We’re Not Alone
In Fredric Brown's short thriller “Knock”, he wrote, “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.” Yikes! Who could that be, and what do they want? What mysterious being has come for him? The man is not alone.
Neither are we.
The church in Laodicea heard a knock on their door (v. 20). What Supernatural Being had come for them? His name was Jesus, “the First and the Last . . . the Living One.” His eyes blazed like fire, and His face “like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” When His best friend John caught a glimpse of His glory, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (1:14–18). Faith in Christ begins with the fear of God.
We’re not alone, and this is also comforting. Jesus “is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3). Yet Christ uses His strength not to slay us but to love us. Hear His invitation, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Revelation 3:20). Our faith begins with fear—who is at the door?—and it ends in a welcome and strong embrace. Jesus promises to always stay with us, even if we’re the last person on earth. Thank God, we’re not alone.
What’s Your Name?
Jen remarried after her first husband died. The children of her new husband never accepted her, and now that he’s passed away too, they hate her for remaining in their childhood home. Her husband left a modest sum to provide for her; his kids say she’s stealing their inheritance. Jen is understandably discouraged, and she’s grown bitter.
Naomi’s husband moved the family to Moab, where he and their two sons died. Years later Naomi returned to Bethlehem empty-handed, except for her daughter-in-law Ruth. The town was stirred and asked, “Can this be Naomi?” (Ruth 1:19). She said they shouldn’t use that name, which means “My pleasant one.” They should call her “Mara,” which means “bitter,” because “I went away full, but the
Is there a chance your name is Bitter? You’ve been disappointed by friends, family, or declining health. You deserved better. You didn’t get it. Now you’re bitter.
Naomi came back to Bethlehem bitter, but she came back. You can come home too. Come to Jesus, the descendant of Ruth, born in Bethlehem. Rest in His love.
In time, God replaced Naomi’s bitterness with the joyful fulfillment of His perfect plan (4:13–22). He can replace your bitterness too. Come home to Him.
Keith was feeling down as he trudged through the produce aisle. His hands trembled from the first signs of Parkinson’s disease. How long before his quality of life began to slide? What would this mean for his wife and children? Keith’s gloom was shattered by laughter. Over by the potatoes, a man pushed a giggling boy in a wheelchair. The man leaned over and whispered to his son, who couldn’t stop grinning. He was noticeably worse off than Keith, yet he and his dad were finding joy where they could.
Writing from prison or under house arrest as he awaited the outcome of his trial, the apostle Paul seemingly had no right to be joyful (Philippians 1:12–13). The emperor was Nero, a wicked man who would soon paint Christians with tar and set them on fire, so Paul had reason to be concerned. He also knew there were preachers who were taking advantage of his absence to gain glory for themselves. They thought they could “stir up trouble” for the apostle while he was imprisoned (v. 17).
Yet Paul chose to rejoice (vv. 18–21), and he told the Philippians to follow his example. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4). Our situation might seem bleak, yet Jesus is with us now, and He’s guaranteed our glorious future. The Lord who walked out of His tomb will return to raise His followers to live with Him. As we begin this new year, may we rejoice!
In His Hands
William Shatner played Captain Kirk on the television series Star Trek, but he was unprepared for a real trip into space. He called his eleven-minute sub-orbital flight “the most profound experience I can imagine.” He stepped out of his rocket and marveled, “To see the blue color go right by you and now you're staring into blackness, that's the thing.” You “look down and there's the blue down there and the black up there.” He added, "The beauty of that color and it's so thin and you're through it in an instant."
Our planet is a blue dot surrounded by utter darkness. It’s unsettling. Shatner said that flying from blue sky into blackness was like flying into death. “In an instant, you go, ‘Woah, that’s death!’ That’s what I saw. It was so moving to me. This experience, it’s something unbelievable.”
Shatner’s shattering flight puts life in perspective. We’re small objects in the universe, yet we’re loved by the One who created light and separated it from the darkness (Genesis 1:3–4). Our Father knows where the darkness resides, and the path to its dwelling (Job 38:19–20). He “laid the earth’s foundation . . . . while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (38:4–7).
Let’s trust our small lives to the God who holds the whole universe in His hands.
Hope from Gehenna
In 1979, archaeologist Gabriel Barkay unearthed two small silver scrolls. It took years to delicately unroll the metal scrolls, and each was found to contain a Hebrew etching of the blessing from Numbers 6:24–26, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Scholars date the scrolls to the seventh century BC. They’re the oldest known bits of Scripture in the world.
Equally interesting is where they were found. Barkay was digging in a cave in the Valley of Hinnom, where Jeremiah told Judah that God would slaughter them in this same valley for sacrificing their children (19:4–6). This valley was the site of such wickedness that Jesus used the word Gehenna” (a Greek transliteration of the “Valley of Hinnom”) as a picture of hell (Matthew 23:33).
On this spot, about the time Jeremiah was announcing God’s judgment on his nation, someone was etching His future blessing onto silver scrolls. It wouldn’t happen in their lifetime, but one day—on the other side of the Babylonian invasion—God would turn His face toward His people and give them peace.
The lesson for us is clear. Even if we deserve what we have coming, we can cling to God’s promise. His heart always yearns for His people.
When Weakness Is Strength
Drew had been imprisoned for two years because he served Jesus. He’d read stories of missionaries who felt constant joy throughout their incarceration, but he confessed “this was not my experience.” He told his wife that God had picked the wrong man to suffer for Him. She replied, “No. I think maybe He picked the right man. This was not an accident.”
Drew could likely relate to the prophet Jeremiah, who had faithfully served God by warning Judah that God would punish them for their sins. But God’s judgment hadn’t fallen yet, and Judah’s leaders beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks. Jeremiah blamed God: “You deceived me, Lord” (v. 7). The prophet believed God had failed to deliver. His word had only “brought me insult and reproach all day long” (v. 8). “Cursed be the day I was born!” Jeremiah said. “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (vv. 14, 18).
Eventually Drew was released, but through his ordeal he began to understand that perhaps God chose him—much like He chose Jeremiah—because he was weak. If he and Jeremiah had been naturally strong, they might have received some of the praise for their success. But if they were naturally weak, all the glory for their perseverance would go to Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:26–31). His frailty made him the perfect person for Jesus to use.
Fleeing from Turkeys
Two wild turkeys stood in the country lane ahead. How close could I get? I wondered. I slowed my jog to a walk, then stopped. It worked. The turkeys walked toward me . . . and kept coming. In seconds their heads were bobbing at my waist, then behind me. How sharp were those beaks? I ran away. They waddled after me before giving up the chase.
How quickly the tables had turned! The hunted became the hunter when the turkeys seized the initiative. Foolishly I wondered if they were too dumb to be scared. I wasn’t about to be carelessly wounded by a bird, so I fled. From turkeys.
David didn’t seem dangerous, so Goliath taunted him to come near. “‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!’” (1 Samuel 17:44). David flipped the script when he seized the initiative. He ran toward Goliath, not because he was foolish but because he had confidence in God. He shouted, “This very day . . . the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” (v. 46). Goliath was puzzled by this aggressive boy. What’s going on? Then it hit him. Right between the eyes.
It’s natural for small animals to run from people and shepherds to avoid giants. It’s natural for us to hide from our problems. Why settle for natural? Is there a God in Israel? Then, in His power, run toward the fight.
People Who Need People
In his hall-of-fame career as a sportswriter Dave Kindred covered hundreds of major sporting events and championships and wrote a biography of Muhammad Ali. Growing bored in retirement, he started attending girls’ basketball games at a local school. Soon he began writing stories about each game and posting them online. And when Dave’s mother and grandson died and his wife suffered a debilitating stroke, he realized the team he’d been covering provided him with a sense of community and purpose. He needed them as much as they needed him. Kindred said, “This team saved me. My life had turned dark . . . [and] they were light.”
How does a legendary journalist come to depend on a community of teenagers? The same way a legendary apostle leaned on the fellowship of those he met on his missionary journeys. Did you notice all the people Paul greeted as he closed his letter? (Romans 16:7–11). “Greet Andronicus and Junia,” he wrote, “my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me” (v. 7). “Greet Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord” (v. 8). More than twenty-five people in all, most of whom are not mentioned in Scripture again. But Paul needed them.
Who’s in your community? The best place to begin is with your local church. Anyone there whose life has turned dark? As God leads, you can be a light that points them to Jesus. Someday they may return the favor.