May 23, 2013
An great video about past Christian Revivals and the current state of the Christian Church
The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10
My daughter and I were arranging to attend an extended family gathering. Because she was nervous about the trip, I offered to drive. “Okay. But I feel safer in my car. Can you drive it?” she asked. I assumed she preferred her more spacious vehicle to my compact one so I responded, “Is my car too cramped?” “No, it’s just that my car is my safe place. Somehow I feel protected there.”
Her comment challenged me to consider my own personal “safe place.” Immediately I thought of Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” In Old Testament times, the walls and watchtower of a city provided warning of danger from without and shielding for its citizens within. The writer’s point is that God’s name, which stands for His character, person, and everything that He is, provides true protection for His people.
Certain physical places promise longed-for safety in moments that seem dangerous. A sturdy roof overhead in the midst of a storm. A hospital offering medical care. The embrace of a loved one.
What is your “safe place”? Wherever we seek safety, it is God’s presence with us in that place that provides the strength and protection we really need.
Dear God, thank You that no matter what worries and concerns we have today, when we think about You, we find safety in Your presence.
Where is your safe place?
God is a safe place in life’s storms.
One of the greatest biblical descriptions of a truly “safe place” is found in the familiar words of Psalm 23. Some scholars envision David writing this Shepherd-psalm while still a young boy, perhaps lying under a star-filled night sky. Others see so much maturity and wisdom in the song that they imagine Psalm 23 as the reflections of an elderly person who has lived long and learned much. Either way, the song clearly describes David’s “safe place.” It was a place of provision (v. 1); a place of green pastures and quiet, relaxing waters (v. 2); and a place for spiritual restoration and spiritual guidance (v. 3). But, most of all, it was a place where David experienced the presence of God, who removed all his fear and provided deep comfort (v. 4).
Before the foundation of the world, the Lord laid out the plan for your life, and every day He guides you along the path marked with your name. He never intended that you walk it alone. Human beings are designed for relationships. By that, I certainly do mean that God Himself will help you. But in addition, He also provides men and women—fellow believers—to come alongside you as encouragers, mentors, friends, and co-laborers.
Men and women in the Bible consistently pursued God with the help of others. Consider Moses—the hero of Israel’s liberation, recipient of the Ten Commandments, and leader of the Israelites throughout their extended trip to the Promised Land. He sounds like a one-man show, but Moses had a network of friends and family who provided wise counsel and necessary aid. In today’s passage, for example, he relied upon Aaron and Hur.
God designed a battle plan that involved all three men. From a hilltop, they observed the conflict against the Amalekites. As long as Moses raised his staff in honor to the Lord, the Israelites prevailed. But when his endurance waned, the enemy gained ground. So Aaron and Hur held Moses’ arms aloft, lending their strength to support his mission. What a picture of godly friendship.
Self-sufficiency is prized in the world, but it isn’t God’s design for His children. A group of people united in the Lord can do so much more than a man or woman acting alone. Together with his friends, Moses proved that. He was a wise and formidable leader, in part because he had the loyal support and counsel of like-minded believers.
“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Even a superficial reading of the account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 impresses the reader with the idea of suddenness. God simply called the universe into existence from nothing and then quickly set about the rapid formation of certain features, interspersed with other direct creative acts. All of the events, whether creative or formative, seem to have happened over a brief period of time, such as the formation of the plants (Genesis 1:12), the animals (v. 20), and the sun and stars (v. 16).
Even aspects that were evidently formed by a process such as the continents and oceans (v. 10) and humankind (2:7, 22) seemingly took no great length of time.
This is especially true of the creation of light. “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” (1:3). No slow and sporadic arrival of light from distant stars is mentioned, nor a gradual heating up of the sun as interstellar gas collapsed and fused. Some evangelical advocates of the old-earth concept hold that God slowly cleared the atmosphere of leftover interstellar dust that allowed the light from the sun and stars to penetrate to the earth.
But, if Scripture alone is our authority, then it happened suddenly and spectacularly. As discussed in our text, it happened just as suddenly and just as supernaturally as a new creature is created out of a dead creature at the moment of salvation. Sanctification may be a lifelong matter, but “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17), literally creation. No more time is required for the transformation than for darkness to turn into light at the Creator’s command. JDM
It is possible that in those golden days when Solomon walked with God, he was inspired to write the matchless book of Canticles, which is the Holy of holies of the Scriptures, standing like the tree of life in the midst of the garden of inspiration. The song is highly allegorical, and describes Christ and his church as a bride and bridegroom who sing to each other and of each other. The passage we are about to read is a dialogue.
The Bridegroom first speaks, and says—
Song of Songs 2:2
Who can this be but Jesus, in whose person the rose and lily are combined? “White is his soul, from blemish free, Red with the blood he shed for me.” He paints his church as a lone lily growing amidst a wilderness of thorns, among them but not of them, her beauties being all the more conspicuous by contrast.
Then the Bride or the church exclaims—
Song of Songs 2:3
The golden citron excels all other trees, and Jesus is far more excellent than all others. Shade and fruit, protection and provision, are found in him. He is all in all to us who believe in him.
Song of Songs 2:5
Love to Jesus sometimes becomes so vehement a passion that the soul cannot bear it, and the bodily frame is ready to swoon under the supreme excitement.
Song of Songs 2:7-9
The spouse now hears the voice of her husband, and rejoices to see him coming to her with all the sacred haste of omnipotent love.
Song of Songs 2:13
When doubts and fears, trials and distresses are over and the heart is full of music, we should go forth in holy fellowship, and delight ourselves with the Lord Jesus. Dark days may come, let us spend our joyful seasons in the most profitable manner, walking with our Lord in the light while the light lasts.
The Bridegroom still speaks, and calls to his beloved, saying—
Song of Songs 2:17
Come out from the hiding-places of fear or worldliness and own the Lord.
The church sings again—
Song of Songs 2:16, 17
If we have lost the presence of the Lord, it is our duty and our privilege to cry to him to return swiftly and triumphantly, like the fleet roe which overleaps mountains and defies all difficulties.
Yes! my Beloved to my sight
Shows a sweet mixture, red and white:
All human beauties, all divine,
In my Beloved meet and shine.
All over glorious is my Lord,
Must be beloved, and yet adored;
His worth if all the nations knew,
Sure the whole earth would love him too.
2 Corinthians 11:25
I’ll never forget the day one of our workers came to see me with deep gashes running across his cheekbones and nose. When I saw the condition of his face, I was completely taken aback. The sight simply broke my heart.
It was this young man’s task to carry copies of our television programs to one of the most dangerous regions reached by our television broadcast. We all knew that this man was risking his life to travel every month to that region carrying the actual programs and the cash to pay for the broadcasting of the programs. However, we were all committed to the goal of reaching that region so the Word could be sent via television into the homes of millions who had never heard the Gospel before.
Because this man traveled extensively to a very hostile Muslim region of the world, he knew that each trip placed his life in jeopardy. Yet because he was so committed to getting the Word to the unreached people of that region, he was willing to even lay down his life if necessary as he continued to fulfill his assignment. His passion to see the lost saved had spilled over to his wife. She understood the seriousness of his job but rejoiced with him at the thought of people hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
As this young man stood before me that day with a battered face, a black-and-blue eye, and that ugly, deep gash that ran across his cheekbones and nose, I knew he had been attacked on one of his trips to that region to deliver our television programs. He was such a young, handsome man; it just broke my heart to see his face so marred.
When he saw that the gashes on his face deeply troubled me, the young man said, “Brother Rick, don’t worry about me. I’ll be all right. I’m so thankful they didn’t get the television programs or the cash I was carrying to pay for the broadcasts. The Lord was with me, and I know that now He will heal me.” Although he had obviously been severely beaten, he was still full of the joy of the Holy Spirit.
As I heard the whole story of what happened to him, I came to understand what a miracle it was that he was still alive. The trap these gospel-haters had set for him could have killed him. But instead of being afraid to go back to that region again, he had come to our office to pick up the next set of television programs and the cash to pay for them. As he walked out of my office, I wanted to salute him! In my mind, he was and continues to be a true hero of the faith!
Don’t think that persecution is something that happened only in New Testament times. It is still happening today all over the world, and the believers who live and work in these dangerous regions need our prayers! Please remember to pray for them when you spend time with the Lord.
But just as the apostle Paul was energized to get up and get moving again, those who lay claim to God’s power today are also energized to get past the times of intense persecution or opposition they endure. These believers know they’re not destined to live in defeat or despair as long as they don’t waste time bemoaning what happened to them. They also know that crying about the attacks of the enemy doesn’t change the fact that they happened; therefore, they just grab hold of God’s power and adamantly refuse to let the devil stop them or slow them down!
In Second Corinthians 11:25, Paul tells us about similar events that happened to him. Although these events could have been devastating to someone else, they had almost no effect on Paul. He was determined to do his job and not to let anything hinder him! In this verse, he says, “Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned….”
Thrice Was I Beaten With Rods
In the ancient world, a beating with rods was a horrible, ugly form of torture. A strong man would bind the victim’s arms tightly around his body, incapacitating the victim’s ability to move in much the same way as a straightjacket would do. Then while the victim’s upper chest and head still lay on the ground, his legs would be pulled up into the air.
At this point, a man with a huge rod—normally made of metal—would begin whacking the bottom of the victim’s feet. He would whack and whack and whack until the feet of the victim were bleeding, broken, and maimed. At times this beating was so severe that the victim would afterward never be able to walk again.
It’s interesting that the book of Acts never gives us a specific example of Paul being beaten with rods in such a manner. However, as we continue to look at the entire list of what Paul encountered (2 Corinthians 11:23-27), we see that many events occurred during Paul’s ministry that Luke never recorded in the book of Acts. But Paul never forgot any of them, and he tells us here about some of those events into which the book of Acts gives us no insight.
We don’t know when Paul’s feet-beating experiences occurred, but he tells us that he was beaten with rods three different times during the course of his ministry. It’s obvious that the devil didn’t want this Gospel preacher to take the Gospel anywhere else! Satan attempted to maim Paul’s feet to permanently knock him out of the race.
You see, the feet of a Gospel preacher are threatening to the devil. Paul quoted Isaiah 52:7 when he wrote, “… How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15). This attack on Paul’s feet was an attack against the Gospel.
It is evident that rather than throw in the towel and quit because of this experience, Paul grabbed hold of the power of God, put his shoes back on, got up, and went on his way to keep doing what God called him to do. This was a man the devil couldn’t keep down!
No wonder Paul wrote about the resurrection power of God! He was writing from personal experience when he said, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).
Once Was I Stoned
This event occurred in Acts 14:19. After a successful campaign among the Gentiles in Lystra, Jewish opposers came from Iconium to stir up trouble for Paul’s ministry. They were so effective in distributing bad information about Paul that the entire city turned against him. In a moment of fury, the people of Lystra stoned him and “… drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (Acts 14:19).
It may well be that Paul was dead. Stoning was a malicious act. The stoners aimed their sharp rocks at the victim’s head in order to deal a fatal blow. To assure the victim’s death, the people didn’t usually stop the stoning until his head was crushed. When it was apparent that there was no possibility of survival, the remaining rocks were dumped and the victim’s corpse was dragged out of the city and left for the dogs and wild beasts to eat. So when Acts 14:19 says the people of Lystra “supposed” Paul was dead, there is no reason to think he was not dead at that moment.
Acts 14:20 tells us that as the disciples came and stood near Paul’s corpse, “he rose up.” Is it possible that these disciples joined hands and prayed for Paul’s resurrection? This is precisely my view.
Later Paul gave testimony of a visit he made to Heaven (see 2 Corinthians 12:1-4). He explained that he heard and saw things that he had never been given permission to speak. When did Paul make this visit to Heaven? Could it have been at the time he was stoned in Lystra? Yes, I personally think so.
No wonder Paul could write with such conviction: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life… shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39). Even death cannot stop a man who is determined to keep on going!
Paul could have resigned himself to his fate as the people were stoning him and thought, Well, I guess this is the end of the road. I guess I’ll give up and die now. If he had done that, I’m sure stoning would have been the end of him. But I’m just certain that as they stoned Paul, he thought, I’m not dying now! My job isn’t done! If they kill me, I’ll just have to be resurrected!
Being stoned was never a part of Paul’s plan. It was an unexpected roadblock that the devil orchestrated to try to stop him from fulfilling his call. But although the experience stole time and delayed Paul’s plans a little, it did not permanently hinder him from going on. God can join Himself to this kind of person! God knows this is the kind of person who is really going to get something done!
Are you this kind of person? Does God emphatically know that you will never surrender to any attack of the devil? Have you demonstrated that you are going to keep forging ahead to finish your assignment and that you will never quit until you can say the job is done?
Don’t get too upset if troubles come against you. It doesn’t mean you have a lack of faith; it just means you live in a world where the devil operates and hassles people. The fact that you do have faith means you never have to be overcome by these attacks of the enemy. If you’ll grab hold of victory—the way Jesus did, Paul did, and so many others before you did—you can overcome the world and everything in it.
So take heart, and be courageous! As you determine to keep on walking in God’s power, no matter WHAT comes against you, the victory really does belong to you!
Lord, I want to be the kind of person who never allows the circumstances of life to stop me from accomplishing Your plan for my life. I am sorry for the times I’ve acted weak and complained that the circumstances I faced were too hard to deal with. The truth is, You have given me Your Spirit and Your power. That means there is no problem, no challenge, and no hardship I cannot conquer and overcome. If I take the power You make available to me, I can do anything You tell me to do. So today I am making my choice. I am reaching out by faith to grab hold of Your Spirit’s power so I can be supernaturally quickened to complete every assignment Heaven ever asks me to do.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I am the kind of person God can count on to get something done. God knows I will never surrender to any attack of the devil. I regularly demonstrate that I am going to keep forging ahead to finish my assignment and that I will never quit until I can say the job is done. Jesus overcame the world, and today He gives me the power to overcome it too. Like Jesus and other strong men and women of God before me, I will overcome the world and every form of opposition the devil puts in my way!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
This week I had the privilege of spending a great deal of time with a seasoned, godly older man who has walked with God for sixty years. Observing this old war-horse of the faith, and reflecting back on others of his stripe, two traits seem to characterize their lives:
INTIMACY – I notice that they have cultivated the practice of moment-by-moment communion with Christ, when their minds are free from other obligations and demands. It is apparent that they have learned to bring Jesus into the little details of their lives. They seem in touch. The tone I pick up is one of sensitivity to His prompting, sensitivity to sin, dependency upon Him in the littlest of things, humility, gentleness, perhaps even brokenness. There is not the slightest air of superiority or self-promotion.
“I am the vine itself, you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 – Phillips)
IMMEDIACY – It seems that they are forever, and everlastingly “at it.” Their antennas are up, aware, utilizing every opportunity to lovingly and graciously share the love of Christ with those who come into their orbit. Reflective indeed of Paul’s mind-set:
“So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, (evangelism) and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about Him, (discipleship) so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ Jesus. This is what I am working at all the time, with all the strength that God gives me.” (Colossians 1:28, 29 – Phillips)
Perhaps their motto is: “if not you – who? If not now – When?”
In this sense of immediacy, there is no hint of pushiness or being overbearing. Notice the guidelines Paul gives, derived from Colossians 4:5, 6; 2 Timothy 2:24-26:
SUGGESTION: Can you take a moment and ask God, “Lord, if I am not walking intimately with you, why? And if I am lack a sense of immediacy in getting the Gospel to others, why?