The Bible is a book depicting countless battles. From Genesis to Revelation, its pages reveal that there are both physical and spiritual wars raging. Physical wars have dominated history from the time Cain killed his brother Abel right down to the present day. This should not surprise us, for Jesus predicted, "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars. ... For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." Matthew 24:6, 7.
However, the primary focus of the Scriptures is the story of the ongoing conflict between Christ and Satan. We are told in Revelation that what began as a cosmic war in heaven will soon end in Armageddon. In this showdown between the forces of good and the powers of evil, light and truth is under constant attack from deception and darkness.
Of all the analogies used in God's Word to describe the church, the one that is most vivid and inspiring is the symbol of the human body. In the New Testament, the church is repeatedly described as the body of Christ. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular."1 Corinthians 12:27. Perhaps this is because it is made up of so many diverse parts that work together in harmony as one unit. Or perhaps it is because the same God who created our physical bodies also designed the church.
Yet for some reason it is becoming more and more common for Christians to amputate themselves from the body of Christ.
An Amazing Fact: The Empire State Building in New York City, which was completed in 1931, was known for many years as the tallest building in the world. It is 1,250 feet tall and boasts 102 stories of office space. Several structures in the United States and in Asia now surpass the Empire State Building in height, yet many of the records that were set during its construction have never been broken. For example, because the building was made of prefabricated blocks, it was completed in less than two years. In fact, one 14-floor section was erected in less than a week!
The first time the word "kingdom" is mentioned in the Bible is in connection with Babel (Genesis 10:8-10). The founder of this ancient city was Nimrod, a man whose very name means "we shall rebel." Throughout the Scriptures, Babel-which is also the Hebrew word for "Babylon"-becomes a symbol of rebellion to God.
The preacher urged sinners to give themselves to Jesus, inviting them to the altar, where peace could be found. As they came, he praised God and asked them to repeat after him a simple prayer of about six sentences. Then he congratulated them with the words: "Now you are saved, and from this moment on, your destiny is eternally secure. Nothing you might do can ever reverse the decision you have made today; nothing can cause you to lose your eternal life." Then he pulled a key out of his pocket and handcuffed the right hand of each person to the altar. They were locked into the choice they had made and could not reverse it.
Although it is very unlikely that such a thing would ever actually happen in church, yet some have understood it to be an accurate representation of what happens when a sinner accepts Christ. In fact, a controversy has long been raging in Christianity over this very subject. Some teach that once a person has a conversion experience, his destiny is eternally secure, no matter what happens afterward. Others maintain that assurance of salvation is a byproduct of a saving relationship with Jesus, and that salvation can be lost if that relationship is broken-not by God's choice, but by the free choice of the individual himself.
An Amazing Fact: In order to draw attention to world peace, in 1973 Patrice Tamao of the Dominican Republic allowed himself to be crucified as thousands watched on TV. Tamao had three six-inch stainless steel nails driven through his hands and feet and intended to stay on the cross for 48 hours. However, after 20 hours he requested to be taken down because he had developed an infection.
Jesus told His disciples, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23. Later the apostle Paul repeated this theme. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20.
A Protestant missionary who worked among the natives in the South Pacific for several years decided to return to the United States for a nine-month furlough. During this time, he planned to visit several churches and raise funds for their island mission. Before leaving the South Pacific, this missionary persuaded a local chief, who had converted to Christianity, to join him on his trip. This tall chief had an imposing presence with a dark, muscular body that was offset by his broad, pearly white smile. The missionary knew that a living trophy of their mission efforts would greatly impress the church members in North America to give more generously.
Excited about an opportunity to see the famous USA, the robust king agreed to go with his pastor friend to the mainland. When they arrived, the missionary took the chief from church to church.
A mother was making coleslaw in her kitchen, and her little boy was just big enough to want everything and to be into everything. This was before the invention of modern food processors, so she was chopping the cabbage with a butcher knife on her kitchen counter. Pretty soon the little 2-year-old saw that knife with the black handle and long, shiny blade. He didn't know what it was, but he wanted it desperately. He kept asking his mother for it and reaching out, so she kept pushing him back with her elbow and moving the cabbage farther back on the deck.
Then the phone rang. It was one of the woman's dear friends, so they got into an animated conversation. In her haste to answer the phone, the mother had accidentally laid that knife down right on the edge of the counter. The little boy looked at it and said to himself, "I think I could reach that." So he got on his tip toes, reached up, and got it. Then he sat down in the middle of the floor, thinking, "I can't believe I have this thing-whatever it is." Just about that time, the boy's mother turned and saw him with that knife. She screamed and ran across the room, grabbing the knife out of his chubby hands. Then he really began to make an earnest appeal for the knife.
Perhaps you have heard the expression "face the music"? It is said to have originated in Japan. According to the story, there was once a man in the imperial orchestra who couldn’t play a note. Because he was a wealthy person with great influence, he demanded that a place be given him in the group because he wanted to "perform" before the emperor. The old conductor agreed to let him sit in the second row of the orchestra and hold a flute, even though he couldn’t read a dot of music. When a concert would begin, he’d raise his instrument, pucker his lips, and move his fingers. He went through all the motions of playing, but never made a sound. This deception continued for two years.
Then the old conductor died, and a new conductor took over. He told the orchestra that he wanted to audition each player personally. One by one they performed in his presence. Then came the phony flutist’s turn. He was frantic with worry, so he pretended to be sick. However, the doctor who was ordered to examine him declared that he was perfectly well. The new conductor insisted that the man appear and demonstrate his skill. Shamefacedly he had to confess that he was a fake, a hypocrite. He wanted the prestige of being part of the orchestra, but since he never took the time to learn his instrument he was unable to "face the music."
In A.D. 1271 the famous Venetian traveler Marco Polo joined his father and uncle for his first trip to China. Together they would visit the great Kubla Khan, king of the Mongol dynasty. Marco Polo's father, Matteo Polo, and his uncle Niccolo had already made their first trip to China a few years earlier in 1266, and now, five years later, they considered Marco old enough to join them.
Kubla Khan, grandson of the great Genghis Khan, was at this time one of the world's most powerful monarchs. He ruled all of China, India, and the East. When young Marco first entered the palace for an audience with the great Kahn, he nearly got himself killed! Not understanding Oriental customs of respect, Marco did not know that to turn your back on the king was punishable by death. All of the king's attendants would bow and then walk backward when leaving his court. So when Marco carelessly turned his back on the monarch, soldiers rushed forward to slay the reckless youth. Only because Matteo Polo quickly interceded for his son-explaining that "he was young and forgetful"-was Marco pardoned. The young man never again made that mistake, and from then on in his travels Marco made it a point to learn the ways and language of the people.
The grandmother's voice on the other end of the phone was frantic. "She was just playing outside-and now she has disappeared. ... This was two days ago and we have not heard a single word from her!"
The call was from one of my church members. She was at her wit's end, seeking prayers and advice. Her beautiful 14-year-old granddaughter had mysteriously vanished from the front yard, and there were no witnesses, note, or explanation.
As the days turned into weeks and the police became involved, all of the absolutely worst possible scenarios began to flood into our minds. Had she been abducted, abused, and murdered? Was she being held captive by some gang or sick pervert? As I spoke with the family, I could quickly see that the worst part of this nightmare was the silence and uncertainty. Not knowing what had happened to this vibrant 14-year-old was unbearable.