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April 25th, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, Overcoming, Relationship with God

To the angel of the church in Pergamum write.  Revelation 2:12 NIV 

Pergamum was the third of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in His letters dictated to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. It is located adjacent to the modern day city of Bergama, Turkey, approximately 70 miles north of Smyrna (Izmir). Pergamum, or Pergamon to which it is sometimes referred, was at its zenith a city of 200,000 inhabitants and was briefly the Roman capital of Asia Minor before the capital was moved to Ephesus. Indications are that there was a small Jewish population in the city from which undoubtedly an embattled band of believers grew, in spite of the oppression of the worship of pagan idols and the pursuit of worldly wisdom that engulfed the city.

Pliny the Elder declared Pergamum “the most famous place in Asia” and it was not without reason. At the time the city could boast of being the world center for the worship of the deities Zeus (king of the gods), Asclepius (the god of healing), and Athena (goddess of wisdom). Their shrines, along with temples to other deities, and the massive horseshoe shaped altar of Zeus, the largest in antiquities to which John refers in his letter as Satan’s throne, were all there. The altar’s base is all that remains as the altar itself now resides in a museum in Berlin, Germany. The shrine to Asclepius grew into a famous spa that became one of the most famous therapeutic and healing centers in the Roman world. Galen, a well-known Roman physician, surgeon, and philosopher was born and trained in the city. And if that were not enough, in addition, Pergamum was a center for education with a 200,000 volume library, second in size only to Alexandria, Egypt and a place where calfskin parchment rather than papyrus was first produced routinely for writing. Plutarch, well known Greek historian and writer, started the library and its fame inspired Marc Anthony to gift it to Cleopatra when they wed.

The upper portion of the city known as the Acropolis, was situated on a mountain rising 1300 feet above the valleys surrounding it, and remains the primary area of excavation and restoration of ancient Pergamum. Its commanding position made it a naturally defensible fortress with two royal palaces, cisterns, an arsenal, and barracks. That elevated site, from which all the scenes in the video posted above were filmed, housed four temples, the altar, and the library as well as a gymnasium, an Agora, and a 10,000 seat amphitheater, the steepest and most dramatically situated in the Ancient world.

Here then is an overview of John’s letter to Pergamum from the Book of Revelation with some explanatory comments (2:12-17 NIV). It follows the pattern and order used in all seven of the letters as outlined in the introductory blog post on the Letters to the Seven Churches.

  1. Revelation of Jesus“These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword” (v. 12). This revelatory image is taken directly from John’s description of Jesus’ appearance to him in chapter one where he writes “and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword” (1:16)! We know from other passages in the Bible that the “double-edged sword” specifically represents the Word of God that proceeds from the mouth of God (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). Jesus is intentionally arming the church at Pergamum with this mighty weapon of truth because of the rampant doctrinal deception contaminating their fellowship with Him and with one another.
  1. Commendation“I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives” (v. 13). This verse makes it clear that the spiritual warfare in Pergamum was intense, as was alluded to in the description of the city above. Yet in the midst of it all there were many victorious saints, standing firm even to the point of martyrdom. For this Jesus commends them and rightly so! It is enlightening to acknowledge the deceptive work of Satan in a congregation because the real battle is not against flesh and blood but against his demonic spirits and schemes (Ephesians 6:12). Identifying the source of opposition as Jesus does, and addressing it with the spiritual weapons He has given us, is imperative (2 Corinthians 10:4). It is comforting to know that Jesus is with them (and us) and undergirds His church through such trials.
  1. Corrective Rebuke “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans” (vs. 14-15). One of the things Jesus and every writer of the Epistles warns against is deception. As the father of lies, it is Satan’s main ploy to rob Christians of God’s purpose and blessings in their lives. Here the letter calls out two sources of doctrinal error to which some in their midst have fallen prey. As with most doctrines of demons, such teaching inevitably leads to a rationale that excuses and even encourages sinful behavior. Jesus is underscoring the responsibility that the “angel” or leader of this church has to deal with this deception, lest like a leaven, it leavens the whole lump. 
  1. Predictive Warning or Counsel – “Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (v. 16). This call to repentance is for both the deceivers and the deceived, as well as the spiritual leader(s) under whose watch the deception is being allowed to continue. Since leaders have a shepherding responsibility to protect the flock, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is saying in essence “If you don’t do something about this I WILL!” And note – it is “with the sword of [His] mouth” they would do well to take heed to use, in accordance with the revelation and spiritual weaponry He has already imparted to them.
  1. Overcomer’s Promise – “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it” (v. 17). There are two very fitting promises here that are meant to spur the church at Pergamum onto victory. First the “hidden manna” represents His sustaining provision to empower them to rid the church of this deception. Nothing is impossible for God. He is encouraging them to do it in His strength and not their own. Secondly, the “white stone with a new name written on it” indicates how precious, like a rare gemstone, the Lord views those who obey Him and remain faithful even unto death. This is in accord with other promises of a “new name” in the Bible which shows the Lord identifying intimately with those whom He loves by drawing them into His confidence and assigning them His own secret name (Isaiah 56:5, 62:2, 65:15, Rev. 3:12). How sweet is that for the Pergamum Christians who are privileged to share in such proprietary mysteries with the Lord Himself?

Most scholars date the Book of Revelation at 95 AD. It is encouraging that historical evidence indicates the church in Pergamum gave heed to John’s letter as it continued to grow and thrive well into the 3rd century. We know in the 2nd century it became an early seat of Christianity with its own bishop, yet not without the continuance of persecution. In 170 AD under the Roman rule of Marcus Aurelius the Christians Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonice were martyred in the amphitheater there.

Be sure to check out the three and half minute video posted above which was filmed at Pergamum for a first-hand look at this historic city. Stay tuned for more videos and blog posts on the remaining four churches of Revelation soon to follow!

Link to the TomStuart.org Website & Blog

 

April 12th, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, Overcoming, Relationship with God


To the angel of the church in Smyrna write.  Revelation 2:8 NIV 

Smyrna was the second of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in His letters dictated to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. Located on the Aegean Sea just 40 miles northwest of Ephesus, Smyrna (modern day Izmir) was a major seaport city with a population of 100,000 people at that time. It was a very beautiful city, resplendent with civic and sacred districts (Roman cult worship), schools of science and medicine, agoras, theatres, gymnasia, and a stadium. The famous poet Homer was said to have made his home there. Smyrna contested with Ephesus and Pergamum to be the “First of Asia in beauty and size.” This phrase was boastfully imprinted on some of its coins. Today, only the ruins of a portion of the three level agora (marketplace), forerunner of a modern day mall, and an accompanying small area of the acropolis, where civic buildings and temples once stood, have been unearthed. The agora is thought to have been the largest in the ancient world and is the best preserved example of an ancient marketplace in Turkey. There are excellent views of it in the video posted above.

The church in Smyrna was likely started by Paul and at the time of the letter appears to have been a small persecuted band of believers dwelling in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. It is noteworthy that one of the earliest samples of Christian graffiti yet discovered, has been found on the remains of a wall there. It’s message, “the one who has given the Spirit,” refers to the Lord Jesus, and it is conjectured that it was meant to announce to any believers coming to Smyrna, that there were other believers dwelling in the city with whom they could fellowship and worship. The message that Jesus gives this precious church contains no corrective rebuke, putting the saints in Smyrna in an elite category among the seven churches, shared only by Philadelphia, in whom the Lord found nothing displeasing to Him.

The name Smyrna is the same as the Greek word for “myrrh” which was used chiefly in the embalming of the dead. That name, with the full import of its meaning as it relates to suffering and death, conveyed the distinguishing characteristic of the church in this city both at the time of the letter and for centuries to follow. Many martyrs have passed from this life into the glories of heaven from Smyrna throughout its history. This theme of a suffering, yet victorious church is the focal point of the letter written by John to Smyrna.

Here then is an overview of John’s letter to Smyrna from the Book of Revelation with some explanatory comments (2:8-11 NIV). It follows the pattern and order used in all seven of the letters as outlined in the introductory blog post on the Letters to the Seven Churches.

  1. Revelation of Jesus“These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” (v. 8). This portrayal of Jesus is taken directly from the words Jesus spoken to John in chapter one. He says “I am the first and the last. I am the Living One, I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever” (1:17-18)! As we shall see, it is a preparatory encouraging and empowering revelation of the resurrected Christ who lives forever, and one the church at Smyrna will need to embrace with confidence, because of what lies ahead.
  1. Commendation“I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (v. 9). This indicates, as was alluded to earlier, the fact that this church was struggling in the face of much opposition. The Jews in the city were particularly vociferous in their persecution of these believers even to the point, incited by the Devil himself, to put some to death. It illustrates how Satan in his hatred of true believers is able to infiltrate a group of religiously zealous people, be it in a synagogue, temple, mosque or a church, and inflict suffering and death on God’s people.
  1. Corrective Rebuke – None is mentioned, to Smyrna’s credit!
  1. Predictive Warning or Counsel – “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown” (v. 10). God, in His grace, gives the church a forewarning of the intensity of persecution that is about to come, and even a time frame for its duration. Doing so gives the assurance that there is an end in view and the light at the end of the tunnel of suffering will surely come either in this life or the next; but it will come. Coupled with the promise of victory, this strengthens them to remain faithful to Him as they pass through.

We do not know when or how this specific prophecy came to pass, but this foreshadowing of suffering and martyrdom has marked the Christians of Smyrna throughout the centuries. There were ten periods of Roman persecution under various emperors beginning with Nero in AD 67 spanning nearly 250 years that terrorized the Christians of Smyrna, as well as the rest of the world under Roman rule. Some of the most famous martyrdoms in Church history have taken place in Smyrna, not the least of which was the death of Polycarp. He was one of three notable early church fathers along with Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch. Discipled by the Apostle John, he served as the bishop of Smyrna, for over a half century leading up to his martyrdom. When they tried to burn him at the stake, the fire would not touch him, so they ended up stabbing him to put him to death. His confession when challenged to renounce Christ or die was “For eighty-six years I have been His servant, and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me.”

It is noteworthy that the persecution of the church in Smyrna, foreshadowed in the Book of Revelation continued all the way to the twentieth century. Under Islamic Ottoman rule, which spanned over 600 years (1299-1922), Smyrna was known as the “Infidel City” because of its non-Muslim population, primarily Christian. The persecution and martyrdom of Christians at the hand of Muslims culminated in 1922 during the liberation of Turkey from an attempted Greek occupation following the First World War. Tens of thousands of Armenian and Greek Christians were put to death in what is now known as “The Catastrophe” or “Burning of Smyrna.” 

  1. Overcomer’s Promise – “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (v. 11). How fitting to end the letter with this great assurance and promise. For those who believe in Jesus and abide by faith in His resurrection victory, death is merely the doorway to eternal life in His presence where the second death of eternal separation from Him has no power.

Be sure to check out the six minute video posted above which was filmed at Smyrna for a first-hand look at this historic city. Stay tuned for more videos and blog posts on the remaining five churches of Revelation soon to follow! 

Link to the TomStuart.org Website & Blog

April 11th, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, Overcoming, Relationship with God

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write.  Revelation 2:1 NIV 

Ephesus was the first of the seven churches that Jesus addressed in His letters dictated to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. It is not surprising that Ephesus was singled out first as it lay claim to a number of pre-eminent characteristics, not the least of which was its Christian maturity and depth of revelation as evidenced in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. As is so often the case, Christianity shines the brightest when the context all around it is darkness. That was true of Ephesus as it had the distinction of being the center for the worship of the goddess Artemis and was a city renowned as a place where magic arts were practiced (Acts 19:17-20). The Temple of Artemis was there, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World where thousands made pilgrimages each year. As the third largest city in Asia Minor behind Alexandria and Sardis with 175,000 inhabitants it was a city of great influence in commerce, education, and entertainment. It had both a theatre holding 25,000 spectators and a large stadium where all manner of performances, athletic contests, and even wild animal and gladiatorial fights took place (Acts 19:29-41, 1 Corinthians 15:32). It is little wonder that it was also the location of the most influential church of the day!

Ephesus had a storied Christian tradition of notables associated with the church. The Apostle John was the founder of the church and after his exile on Patmos, he returned and lived there until his death. Paul, of course, had a major ministry impact in Ephesus, particularly during his two year stay where he taught daily in the School of Tyrannis “so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10 NIV). According to tradition, Luke the author of the gospel that bears his name and the Book of Acts, also lived and died there, as well as Timothy whom Paul left in Ephesus to care for the church (1 Timothy 1:3). In addition the Apostle Andrew is said to be buried there. Legend has it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, whom John was charged to care for by Jesus at the foot of the cross, accompanied John there, where she lived out the remainder of her days till death. There is however conflicting historical evidence regarding this claim casting doubt upon its veracity. Nonetheless, the remains of a house near the city, which is attributed to her, exists as a tourist attraction.

Here then is an overview of John’s letter to Ephesus from the Book of Revelation with some explanatory comments (2:1-7 NIV). It follows the pattern and order used in all seven of the letters as outlined in the introductory blog post on the Letters to the Seven Churches.

  1. Revelation of Jesus“These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands” (v. 1). This revelation of Jesus is taken from the preceding introductory chapter where Jesus appears to John standing among seven golden lampstands while holding in his right hand seven stars (vs. 12-13, 16) As John falls at his feet, Jesus explains that “the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven lampstands are the seven churches” (v. 20). The nature of this revelation given to the Ephesian church again underscores the prominence of this church among the seven.
  2. Commendation“I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary . . . But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (vs 2-3, 6). We know from Acts 19 that during Paul’s stay in Ephesus revival fire broke out. What began with just twelve believers being baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, led to multitudes of miraculous healings, dramatic deliverances, and demonstrative displays of public repentance. As a result “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” throughout the city and beyond (v. 20). There was also great opposition from idol makers and others in the city (v. 23). Obviously, the way that the church stewarded the revival, dealt with persecution, and labored to grow a healthy, doctrinally pure church was commendable. Revival always carries with it some “messiness,” including aberrant practices and beliefs, and those claiming to be ministers sent by God who are not. The Ephesian church persevered through it all and passed the test in this regard!
  1. Corrective Rebuke “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first” (vs. 4-5a). When revival fires cool and day to day Christianity begins to normalize, there is always a temptation for a church’s intense love for the Lord to wane. Devotion to the work of the Lord overshadows devotion to the Lord of the work. This was obviously the case in Ephesus and why they are being called back to their first love. This is a necessary and relevant reminder for all who have been serving the Lord for a long time. 
  1. Predictive Warning or CounselIf you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (v. 5b). Since the lampstand represents the Lord’s presence in the church this is a most sober warning. We can be heartened that the church in Ephesus did heed the Spirit’s warning to repent and continued, because of Jesus presence there, to have an impact for centuries. It is interesting that one of the great ecumenical church councils took place there in AD 431. 
  1. Overcomer’s Promise – “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (v. 7). This is a fitting promise not only to the Ephesian church, but also to all who have been inspired by their walk with Jesus and spiritual knowledge as evidenced in Acts 19 and Paul’s Ephesian Epistle. Because of their example of first love devotion as part of the great cloud of witnesses, we are all being cheered on to one day “eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

The video of my visit to Ephesus was posted last week. Stay tuned for more videos and blog posts on the other six churches of Revelation soon to follow! 

Link to the TomStuart.org Website & Blog

April 4th, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, News & Reflections, Overcoming

John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.  Revelation 1:4 NIV

Early this year, my wife Susan and I had the privilege of spending a month in the beautiful and historically enigmatic country of Turkey. In addition to visiting family members who live there and teaching at an international church on prayer, we journeyed to each of the original locations of the seven churches of the Book of Revelation. Our express purpose was to experience firsthand what it must have been like to be a Christian at that time in those cities, gain insights into the issues addressed in their respective letters, and share those findings in a brief five to six minute travelogue video of at each site.

The inaugural video in the series is published above. It was recorded at Ephesus, the first city and church to which John wrote the seven letters. The subsequent video for each city will follow in order, over the course of the next few weeks accompanying a blog post for each, giving some additional background information and key insights. It is my prayer that they will help deepen your understanding of these prophetically significant letters and their importance for us still today.

People are often surprised to learn that the seven churches to which the Apostle John wrote the seven letters dictated by Jesus, were all located in Western Turkey. It also is not commonly understood that the cradle of Christianity was in fact located in Turkey during the first century after the death of Jesus and the center of the Christian world continued there for more than 700 years. Paul was born in Turkey and the majority of his ministry was focused there. Half of his Epistles, as well as all of John’s and Peter’s, were either written from or to churches in Turkey. All seven of the first ecumenical councils from 325-787 AD, which issued the creeds and critical church doctrinal rulings, were held in Western Turkey (e.g. Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon). In addition two of the oldest surviving church buildings in the world, both built in 532 AD, the Hagia Sophia and Hagia Eirene, are located in Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey.

It is both ironic and grievous, that the Christian population in Turkey today is less than a quarter of one percent. During the ascendancy and rule of the Ottoman Empire from the 1300s to the early 1900s Turkey became the world’s most influential Moslem nation. With the advent of the First World War and founding of modern day Turkey, the last vestige of a visible and vital Christian influence was snuffed out with the Armenian Christian genocide (1914-1923).

Anti-Christian governments cannot however silence the proclamation of the Gospel or stifle the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to salvation and raising up His church. While in Turkey, we were privileged to visit two small but thriving churches, one Turkish and the other an English-speaking congregation for Internationals. There we heard first-hand stories of Moslems coming to faith in Jesus, and we met some recent converts to Christianity. God has indeed preserved a bridal remnant in Turkey unto Himself. As with many other Muslim majority countries, intercession is being made that these conversions and fledgling churches become the first fruits of an even more glorious church yet to be revealed. Turkey however remains an enigma, with its historic roots in Christianity, strategic geographic location in the midst of ongoing Middle East conflict, and alarming political swing toward becoming a dictatorial Islamic caliphate. These facts, coupled with many prophetic Scriptural references to Turkey, all seem to confirm that it will play a key role in the unfolding of God’s end-time purposes for the church and for Israel.

It is with this perspective that the letters to the seven churches in Revelation take on added significance and meaning for us today. With that in mind let me give you a brief overview of the letters recorded in Revelation chapters two and three. All the letters follow a basic pattern and order in which Jesus conveys His unique message to each church. This pattern consists of five different types of messages that are repeated in the exact same order in each letter, albeit with different content. Here they are.

  1. Revelation of Jesus – Jesus begins each letter by reiterating a specific aspect of the revelation of Himself given to John in chapter one. In this way, each church receives a unique revelation of Jesus, which is pertinent to their situation. That revelation is the key to overcoming whatever trial or shortcoming they must conquer. The sentence unveiling the revelation always begins with “to the angel of the church in [city]” – the “angel” typically is considered to be the pastor or presiding elder of the church.
  2. Commendation – Jesus then singles out such things as commendable deeds, perseverance, and qualities of faith, while affirming the church for what they are doing right. This portion usually begins with “I know your . . .”
  3. Corrective Rebuke – Here Jesus exposes aspects of the church’s life and ministry that are in doctrinal error, tolerating things they shouldn’t, and/or waning in spiritual fervor. It is followed by a corrective challenge to repent and make things right. The transition to this portion of the letter usually begins with words like “nevertheless,” “but,” or “yet.”
  4. Predictive Warning or Counsel – He then proceeds to issue a sober warning of the consequences of a failure to repent and/or a prediction of trials that are coming to test the church. In some cases He gives counsel as to how a church should respond to the testing.
  5. Overcomer’s Promise – Finally, Jesus gives each church a unique promise of blessing for those who remain faithful and become overcomers in the face the things buffeting them. He then closes each letter with this appeal – “Whoever has ears let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Having given you an introduction to the seven churches of Revelation and provided an outline for each of the seven letters, I now invite you to read the first three chapters of the book. You’ll notice right at the outset a guarantee that you will be blessed for doing so. “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near” (Revelation 1:3 NIV).

Stay tuned for more videos and blogs on this topic yet to come!

Link to the TomStuart.org Website & Blog

January 3rd, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Growth & Development, Overcoming

“For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.” John 5:4 NASB

One of the joys of starting a New Year is the opportunity it affords to initiate a long overdue and much needed change. It is a season ripe for a breakthrough – that will free us from the inertia of the past while propelling us to possess a preferred future – that will break us free from the old while enabling us to lay hold of the new. That is the essence of what we call turning over a new leaf.

When it comes to finally doing what we have hoped and longed to do, many of us can sound like the lame man laying at the Pool of Bethesda. He had a paralytic condition that hindered him from being able to respond in time to the stirring-of-the-water seasons that periodically came along for his healing. As a result, year after year rolled by with their missed opportunities, and his excuse for his inability to change became his testimony – “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:5 NIV).

Excuses abound when desired change is not forthcoming. We easily can become fixated on the things that seem to be holding us back. Not unlike the man stuck at the edge of the pool, just feet away from his breakthrough, most are quick to cling to excuses rather than seriously consider what it will take to overcome them and make the change. Or more precisely, WHO it will take to overcome them and make the change.

Can you identify with any of these common excuses as to when you’ll finally make that change and turn over a new leaf?

  • When my circumstances change.
  • When so and so changes – my parent, my spouse, my child, my boss, my adversary etc.
  • When it’s more convenient and not so hard.
  • When I have the time.
  • When I feel like it.
  • When I’m convinced it’s the best thing for me and worth the sacrifice.
  • When I’m finally sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  • When I can get some help.
  • When God finally answers my prayer.
  • When? Mañana! – Sometime in the future, anytime but now.

Nobody specializes in change more than Jesus. The first thing He does is to challenge us to move beyond our excuses, no matter how genuine or heart wrenching they may be. Excuses hold us back and keep us in a state of unbelief and doubt. They produce a paralysis of analysis. That is because the focus of excuses is always on our limitations. The antidote for excuses however is faith. Faith obliterates limitations and focuses our attention instead on possibilities. This is exactly what Jesus did with the lame man. He cut through years of accumulating discouragement and excuses with just one question – “Do you want to get well” (John 5:6 NIV)? And then, Jesus called him to express his faith with this simple command – “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (John 5:8 NIV). The result was a life changing breakthrough. “At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked” (John 5:9 NIV).

Three times in the book of Hebrews we are told “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart” (3:7, 15 & 4:7 NIV). The reason for this emphatic exhortation is to encourage us not to miss out on an intended blessing from God. The very fact that you are hearing Him speak to you, should convince you that He is present and standing ready to hear and answer you.

With the start of this New Year, what change would you love to see take place in your life? If you can identify with that man, perched way too long on the edge of his miracle, could Jesus be asking you the same question? “Do you want to change?” Pause . . . listen . . . consider – D-o  y-o-u  w-a-n-t  t-o  c-h-a-n-g-e?

If you hear God speaking to you – what is your answer? How serious are you? Tell Him. Are you prepared to muster up the faith and courage to do what He tells you to do? If so, do it! The journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step and the daunting resistance to tackling a long delayed project is overcome in the first ten minutes. Jesus stands ready to help you with both! Determine to lay hold of His grace to take that step of faith and give it the ten minute try.

No more excuses – just confessions and actions of faith! 

Link to the TomStuart.org Website & Blog