Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Convert or Die"

Polycarp was a contemporary of the apostle John and, evidently, one of his friends.  Polycarp was born about 52 A.D. and was martyred around 156 A.D.  He served as an elder in the church at Smyrna for many years and was noted for his deep devotion and commitment to Christ.  When he was brought into the stadium where he was burned alive at the stake, efforts were made by his executioners to get him to recant Christianity.  They said to him, “Have respect to thine age.  Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the atheists.”  With solemn countenance, Polycarp looked upon the stadium filled with the lawless heathen and waved his hand toward them and said, “Away with the atheists.”  When pressed further to deny Christ, Polycarp said, “Fourscore and six years have I been his servant, and he hath done me no wrong.  How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  Then, threats were made to execute Polycarp unless he denied Christ.  He responded by saying, “You threatenest that fire which burneth for a season and after a little while is quenched: for thou art ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly.”  Shortly after speaking these words, Polycarp was burned alive at the stake.
Muslim extremists today who say to people professing Christianity, “Convert to Islam or die,” are carrying out dreadful actions.  People are being beheaded, crucified, or executed in some other manner.  Many have fled Iraq to escape death.  While such extreme measures are not being used in the USA today, there is intimidation and mockery of those who are disciples of the Lord.  Those who oppose Christians, the Bible, and God are becoming more open and brazen.  Eventually, at some point in the future, this may lead to violent opposition.  It would be wise for us to prepare ourselves for survival by spending more time in prayer and Bible study.  Now is a good time for us to ask ourselves, “Am I willing to die for Christ?”  Even more significantly, are you living for him now?

Sunday, August 17, 2014


When our daughters were small children and we were taking a trip, they would ask the proverbial question, “Are we there, yet?”  Most of the time we were a long way from our destination, but they were either inquisitive or impatient.  I don’t know which.  Naturally, we would give them an estimated time of arrival, but, since they had no concept of time, it didn’t mean much to them because they would ask the same question a few minutes later.  When children are small I guess it is a part of their learning process to ask questions.  One of the most repeated questions asked by children is, “Why?”  They will even prolong an explanation by repeatedly asking why to every response.  Sometimes a matter can be easily explained and at other times it cannot.  But, it is a good question.  It seeks for a reason or motivation behind an action.
The word “why” occurs at least 284 times in the Bible.  Here are some examples.  “Why are you timid, you men of little faith” (Mt. 8:26)?  “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say” (Lk. 6:46)?  “And now why do you delay” (Acts 22:16)?  “Why do you regard your brother with contempt” (Rom. 14:10)?  These are just some samplings of this important question from the Bible.

I have a few “why” questions of my own.  Why do people who wear the name Christian choose not to worship God on Sunday evening or study his word on Wednesday night?  Why do people ruin their lives through needless worry when God has promised never to forsake his children (Heb. 13:5)?  Why do people work so hard to get ahead materially when possessions do not really satisfy (Lk. 12:15)?  Why do people think they’re going to heaven even though they live ungodly lives (Rev. 21:27)?  Why do people who know the truth not obey it?  Why do people redeemed by Christ’s blood choose not to serve him?  Why do people bring children into this world and, yet, have no intention of properly caring for them or spending much time with them?  Instead, they farm them out to day care centers or nannies while they continue to pursue their professional careers.  Why do some people spend a lot of money to sit in snow, rain, or heat to watch a ball game, but will not attend worship services where they sit on padded pews in a weather-controlled environment?  Why do people make plans for their retirement, but give little or no thought to their eternal destiny?  Perhaps we need to pause and give some honest and sincere reflection to these questions.