Daily in the Word: a ministry of Lancaster Baptist Church
"But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:10-12
Paul sent his young associate Titus to the island of Crete to set elders over the churches there and establish strong churches. Though the Bible doesn’t continue the story, church history tells us the story of a job well done. Titus led the church in Crete until 105 AD, when he died at age 94. Nearly one hundred and fifty years later, in January 250, the Roman Emperor Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity. He demanded that the bishops and officers of the church make sacrifices to the Emperor as a sign that their allegiance was to him rather than to God.
Leaders from the churches of Crete who became known as the “ten surmountable martyrs” refused and died for their faith. Their stories were told for centuries to encourage others to stand firm in their faith.
There are many places in the world today where Christians face grave persecution, but most of us in America have enjoyed religious liberty and do not face the choice
between being faithful to God and saving our lives.
However the day may come even here when we are faced with such a decision. Scripture tells us that persecution should not come as a surprise to us, because of the hatred of the world for the things of God. Every committed, consistent Christian is a rebuke to those who are doing wrong, without ever saying a word. And if we do reach a point where it is no longer acceptable or even legal to be a witness for Christ, we should remain firm in our faith.
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."
The Annenberg Center for the Digital Future at USC released a study on how American families are impacted by technology. Their report shows that more and more families are spending less and less time together. The number of Americans who acknowledged they are spending less time with those in their household has nearly tripled since 2006, from 11 percent to 28 percent. With the proliferation of social networking, time spent with family members has dropped from 28 hours per month just 6 years ago to 18 hours per month. Facebook, Twitter, and a whole list of social networks are capturing the time and attention of American families.
Each day we have opportunities to have an impact on others, particularly on our families. But that requires a decision to take advantage of those opportunities and spend our time on things that really matter. It is easy to fritter away an entire day without doing anything of lasting importance—easier today than at any time in the past. But as someone once observed, "A wasted life is nothing more than a bunch of wasted days put together."
Determine to focus your energy and attention on what is eternal. As you go through the day, talk about the principles and precepts of the Word of God. Encourage others to see Bible truth illustrated in the events of daily life. Taking this approach, you will find that you are a strength and help to those you influence.
"For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 3:9-11
Edward Mote was born in England in 1794. His father ran a pub, and Edward received little care as a child. After working as a cabinet maker, he was saved and eventually became a Baptist pastor. He also wrote a number of hymns.
The hymn by Edward Mote that we best remember is "The Solid Rock." Mote was working on the hymn when he learned about the dying wife of a church member. Mote went to visit the woman and shared his words of comfort: "On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand." These words brought the woman hope, and Mote finished his hymn which we still sing today.
You have been given a solid and unshakeable foundation as a child of God. The faithfulness of every one of His promises has been proven again and again by centuries of believers. The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes said, "If you give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, I can move the world." You have that place to stand today—on the promises of God.
Knowing the certainty of God’s truth and the surety of His promises gives us a responsibility—to build something of strong and lasting value on that foundation. Our lives are not our own; they are meant for His purpose. The Christian life is not an unstable or uncertain life; rather it is a life of meaning built upon a firm and solid Rock.
When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Over recent decades, nationally-known preachers and authors have specifically and publically predicted the date for the Lord’s return. In almost every case, they state that their declarations are the result of careful study of Scripture, and that there is no chance they may be mistaken. When one preacher’s date proved to be incorrect, he recalculated and declared a second date later in the year. The mistaken declarations provided great humor for the world and great embarrassment to those who believed them.
As children of God we should all be looking forward to the day when the Lord will return. We know that His coming could be at any moment, but the Scripture is also clear that no one is able to set a date or a time for “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing” (Titus 2:13).
It is possible for us to become so focused on future prophetic events that we miss the tasks that God has assigned for us today. In fact, the disciples found themselves in just that position. Just before the Lord returned to Heaven, their focus was on figuring out God’s timetable. Jesus told them that instead of worrying about “the times or the seasons” they should instead be witnesses for Him. There is no more important mission that we have been given than bringing lost men and women to salvation in His name. When we win the lost, we are focused on what matters most.
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The Bible tells us that there are things we do not have simply because we do not ask God for them. That is a tragedy, because prayer is the means which God has ordained for our needs to be met. One preacher of the past told of a dream in which he was taken by an angel to a large warehouse in Heaven. Shelves were piled high with packages. He asked the angel what he was seeing, and the angel replied, “These are things God had for you for which you never asked.”
But a second tragedy is when we pray for the wrong things or with the wrong motives. It is not wrong for us to ask for what we want or what we need, but we must be careful not to put ourselves in the place of God, asking Him to fulfill our will. That is not the purpose of prayer, and there is no basis for expecting answers to selfish prayers. Our desires will lead us astray unless we submit them to God’s will.
As in everything, Jesus is our pattern for proper motivation in prayer. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed for the cup to pass, but then said, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). God’s wisdom so far exceeds ours that we must trust Him to give us what is best. The many wonderful promises of Scripture concerning answered prayer are true, but they are conditioned on proper attitudes and asking in our praying.
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
If you have ever seen a video of lions hunting their prey in the wild, you have seen that while they may chase a herd of animals, they focus their attention on stragglers and strays—those who have gotten separated from the herd. These are the ones who are taken in the hunt. Any individual animal in the group is no match for a lion, but it finds that there is safety in numbers.
God never intended for His children to be isolated and alone. When Jesus sent the disciples out to begin preaching on their own, He sent them in pairs. When Elijah was depressed and discouraged, God gave him Elisha to join him in the ministry. When God commanded the early church to send out missionaries, they sent Paul and Barnabas together. There is enormous safety and encouragement in knowing that we are not alone.
We live in a culture that glorifies individualism. One of the most popular songs of the last century is called “I Did it My Way.” Satan is delighted when he can convince us to strike out on our own, leaving behind our spiritual family in the church. He knows that an isolated Christian is an easy target. There is truly safety in numbers. The giant redwood trees of California soar hundreds of feet into the air, but their roots are strong. The strength of a redwood’s roots is found in other redwoods. Instead of going deep underground, they spread sideways and entwine with the roots of other redwood trees so that they hold each other up. That is God’s pattern for us.
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.
1 Timothy 2:1-3
In 1776, a group of fifty-six men met in Philadelphia to set the thirteen colonies on the path to independence. Though they were not all Christians, many of them were, and they set a pattern for our nation that from the beginning of our history declared our reliance upon God Almighty. The Declaration concludes with these words:
"We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."
Though many today would deny the godly heritage of America, the testament to our historical reliance on God is written into our founding documents and carved in stone on the walls of our national buildings and monuments. Those of us who are believers have a responsibility to both God and our country to pray for our leaders regardless of who they may be. The Roman emperors during Paul’s day were certainly no friend to Christians, but that did not change the command to faithfully pray for them. Just as our Founding Fathers once did, today we must again turn to God and seek His grace and favor for our land.
"And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself."
Daniel 1:5-6, 8
In 1992, we took some time apart as a family to establish a written "Chappell Family Purpose Statement." It was our desire to have a focus that would guide our activities and interactions, so we sat down and talked about how we wanted to live our lives as a Christian family. Here is what we wrote and each of us signed: "The Purpose of Our Family is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ through obedience to His Word, and by edifying and exhorting one another."
Have each of us lived up to that goal every single day since then? No. We are imperfect people. But by having an established goal, we have done more to reach it than we would have had we just drifted through the days without a purpose. As the old saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time."
When Daniel was just a young man, he was ripped away from his home and family and taken to the center of the heathen world. There he was enrolled in a training program designed to break down his allegiance to his own country and his own God to make him a useful servant of the Babylonian Empire. Yet that well-refined program did not work on this young man because of the purpose he established and kept throughout his life.
"Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil."
A hunter raised his rifle and took careful aim at a large bear. When he was about to pull the trigger, the bear spoke in a soft, soothing voice, "Isn’t it better to talk than to shoot? What do you want? Let’s negotiate the matter." Lowering his rifle, the hunter replied, "I want a fur coat."
"Good," said the bear, "that is a negotiable request. I only want a full stomach, so let us negotiate a compromise." They sat down to negotiate, and after a time the bear walked away alone. The negotiations had been successful. The bear had a full stomach, and the hunter had his fur coat!
If you give the devil even one inch, he will take a mile or more. The pages of Scripture and of history are filled with the sad stories of people who thought they could let down their guard just a little without suffering any negative consequences. Each of them was wrong. Lot, Noah, David, and Peter are just a few of the examples of those who made small first steps toward wrong, thinking they were still in control, only to find themselves mired in sin.
You may remember the saying many of us learned in Sunday school: "Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay." There is no negotiating with Satan. Anything that you give up he will take, but because he is a liar, he will never keep a promise that he makes to you. Stand your ground firmly, and never retreat on a single principle or conviction.
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."
Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation's deserts. All that vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for.
Our affections—the things that we love—determine the things we focus on. The world is filled with trouble and heartbreak, yet the same world is filled with blessings and benefits from God. Which one we choose to focus on to a large measure determines whether we will be content and happy or not. Believers who are joyful Christians are not somehow spared from the hardships of life. But they are focused on the things of God.
This world is just temporary. The trials that we endure and the hardships we experience do not force us into bitterness or depression. Paul certainly endured much more than his share in the way of trouble, yet he viewed it as being for his own benefit. Paul wrote that his afflictions created "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17). He could say that because his heart was settled in Heaven.
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you."
1 Peter 5:5-7
James Cash Penney had a godly heritage as a child, and he carried those convictions into adulthood. A hard worker, Penney was scrupulously honest and maintained a godly lifestyle as he became successful in business. But when the Great Depression struck, he was overextended, and it appeared he would lose everything he had worked for. His health broke, and he was hospitalized. In such severe pain that he thought he was about to die, he wrote farewell letters to his family.
Penney later wrote, "I was broken nervously and physically, filled with despair, unable to see even a ray of hope. I had nothing to live for. I felt I hadn’t a friend left in the world, that even my family turned against me." But the next morning, he heard singing from the hospital chapel. "Be not dismayed, whate’er betide, God will take care of you." Those words rekindled his faith and he said, "I can’t explain it. I can only call it a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm, brilliant sunlight."
No matter what circumstance you are in today, God is there. He has never abandoned or forsaken a single one of His children, and He is not going to begin now. You can take your burden to the Lord and leave it with Him because of His compassion and care for you. Your needs do not take Him by surprise—He is simply waiting for you to come to Him for help.
"And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son."
1 Kings 17:11-13
I once heard a story of a missionary in Africa who received a knock on the door of his hut one afternoon. Answering, the missionary found a native boy holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "Missionary, you taught us what tithing is, so here. I've brought you my tithe." As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the boy. "If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?" At this, the boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still back in the river. I'm going back to catch them now." This boy evidenced the joy of faith in his giving.
God does not need our money. He has all the resources of Heaven and Earth at His disposal. But He does command us to give tithes and offerings. Though this teaching is clear throughout Scripture, it sometimes meets with resistance from Godâ€™s people. Yet those with a heart for God have no issue with giving back to Him part of what He has given to them. When we give to God first rather than handing Him the leftovers, we show that our heart is fixed on Him rather than on the material blessings we receive.
"Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
It’s no secret that families are in trouble today. The divorce rate continues to rise, with devastating consequences. A Michigan State University study of adolescent murderers found that 75 percent came from broken homes. The increasing drug use and immorality among young people is made much worse by the plague of divorce as children struggle without the guidance two godly parents are meant to provide. This is yet another illustration of the truth that God’s commands are given to us for our own good.
Ever since the Garden of Eden, man has been tempted to follow his own path. Isaiah said, "we have turned every one to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6). Yet the God who knows everything has told us what will work and what won’t. If you want your family to be successful and blessed for generations to come, the first step is for you personally to be a Christian who fears and obeys God. This produces benefits that reach far into the future.
The great missionary Hudson Taylor is well known as a man of faith who was greatly used by God. But he was actually the fourth generation in his family to follow God. His great grandfather James Taylor was saved under the preaching of John Wesley when he heard a sermon called "As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord." If you follow Christ faithfully, you are setting an example and securing a blessing that can reach beyond your own children for generations.
"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof."
The renowned teacher Harry Ironside was in a prayer meeting for a seminary at which he often lectured. The school was in critical need of $10,000 to keep the work going, and a group of men were praying together for this need. Ironside prayed, "Lord, you own the cattle on a thousand hills. Please sell come of those cattle to help us meet this need." Shortly after the prayer meeting, a check for $10,000 arrived at the school, sent days earlier by a friend who had no idea of the urgent need or of Ironside’s prayer. The man simply said the money came from the sale of some of his cattle!
The popular teaching in our day of the "prosperity Gospel" is completely false. It is not God’s will and plan for every Christian to be rich. However, it is also true that when we pray, we are making our request to Someone who has unlimited resources. None of our needs pose any challenge to His ability to meet them. You will never offer a prayer that will require God to dig into His reserves to answer. He has more than enough for every need.
Andrew Murray wrote: "Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do." The things that are impossible for us are fully possible for Him. Yet too often we pray small prayers, not expecting God to do great and mighty things. His loving nature and almighty power have not changed. God is still in the business of hearing and answering big prayers.
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word."
There are many things that are important in life, but only a few that are essential. One of the most important but often neglected essentials is time spent in prayer. The great evangelist R.A. Torrey said, "We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity but accomplish little. We have many services but few conversions. We have much machinery but few results."
Continued prayer should characterize the life of every believer. Yet often we have so much going on that we "donâ€™t have time" to pray. That is a tragedy because it cuts us off from a vital time of fellowship and communion with God and robs us of the resources that prayer is meant to provide. It is easy to set aside our time of prayer in the hurry and pressure of life, but it is a grave mistake to do so.
The disciples in the early church understood the priority of prayer. Rather than surrender their prayer time to the good and important function of caring for the needs of widows, they called the church to select the first deacons to meet that need. Nothing can substitute for the benefit of the time you spend before the throne of God in prayer.
"Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."
2 Peter 1:2-4
The great missionary Hudson Taylor personally baptized more than 35,000 converts during decades of service in China. He brought hundreds of missionaries to what had previously been a closed mission field and established hundreds of churches. Over those many years, God worked miraculously to supply his needs, but there were many times when the money did not arrive until the very last moment.
Though those times could have shaken Taylor’s faith, he retained his confidence in God. At one point he wrote to a friend, “We have left eighty-seven cents and all the promises of God.” If we have the promises of God—and we do—then there is nothing to fear. Even if we cannot see how the answer could possibly come, He is not limited by our resources or lack of them. The most overwhelming problem you will ever face does not tax His abilities or power in any way.
We see this truth beautifully expressed in the story of Jonathan and his armor bearer going out alone to attack a garrison of Philistine soldiers. Jonathan was not the least bit worried about being outnumbered. He said, "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). When God is on your side, nothing else matters. Simply claim His promises in faith, knowing that not one has ever failed, and you will not be overtaken with fear.
"These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
Former Congressman J.C. Watts from Oklahoma once said, "Compassion can’t be measured in dollars and cents. It does come with a price tag, but the price tag isn’t the amount of money spent. The price tag is love." Love is anything but free. The nature of godly love is that it is willing to make sacrifices for the good of the other rather than being focused on protecting itself or getting its own way.
Of course the ultimate example of this love is found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He willingly came "to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). This is a different kind of love from the kind our world knows today. Most of what is called love would more properly be called attraction, and in many cases simply lust. This kind of self-focused behavior is far short of what God has in mind.
It is no surprise that the world falls short when it comes to love, but that should never be true for us. Each of our relationships—with family members, friends, fellow church members and the lost—should be characterized by this divine love that "seeketh not her own" (1 Corinthians 13:5). As we evaluate our love for others, we should not measure our feelings or our words, but our actions. Are we loving as Christ did, willing to give up that which we have every right to claim in order that someone else may benefit? Truly loving another is never an inexpensive proposition.
"The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward."
In 1848 James Marshall’s discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in northern California sparked one of the greatest migrations in human history. News travelled slowly at first, but by 1849 tens of thousands of people were on their way to California. During the gold rush, some 300,000 people flocked to the area hoping for riches. The journey itself posed significant dangers. A trip across America required facing hostile Indians, wild animals, mountain snows, and desert heat. Sailing around the tip of South America took months and was quite dangerous as well. Yet people willingly took on the challenges and threats in hope of what might lie in store for them.
There are many things that people desire and are willing to sacrifice to attain. However there is no treasure that can be compared to that found in the pages of the Bible. God’s eternal truth is readily available to us, and yet we allow other interests and pursuits to fill our time. The wisdom and strength and power that we need for successful and blessed living is there, like the gold nuggets that were found resting on the surface in the creeks of California. But so often, we allow those truths to remain undiscovered and unsought while we settle for the trinkets of the world. Many, and in fact most, of the "forty-niners" went home empty-handed, never having found treasure. Yet those who seek the unsearchable riches of Scripture are never disappointed.