The Church in Laodicea and America

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV):

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to the seven churches, which some believe to be symbolic of seven church ages. To the first six, Jesus points out their good qualities and some additional areas they must improve upon. For the most part, these six churches are following the leadership of Christ and will be rewarded in the end. However, the last church mentioned (the Church in Laodicea) does not receive the same treatment. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Jesus does not point out anything they are doing, that is pleasing or glorying to God. Jesus condemns the Laodicean church because they are too “cozy” with the world around them and are not obedient to the leadership of Christ and the Holy Spirit. They are a worldly church.

As we look at how the Laodicean church is described, think about the state of the church in America today. Do you see any similarities? Christ describes the church in Laodicea as being: lukewarm, rich by the world’s standards, wealthy and not needing anything. Then Christ reveals their true spiritual condition: wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). In our own modern terms we would describe this church as being: blind to their own spiritual condition, spiritually dead, apathetic, complacent, self-deceived, self-sufficient, etc. There are many who would argue that this is the state of many of our churches in America today.

After Jesus has listed his complaints against the church he calls them to repentance. Repentance, now that’s a message that’s missing from many of our churches today! Then he instructs them to listen for his voice, and not the voice of the world around them. Many churches today try to compromise with the world around them because they don’t want to offend anyone. They have a big budget to meet so they can’t afford to offend their largest contributors. They want high attendance numbers so they avoid any message that would be offensive to anyone. Their message is crafted to make everyone feel included and to feel good about themselves. Repentance is a word they try to avoid because it does not have that inclusive feel to it that the church today likes to promote. Christ loved everyone and so should we, but we must never compromise the true Gospel message of salvation by faith and belief in Christ. And we should never try to “water-down” the true Gospel message in order to conform to the society around us.

The church in Laodicea was a self-sufficient church; they relied on themselves instead of the leadership of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Does your church follow the leadership of Christ and the Holy Spirit or does it try to conform to the world around it?

God’s Unfailing Love

Psalm 143:8-10 (NIV)

8Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

9Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.

10Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

How do you begin your morning? Most of us have a morning routine that we usually don’t vary from. Some of us must have at least an hour to wake up, have our coffee, and mentally prepare ourselves for the day. That mental preparation could include surfing the internet, watching the early morning news or sports shows, or reading a book. There are others who simply wake up, shower, and get ready for school or work hurriedly, as they make a mad dash for the door. I know of others who enjoy their favorite morning beverage outside, sitting on their back deck or porch, and taking in the sights and sounds of God’s amazing creation.

In Psalm 143, a psalm of David, we find that David is greatly distressed as he cries out to God for relief from those who want to harm him. He prays for God’s mercy and he calls upon God’s faithfulness and righteousness to bring him some relief from his enemies. David doesn’t know what his day may hold, but he has the faith to begin each morning, calling upon God for guidance and reassurance.

Do you allow the morning to bring you word of God’s unfailing love? Do you look to God and trust Him to guide you throughout your day? Spending time alone with God each morning is the best way I know to gain strength and reassurance for the day ahead. Although we don’t know what the day ahead has in store for us, God does, and He asks that we only trust Him as He shows us the way.

We learn to trust God by drawing closer to Him each day, as we acknowledge His unfailing love and His presence in our lives. As we read the Bible, or sit in silence praying to God, we are learning to deepen our trust in God and acknowledge His presence in every area of our lives. Through the Holy Spirit, we can ask God to lead us down the path that He has ordained for us. And as we grown into a deeper relationship with God we will begin to proclaim what David so beautifully affirmed: “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.”

Have You Been Changed? The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

 

 

Matthew 22:1-3: Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

In this parable told by Jesus, a “king” prepared a wedding banquet for his son. This “king” then sent out his servants to those guests who had been invited, telling them to come, but the invited guests refused. In this parable, the “servants” were Old Testament prophets that God had sent to proclaim the future coming of Christ. The King in this parable is of course God, the Son represents Jesus, and the bride of Christ represents the Church. In verse 3, we are told that the invited guests refused to come. 

Matthew 22:4: “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

In verse 4 we find that God sent out even more prophets to proclaim the free gift of God’s salvation, but we will soon see that the people refused to believe. Prophets such as Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist, invited people to accept the free gift of salvation that was offered by God the King. Sadly, the people rejected this offer and refused to believe.

Matthew 22:5-7: 5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

The King then sends out more servants (prophets) to invite other people to come to the wedding feast but those invited guests offered up many excuses to not attend. Many paid no attention to the invitation and just went about their normal daily routines.

Others seized, mistreated, and even killed the servants, who were God’s prophets. Many decided to choose the pleasures of life instead of accepting the free gift of eternal life that was being offered by God, to those who would believe. The sending of the king’s army, the destruction of those who killed the prophets, and the burning of the city, foretold the eventual destruction of Jerusalem.

How often do we go through life without ever thanking and acknowledging God or asking Him for direction in our lives? We make ourselves busy with the things of this world, while pushing aside God and failing to seek His guidance and accept his invitation to share in this banquet.

Matthew 22: 8-10: 8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The invited guests represent the Jewish people who rejected Christ. So God the King says, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you can find.” This is a reference to the Gentiles who were considered unclean and thus the “bad.” Eventually we find that the wedding hall was filled with guests, both good and bad. We know that even the church today is filled with both good and bad because the church is made up of human beings. There are many in the church that belong to the church but have not truly been changed by their encounter and belief in Christ.

Matthew 22: 11-12: 11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

The Holy Spirit guides believers in our walk of faith. Sadly, many believers block the power of the Holy Spirit by following the ways of the world instead of being guided by the Spirit of God. Are you transformed by the leading of the Spirit or do you allow the world that you live in to guide you and shape your beliefs?

The King coming in to view the guests represents God at the final judgment. As followers of Christ, we are charged with living a life that shows evidence of our being changed by the acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation. If we believe and truly encounter the living Christ, we must be changed and our lives must bear witness to that. Galatians 3:27: for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Matthew 22:13-14: 13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

At the last judgment we will be held accountable for the way that we have lived out our life of faith. If we have truly been changed by our encounter with the living Christ, then our lives will have reflected that. We are called to live repentant and pure lives that allow others to see Christ in us. If we have not lived a Christ like life, then our inner darkness and failure to follow Christ will be exposed.

The “attendants,” in verse 13, are the angels who are God’s servants and will help to carry out God’s final judgment. God will separate those who have been changed from those who have not.

If you are a believer, then you must be a changed person through faith and belief in the Risen Christ. You can go through life as a believer not being changed and it may not be apparent to those with whom you share a pew in worship. Someone who is truly “changed” will lead a life that reflects the glory and the presence of Christ in all of their words and actions. You can go through life “faking” it, but at the end of time, God the judge, will not be fooled. Belief and faith in Christ must lead to a new life in which you are truly transformed and changed.

Strength For Today, Hope For Tomorrow

Lamentations 3:19-23
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The author of the book of Lamentations is uncertain, although many ancient Jewish and early Christian traditions ascribe it to Jeremiah. Jeremiah has been called the “weeping prophet” because he so often would express the anguish of his spirit. Jeremiah was a prophet of doom and not surprisingly he only attracted a few close followers. God commanded Jeremiah not to marry and raise children, because the Lord was going to send a divine judgment upon Judah that would sweep away the next generation.

The book of Lamentations mournfully expresses the people’s overwhelming sense of loss that accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, as well as the exile of Judah’s inhabitants from the land that God had covenanted to give Israel as a permanent national homeland.

In 1923, Thomas Chisolm wrote one of the greatest modern hymns about the faithfulness of God from this text in Lamentations. In the first stanza he writes about the character of God and how it does not change. God is compassionate and that compassion will last into eternity. In stanza two he writes about God’s faithfulness in maintaining the order of the universe. In stanza three he writes of God’s faithfulness in forgiving our sins and providing strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Each stanza leads to the great culminating chorus that declares the victorious words of Jeremiah, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin And a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, With ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Prayer: Our heavenly Father, as your followers we are aware of the great and eternal love that you have for us. We believe that you watch over and guide our lives each and every day. Help us to remember that your love is unfailing and your compassion is everlasting. Give us the strength and the hope to arise every morning remembering how great your faithfulness is to each one of us. In spite of what the previous day has brought into our lives, let us awake with a new hope, a hope for a better and brighter day. And in the midst of a changing world, we have the promise that you do not change. Help us to feel your compassion, your mercy, and your grace upon our individual lives. Amen.

Sources used:
NIV Study Bible Zondervan
Dailyencouragement.net

Focus on Christ

 

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV):
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Helen H. Lemmel (1863-1961) wrote the words and the music of Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus in 1922. Her inspiration for the song, which Helen entitled The Heavenly Vision, came from the writings of author and artist Lilias Trotter (1853-1928). After struggling in prayer for two years, Trotter came to the conclusion that she must lay down her love of art in order to fix her eyes solely on Jesus, and on His calling to the mission field. She subsequently served for more than 38 years as a missionary to Muslims of Algeria. She also authored several books and tracts. The following is an excerpt from her tract, Which Passion Will Prevail? (http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/turn-your-eyes-upon-jesus-the-song-and-the-story.html)

“Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen harmless worlds at once — art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good hiding the best.” It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His Glory. Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.”
– Lilias Trotter

Has your walk with God lost its focus? Are you “fixed” on your Savior, Christ Jesus? Are you fixated with the current wave of news and social media that bombards our minds on a daily basis? We are easily drawn into the debate on whether or not we support gay marriage. We are consumed with the debate over a flag that has created constant debate and attention. We seem to have forgotten the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting that took the lives of nine followers of Christ, including the church’s pastor. Our attention and talk has turned to debate over a flag instead of hearing stories about these nine Christians and their walk of faith and their strong desire to follow Christ, even in a world that does not acknowledge Christ.

As followers of Christ, we come face to face with sin and opposition to God’s word every day. We must remember that Christ endured the same kind of opposition and he kept His faith firmly entrenched in God. Christ calls us, as His followers, to do the same. When we become entangled in the endless debates that rage on and on, we take our mind and our focus away from Christ. And that is exactly what the evil one wants us to do. Say “no” to this world and to Satan and “turn your eyes upon Jesus.” Live out a life of faith that keeps its focus on Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith.” And do this so that, as the author of Hebrews reminds us, “you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

How do you keep your focus upon Christ? I would love to hear from you.