Lead The Orchestra

June 30

 

You must be careful how you walk, and where you go, for there are those following you who will set their feet where yours are set (Robert E. Lee)

     Everything rises and falls on leadership (John Maxwell). The church in Thyatira, one of the seven in the Book of Revelation, had been careless in selecting leaders. Their carelessness and irresponsibility caused the Lord to give them a stern rebuke (Revelation 2:20), “I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants.” The future of the church was at stake. Christ rebuked them for allowing a self proclaimed Prophetess, who is referred to as Jezebel, to teach perverted doctrines to the people. Thyatira failed to make this woman accountable to the Biblical standards of leadership outlined in the Scriptures (Revelation 2:2). Jezebel is a symbolic name of reproach given to this lady because she mirrored the devious character of King Ahab’s wife; a wicked pagan queen (1 Kings 16). Leaders should be the chief repenters (Jack Miller).

     Thyatira City had a number of trade guilds or unions comprised of workers in wool, leather, linen, bronze, dyers, potters, bakers and slave dealers. Christians in Thyatira refused to join the unions because of their pagan practices where the common meals began and ended with a formal sacrifice to the gods. The meat they served had been offered to idols and these gatherings were occasions for drunken revelry and slack morality. Jezebel pled for compromise with the world’s standards in the interest of business and commercial prosperity. The church at Thyatira was on the verge of failing because they were being influenced by false teachers. The man or woman who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd (James Crook).

     Jesus describes Himself to Thyatira as the one who has eyes like a flame of fire. Christ’s omniscience, anger against sin and His power to bring hidden things to light is portrayed in this symbolic language (Hebrews 4:13). Everything is laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Guard yourself from the temptation to compromise faith by following anyone offering the world at the expense of heaven. Those who follow Jezebel will experience great tribulation. This so called prophetess was given ample opportunity to repent but she refused, therefore sickness and suffering was the consequence of her rebellion against God (Revelation 2:22:). A bed of affliction and suffering awaits those who accept that which God cannot tolerate. Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow (Chinese proverb).

Two Inches Closer

June 29

 

The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher (Thomas Huxley)

     Resting on top of the beautiful casket sat a lovely centerpiece of red roses and a plexiglass box containing a pair of brown shoes. These shoes belonged to Mr. Bob McMahan the owner of a small family business, specializing in making quality mattresses.

     One day while stacking bedding supplies at the shop, Bob fell and broke his heel. He hobbled around for months and after recovering from the accident, Mr. McMahan went through countless pairs of shoes, trying to find a fit that didn’t hurt his feet.

     Being both practical and industrious he decided to use his trusty pocketknife, along with a little ingenuity, to cut the hurt out of his shoes. He whittled pair after pair, some he cut the ends off and on others he made various kinds of adjustments, all to the amusement of his family. Mr. McMahan dealt with the pain he experienced by cutting away at the part, which made life uncomfortable for him. Finally, one Monday he found a perfect pair of platform shoes that made him two inches taller and that fit perfectly. There was a new bounce in his step for three days, just before he had a heart attack and died instantly.

     At his funeral, Bob’s shoes were placed on his coffin as a memorial and serve as a great object lesson for the grief, anger, guilt and loneliness we face in life. Never give in and never give up. Whittle away, with a positive faith in Christ, at the things which cause hurt in your life. Walk with the Lord and overcome every adversity that rubs you the wrong way (Ephesians 6:15). Those shoes remain in the McMahan family as a memorial to Bob’s tenacity and as a reminder that only Christ can heal the often time painful steps which we must take in our journey through life (Colossians 2:6). Work hard and stand tall, rising two inches above your pain; two inches closer to God.

Moses Assumed

June 28

 

Never assume the obvious is true. (William Safire)

     Moses understood that God was calling him to lead Israel out of slavery but he acted on an assumption that almost destroyed his life. Acts 7:22-25 and Hebrews 11:24-25 says, “When Moses…was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit the children of Israel…for he supposed his brethren would understand that God would deliver them by his hand…. He refused to be recognized as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and committed himself to will of God.” He defied the sovereign ruler of Egypt by killing an Egyptian who was abusing a Jew. All the while Moses “supposed” that the children of Israel would recognize him as their divinely appointed liberator, but they rejected him.

     Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine (Ralph Waldo Emerson). This was true of Moses. He accurately discerned the will of God but presumptuously assumed that revolt was God’s means of deliverance for His people. He learned the hard way like the great composer Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky who said, “I have learned throughout my life … chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.” Even through Moses forsook a life of ease in the King’s palace; he could not persuade the Jews that he was their chosen leader. We assume many things about our lives in general and about our spiritual lives in particular. We often cling to a set of preconceived ideas about the way things should be. Moses did! Peter did! Isaiah 55:8 says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways says the Lord.” Sooner of later, we all run into a conflict with God because of our unrealistic expectations of Him. Submission occurs only where there is a conflict of wills. Moses failed. But forty years later God appeared to him, calling Moses back to Egypt.

     The secret of success is learning to trust God’s ability to manage our lives. Often this is a painful process but it is very necessary. During times of difficulty remember the words of Charlie Tremendous Jones, “Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be.” Moses eventually became known as the friend of God and served as an example of true humility for believers of all ages. Self-will almost destroyed him but God used the pain as a tool to prepare Moses for a great work. The only way to abandon our preconceived expectations of God is through personal relationship with Him. All things, good or bad—even disappointment—will work together for our good as we surrender ourselves to the Lord (Romans 8:28).

The Ultimate Memorial

June 27

 

The cross is the abyss of the wonders, the center of desires, the school of virtues, the house of wisdom, the throne of love, the theater of joys, and the place of sorrows; it is the root of happiness and the gate of heaven. (Thomas Traherne)

     In seasons of difficulty, when it feels that God is distant and detached, we need something to help us focus on Him. Throughout history, when the Lord moved miraculously in behalf of the Jews, He commanded them to create a memorial to the event. Memorials were important to Israelites because they served to remind them of His never failing love and power.

     One such memorial was a pot of manna. When God liberated the Jews from slavery in Egypt He led them into a barren wasteland. After a few days they ran out of food and complained to Moses (Exodus 16:3-8). The Lord responded with a miracle; a miracle which kept happening over and over again, sustaining them in the wilderness for forty years. Every morning after the dew lifted a small round substance like a fine frost covered Israel’s camp (Exodus 16:14). Tons of this divine granola which tasted like a wafer mixed with honey lay on the ground. There was not a day that the Lord failed to supply enough manna, as the people called it, to care for the 2,000,000 plus people in that desert (Exodus 16:31). God commanded Moses to fill a pot with manna as a memorial for future generations to see.

     Centuries later the Lord gave another memorial, a symbol of His great love for humanity, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross is seen … as the final place of reconciliation between God and humanity (Calvin Miller). It is imperative that we not take the message contained in the cross for granted. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Memorials are outward tokens or signs—material things that become the vehicles of spiritual realities. Oswald Chambers said, “The cross of Christ is God's last and endless word. There the prince of this world is judged, there sin is killed, and pride is done to death, there lust is frozen, and self-interest slaughtered, not one can get through. The death of Jesus is the only entrance into the life he lived.” So memorials are important, stirring our hearts and minds towards faith in God or as in the words of one writer—God gave us memories (memorials) so we could have roses in the winter.

A Tough Guy

June 26

 

Courage is not the absence of fear, but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. (Ambrose Redmoon)

     The 169th Regimental Combat Team of the 43rd Division arrived on the shores of Luzon, Philippine Islands on January 9, 1945. Three friends, Herman Holland from Florida, Ronald Honican from Kentucky, and James Liskovic from Nebraska were scouts for their unit.

     When the division landed on the beach Ronald Honican was grazed by a piece of shrapnel. He could have gone to the hospital at Layte Island, but he chose to fight. The troops established a beach head, advanced inland and dug in on a perimeter to initiate their battle plan. Herman, Ronald, and James were part of a team who advanced beyond the front to locate snipers and enemy troops. There were several small groups of point men who rotated in and out of the field. After a few days out they were allowed to come into the command post where they could get some hot food, replenish their supplies, read their mail, and try to relax a little before going back out.

     On one particular day Herman, Ronald, and James crouched together at the command post, heating a cup of coffee over an open flame. As the three stood, a loud crack echoed through the hills and suddenly Ronald slumped over. Herman and James grabbed him and lowered his limp body to the ground. Herman cried out, “Where are you hit?” “In the back,” he responded as he began to lose consciousness. Herman saw blood on the front of Ron’s fatigues and yelled, “Medic, Medic, Medic, help us, we need help over here!” Frank, an Italian from Kansas, came running. “Give him a shot,” Herman said, “he’s not doing too good!” Frank said, “Ronald is a tough guy, he won’t need a shot!” The stretcher soon arrived but Ronald died on his way down the hill.

     Ron chose to remain in the battle, even after being hit by shrapnel. He willingly gave his life for his country and those he loved. This brave soldier never read these words from Robert Louis Stevenson, but he did live and die by them, “The world has no room for cowards. We must all be ready somehow to toil, to suffer, to die. And your’s is not the less noble because no drum beats before you when you go out to your daily battlefields, and no crowds shout your coming when you return from your daily victory and defeat.” Jesus Christ also exemplified great courage. He could have saved Himself but he chose to give His life for us. He said, “I lay down My life ... no one takes it from Me, but I lay it down Myself.” Through Christ we have the privilege of laying down our lives for God. There will be injuries and pain, but we must not retreat from the good fight of faith. The reward in eternity will far outweigh any sacrifice that we make for the Lord in this life.

Until I’m Ready

June 25

 

We must first be made good before we can do good; we must first be made just before our works can please God. (Hugh Latimer)

     We conducted our service that night in a poor section of Managua, Nicaragua. The sanctuary was a humble little building that didn’t have any walls or bathrooms. In order to get electricity for the services an individual took a long wooden stick and placed two wires on the power lines hanging from the poles beside the dirt road.

     The church filled quickly and several gathered outside to listen as we preached. After the service I went outside and talked to people about the salvation of their souls. One young man about 15-years-old named Antonio accepted Christ when I presented the Gospel to him. My interpreter and I approached another young man in his late 20s who had been drinking. “Young man, I asked, “Are you a Christian?” “No,” he replied. “You have heard the preaching tonight,” I said, “so why don’t you pray with us and receive Christ as your Savior?” “I want to wait until I’m serious and ready,” he replied. We talked for some time and I pressed him to make a commitment, but he wanted to wait. “Young man,” I asked in hopes of helping him think about eternity, “if you want to accept Christ later because you are not ready now, what will happen if you die tonight?” “I will be with Jesus,” he responded. How mistaken this young man was, and all I could do was pray that somehow the Lord would open his eyes to the truth.

     The Living Bible says, “A person … whose own heart is evil and untrusting finds evil in everything, for his dirty mind and rebellious heart color all he sees and hears. Such persons claim they know God, but from seeing the way they act, one knows they don’t. They are rotten and disobedient, worthless so far as doing anything good is concerned.”

     J.C. Ryle said, “That an individual can have salvation without asking for it, I cannot find in the Bible. That a man will receive pardon of his sins, who will not so much as lift up his heart inwardly and say, ‘Lord Jesus, give it to me,’ this I cannot find.” The Message Bible declares, “In essence this is the message: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life.” If we deny Christ before people in this life, He will deny us before God in eternity (Matthew 10:32-33). If we do not share a relationship with God while we live – we will not be afforded the privilege of sharing a relationship with Him when we die.

Give Him Nothing

June 24

 

Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all. (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

     The Prince of Darkness has the ability to influence our thinking and cause us to believe things that are not true. He whispers into our minds, “A little bit won’t hurt, you can handle it, one time is okay, you can take care of that later, and one of his favorites—go ahead no one will find out.” He is a master deceiver and like a magician he creates delusions in our thinking that can distract us from Christ. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, “If our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded….” The best protection against lies is to know truth (Author Unknown). Paul warned the Corinthians, “Cast down arguments [lies, reasoning, untruths,] and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and take every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Satan argues against God’s will for us; it is our responsibility to silence him.

     Jesus said, "If you abide in My word—hold fast to My teachings and live in accordance with them—you are truly My disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It is impossible to believe a lie and the truth at the same time. Whatever we entertain in our thinking becomes what we believe. By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell—and hell is heaven … the greater the lie; the more readily it will be believed (Adolph Hitler). Those who listened to Hitler perished and his followers destroyed millions and millions of innocent people. Hitler was able to gain power because people listened to him. The same is true with the devil; he gains power over those who are willing to listen.

     If you let your garden alone, it pretty soon ceases to be a garden; and if a believer lets his or her mind alone, it will soon become a garbage dump for trash (Oswald Chambers). David said in Psalms 119:11, “Your Word, Oh God, have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You.” Don’t be duped, the Prince of Darkness does not always attack us with the obscene; he often reverts to subtle little ideas to get his foot in the door of our mind. Take authority over him; don’t give him the time of day.

Vehicle of Expression

June 23

 

The cross is the abyss of wonders, the center of desires, the school of virtues, the house of wisdom, the throne of love, the theater of joys, the place of sorrows; it is the root of happiness and the gate of heaven. (Thomas Traherne)

     In seasons of difficulty, when it feels as though God is distant and detached, we need something to help us focus on Him. Throughout history, when the Lord moved miraculously in behalf of the Jews, He commanded them to create a memorial to the event. Memorials served to remind them of God’s never failing love and power.

     One such monument was a pot of manna. When God liberated the Jews from slavery in Egypt He led them into a barren wasteland. After a few days they ran out of food and complained to Moses (Exodus 16:3-8). The Lord responded with a miracle; a miracle which kept happening over and over again, sustaining them in the wilderness for forty years. Every morning after the dew lifted a small round substance like a fine frost covered Israel’s camp. Tons of this divine granola lay on the ground. There was not a day the Lord failed to supply their needs. He commanded Moses to fill a pot with manna as a memorial for future generations to see.

     Centuries later the Lord gave another memorial, a symbol of His love for humanity, the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cross is seen … as the final place of reconciliation between God and humanity (Calvin Miller). It is imperative that we not take the message contained in the cross for granted. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (Apostle Paul). Memorials are outward tokens or signs—vehicles for the expression of spiritual realities. Oswald Chambers said, “The cross of Christ is God's last and endless word. There the prince of this world is judged, there sin is killed, and pride is put to death, there lust is frozen, and self-interest slaughtered, not one can get through. The death of Jesus is the only entrance into the life he lived.” So memorials are important, stirring our hearts and minds towards faith in God or as in the words of one writer—God gave us memories so we could have roses in the winter.

Against The World

June 22

 

Nothing is more noble, nothing more venerable than fidelity. Faithfulness and truth are the most sacred excellencies and endowments of the human mind. (Cicero)

     Ancient Pergamos was a city given to idolatry and was home to one of the seven churches mentioned in the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation). This municipality enjoyed the rare power Rome bestowed upon it; they were afforded the privilege of executing those it esteemed worthy of death. Many in the church compromised their walk with the Lord by attempting to merge Christianity with paganism, this they did in an effort to avoid persecution. The Lord gave stern warning to them (Revelation 2:14-16), “You have those there who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught … the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality … repent or else I will come to you quickly and fight against you ....”

     Pagamos Church compromised but one individual named Antipas stood out from all the rest. He was honored by the Lord with these words, “Antipas was my faithful martyr.” In a book titled The Acts of Antipas this faithful follower of the Lord is named as the Bishop of Pergamos. In the book it is recorded that he was summoned to court and threatened. In court Antipas was placed before a statue and told to swear allegiance to Caesar, declaring that the Roman ruler was God. He refused and the court official said, “Antipas, don’t you know that the whole world is against you?” Antipas replied, “Then I am against the whole world.” He was ushered out of the courtroom and placed inside a large hallow brazen bull and burned to death.

     Jesus said, “They who overcome I will ... give a white stone....” In those days the judges gave black stones to condemned criminals and white stones to those being pardoned. Conquerors at the public games were given a white stone, entitling them to be supported for life at public ex- pense. Antipas refused to deny his faith in Christ, because he longed for something he valued more than life in this world. Christ rewarded Antipas by inscribing his name in the pages of His Word. Henry David Thoreau said, “My desire for knowledge is intermittent; but my desire to commune with the spirit of the universe, to be intoxicated with the fumes of that divine nectar, to bear my head through atmospheres and over heights unknown to my feet, is constant.” Faith is virtually meaningless unless we embrace a cause for the Kingdom of God which we value more than the very breath of our existence.

Love Your Enemies

June 21

 

I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once the hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. (James Baldwin)

     The only power greater than hate is love. Jesus taught His followers (Matthew 5:44), “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” He demonstrated His teaching by praying for those who nailed Him on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

     The secret for managing hurt; transform it into the power of prayer. Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray, so that you will not fall into temptation.” Paul declared, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Take positive action against pain.

     It is impossible for us to love our enemies without supernatural intervention. Our natural tendency is to return to others what they give to us. Hermann Hesse said, “If you hate a person, you hate something in them that is a part of yourself. What isn’t a part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.” Bitterness and hatred is all about self. The thought of loving an enemy can be outlandish if we think about it in the natural, for it requires a double portion of God’s grace just to love our friends and family. But God wants more from us; He expects us to reach outside of ourselves and allow Him to strengthen us.

     Martin Luther King boldly proclaimed, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hatred cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Prayer is an effective tool against the passions of our flesh that seek retribution. When we love those that hate us then we know that the Lord is moving in our lives. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (Peter). When we choose to love our enemies, the anointing of the Holy Spirit empowers us with supernatural ability. That is why Stephen could pray as an angry mob stoned him to death, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” Isaiah 10:27 says, “The yoke will be destroyed because of God’s anointing ….” You can destroy the bondage of pain through the power of prayer that works mightily in your life.

Responsible Thinking

June 20

 

Thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings. (William James)

     Everyone has a desire or weakness that can be exploited by criminal influence. The exploitation process leading to temptation begins with a thought that is attractive to our taste for wrongdoing. James Allen said, “You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.” So beware. Satan has the ability to influence our thoughts in the unseen realm of the spirit world. We are not responsible for every thought we think, but we are responsible for what we do with everything we think. We must properly manage the negative things that seep into the mind. You have not sinned or done wrong because you thought a bad thought. Sin happens when we put action to thought. That which is not put into action dies.

     Each one is tempted when he or she is drawn away by their own desires and enticed (James—Christ’s brother). We’re tempted through desire. The word, entice, means to attract by offering a hope of reward or pleasure – to allure. A fisherman uses various types of bait to seduce fish. A lure or bait, whether a juicy fat worm or succulent bug promises to satisfy an appetite, a longing within the fish. The natural desire of a fish draws it to the bait, causing it to swallow the hook. Fishermen will pay almost any price; weather all sorts of adversity and travel great distances to experience the thrill of catching the big one. Satan is an avid fisherman whose sport is ruining lives. He knows how to use our inclination towards self gratification to attract us into sin. Don’t take his bait.

     Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James). Beware of both good and bad things can become a distraction in your spiritual life. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things (Apostle Paul). You must make a conscientious effort in keeping your mind focused because thought is the parent of deed (Thomas Carlyle).

Mind Matters

June 19

 

You never come to be something or someone you did not first become in your thoughts. (Tommy Barnett)

     You don’t always get out of your mind that which you put into it. At certain times we think things, both good and bad, and then wonder where such thoughts came from. Things seep in from several different sources. As William Shakespeare said, “Thought is free.” But even though thoughts are free they are not all good. Do not think that what your thoughts dwell upon is of no matter; your thoughts are making you (Bishop Steere).

     So where do thoughts come from? Jesus said to Peter (Matthew 16:17), “Blessed are you ... for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father ... in heaven.” So we see here that God supernaturally influences our thinking. Shortly after Peter received his great revelation concerning Christ’s true identity, Jesus told the disciples that He was going to suffer and die in Jerusalem. Peter did not understand and could not accept this fact so he attempted to stop it from happening, "No Lord, this shall not happen to You!" Christ responded sternly, "Get behind Me, Satan!” Satan influences our thinking.

     People influence our thoughts. Paul cautions us not to put ourselves in a position where unbelievers can influence our thinking. He wrote, “Do not be misled, bad company corrupts good character." He also warned the Corinthians about putting themselves in a position where those who call themselves believers, but do not live a believer’s life, can manipulate and control them. The Apostle Paul said, “Watch out for those who cause divisions … keep away from them. Do not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or a swindler. With such a person do not even eat.” Why? Because that which is in the mind as thought will pass into the emotions as feeling, then into the will as action, and then into the body as result (E. Stanley Jones).

     Our flesh creates thought. In Ephesians 2:3 Paul reminded the Ephesians that at one time they passionately served the desires of the flesh and of the mind. Worldly values and philosophy seeks to control our thinking. Psalms 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly.” You must live with your thoughts so be careful what they are (Eva Arrington). Avoid stinking thinking. Don’t put yourself in compromising positions. Run away from everyone and from every circumstance that is having an ungodly impact on your life. Isaiah 26:3 says, “God will keep those in perfect peace whose thoughts are fixed on Him.” Thoughts have power, thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break it by your own thinking (Susan Taylor).

Dream Ladder

June 18

 

The successful men and women of today are those of one overmastering idea, one unwavering aim, persons of single and intense purpose (Orison Swett Marden)

     In 1921 Charles William Paddock was widely is acclaimed as the “fastest human being” in the world. In the 1920 Olympic Games in Belgium Paddock captured the gold medal in the 100 meter dash and won a silver medal in the 200 meter dash.

     One day Paddock visited a school in Cleveland, Ohio and spoke to the student body. A young black child listened intently as this famous athlete talked. “What do you want to be,” Paddock asked? “You name it and then believe that God will help and you will become just that. That young man although materially poor was spiritually rich; he decided that he too wanted to be the fastest human being on earth. He shared his dream with Charles Riley his junior high track coach. Coach Riley said to him, “It’s great to have a dream son, but to attain your goal it is necessary to build a ladder to it; and on the ladder you must have rungs or steps that will support the weight of all you hope to achieve. The first rung on your dream ladder must be determination and the second dedication. The third step is discipline! The fourth rung enabling you to build your dream is attitude!” To be successful you must decide exactly what you want to accomplish, and then resolve to pay the price to get it (Bunker Hunt).

     In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can (Michael Korda). The odds were against this young man. He was a poor black student who received no scholarship to college. He worked his way through school, training in the early morning hours because he had to work in the evenings. When traveling with his team he slept and ate in “black only” hotels and restaurants. He won a record eight individual NCAA championships at Ohio State University and was affectionately known as the Buckeye Bullet but he was not allowed to live on the college campus. In face of racial prejudice and abundant adversity; he persisted. In 1936 at the Berlin Olympics he won four gold medals. He made such an impression on Germany that even the Chancellor, Adolph Hitler, rose up and waved his hand at this great warrior. He was inducted to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1970; he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1976 by Gerald Ford and the Congressional Gold Medal by George H. W. Bush on March 28, 1990. In 1984 a street in Berlin was renamed for him. Two U.S. postage stamps have been issued in his honor. His name? Jesse Owens.

Away with the Atheists

June 17

 

If I had a hundred lives I would willingly lay down all in defense of my faith. (Christopher Buxton)

     The original meaning of the Greek word martyr was “witness” and in this sense it is often used in the New Testament. The most powerful witness that Christians could demonstrate was to die rather than deny their faith, so the word soon began to be used in reference to one who was not only a witness but specifically a witness unto death. Believers were ordered to prove their abandonment of Christianity by offering sacrifices to the Roman gods; when they refused to do so, they were executed. Martyrdom was often regarded as a substitute for baptism (Encyclopedia Britannica).

     Justin Martyr wrote, “When I was delighting in the doctrines of Plato, and heard the Christians slandered, and saw them fearless of death … I perceived that it was impossible that they could be living in wickedness and pleasure.” The witness of the martyrs was what caused Justin to become a Christian. In Revelation 2:10 the Lord encourages those who are suffering persecution in Smyrna, “Do not be fearful … be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Death is only the beginning for a believer. The tyrant dies and his rule ends, the martyr dies and his rule begins (Seren Keirkegaard). The only hope for happiness, peace, and purpose are found in serving God and making Him our first love. You can kill us, but not hurt us (Justin Martyr).

     A second century Bishop of the Smyrna Church, Polycarp, a personal friend and pupil of John the Apostle, was burned to death in 155 A.D. for refusing to deny his faith in Christ. The Roman proconsul urged Polycarp, now a very old man, to deny Christ and live. He replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Jesus and He never did me any injury. How then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” The proconsul said, “I have respect for your age. Simply say, ‘Away with the Atheists and be set free.’” Polycarp solemnly said, “Away with the Atheists” pointing to the pagan crowd. He went to the stake, thanking God for counting him worthy to be numbered among the martyrs. As we practice laying down our all for Christ, we are preparing ourselves for the day, if need be, that we must prove He means more to us than life itself. Those who say they would die for the Lord, if necessary, are only kidding themselves if they are not daily surrendering themselves to Him.

Dynamite

June 16

 

When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace. (Jimi Hendrix)

     Bedford, Indiana, my birthplace, was known as the “The Limestone Capital of the World”. There were numerous quarries in Lawrence County created by cutting and removing vast amounts of limestone from the earth. These pits soon filled with water and provided great swimming places for us on hot summer days. Bob, one of our older friends, worked at the quarries and invited Ralph and I to go fishing with him. He believed there were big fish in these pits even though all we ever saw were small minnows swimming on the surface of the water.

     Bob took us to a work sight on Patton Hill where his bait was stored in a wooden shed that had a sign on it—“E XPLOSIVES”. Bobby had this idea about blasting fish out of those mammoth excavations by the buckets full, rather than waste our time with poles. The plan was ingenious and seemed to make sense so we took the doors off the shed and helped ourselves to several sticks of dynamite and blasting caps.

     We thought the big fish were on the bottom of the pits so we inserted a blasting cap in one stick of dynamite, tied it to a rock, sunk it in the water and set it off with a battery. It exploded but we were very disappointed with the less than exciting discharge. We sank two sticks and then exploded six sticks. Our eruptions grew bigger but all we managed to catch were a few little fish and lots of leaves; nothing worthy of our bait. Obviously, Bobby had miscalculated the whereabouts of the big ones so we decided to fish closer to the surface. Ralph and I prepared one stick while Bobby hid behind a big boulder. We tied a rock to the dynamite and tossed it into the quarry. The stone came off when it hit the surface so I yelled NO! Bobby thought I said GO! He set off the charge. A sound like thunder bewildered Ralph and I. We dropped into a crouching position unable to move for a moment. The intensity of the explosion stunned us; we remained frozen in a kneeling position for a moment in a silent state of shock. Suddenly an ocean of water came crashing down on our heads and that was it for us—we quit and our fishing experience came to a sudden halt.

     The Bible says (Acts 1:8), "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you ...." The Greek word for power is dunamis from which the word dynamite is derived. Dunamis means might, miracle, mighty works or deeds and it also speaks of God’s greatness. As we walk with the Lord and seek Him, His power will implode in our lives against sin, self centeredness and the perverse works of the flesh. Every believer has a reservoir of greatness in his or her life existing for the purpose of being discovered. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think according to the power that works in you (Apostle Paul). Tap into your spiritual resources through prayer, fasting and God’s Word—discover your unique possibilities.

Jaded Past

June 15

 

Grace is the glory of the young. (Alexander Peden)

     Jesus stopped at a well and asked a Samaritan woman for a drink (John 4:7). At first she was taken back, saying (Message Bible), “How come you, a Jew, are asking me … for a drink?” The Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to a Samaritan. Jesus responded, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water to drink.” “Sir, give me this water ….” Jesus said to her (John 4:16), “Go call your husband and then come back.” “I have no husband.” “That’s nicely put. You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t your husband.”

     Even before the creation God committed His life to us if it became necessary for Him to do so. Christ indeed was foreordained to die before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you (Saint Peter). The Lord knew all about the Samaritan Woman’s horrible past but He did not allow it to stand in the way of His blessing for her future. When we come to God as we are, He comes to us as He is. That day the Samaritan discovered hope. She went to her village and said to all who would listen, “Come, see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” Many came and many believed.

     Your past is insignificant to your future when Christ is present in your life. One day I was praying and began to reflect on all that lay behind me. My life before Christ was disgusting, and while learning to walk with the Lord, I failed many times. Prayer was often difficult and I found myself saying to God, “Lord, may Your glory surrounding the later years of my life consume the shame surrounding the early years.” Just like Christ forgave the Samaritan in spite of her jaded past, so the Lord provided a new beginning for me through His ever present grace. He will help you. Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned … it is the enabling gift of God not to sin—it is power, not just pardon … therefore the effort we make to obey God is not an effort done in our own strength, but in the strength which God supplies (John Piper). Paul offers great advice, “Forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead. Press towards the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. When you find yourself overwhelmed by guilt, remember the words from Psalms 145:8, 15 and be encouraged, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion; slow to anger and great in mercy. He is near to all who call upon Him; to all who call upon Him in truth.”

Generation Rescue

June 14

 

You will never find in the Bible that things are destroyed for the sake of destruction. Human beings destroy for the sake of destruction, and so does the devil; God never does, He destroys the wrong and the evil for one purpose only, the deliverance of the good. (Oswald Chambers)

     When Prince Josiah was 8-years-old he became the king of Israel after his father Amon was assassinated. At age 16 he began seeking the Lord and at 20 he began leading his nation in a spiritual revival. Pagan idols were destroyed, and the Temple of God was repaired and opened for worship. When the craftsmen began working on God’s House, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law hidden inside (2 Chronicles 34: 14). Shaphan read it in the presence of the King and Josiah humbled himself greatly when he heard the Word.

     He commanded Hilkiah to inquire of the Lord, so the priests called on Huldah the prophetess. She prophesied to Josiah, “All the curses that are written in the book ... will be poured out on this place, and not be quenched.” Huldah declared that judgment was coming on the Jews for their rebellion. Certainly this wasn’t what the people expected or wanted to hear. She continued, “Because your heart was tender Josiah, and you humbled yourself and wept before Me, I the Lord God also have heard you ... your eyes shall not see the calamity which I will bring on this place.”

     Josiah sought the Lord and disaster was averted. He was not able to turn his world from judgment but he was able to delay an inevitable calamity and rescue many from destruction. You cannot save the world but you can rescue a generation. You can help your neighbor, co-worker, family, and acquaintances. We are standing in the place Josiah stood centuries ago. The world is wildly racing towards self-destruction. We cannot help everyone but we can help some. The end is coming – nothing will change that fact. But we can rescue people by walking with the Lord and leading others to Christ. And the ones you rescue may be your own, so let the light of God shine through you for all to see. Tommy Tenney wrote, “The true purpose of God’s presence manifesting in our lives is evangelism. If we can carry a residue of God’s glory back into our homes and businesses, if we can carry even a faint glow of His lingering presence into lukewarm churches … people will run to the altar repenting of their sins before the Lord.”

Arena Of Need

June 13

 

What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more novel methods, but people whom the Holy Spirit can use—men and women of prayer, believers mighty in prayer. (E.M. Bounds)

     It is not necessary to struggle through adversity, facing the circumstances and situations that life imposes upon us, powerless and alone. God promised (2 Chronicles 7:14), “If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face, then I will hear from heaven.” God moves on the prayers of people.

     There was a certain lady from the region of Tyre and Sidon, a Syrophenician, who had a demon possessed daughter. And it just so happened that Jesus was visiting in that area of the country; He didn’t want anyone to know He was there (Mark 7:24). But He could not hide because this lady somehow discovered where He was staying and went to the house. She stood in front of that dwelling, calling out to Jesus until He came emerged from the building. A. W. Tozer comments, “Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ. He waits to be wanted.”

     The miracle she was seeking from Christ did not happen immediately but she got His attention and refused to be discouraged (Matthew 15:22-27). The Lord examined her sincerity. And this is often the way He works in our lives; even though we don’t like to be tested, these exams work towards increasing our faith in Him. Issac Newton once said, “Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise physician prescribes because we need them; and He proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires.” There is a Russian proverb that says, “A hammer shatters glass but forges steel.” You really do have the ability to call God into the arena of your need.

     The Bible records the stories of many people who received a great miracle after a period of trial. Hannah’s miracle came when she advanced a step farther in commitment to God; making a vow of sacrifice to Him (1 Samuel 1:12-20). Naaman, the Syrian general, received a great miracle when he simply humbled himself in obedience to the Prophet Elisha’s command (2 Kings 5:1-15). And this dear lady, a Syrian from Phoenicia, persisted in the face of her seemingly impossible situation and Jesus came through for her—He healed her daughter.

     Seeking with faith, hope and love pleases our Lord and finding him pleases the soul, filling it full of joy …. I have learned that as long as God allows us to struggle on this earth, seeking is as good as seeing (Julian Norwich). Miracles begin and end with prayer. When we call on the Lord He always comes through. He does not and cannot fail. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Bound in Bronze

June 12

 

There is hardly a man clever enough to recognize the full extent of the evil he does. (Francois De La Rochefoucauld)

     The evil in which we indulge ourselves is the evil that eventually controls us. One of the great success stories of the ancient world was written in the life Abraham around 2000 B. C. God appeared to Him and said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your pagan father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous …. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

     One thousand years passed. Abraham’s descendents, followers of the one true and living God, had grown and were prospering. King David and Solomon, followers of the Lord, began building an empire, establishing the nation of Israel as a great power. But the glory surrounding their kingdom dissipated because of sin. King Ahaz, who began his reign in 731 B.C. offered his own sons as human sacrifices to the idols and demons he worshipped. His son Hezekiah, instituted reforms and the people prospered until, Manasseh, the grandson of Ahaz , the most wicked of all King David’s descendants, began his reign. He broke every rule, and like his grandfather, sacrificed his sons to pagan deities.

     The Lord spoke to Manasseh, but he refused to listen so God turned him over to the armies of Assyria. He was placed in bronze shackles and a hook was inserted in his nose. He was carried off to Babylon and tortured. The story should have ended there, but even the hearts of the great can be changed (Homer). 2 Chronicles 33:12-13 says, “Manasseh, in his distress sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly …. When he prayed … the Lord was moved by his plea … and brought him back to Jerusalem…. Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.”

     Immediately, he began to institute reforms. He removed the idols from God’s Temple; he commanded the priests to offer sacrifices to God and he ordered his people to serve the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:15-16). God’s judgment had served its purpose—Manasseh repented of his sin. Even though he was spared the agony of hell, he lived in the torment of regret for the remainder of his life. Wrongdoing is sweet in the beginning but bitter in the end. His people continued to serve idols and indulge in wickedness (2 Chronicles 33:17).

     Herbert Hoover declared, “When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned.” Manasseh started something that did not stop until the Babylonians leveled Jerusalem in 605 B.C. and carried off the Jews into slavery. A. W. Tozer said, “Self is the opaque veil that hides the Face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction.”

Chicken Supreme

June 11

 

It is by loving and being loved that one can come nearest to the soul of another. (George McDonald)

     Several people from our congregation traveled to Central America to build a church in the small town of Villa El Carmen, located a few miles outside of Managua, Nicaragua. Every evening after work I took our group to my favorite restaurant in Managua—Pollo Supremo (Chicken Supreme). There we were entertained nightly by a talented musician who went from table to table singing beautiful love songs in Spanish. Through our host, Missionary Jacobs, we had become acquainted with this gifted guitar player. One particular night as we waited to be served, our new found friend came and sat at our table. We talked to Him about Jesus and faith in God. He told us that his family had once been committed members of a local church. It was there that he learned to sing and play the guitar, but when he began entertaining in restaurants and bars, he strayed from the Lord.

     As we talked, I sensed that the Holy Spirit wanted me to share with him. “Dear Sir,” I said, “the Lord wants to be your friend. He is not interested in sharing a one sided relationship with you like that which you share with the people in this restaurant. Through your music you provide a service for the customers. You are acquainted professionally with them but that is all. They enjoy listening to you sing but most of them don’t even know your name. God is not interested in simply entertaining you nor is He interested in you entertaining Him. He wants to be your friend.”

     Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction.” Our Latin friend abandoned his relationship with the Lord to pursue a musical career. The end result for him was guilt and shame. He discovered that it is not possible to embrace the world and still enjoy fellowship with God. In the arithmetic of love, one plus one equals everything, and two minus one equals nothing (Mignon McLaughlin). Zephaniah 1:4-6 says, “I [the Lord] will stretch out My hand against … those who worship and swear oaths by the Lord, but who … have turned back from following … me ….” God reached out through our group to this unhappy entertainer that night and challenged him to come back to the faith he had forsaken. The Lord loved him so much that He sent us all the way from North America to speak with him. In order for us to experience God’s love we must love Him back. Albert Schweitzer said it best, “It is only through love that we can attain communion with God.”

The Hard Way

June 10

 

Never assume the obvious is true. (William Safire)

     Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine (Emerson). This was true of Moses. He accurately discerned the will of God for his life—a good thing. So what could go wrong? Everything! That is exactly what happened because he presumptuously assumed that he knew exactly what the Lord wanted him to do. This led to a series of events that caused him to waste forty years of his life herding sheep in the desert. He learned the hard way just like the great composer Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky who said, “I have learned throughout my life … chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge.”

     The Great Lawgiver rightly believed that God was calling him to lead Israel out of slavery but he acted on a inaccurate supposition. Acts 7:22-25 and Hebrews 11:24-25 says, “When Moses…was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit the children of Israel…for he supposed his brethren would understand that God would deliver them by his hand ….” He devised a plan and took the first step towards being their liberator, believing the Israelites would follow him. But to his dismay they did not.

     We so often act without thinking and assume so many things about our lives in general and about our spiritual lives in particular. We often cling to a set of preconceived ideas about the way things should be. Moses did! Peter did! Paul did! Isaiah the prophet, speaking on God’s behalf addresses this issue, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways says the Lord.” Sooner or later, we all encounter spiritual conflicts because of unrealistic expectations concerning God’s will for our lives. Moses failed but that was not the end of his story.

     The secret of success is learning to trust God’s ability in managing our lives. Often this is a painful process but it is very necessary. Things don't go wrong and break your heart so you can become bitter and give up. They happen to break you down and build you up so you can be all that you were intended to be (Charlie Tremendous Jones). Moses eventually became known as the friend of God and has served as an example of true humility for believers for over thirty-five hundred years. The only way to abandon our preconceived expectations of God is through personal relationship with Him. All things, good or bad—even disappointment—will work together for our good as we surrender ourselves to the Lord.

Unfortunately Blessed

June 9

 

All that depend on the riches and the honor of this world, forgetting God and the welfare of his soul, are like a little child holding an apple in the hand, of agreeable exterior promising goodness, but within it is rotten and full of worms, (Martin Luther)

     Harold C. Phillips had in mind a people resembling the Laodiceans when he wrote, “We are all weak, finite, simple human beings, standing in the need of prayer. None need it so much as those who think they are strong, those who know it not, but are deluded by self-sufficiency.” Laodicea Church was the last of the seven mentioned in the Apocalypse of Saint John. The city surrounding this church had become a wealthy banking and trade center for woolen materials. It gained notoriety by manufacturing a black glossy wool and from the medical school that was recognized for developing a healing eye ointment (collyrium). Laodicea lay on a great Asian trade route in what is now modern Turkey and this strategic location was responsible for the church’s prosperity.

     The people living in this area, the Beverly Hills of the Roman Empire, were blessed but unfortunate. They had everything, everything except that which really matters. They truly believed themselves to be blessed and knowledgeable but Christ thought otherwise (Revelation 3:17), “…you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” They lacked a true realization of the most difficult knowledge—a knowledge of self. Ben Franklin compared this challenge with the hardness of a diamond and steel, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond and to know one’s self.”

     God’s Word like a razor sharp knife penetrates through the outer covering of our façade, and exposes what is hidden underneath. It brings to light the hypocrisy that hinder us from a sincere relationship with God. The people of this church were neither cold nor hot. They were not sold out to the devil nor were they committed to God. They were not bad but neither were they good. They were like the people of today who profess Christ but do not live for Him. Christ was frank with the Laodecians (Revelation 3:16), “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” God can bring a cold heart to life but it is impossible for Him to change a person who is self-satisfied (lukewarm). Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Christ took this idea to a higher level, “A faith that is not first isn’t worth having.”

Philadelphia Faithful

June 8

 

He does most in God’s great world who does his best in his or her own little world. (Thomas Jefferson)

     The people in Philadelphia Church, one of the seven in the Apocalypse, were wholeheartedly committed to the Lord. As a reward Christ promised (Revelation 3:8, 10), “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole earth ….” The Philadelphians exemplified true Christian character; their loyal dedication to the Lord was attractive in the community and many in that city became followers of Christ through them. This church lived in the spirit of Helen Keller who said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”

     This church was not without its problems; they were often challenged and persecuted by the unbelieving Jews who refused to recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Christ instructed the church to remain steady and they would see the love of God change the heart of their adversaries. No matter what you are experiencing today or what you may face in the future, no matter how great the opposition against you—in the end you will be victorious through Christ.

     Philadelphia was located in a large vineyard district which worshipped Bacchus, the god of wine and drunkenness. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 A.D. and the people lived with the threat of recurrent quakes. Therefore the imagery used in Revelation 3:12 is very significant, “All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of God, and they will never have to leave it ….”

     Use what God has placed in your hands and He will give you more. All are invited to do great things who receive small things greatly (Cassiodorus). We are wasting our time seeking more when we have failed to make good use of the things He has already placed in our hands. The Apostle Paul decared, “The things that you have heard from me ... commit these to faithful men and women who will be able to teach others also.” Invest in God’s cause by serving those in need of His help. They who are faithful in the little things that Christ provides will be made ruler over greater things (Saint Luke).

Walking Dead

June 7

 

I want desperately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality of our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire (A.W. Tozer)

     Christ rebuked Sardis Church, one of seven mentioned in the Apocalypse, "… you are dead.” The majority of people in this church, though they had a reputation for godliness, were in reality simply practicing lifeless rituals. The Apostle Paul’s descriptive list of unseemly behavior fits accurately the people of Sardis, “In the last days … people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud … unloving and unforgiving … and have no self control. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly.” Believers dry up and die spiritually when they become more concerned about their form of worship than about their walk with Christ.

     Samuel Chadwick speaks of a spirit-filled life, “Spirit-filled souls … love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with a fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love perfected through faith in Christ.”

     The city Sardis was located on a commercial trade route in West Asia Minor (modern Turkey) about fifty miles east of Smyrna and thirty miles southeast of Thyatira. It was an important and wealthy city, which prospered from its jewelry trade and textile dye industry. The city practiced pagan worship and the magnificent Temple of Artemis dating from the fourth century B.C. still exists as an important ruin. The remains of a Christian church building have been discovered immediately adjacent to the temple, and testify of the Christian witness to this pagan city noted for loose living. The church at Sardis continued its existence until the fourteenth century, but it was never prominent because the people were plagued by an evil worse than moral corruption or false doctrine—it was spiritually dead.

     Oswald Chambers writes, “You no more need a day off from spiritual concentration in matters of your life than your heart needs a day off from beating. As you cannot take a day off morally and remain moral, you cannot take a day off spiritually and remain spiritual.” Avoid the pitfall that ensnared Sardis and nurture your faith, keep it vibrant and alive. Those who live according to flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Apostle Paul). Remember—stagnation in the church is the devil’s delight (C. H. Spurgeon).

Flirting With Disaster

June 6

 

You must be careful how you walk, and where you go, for there are those following you who will set their feet where yours are set. (Robert E. Lee)

     The church in Thyatira, one of the seven mentioned in the Apostle John’s Apocalypse, had been careless in selecting leaders. What a crucial mistake because everything rises and falls on leadership (John Maxwell). Their carelessness and irresponsibility caused the Lord to issue this stern rebuke (Revelation 2:20), “I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols.” The Lord reprimanded them for allowing a self proclaimed Prophetess, Jezebel, to teach perverted doctrines to the people and jeopardize the future of the church. Thyatira failed to make this woman accountable to the Biblical standards of leadership outlined in the Scriptures. Jezebel is a symbolic name of reproach given to this lady because she mirrored the devious character of King Ahab’s wife; a wicked pagan queen.

     Thyatira City had a number of trade guilds or unions comprised of workers in wool, leather, linen, bronze, dyers, potters, bakers and slave dealers. Christians in Thyatira refused to join the unions because of the pagan practice of beginning and ending common meals with a formal sacrifice to the gods. The meat they served had been offered to idols and these gatherings were occasions for drunken revelry and slack morality. Jezebel pled for compromise with the world’s standards in the interest of business and commercial prosperity. This church was flirting with disaster.

     Jesus describes Himself to Thyatira as the one who has eyes like a flame of fire. Christ’s omniscience, justice and His power to bring hidden things to light is portrayed in this symbolic language. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. That being the case, the man or woman who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd (James Crook). This so called prophetess was given ample opportunity to repent but she refused, therefore she suffered for her rebellion. Leaders should be the chief repenters (Jack Miller).

Compromise

June 5

 

A worldly spirit loves to talk a lot but do nothing, striving for exterior signs of holiness … with no desire for true piety …. (Francis of Assisi)

     The great city of Pergamos, mentioned in the Apocalypse by John the Apostle, contained a blend of political power, pagan worship and academic sophistication. It was a city of beautiful palaces, temples and idols built to heathen gods. The city is most noted for its great library, the greatest in antiquity, with over 200,000 volumes. Parchment was first used here and the word parchment was derived from the name of this city. Pergamos was the site of the first temple of the Caesar-cult, erected to Rome and Augustus in 29 BC. Each citizen was required to offer incense to the emperor once a year and declare that Caesar was Lord. Pergamos became the center of imperial worship and was referred to as Satan's Seat (Revelation 2:13).

     A church existed in Pergamos and was struggling. The Lord spoke to that congregation saying, “I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching.” The fault of the Nicolaitans; they were seeking to reform Christianity with world standards, rather than influence the world with godly standards. This ageless temptation has plagued the church from the beginning and is very much prevalent today. In times past, just like today, many believed that morality didn’t matter because of God’s great love for people. But to love Jesus is to love holiness (David Smithers). God loves humanity enough to be frank, “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Nothing has changed. The Nicolaitans taught that what you do physically does not affect you spiritually. These teachings promoted adultery, idolatry and fornication which led to compromise.

     It has been said that Satan’s attempt to drive the church out of the world by persecution failed; so he changed his strategy, attempting to drive the world into the church by enticing believers to endanger their purity. The nation of Israel collapsed because it tried to hold onto the Lord with one hand and pagan practices with the other. 2 Kings 17:33 says, “They worshiped the Lord and continued to follow their own gods according to the religious customs of the nations from which they came.” It did not work. Many believers in Pergamos were willing to demonstrate their faith in Christian circles but were equally prepared to play down their beliefs when there was ridicule. Basil Hume tells us how to avoid compromise, “Holiness involves friendship with God. There has to be a moment in our relationship with Him when He ceases to be just a Sunday acquaintance and becomes a weekday friend.”

Ten Day Tribulation

June 4

 

Persecutions have made the church of Christ grow; martyrdoms have crowned it. (Jerome)

     Smyrna was one of seven churches to whom the Apocalypse (Revelation) was addressed. This city was noted for its wickedness and opposition to Christ in the first century. On one end of the main street stood the Temple of Zeus, and at the other end the Temple of Cybele. There was also a temple built in honor of Tiberius, erected there for emperor worship. Persecution was encouraged and believers were victimized by a corrupt group of people known as the “10 percenters.” The 10 percenters reported Christians to the Roman authorities who rewarded them with a tenth of the so called “heretics” property. In light of that persecution the Lord encouraged Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested and you will have tribulation for 10 days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

     It seems that persecution and hostility against the church would cause it to turn in- ward and die. Two thousand years of history tells a different story. The church seems to thrive when it is oppressed. The Bible declares in Acts 8:1-4, “A great persecution arose against the church ... and they were scattered ... therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.”

     Nicaragua, a small Central American country, was involved in a bitter 12 year civil war. The Sandinista and Contra forces battled one another ... thousands were killed, cities were plundered, persecution was rampant, and death became the daily norm for multitudes. In those Cold War days Russia and other Communist allies poured money and weapons into Nicaragua supporting one side of the civil conflict. The United States and some of her allies supported the other side of the war effort. The beautiful country of Nicaragua was devastated and transformed into a battlefield.

     In 1991, not long after the fighting ended, I visited the country. I preached in the open air in Managua and in several churches. Everywhere there were horror stories of brutality, almost no household escaped personal tragedy, but an amazing thing happened. Many churches reported an increase of adherents during the war – some as many as 400 percent. When death was inevitable the people turned to God for help and comfort. The more the church was afflicted – the more it grew (Exodus 1:12). The Bible in 1 Peter 4:14 declares, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ … the Holy Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Persecution produces an anointing of power in proportion to the problem presented. The church in Nicaragua was persecuted and grew. Smyrna overcame its adversity through faith in Christ. You too can grow in the midst of difficulty. Focus your attention on the Lord and love Him through it all.

First Love

June 3

 

Love to God purifies and ennobles every taste and desire, intensifies every affection, and brightens every worthy pleasure. (Author Unknown)

     In New Testament times, Ephesus was a large harbor city and trading center known as the marketplace of Asia. The Ephesians worshipped the goddess Diana, or Artemus as the Greeks called her. Diana was portrayed as a mature woman whose robe was draped in such a way as to expose her multiple breasts, depicting her gift of fertility and nurture. Artemis was the chief deity of Ephesus, and her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The pagan priests proclaimed that the goddess Diana fell from heaven. They forged replicas of her image and prospered by selling them in the city.

     In about 55 A.D. the Apostle Paul preached there and a tremendous revival began there. God worked mighty signs, wonders, and miracles among the people and a great church was birthed. So mighty was the power of God that the new converts, who previously practiced magic, burned their books in the streets and renounced their occultist practices.

     When the Apostle John wrote the Apocalypse (Revelation), 40 years later, this church was still thriving. God praised the Ephesians for their works, labor, patience, intolerance of evil people and endurance. In spite of this glowing commendation these dedicated people were flirting with disaster. In Revelation 2:5 the Lord says, “You have left your first love. Remember from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come ... and remove your church from its place.” If they failed to repent God threatened to remove His presence from the church. They needed to once again make love, not works, their priority. Jonathan Edwards made this comment, “The more a true saint loves God with a truly gracious love, the more he desires to love Him, and the more miserable he is at his lack of love for Him.”

     God is interested in love, and in love alone. Brother Lawrence in the book, Practicing His Presence writes, “How shall we keep our “first love” for the Lord? By constantly knowing Him better! Then how shall we know the Lord? We must often turn to Him, think of Him, behold Him.” Love is what connects us to God and what connects God to us. The Ephesians substituted works for love and were in danger of offending the Lord. May your life long employment be to know and love the Lord with all your heart; may He be your closest friend for as long as you may live.

Thimble Crown

June 2

 

A lasting work requires extensive preparation. (Douglas Rumford)

     Heaven will not be all heaven. One event will transpire on those golden streets that will be anything but joy for its occupants. There is tremendous anticipation in the thought of the day we shall be lifted from this life to our eternal home but there is a problem; we must first go to the Judgment Seat of Christ (Crandall Miller). “On Judgment Day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value,” writes the Apostle Paul, “if the work survives, that person will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The believer will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.”

     In his book Thimble Crown Crandall Miller writes about an experience he received while reading 1 Corinthians 3:13-15, “I suddenly … had a very vivid picture of being at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I stood in heaven watching as the works of others were brought out and piled up. They were then tested by fire. It all looked good for me, because I had served God for many years, preached hundreds of times, served as a pastor; taught ministers in seminary … joined three churches … was baptized … had perfect attendance at Sunday School … and kept busy serving the Lord. Suddenly, my name was called and I stepped forward with confidence.” “They brought out my pile of works,” he declares, “and I noticed large holes in it and wondered why. The answer came. The holes are the things you should have done and didn’t. I was devastated. Not everything … was gold, silver or precious stones; wood, hay and stubble were mixed in my pile. My perfect Sunday School attendance was fuel for fire. Why was this not a good work I questioned? My mom got this reward because she pushed me out of bed and took me. There were holes in my prayer life. Why? When I did anything other than God’s perfect will; … that work became wood and hay. There were instances when I should have worked but instead I prayed; and when I should have prayed but instead I worked. My preaching was flawed. I had taken credit at times when a service went well even though I had been careless and was not properly prepared. Things were not as I expected. They brought fire to my pile and I watched it burn. Tears began to roll down my face … and out of the ashes an angel took the remains and formed a crown for me—a small Thimble Crown.

     Suddenly, I saw myself beside streets of transparent gold … I saw Jesus coming. I watched the saints … dropping their crowns at His feet (Revelation 4:9). My heart broke when Christ came over to me. I dropped down on my knees and laid a Thimble Crown at his feet. This is how much I loved You; this is how much … I cared.”

Three Rivers

June 1

 

If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles (Sun Tzu)

     On July 16, 1970 Three Rivers Stadium opened when the Pittsburgh Pirates played their first game in it. In 1971 the first World Series night game was played at Three Rivers. But the stadium’s singular moment came at the end of its third football season, amid the Pittsburgh's Steelers first professional football playoff game in a quarter century. The Immaculate Reception, as it is called, occurred on December 23, 1972 and is regarded by some as the greatest play in NFL history. The miraculous play occurred in the final 22 seconds of the game, it was fourth and ten with no time outs left. Terry Bradshaw threw a pass which bounced off the Raiders safety Jack Tatum who collided with John Fuqua the receiver. Franco Harris had run downfield in case Bradshaw needed another eligible receiver. He scooped up the sailing ball just before it hit the ground, and scored the touchdown. The Steelers won the game (12 to 7). This game marked a turning point for Pittsburgh who reversed four decades of futility with their first playoff win ever, and they went on to win four Super Bowls by the end of the decade.

     In 1753 long before the World Series games and the Immaculate Reception; George Washington, a major in the Virginia militia, was dispatched on a 300-mile journey to the Ohio River Valley. His mission was to present demands from King George II of England to the French authorities, ordering them to stop building Fort La Boeuf in English territory. The French refused. Washington trudged back home through miserable winter conditions, memorizing details of the landscape along the way. When he returned to Virginia, Washington delivered a map pointing to a strategic location where the British might build a fort of their own. His idea for a new fort was approved and builders were sent to the site, which is where the Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Stadium was built. When Washington went to Three Rivers and checked on the fort builders, he found them scattered; the French had taken the site and were constructing Fort Duquesne. Lieutenant Colonel Washington led an attack against the French but was overwhelmed and forced to surrender. The skirmish, along with other extenuating circumstances, contributed to the start of the French and Indian War.

     Whether the struggles of life occur on the battlefield, in a sports stadium or in the arena of life; it is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it (General Douglas Macarthur). We are involved in great conflict for significance, for peace and for purpose in life. But remember, life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal (Jean Paul Sarte). Eternity is what matters. We must not live in the past, or for today, or even for tomorrow; we must live forever. And this is the way to have eternal life—to know … the only true God, and Jesus Christ, His Son, the one He sent (Apostle John). Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever (Samuel Smiles).