Jesus Wears Nike

“Pressure pushing down on me

Pressing down on you no man ask for

Under pressure…”

In the odyssey of life, the saying, “Anything can happen.” is proven true over and over again. And it seems like the “anything” that can happen tends to happen at the worse time possible. Thus, the old adage, “When it rains it pours.” Relationships we thought would never change are sometimes dissolved in such a manner that it makes our heads spin. Sickness, death, misfortune, work situations, you name it; it can all happen at any time. Living in the tension of these moments causes pressure. We feel restricted and confined, bound in such a narrow place, it’s hard to move. Pressure bears down and continues to tighten until we feel riveted to the ground. Thus, another old saying, “Getting the screws put to you.” Whether it’s self-inflicted, perpetuated by others, or a “combo-meal,” sooner or later; life will hit you smack in the mouth. And we have all sorts of ways by which we try to overcome the pressure and find peace. The thing is, most of our ways don’t work or are temporary at best. We too often forget that Someone has faced the pressure, beat it and offers his victory to us.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


Jesus himself assured us that we would have “tribulation” in the world. That word “tribulation” means: pressure (what constricts or rubs together), used of a narrow place that “hems someone in”; tribulation, especially internal pressure that causes someone to feel confined (restricted, “without options”). But the cool thing is that Jesus took all the pressures that life has to give and has overcome the world. He said, “I have νενίκηκα (nenikēka) the world.” Yeah, you recognize the middle part of that Greek word. It’s “nike,” which means “victory.” Jesus had on his Nike long before the shoe company was ever thought of, and he has shared his victory with us. He assumed the totality of the human experienced (even death) and says to us that we can have peace, despite the pressure-in him.

The “in him” is more than just some ethereal concept. Actually, we know what it means and use it all of the time. Think of it this way: In love songs, we hear all the time lyrics such as, “Oh baby, in you I’ve found everything I’ve ever wanted.” Well, that implies relationship. Two people are sharing their lives together. They walk in each other’s shoes. They are “in” each other if you will. They walk, talk, live, love and simply do life together. The pressure that affects one affects the other. The husband and wife have actually become one and they have peace by just being together. Ask a guy and he’ll tell you that no matter what happens, knowing that his wife loves him somehow makes it bearable. Well that’s kind of like the idea of “in him.” Us in Jesus, him in us, living, loving, doing life as one. “In me you may have peace.”

Yep, Jesus wears Nike, and he wants us to walk in him, experiencing his victory and peace. Oh yeah, in this world there will always be pressure. But guess what; Daddy’s got a brand new pair of shoes!!

Smyrna: Stop Being Afraid!

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

In our last discussion about the church in Smyrna, we discovered that the church was most definitely in a situation that could cause them to be afraid. Their very lives could be forfeit at any time. Rome and the Jews presented a clear and present danger for the “poor,” suffering church. (You can read about that here: )

In the midst of all of they were facing, Jesus tells them not to fear. When you look at the way it’s written in the Greek ( μηδν φοβοῦ) , I think maybe a better way to put it is, “Stop being afraid.” They were, at that moment, terrified, and Jesus commands them to stop being afraid. The Lord goes on to tell them that the devil is going to throw some of them in prison that they maybe tested and tried. He says that they will have tribulation for ten days. Now, there are a variety of opinions as to the meaning of ten days. Some take it literally, some view it as a period of persecution under a series of ten different Roman Emperors, some see it as a ten year period of tribulation, etc… I simply want to point out that although the devil was active in the persecution, it was for a limited time, and Jesus was still in control. These trials would refine them and test them the way gold is tried by fire. The trials would actually reveal the beauty of their faith. And those who were faithful would be given the crown of life. It is interesting that ancient Smyrna was referred to as the “Crown of Asia.” The pagan temples built on the hill of Pagos were said to have resembled a crown, and there were other crowns that the church would have been familiar with. But Jesus assures the church in Smyrna that their faithfulness would earn them a crown of eternal value.

Although we do not face trials that could even remotely be compared to what the church in Smyrna faced, it seems like so many Christians in America today are afraid. We look at the direction our country is heading, we see conspiracies under every bush (or Obama), and many are afraid. However, in contrast to the words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna by which he exhorted them to respond to fear with faithfulness, the response to our fear is to buy guns, get lawyers, and stand up for our rights. I wonder just what it is we’re afraid of. Could it be that we are afraid that that we will lose our precious 501c3 status. Have we fallen so in love with the American dream that we have forgotten who we are? I know we don’t like to hear it, but sometimes being a good American and being a genuine Christian are not the same thing. We run from trials and suffering, after all; God doesn’t want his children to suffer does he? Is the bottom line that we’re afraid someone is going to come along and take all of our stuff? Jesus says to us, “Stop being afraid!”

We have forgotten that “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”(1Peter 1:6-9 NLT)

The trials and suffering that may be heading our way will not take the Lord by surprise. He may not spare us having to go through tribulation like the church in Smyrna endured, but he assures us that he is in control and we can be faithful- even to our death. I believe we American Christians need to get a new outlook on suffering, an outlook that has nothing to do with being American, but everything to do with following Jesus. “For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.” (1Peter 2:21-25 NLT) Our suffering is to be reconciliatory. Jesus’ suffering reconciled us to God, and our perseverance in suffering will not only benefit us, but may very well be the testimony others see and come to faith.

My fellow American Christians let us stop being afraid, and trust in the One who offers the crown of life to those who are faithful .


Smyrna: I Know You

“I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9)

We are continuing our look into the letter to the church in Smyrna found in Revelation 2:8-11. As I stated last time, I want to take the letter verse by verse, look at some history that will help us understand how the church at Smyrna may have received the letter originally, and then hopefully point out some relevant application for us. Let’s look at verse nine.

Smyrna was a city that had seen its share of war, destruction, and death, but by the time John wrote his letter to the church located there, Smyrna’s loyalty to Rome had paid off handsomely and it had become a very prosperous city indeed. It boasted a famous stadium, library, and the largest public theater in Asia. Smyrna was rich, but right in the midst of all the wealth Smyrna possessed was a group of believers who suffered intense persecution and poverty. The persecution came from two main sources: Jews and Rome itself.

A large population of Jews occupied Smyrna, and they despised the Christians. The Christians were associated with Judaism yet their claims regarding Jesus threatened to create waves in the community and destabilize civic relations between the Jews and the Roman leaders of Smyrna. It would seem that the Jews of Smyrna enjoyed at least some affluence and influence within the community, and the church in Smyrna was viewed as a threat to both. The Jews went to great lengths to disassociate themselves from the Christians in Smyrna, and hurt them in any way they could manage.

 Then there was Rome itself. At first it was the “spirit of Rome” the Dea Roma that had been worshipped. This Rome that had brought stability, prosperity, and peace (pax Romana ) was easily made an object of worship. But there is a certain degree of ambiguity when dealing with merely the “spirit of Rome.”  So, the Emperor became the personification of this spirit, and voila; Caesar worship was born. Once a year the people had to burn a pinch of incense on the altar, and declare, “Caesar is Lord.” This is the one thing the Christians of Smyrna could not do. And for their disloyalty, they were branded as criminals and regularly faced imprisonment and death.

Despite my simplistic and brief look at the context in which the church in Smyrna found itself, I hope you get an idea of the pressure the they were under. Undoubtedly, as a result of the sufferings endured at the hands of the Jews and Rome, the Christians in Smyrna regularly had their property and belongings seized. They were Smyrna’s “scum of the earth.” What a comfort it must have been for them to hear their Lord Jesus say, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich).” Jesus assured them that he knew all about them and their situation. He invited them to view prosperity in a different way. He told them that the poverty and suffering that made them contemptible in the eyes of the people of Smyrna were the very things that made them rich in the eyes of the One who knows all things. Jesus says, “Church in Smyrna, I know everything that is going on, and I want you to see it how I see it.”

 Church of America, Jesus knows all about us. He knows our situation, and he knows our hearts. I’ve got good news and bad news for us who make up the church in America. The good news is Jesus knows. The bad news is Jesus knows. He knows those who are his, whose hearts belong to him. He knows the ones who claim to be His and are not.   He sees when people make fun of you in the work place and universities on account of his name. He sees the tears shed in prayer. He knows every pressure brought to bear against you. He knows you and your situation. He also knows how we here in America have made church into a business. He knows our preoccupation with the things of this world. He sees it when we hate each other, and lie to one another. He knows how we love our doctrines and denominations more than we love him. He sees how we manipulate each other. He knows when we speak out of our own minds and imaginations yet proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord.” He knows that we love the American Dream more than we do him. He sees our self-absorbed demands for justice.

 Church, let us come to the One who knows us inside and out. May God’s Spirit  help us see tribulation and poverty the way He sees it. May his words, “I Know.” be that which both brings us comfort, and leads us to repentance.