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”  Stop and think about this for just a second.  God does not say, “Behold, I am making all new things.”  What God says is that “I am making all things new,” in that order.  God, in the end, takes all that is wrong in the world and put it back to what is right!  Romans 8 gives an even clearer picture when it says in verse 21, “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”  Even the evils that fall on us from the physical world will be made right in the end!  The final message of the Bible is that in the end, God makes everything new!  What has existed in this sinful, broken world will be made right in the end.  Isn’t that more of what we long for than just a simple answer in the midst of our suffering?  

 As we close, I am reminded of the words of C. S. Lewis when we think of the day when Christ returns and turns all that is wrong back to the way God wants it to be.  Lewis says, “they say of some temporal suffering, ‘no future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”   Today, we eagerly wait for that glory and we need to understand that with Christ’s work on the cross all pain, evil, and suffering has been defeated!

Barry Throneberry has been the youth and family minister at the Highland Church of Christ for over 8 years.  He is married to Rebecca Schwartz Throneberry and writes a blog called Theology with Throneberry.  He is also part of the team that does the Studentminister.com podcast.  His interests are in the areas of Theology, Spiritual Disciplines, and Apologetics.
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African American teenaged student holding Help signWhen it comes to the faith formation of young people, we can confidently make two observations. First, parents matter most. Second, peers matter a whole lot too. Study after study has shown that adolescents who experience a vibrant faith at home are much more likely to stay devoted throughout life. However, we know that peers make a significant impact as well. Quite simply, if the closest friends of a teenager are people of faith, he or she is much more likely to be a person of faith, and the opposite holds true as well. This much we have learned from research.

Now, what does the Bible have to say on the influence of peers?

Let’s start with the wisdom of the Proverbs writer. He tells us that those who seek the wisdom of God will “walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous” (2:20).

Later, the writer goes a step further with a contrast: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (13:20).

Now, let’s throw in this ancient Greek adage the Apostle Paul employs: “Bad company ruins good morals” (I Corinthians 15:33).

The Bible, as we can see, clearly tells us that choosing the right friends is important because they hold sway over our decisions.

There. Now we’ve got our sociological and our theological reasons for hanging out with the right crowd. But you already knew this was true, right? Even without the witness of survey research and the Scriptures, we instinctively know that the company we keep matters; that our friends can greatly impact and even alter the paths our lives will take. This is unquestionably true! However, believing something is not the same as practicing it. How well do we let this reality inform our ministry to young people? Here are three suggestions for ministry, based on the truth that peers make a big difference on faith:

First, let’s hang on to and defend the fun, social events in youth ministry. The great influence of peers on faithfulness validates these! Current forms of youth ministry are being critiqued by many voices. However, one of the things we’ve gotten right is this: there is value in simply “getting these kids together.” Since peers make such a substantial difference on the faith of young people, every journey to Six Flags is justified, every tiring lock-in is warranted, and every trip to the bowling alley is vindicated. These and other fun events give kids of faith a chance to be with other kids of faith. Being together forms bonds which grow into friendships and young Christians need to have friendships with other young Christians to increase the likelihood that they will profess Christ throughout life.

Second, it may be helpful for churches and youth ministries to focus their ministry efforts on clusters instead of individuals. This game plan would match up better with the current social landscape of adolescents. Young people today join themselves together in tight-knit peer groups that Chap Clark calls clusters. Listen to his explanation: “Today, high schools are populated by smaller groupings of friends, or clusters, who navigate as a unit the complex network of social interdependence with a loyalty similar to that of a family” (Chap Clark, Hurt, 74-75). We lose far too many kids for this stated reason: “I just don’t have any friends in the group.” However, if we reach out to entire clusters of friends, we can potentially change this perennial problem. And if we just can’t reach an entire cluster, then we must aim to create new clusters of Christian young people within the church.

Third, let’s remind our young people of the greatest peer of all: Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, scripture tells us that the Lord would speak to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). That’s a pretty close relationship. But now through Jesus Christ, God brings Himself nearer than at any other time in history. Jesus is not only our Savior and Lord, but also our Friend. He can help us in temptation because he suffered through temptation himself (Hebrews 2:18). He intercedes for us, going to God on our behalf and cleansing us from sin (Hebrews 7:25; I John 1:7). Jesus’s friendship can compensate for lackluster and imperfect friendships on earth. To be sure, teenagers need to know that Jesus is their definitive Lord. But they also need to know that He is their perfect Peer.

What do you think about these suggestions? What are some other implications for ministry from the truth that peers greatly impact the faith of young people?

Joseph Horton has been the youth and family minister at the Winchester Church of Christ for nearly four years now. He graduated from Freed-Hardeman University and is now working toward an MDiv at Harding Graduate School of Religion. He is married to Lauren and they have a six-month old daughter, Elise. Above all, he loves the Lord and seeks to be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.


Bully-ing:

A Teenage Problem. A Gospel Resolution.

“I just want the bullying to stop. That is all I ever wanted. I used to love going to school. Now I hate it.”

Statements like this are made every day by teenagers across the nation. We can all tell a story about a bully, and share painful memories of instances where we were bullied. You can find them and define them in schools, workplaces, families, friendships and churches…

  • Bullies are the little people who try to be BIG by making you feel little.
  • Bullies are self-important individuals who try to strong-arm you into their subjection.
  • Bullies attempt to reign on the throne of your life. They want to be king, chief, ruler and first in everything.
  • Bullies thrive wherever authority is weak.
  • Bullies are brutal violators of the Golden Rule of Jesus Christ.

Teenagers are dealing with these bullies on a daily basis. So here are a few things they need to hear, know, and embrace from a Biblical standpoint:

Satan, in his search for dominion, is the greatest of all bullies. He is the “tough guy” strong-arming, harassing, tormenting, intimidating, pressuring, bulldozing and pushing around people like you. Satan seeks to dominate the throne of your world. And Satan has done well.

You’ve been threatened. You’ve been called names. Rumors have spread about you. People have pushed you around and treated you cruelly. You’ve suffered through physical pain and injury. In this world, the bully-tactics of Satan are evident. The devil has treated the world the way bullies take control of younger kids in the schoolyard.

But you must remember God has a history of humbling bullies. God marked bully Cain. God drowned the chariots of bully Pharaoh. God tumbled the giant bully, Goliath. And ultimately, God crushed the head of the bully serpent, Satan.

Remember?

Satan, and his bully followers, coerced and constrained and crucified Jesus Christ on a cross. They stole his lunch money (rightful glory), called him names (hurled insults), and shoved Him into a locker (a burial tomb).

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 ESV)

But by the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, Satan no longer rules the house.

A Gospel Resolution: By the work of Jesus Christ, God has bound the strong-man bully Satan. The gospel is the news that Jesus came to seize Satan, stripping away his grip on you, and rescued you for the kingdom of God.

“Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” (Matthew 12:29 ESV)

Young people…

Satan is your greatest adversary, but Jesus is your greatest Friend. Satan is your greatest bully, but Jesus is the Bridegroom, who protects you as his bride. Satan is your greatest strong-man captor, but Jesus is your sacrificial God-man deliverer.

The next bully who tries to make you feel little, strong-arm you, and reign on God’s rightful throne…

  • Remind yourself of the authority found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the suffering servant, gave hope to underdogs like you and me. When you suffer daily oppression from bullies at school, remember who wins in the end.
  • Resolve to stand up. When you choose to stand up against a bully, you’re reflecting the image of Christ, who rose up against sin’s greatest intimidator, Satan.
  • Rediscover boldness in the gospel. Jesus frees us and gives us hope when facing all worldly masters, idols, and bullies. Don’t be afraid to confront bully behavior, report bully behavior or rise up against bully behavior.
  • Retell yourself the story of salvation. God created you. Satan captured (bullied) you. Jesus freed you.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7 ESV)

This article was written by Scott Bond, Jr.  Scott is the Youth & Family Minister at the Martin Church of Christ in Martin, Tennessee. He majored in Biblical Studies at Freed-Hardeman University. Scott is married to Kaci Bond, and has one daughter, Claire. Scott confesses to be a struggling sinner thankful for an all-sufficient Savior.


Rarely do I read a book that captivates me to the point where I cannot put it down.  It was 11:05pm last night and I was on page 115 or so…I finished the book at 1:30am this morning reading about 120 pages in the process.  The book encapsulates themes of redemption, reconciliation, providence, suffering, theodicy and hope all in a narrative told by two men who come from very different backgrounds. 

Ron Hall is a white Texas man who finds success very quickly in selling expensive paintings and soon builds a 7-figure portfolio and while it seems everything he touches turns to success the opposite is true for his failing marriage. 

Juxtaposed with Ron’s success is Denver’s tragedy.  Growing up in the racial and oppressive cotton fields of Red River Parish Louisiana Denver dreamed of things bigger than himself but every time he turned the corner something unfair beset him.  So he ran away from the sharecropping slavery of the Bayou to the homeless streets of Fort Worth, Texas.  Little did he know a sweet lady by the name of Deborah Hall would soon unite him to Ron Hall and both would begin a journey that is nothing short than God-sent. 

This book is addictive and all true and a story that needs to be heard by people across the board.  It highlights false preconceptions about the homeless and testifies of the amazing power of relationships that restore marriages, churches and a broken community.  I highly recommend this book…

Silencing the Haters

July 26, 2010 — 4 Comments

Last night the youth group and I had an excellent period of worship at our monthly teen devotional.  I directed our thoughts from Philippians 1:27-30 and it seemed to be a good grounding point for the challenging next few weeks for the teenagers.  The Philippian church was not without her faults as apparently there were some preachers who were selfish in their desire to proclaim the gospel (1:15-17).  This must have been frustrating for Paul to see men proclaim a gospel yet only do so for selfish interests and personal gain.  Then Paul addressed something in Philippians 1:27-30 that caught my attention:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (NIV). 

“Whatever happens” is a bit of an understatement when you see the difficulties Paul himself faced (e.g. 2 Cor. 11:16-32).  He told them to act like citizens who are worthy of the death of Christ which is the gospel of Christ.  But he told them to not be alarmed by those who oppose you (ESV “opponents”).  We all have our “haters” don’t we?  Haters come in all shapes and sizes.  Haters are those who poke fun at the fact that you are a Christian and do things differently than they do.  Haters like to belittle your church participation and often are cynical at what you are trying to do.  Haters look at the church and are quick to point out her flaws, her inconsistencies and her hypocrisies.  Haters do not recognize the good that comes out of the church only the bad aspects.  Haters try to stifle, stymie, stall and cause the church to stalemate.  Haters, like the Devil, are equal opportunity destroyers lurking about seeking ways to bring the church down.  Haters are outside the church but often you will find some haters who are inside the church.     

What do we do about them?  Paul says to not be afraid of them and to keep on acting in a manner worthy of the gospel.  In the words of Nehemiah we need to say:

 “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (6:3). 

Paul said that these haters will eventually go away because doing the right thing as a Christian is a sign of their destruction.  So may I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing—yea—do what you are doing with even more zeal and let God and the gospel take care of the haters.