Janitor to President

But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. Luke 22:26


James A. Garfield has a remarkable history. He grew up in an Ohio log cabin—poor and fatherless—a youngster who worked in the fields to help feed his family. Wanting to improve himself, he read and attended school whenever possible. He enrolled in the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio, where he also worked as a janitor. The once student/janitor ultimately became the school’s leading professor, and in 1857, its president. A quarter-century later, he became the 20th President of the United States. In his teens he gave his heart and life to Jesus Christ—adding teacher and preacher to his resume.

The progress of his life—from poverty to humble service to knowledge to leadership—is a lesson for us. Everyone wants to be a leader in some form or fashion; but serving comes first. Serving others, in fact, is the very essence of leadership. Just as Garfield’s leadership was enriched by his years as a farm boy and janitor, so our leadership is strengthened in the humble acts of kindness and care we perform daily.

If you have the opportunity of either serving or leading, and you can only do one—serve!

Let me ask you to choose the undying Jesus as your everlasting Friend and Helper. Let me urge you to follow Him. James A. Garfield

Questions in Times of Great Disaster

Isaiah 55:8-9

Whenever a great disaster strikes, legitimate questions spring to mind. Why does the Lord let such things happen? Couldn’t He have stopped this? Doesn’t He care? The magnitude of death and destruction caused by earthquakes, tornadoes, or floods disrupts our everyday thoughts and causes us to seek explanations for suffering.

Often the answers people come up with are based on their relationship with God. Those who know nothing of Him have no frame of reference for understanding how He works. Believers, on the other hand, have the Bible to guide them as they wrestle through these issues. But even then, the accuracy of one’s perspective is determined by his or her knowledge of God’s Word. Those with limited understanding may very well reach inaccurate conclusions.

We must guard against attempts at forcing the Lord to act the way we think He should. If He does something that won’t fit into the “box” we’ve devised for Him, we easily become upset, angry, or confused. God will never stay within the parameters we set for Him. Since we are mortal and sinful, we have a very narrow perspective and understanding of life. But our eternal, sinless, sovereign, and omniscient Creator sees and knows what we cannot perceive.

We want to be sure that our viewpoint of God’s role in natural disasters comes from the Bible, not from our own limited perspective. Scripture tells us of the Lord’s love, faithfulness, and wisdom. Whenever we cannot understand His ways, faith in His goodness must be our foundation.

Permissive Pergamos

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; . . . I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith . . . . But I have a few things against thee.” (Revelation 2:12-14)

Retaining a clear identity as a church of the Lord Jesus in an evil environment is worthy of commendation. And indeed, this body of believers at Pergamos held fast to its Christian name—even in a city that was known (at least by God) as the place where Satan had his “seat.” One of their members, Antipas, was killed for his faith. Yet, the church at Pergamos remained faithful with a spiritual testimony, a small light in a sea of wickedness.

But perhaps because of the pressure surrounding them, the Lord warned them that they were allowing two destructive doctrines to flourish among them. The first was compromising with “wages of unrighteousness,” exemplified by Balaam, which had become entrenched among the church (2 Peter 2:15). The second was the “doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,” which their sister church in Ephesus also confronted (Revelation 2:15, 6).

Balaam was a well-known prophet who willingly accepted an assignment with an enemy of God’s people so that he could receive a large sum of money (Numbers 22). And, even though God would not permit Israel to be cursed, as the enemy wanted, Balaam continued to promote his “error,” and Israel lapsed into grave sin (Jude 1:11).

Not much is written in Scripture about the Nicolaitanes. The word basically means “conquer the people.” This early teaching developed into a strong hierarchy of church polity over the next decades, and by the end of the second century, it was well established in the major cities. Jesus taught against such leadership (Matthew 20:26-27) and clearly said that He hated it (Revelation 2:6). HMM III

A soft answer does turn away wrath

Judges 8:1-3, 22-27, 32-35

Judges 8:1

When there is a success, everybody thinks that he ought to have been in it, and blames somebody else that he was away. It is not quite so clear that had these complainers been invited they would have welcomed the invitation. Those who grow angry because they cannot claim a share in the honour, are usually the very persons who would have had least taste for the conflict.

Judges 8:3

A soft answer turneth away wrath. It shewed a noble spirit in Gideon, that though the sole conqueror by right, he covets no monopoly of the praise, but even magnifies the exploits of others beyond his own. Better yield to absurd people, than engender strife among brethren.

Judges 8:22, 23

Here again Gideon shines. He had no eye to a dynasty, his eye was single for the Lord only. At the same time, it is natural that our deliverer should be our ruler, and if the Lord Jesus has indeed set us free from sin and Satan, it is but meet and right that he should rule over us.

Judges 8:24-27

What a pity that so good a man, with so good a motive, should do so wrong a thing. What need or right had he to fashion sacerdotal garments, when the only highpriest was elsewhere, and was adorned with all needful priestly robes and ornaments? A world of evil has come into the world through priestly dress. There is One Priest above arrayed in glory; how foolish and how wicked to dream of making priestly vestures for mortal men.

Judges 8:32

From worshipping God in a wrong way, to the worship of a wrong god, is an easy step. Alas! Gideon, what evil didst thou do.

Judges 8:35

It is no wonder if those who forget God, forget also all others to whom they are indebted. This chapter practically admonishes us to keep close to God’s rules of worship as laid down in Scripture, for the slightest divergence therefrom may lead to deadly errors and innumerable evils.


Lord, from habits keep me free

Which incline the least to sin,

Lest they prove a snare to me,

And my soul be held therein,


Reverent to thy sacred will,

May I all thy word obey;

Shun the very shade of ill,

From each idol turn away,


They Shall Take Up Serpents!

Mark 16:17, 18

In the remote back hills of some states, there are religious groups who literally “take up serpents” as a part of their church services. These groups have taken Jesus’ words in Mark 16:17 and 18 literally, where He said, “And these signs shall follow them that believe… they shall take up serpents….” Based on this scripture, these people have concluded that Jesus was actually ordering believers to “take up serpents” as a way to demonstrate the strength of their faith!

Back behind the pulpit and next to the wall in these churches are cages that contain rattlesnakes and other poisonous snakes. At a preappointed moment in the church service, the cages are popped open, the snakes are brought out, and those who are daring enough pass those serpents from one person to the next. But is this what Jesus was talking about when he said believers would “take up serpents”? Of course not!

Let’s consider the times in which Jesus uttered these words. Then we can better see how these words of Jesus apply to us today.

The word “serpents” is the Greek word ophis, which was used to depict snakes. Snakes were considered to be dangerous and life-threatening creatures. People were especially afraid of snakes because the road system at this time was very much undeveloped. This meant people often had to blaze their own trail to get to some cities or remote places. Hiding in the rocks or grasses were dangerous and poisonous snakes that frequently bit travelers, causing premature death. These snakes were a concern to all travelers, especially to those traveling by foot.

In Luke 10:19, Jesus said, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” When Jesus uttered these words to His disciples, it was right after He had commanded them to go into the harvest fields of the world to reap the souls of men (see Luke 10:2-11). This verse was Jesus’ supernatural guarantee that when they went to preach, they would have divine protection against serpents, scorpions, and anything else the enemy might try to use to stop or hurt them. This is why Jesus concluded by saying, “… nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

But notice that in addition to serpents, Jesus also mentioned scorpions! The scorpions in the Middle East were extremely feared because they were loaded with deadly poison. One sting from the tail of such a scorpion, and a person could be permanently paralyzed or even killed. When people took journeys by foot, the prospect of encountering a scorpion was just as scary as the thought of snakes. Scorpions hid in the rocks and in the ruts in the road. Therefore, sitting on the wrong rock or accidentally stepping on the wrong spot in the road could result in disaster.

Jesus’ promise to His disciples that they would “tread upon serpents and scorpions” was very important! The word “tread” is the Greek word pateo, which simply means to walk. Jesus was telling them that even if they walked right over a scorpion or snake, they didn’t need to worry because He was giving them special, supernatural protection against these natural dangers. This was a specific promise of protection for those who would be journeying long distances or through rough terrain to preach the Gospel!

To make sure the concerns of all travelers were completely covered, Jesus added, “… and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” The word “hurt” is the Greek word adikeo, which means to suffer injustice or to suffer some kind of wrong or wrongdoing. This was the Lord’s promise that we need not fear injustice or wrongdoing when we have been sent into His harvest field. In fact, the Greek uses a triple negative in this phrase. It literally says, “… and nothing (first negative), no (second negative), by no means (third negative) will injure or harm you.” Jesus said this in the strongest terms available to assure followers that if they go into the whole world to preach the Gospel, they will be divinely guarded from all forms of evil.

Now let’s go back to where we began today in Mark 16:17, 18. Jesus said, “These signs will follow them that believe… they shall take up serpents….” What did this mean to the disciples, and how does it apply to you and me today?

For the disciples, it meant they were divinely guarded by the power of God. This divine protection was so powerful that even if they were to be bitten by a deadly snake or a highly venomous scorpion, it would have no effect on them. An example of this can be found in Acts 28:3-6 when the apostle Paul was bitten by a deadly viper. Paul simply shook off the snake into the fire and went away unharmed (see June 25).

You see, Jesus gave His disciples supernatural protection because He was sending them to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Things that would normally injure or kill others would have no effect on them whatsoever. Since they were required to walk by foot through dangerous and rough terrain, this was a very important promise!

What does this have to do with you and me? First of all, it has nothing to do with passing rattlesnakes around a congregation! Although believers who do this may be sincere, they are sincerely wrong. This is foolishness and presumption. Jesus never intended for us to deliberately endanger ourselves!

But if we go in Jesus’ name to carry the Gospel to parts of the world that are considered to be unsafe, it does mean that God’s power will protect us! We may not deal with serpents and scorpions like the early believers did, but there may be times when we are required to fly on rickety airplanes, drive on dangerous roads, pass through highly volatile areas, or work in regions that are considered dangerous.

But as noted earlier (see July 7), this divine protection is activated in those of us who believe that God’s promise of protection will work for us. Whenever we enter dangerous territory in fear, doubt, and unbelief, we are likely to get in trouble. But if we will go believing and claiming that God’s protection is ours and that the enemy can’t do anything to hurt us, our faith in this promise will activate it and cause it to be manifested in our lives!

The bottom line is this: Before we ever take a mission trip, move to the mission field, or go anywhere considered dangerous for the sake of the Gospel, we need to make certain that we believe and actively claim the divine promise contained in this verse!


Lord, I believe Your Word to be true! By faith, I claim that there is nothing the enemy can do to injure or hurt me when I am traveling to take Your name to a new part of the world or to people who do not know You. Thank You for this promise of divine protection for my life! I am so grateful that You have shielded me with Your power and that the enemy cannot destroy me.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!


I confess that God’s power shields and protects me from every attack of the enemy! If I am required to fly on rickety airplanes, drive on dangerous roads, pass through highly volatile areas, or work in regions that are considered dangerous, I will be safe. Regardless of the conditions I am forced to face in order to take the name of Jesus to people who have never heard, God will be with me. He will protect me every step of the way. I believe and claim God’s protection; therefore, the enemy cannot do anything to hurt me!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!


  1. Can you think of examples when people whom you personally know were supernaturally protected by the power of God—in other words, when something catastrophic happened but had no effect on them?
  2. If you know of someone who was hurt on a mission trip, do you know if that person was in faith for that trip? Was he actively believing and claiming divine protection, or did he just get up and go without first making the trip a matter of fervent prayer?
  3. In light of what you have learned today, how will you change your approach to the trips on which the Lord sends you to share the Gospel with others?

If we go in Jesus’ name to carry the Gospel to parts of the world that are considered to be unsafe, God’s power will protect us! Regardless of the conditions we are forced to face, our faith in this promise of protection will activate it and cause it to be manifested in our lives every step of the way.


Simple Approach To Dig Deeper Into God’s Word

If you want to dig deeper into God’s Word, then try this simple approach:


Choose a short passage of Scripture. Then:


I.  READ the passage: (We’ll use Matthew 9:9-13 for our example)


As Jesus went on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collectors booth. Follow Me, He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthews house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this they asked His disciples, `Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? On hearing this, Jesus said, `It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.


II. RECORD the facts:


vs. 9 – Jesus tells Matthew to follow Him. Matthew obeys.


vs. 10 – Jesus and His disciples have dinner with Matthew and his friends: tax collectors and “sinners.”


vs. 11 – The Pharisees question Jesus’ disciples as to why He ate with such people.


vs. 12, 13 – Jesus hears about it and responds:

  • The “sick , not the healthy need a doctor.
  • God desires mercy over religious observance (sacrifice “).
  • Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

III.REFLECT on the implications of the facts for our life:

  • I wonder if I am as immediate and responsive to Jesus call to discipleship as was Matthew.
  • “Do I still have lost friends whom I am introducing to Jesus, as did Matthew?

IV. RESPOND by applying one of the implications to your life:


“I am convicted that I have not been more active in introducing my lost friends to Christ. Within 2 months 1 will have a dinner party for several of them, and plan to share how Christ has changed my life.”


For further practice you may want to try the following passages: John 18:1-11; Psalm 23; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20; Genesis 3:1-7; Colossians 3:12-16; John 18:15-18, 25-27; Revelation 1:12-18