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The Removal of the Lampstands

Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your candlestick from its place, unless you repent.

— Revelation 2:5

The letters to the seven churches in the first three chapters of Revelation tell us what Jesus thinks of the church. Because of the sin of certain members of the church, God said he would take away their lampstands.

I have been to many of the places mentioned in this passage and those churches are no longer there. I wonder how many there are in church who, in secret sin, are impeding the progress of the church in the world.

I think back many years ago and recall a man in my own church who was engaged in adultery—a man who had been a minister and had left the ministry, but a man who seemed to be a godly man, a man who seemed to be a Christian. Only God knows the heart.

He became involved with a married woman. He was going to have her divorce her husband and marry him. I admonished him and urged him to repent. He was brought before the discipline committee and they admonished him to repent. He was suspended from the sacraments, but he did not repent. Finally, the Session (the governing body of our church) determined that since he remained impenitent, they would have to excommunicate this man from the church. Just before that took place, suddenly that young man died.

God sees all, and we should not take His mercy for granted.

Question to ponder:
What is the difference between living with open unconfessed sin and falling into sin?

Why Is the Church so Weak?

They took from the things dedicated for destruction. They have stolen, acted deceitfully, and put them among their own possessions. Therefore the children of Israel cannot stand before their enemies.

— Joshua 7:11-12

Israel’s defeat at Ai in Joshua 7 reminds us that one of the reasons the army of God is oft defeated and does not make the progress it should is because of sin within. In this case it was Achan who, having gone into the city of Jericho to help destroy it, saw there a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a gold bar. He wrapped them up and put them under his robe and hastened back to his tent. He buried them in the earth in the center of the tent and no doubt put a carpet over it, cleaned it all up nicely, and nobody was the wiser. He had committed the perfect crime—except that the all-seeing God knew it was there.

Unhappily, the 3,000 men who made their way up the hill toward Ai did not know what Achan had done and suffered defeat as a consequence.

Why does the Church not make the progress it ought to be making? Could it be because of sin in the camp? Maybe you subscribe to it on television, or maybe it’s a magazine that comes every month into your home. It is that which He has forbidden and lies buried right in the center of your tent. God knows all about it and so the people of God are defeated.

Question to ponder:
Is there anything in your house which God wants you to get rid of?

The Honor of God’s Name

To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

— Jude 24-25

Have you ever walked into a great cathedral and been overwhelmed by the glory and majesty of God? Have you felt His beauty and power in the lofty arches and in the stained glass windows? These mighty buildings were made to the glory of Jesus Christ, and they are among the finest examples of art in the history of the world.

No doubt you have heard of Sir Christopher Wren, who was perhaps the greatest architect who ever lived. He designed many marvelous buildings, including St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He was a devout Christian who was concerned about the honor and glory of God. Not only did he design St. Paul’s Cathedral, but he superintended the building of it. Wren had a sign placed in a number of different locations on the construction site that read: “Due to the heinous custom of laborers to take the name of God in vain, each person is hereby placed on notice that it shall be sufficient cause for immediate dismissal if the name of God is heard taken in vain in this place.”

May we live with such a zeal for the glory of God’s name.

Question to ponder:
How can you glorify God in your life today?

“Everlasting Splendors”

So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.

— 1 Corinthians 15:42-43

These verses from Paul describe what we have to look forward to when we die—a glorious new body. This body will be more ours than the one we have now, because it will be the perfect body we were always meant to have. We will finally be as God envisioned us in creation before the fall.

C. S. Lewis noted, “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

This has strong implications for how we treat one another, in and out of the church. We cannot fail if we show love to everyone as much as possible. Think of all people as “in disguise.” We are not as we seem. Our true nature and our true self is what we will be eternally.

Question to ponder:
What do you look most forward to when you think of personal glorification?

The Blessings of Giving

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

— Acts 20:35

There are in the Scripture some 72 different passages which deal with giving, and of those, some 48 passages describe the distinct and open promises of the special blessings of God upon those who give.

I believe that the motive for giving should be gratitude to God for what He has already given to us. We should give for the purpose of advancing His glory and His kingdom in the world. The additional blessings He pours out upon us are simply super-abounding blessings that He gives above everything else He has given.

Those who tithe find that they are no worse off than they were before, but rather that God has blessed them, as He said, and opened the windows of Heaven to them. They are amazed to discover that God has provided all of their needs out of His abundance, and that the nine-tenths goes farther than the ten-tenths.

To live a generous life is to imitate God. As we give much, God blesses us even more.

Question to ponder:
Can you think of a time when your giving became a blessing to yourself?

No Ultimate Conflict

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.

— Psalm 119:89

No book has been attacked over the past 200 years like the Bible. Many scholars have joined the savage attack, which continues in our day unabated. Yet the Bible is correct, and critical scholars are proven wrong again and again. (If there are certain unanswered questions about the Scriptures, give it time—the Bible will be vindicated eventually).

Just because someone is a scholar doesn’t mean he or she is correct. Often they are not. When it comes to scholars, I always remember the admonition of Dr. William Childs Robinson that I heard in seminary. We were discussing some controversial theological issue in one of his classes. One student said to him, “But professor, all of the scholars say …”

Robinson said, “Hold it. Hold it right there, young man. You never want to forget that we choose our scholars. We choose our experts.”

And what do the scholars say? Ah, my friend, I think it is vitally important that you know right now, and never forget, what the scholars say. The scholars say anything at all. They say everything—they express every imaginable point of view.

When you see scholars expressing anti-Christian opinions on television or read them in magazines or the newspapers, just remember, somebody chose those experts, and they didn’t choose them by chance. They often stack the experts in such a way as to promote unbelief.

Question to ponder:
Do you have any doubts about the Word of God that you need to get answered? What are they and what faithful source will you seek for the correct answers?

Thy Will Be Done

Do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

— Matthew 26:42

In his agonized prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see the total submission of Christ to the Father. We see a struggle between life and death, a cosmic struggle with millions of souls in the balance. The victory was in submission.

This short little prayer, “Your will be done” has been called “the prayer that never fails.” God always honors and answers this prayer. Throughout our life, we need to pray it many times as we again and again give control of our lives to God.

We need to pray, “Lord, use me today for Your great purposes and for Your glory.” When we do this, we will be amazed at the opportunities we have to do good. We will meet people in need. We will meet people who are lost—people with whom we can share the Good News. There are always all kinds of opportunities to serve His plan.

This prayer demonstrates the difference between a Christian prayer and a pagan prayer (or incantation). When a pagan prays, he tries to harness the spiritual powers of the universe to do his bidding and proclaims, “As I will so it must be.” In other words, “My will be done.” Contrast that with the Christian prayer: “Thy will be done.”

Question to ponder:
Is there any area of your life where you need to pray this prayer—”Your will be done”?

Fear of God

Do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

— Matthew 10:28

The Scriptures admonish us to fear God and keep His commandments. Jesus tells us to fear God who has the power to cast people into hell. “The fear of the Lord” does not mean a slavish dread of Him. Rather, it is a reverential awe of God that should be part of every true believer’s faith in the living God. We believe in the Great, in the Mighty, in the Terrible, in the August, in the All-powerful God of this universe.

In a very real sense, God inspires all true believers with a certain reverential awe—an awe not unlike the awe a child feels for his father on this earth. That is not to say, however, that we live in dread of our Heavenly Father without care for Him. Rather, because of our reverence for Him, His righteousness, and His holiness, we fear to do evil. So, it is well that each one of us who believes in the living God should fear to do evil.

Dostoyevsky famously wrote, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” That is why the fear of God is good, and to be a God-fearing person is healthy.

Question to ponder:
What is the relationship between the love and the fear of God?

Faultfinding

Then the presidents and officials sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom, but they could find no occasion or fault because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him.

— Daniel 6:4

Several Babylonian officials were on a fault-finding mission, to bring Daniel down. They found nothing. People love to find faults in others, especially in people who are in the Church. We Christians should be blameless ourselves, nor should we find fault in others. Sad to say, very few people are in Daniel’s league. We are told not to judge others and not to point out their faults. That should be left to the Lord.

Every commandment in the Bible also contains a commandment to do the opposite good. Not only is it true that we are not to find fault (do not judge, or you will be judged), we are to find good. We are to be “good-finders.”

Andrew Carnegie said that when gold is mined, tons of dirt are moved to get one ounce of gold, but they are not looking at the dirt, they are looking for the gold. The faultfinder is looking for the dirt, and he never finds the gold. We have to become a good-thinker and a good-seeker so that we are looking for the good.

Just think of how many good things you could find about relatives, fellow workers, fellow students, friends, neighbors and others that you could bring to their attention and thereby bless their lives.

Question to ponder:
Can you find some good in another today and share that good with them?

With All Your Mind

Teach me Your statutes. Make me to understand the way of Your precepts; then I shall contemplate on Your wondrous works.

— Psalm 119:26-27

The idea is repeatedly and almost constantly put forth by the secular media in all of its forms that belief in God and in the Christian faith is somehow irrational, obscurantist, and un-intellectual. By contrast, it is held that unbelief in God and the Christian faith is the rational, enlightened, and intelligent view of life. Though the thesis is hardly ever set forth as clearly and precisely as that, it very subtly seeps into the mindset of modern man from multiple sources.

But is it really so? I am sure that many people have been convinced that it is, including people within the Church. They have concluded that to believe in God and Christianity is to commit intellectual suicide. One must, somehow, have had a frontal lobotomy or parked their brain in the narthex when going in to worship God to hear the preaching of His Word.

This, of course, has a very adverse effect upon human beings because, instinctively, we know that if God has created us, He has obviously given us intellects as well as hearts and souls. It seems inconsistent that we should short-circuit our intellect and leap into a blind faith of some sort.

True worship of God always involves our mind. We are to love God with all our minds. We are to learn, to understand, to meditate, and to wonder at His greatness.

Question to ponder:
How can we love God with all our minds?