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.
In the late 1800s, people in different places developed the same vision at the same time. The first was in Montreal, Canada, in 1877. In 1898, a similar concept was launched in New York City. By 1922 some 5,000 of these programs were active in North America each summer.
This is the early history of Vacation Bible School, which still continues today. The passion that fueled those Christian VBS pioneers was a desire for young people to know the Bible.
Paul had a similar passion for his young protégé, Timothy, writing that “Scripture is God-breathed” and equips us “for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). But this wasn’t just the benign suggestion that “it’s good to read your Bible.” Paul’s admonition follows the dire warning that “there will be terrible times in the last days” (v. 1), with false teachers “never able to come to a knowledge of the truth” (v. 7). It’s essential we protect ourselves with Scripture, for it immerses us in the ways and knowledge of our Savior, making us “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 15).
Studying the Bible isn’t just for kids; it’s for adults too. And it isn’t just for summer; it’s for every day. Paul wrote to Timothy, “from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures (v.15), but it’s never too late to begin. Whatever stage of life we’re in, the wisdom of the Bible connects us to Jesus. This is God’s VBS lesson to us all.
Still Before God
The first photograph of a living person was taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838. The photo depicts a figure on an otherwise empty avenue in Paris in the middle of an afternoon. But there’s an apparent mystery about it; the street and sidewalks should have been bustling with the traffic of carriages and pedestrians at that time of day, yet none can be seen.
The man wasn’t alone. People and horses were there on the busy Boulevard du Temple, the popular area where the photo was taken. They just didn’t show up in the picture. The exposure time to process the photograph (known as a Daguerreotype) took seven minutes to capture an image, which had to be motionless during that time. It appears that the man on the sidewalk was the sole person photographed because he was the only one standing still—he was having his boots shined.
Sometimes stillness accomplishes what motion and effort can’t. God tells His people in Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Even when nations are “in uproar” (v. 6) and “the earth” shakes (v. 2), those who quietly trust in God will discover in Him “an ever-present help in trouble” (v. 1).
The Hebrew words “be still” can also be translated “cease striving.” When we rest in God instead of relying solely on our limited efforts, we discover Him to be our lasting, unassailable “refuge and strength” (v. 1).
Game of Change
The handshake spoke volumes. On a March night in 1963, two college basketball players—one Black, one White—defied the hate of segregationists and shook hands, marking the first time in Mississippi State’s history that its all-White men’s team played against an integrated team. To compete in the “Game of Change” against Loyola University Chicago in a national tournament, the Mississippi State squad avoided an injunction to stop them by using decoy players to leave their state. Loyola’s Black players, meantime, had endured racial slurs all season, getting pelted with popcorn and ice, and faced closed doors while traveling.
Yet the young men played. The Loyola Ramblers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 61–51, and Loyola eventually went on to win the NCAA national championship. But what really won that night? A move from hate toward love. As Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
God’s instruction was a life-changing concept. To love our enemies as Christ taught, we must obey His revolutionary mandate to change. As Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But how does His new way in us defeat the old? With love. Then, in each other, we can finally see Him.
Running for What Matters
It was impossible not to tear up at my friend Ira’s status update. Posted in 2022 only days after she’d left her home in the besieged capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, she shared a past image of herself lifting her country’s flag after completing a running event. She wrote, “We are all running to the best of our abilities a marathon called life. Let’s run it these days even better than that. With something that never dies in our hearts.” In the following days, I saw the many ways my friend continued to run that race, as she kept us updated on how to pray for and support those suffering in her country.
Ira’s words brought new depth to the call in Hebrews 12 for believers to “run with perseverance” (v. 1). That call follows chapter 11’s moving account of the heroes of faith, the “great cloud of witnesses” (12:1) who’d lived with courageous, persistent faith—even at risk to their lives (11:34). Even though they “only saw . . . and welcomed [God’s promises] from a distance” (v. 13), they were living for something eternal, for something that never dies.
All believers in Jesus are called to live that same way. Because the shalom—the flourishing and peace—of God’s kingdom is worth giving our all for. And because it’s Christ’s example and power that sustains us (12:2–3).