January 1, 2007 - Several summers ago while our family was vacationing at the beach, I got up early to meet the Lord for a few moments of quiet before the family awakened. As I sat on the porch, watching the sun come up over the ocean and listening to the gentle crash of the waves on the shore, the Lord seemed to whisper to my heart, "What do you see?"
by Anne Graham Lotz
I looked more closely at the scene before me and answered Him in my spirit: "I see little sandpipers running along the edge of the water, making sure they keep out of reach of the waves and don’t even get their feet wet. I see the skimmers flying down the beach, skimming the surface of the water with their long beaks. I see sea gulls standing in the tide up to their knees. And I see the pelicans that circle, then dive headfirst into the waves, coming up with fish they seem to swallow whole.
Then the Lord seemed to say to me, "The Bible is like the ocean, and the people who read My Word are very much like those birds. Some will dance around the Scriptures, not really wanting to step in and get their feet wet in Bible study. They are satisfied to just listen to their preacher or Bible teacher tell them what the Bible says. Others will read their Bibles, just skimming the surface for facts and information. Some will get in knee-deep, reading the Bible each day with a devotional or commentary close by for reference. And then there are some, like the pelicans, who dive in over their heads, going deep in Bible study, applying and living out what they learn. Which bird are you most like?" I answered with wholehearted passion, "Lord, I’m not sure which one I am from Your perspective. But I know which one I want to be. Please take me deeper into Your Word." And He has.
Which bird most accurately describes you? This New Year, would you resolve to be more like the pelican, and go deeper into the Word?
Read Revelation 2:12-17
The ancient city of Pergamum was in what is now Turkey. Built on a rather flat plain, it was dominated by one hill located at the center, on top of which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: a spectacular white marble temple to Zeus. It also had a medical complex and a university that housed more than 200,000 volumes.
A church had been planted in the city, with the high hopes of making an impact on this major religious, medical, and intellectual center with the Gospel.
Going Deeper as You Look Into His Word
- How does Jesus identify Himself to the church in Pergamum? Read Revelation 2:12.
- On what was He trying to get them to focus? See Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12, Revelation 19:11-13.
- From the following verses, give phrases that indicate He wants us to focus on the same thing: 2 Timothy 1:13-14, 2:2, 2:15, 3:14-17; Hebrews 12:2.
- What is hindering you from focusing on God’s living and written Word for yourself? Apply Hebrews 12:1 to your daily discipline of Bible reading.
- What will you do now to make sure that by 2008 you will be deeper into the Word than you are today?
Going Deeper as You Learn From His Word
- For what did Jesus commend the church in Pergamum in Revelation 2:13?
- Give phrases from the following verses that reveal God knows "where you live" and how faithful you are to Him: Psalm 139:1-4, 23, 142:3; Job 23:10; John 1:48, 2:25, 4:29, 10:14.
- What did Jesus have against the church in Pergamum? Without your knowing the details of who the Balaamites and Nicolaitans were, what does Jesus imply that they did? See Revelation 2:14-15.
- How is it possible for a church leader or member to entice others to sin? Give examples from the following verses: Acts 5:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:5-9; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, 5:9-11; 1 John 2:9, 2:15-16; Revelation 2:20.
- What does Jesus tell the church members—not just the false teachers within the church—to do?
- Do you think God holds us accountable for the church leadership we place ourselves under? Explain.
- What are we to do to protect ourselves from this kind of deception and temptation? See 1 John 4:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:10-18.
- Based on the verses above, how susceptible are you to deception—from within the church?
- Do you think, because of our sophistication and knowledge, that we can stand in judgment over God’s Word? Why or why not?
- How do Revelation 2:16 and 19:11-16 reveal that God’s Word stands in judgment over us?
Going Deeper as You Listen to His Word
- Do you think it is possible to read God’s Word without really "hearing" what the Spirit has to say? See Revelation 2:17. What is one evidence from this verse that you have listened to what He has to say?
- Describe manna from the following verses: Exodus 16:4, 31; John 6:31.
- How was the manna hidden? See Exodus 16:31-33, Hebrews 9:2-4.
- What did manna symbolize? Read Deuteronomy 8:3 and John 6:32-35.
- What do you think Jesus meant when He promised to give "hidden manna" to the one who goes deeper into His Word? See Psalm 119:18, Luke 24:45, Matthew 11:27, John 14:21.
The church in Pergamum refused to go deeper into God’s Word. Instead of making an impact on the world, the world made an impact on the church. Several years ago I visited the ruins of the old city. The ancient church was actually attached to a pagan temple. It became irrelevant, powerless and, in the end, non-existent.
Are you listening to what the Spirit is saying? As we look ahead to 2007, if every church member were like you, would the church be more powerful in its witness—making more of an impact on our world for the Kingdom of God—because it is deeper in the Word? Or would it be more like the church in Pergamum?