Sunday, July 30, 2017

I Know Where You Live

I Know Where You Live
July 31, 2017
Revelation 2:3  "I know where you live. . . "

When Jesus was dictating the letters to the seven lamps, the seven churches, He was quite aware of the details of all situations surrounding their lives. More specifically, Jesus was aware of where they lived. That is a loaded statement, saying, "I know where you live." Today, if someone said those words, it would be akin to a threat, suggesting a person can be found for purposes of retribution should it be needed. Jesus wasn't reminding them of His knowledge of their residence so they could fear His arrival; He was acknowledging the events surrounding where they inhabited. Jesus was acknowledging they lived in Satan's den. They lived in a modern day hell-hole, with more sin around them then any other city. Jesus knew it was difficult to live in such a situation, full of temptations and stolen innocence. 

Despite Jesus acknowledging that their home was near Satan's lair, He still opened the brief letter reminding them He was wielding a sword while the letter was being written. The letter opened with an impending threat, though it was not a hollow threat, more of a promise that action was coming from His sword. He had something against them; He was angry that some of them held to poor teachings, the doctrine of the Nicolations. What was the doctrine of the Nicolations? The specifics of the doctrine was not discussed, nevertheless it was loathed and hated by Jesus. It was cult-like activity and it violated the first commandment. Jesus promised if they did not repent of it that His sword would kill them at their personal door-step.

It is no secret that cult-like activity is despised by the Lord. There are many around us today who claim to know the same God we know, following Him in their own version of truth, with their own Bible. True Christianity follows the teachings of the Bible. Any deviation of that is loathed by the Lord, punishable by a personal visit to your home with His sword. You might think of a cult as a crazy one-off person who convinces 50 people to follow him into bizarre practices. Satan is more subtle than that. He is more tricky and deceptive. There are entire denominations of believers who call themselves Christians, though Christ might consider them a cult. If they have special teachings of their own, with an ancillary Bible, it is a cult. If they use a doctrine in addition to or outside the Old and New Testament, it is a cult. If they require you to submit to one man as a leader over the entire church, like a special prophet, it is a cut. It is more than that, though. Any church not entirely healthy is not the right place for a growing believer. There are many churches started with good intentions. Sometimes good intentions can eventually get taken off course and on the wrong path. Even this unhealthy church can be considered a cult, if the teachings aren't aligning up with Scripture perfectly.

You may think your church is fine, and it might very well be safe. But there are some around you that are following a cult or are attending an unhealthy church. Warn them that Jesus is standing with a sword ready to visit their house. There is an escape from these churches, and Jesus knows it is difficult to walk away from them. He promises a special gift to those who can escape the denomination that is deviant of the sole Scriptures. I don't know what that gift is, but Jesus says it will be known only between Himself and the recipient of the gift. The gift will be a white stone with a new name. While this may or may not be enticing enough for you to leave your current church, Jesus said it would be worth it, a gift worthy of the sacrifice to leave the unhealthy church. I'd say not seeing Jesus show up at my door with a sword is gift enough for me to leave an unhealthy church situation. You may not attend the church of Pergamum, but you certainly know an unhealthy church when you see one.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Matt 16:5-12, 1 Cor 5:6-7, Revelation 2

Sunday, July 23, 2017


July 24, 2017
Revelation 2:9 5:14  ". . . I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan."

The city of Smyrna was in Asia minor, but part of the Roman empire in the life and time of Jesus, now in modern day Turkey. Jesus had a distinct message for the Christian church there. As instructed to John, the messages to each church in Revelation had a compliment, a criticism, and a charge. He had little or no criticism to the church in Smyrna, though, except that they were being swayed by the supposed religious elite. The religious elite were original Jews, and many of those in the church of Smyrna were converts, Gentiles not under the original Hebrew covenant. Jesus wanted to encourage the church, His lamp to the world, that they should pay no head to the simple minded humans possibly among there own body of believers who were looking down on them.

Those new to the faith in Jesus Christ are just as valuable and just as critical to the Lord's master plans as those who have been in the Church their whole lives. And those who have been in Church their whole lives often put themselves at a disadvantage by becoming complacent Christian snobs. The Lord has something to say to those religious snobs; He calls them the church of Satan. Those are his words, not mine. Those that are condescending to the young in faith, to the believer who is trying and learning and may not come from the perfect Christian pedigree, are working for Satan. The Lord cares about sincerity of heart, dedication to Him, and a constant daily effort of renewal and forgiveness. The Lord cares nothing for religious piety or elitism.

Those young in the faith need coaching and encouragement. Jesus gave them just such encouragement, He told them they were on the right path even though that the path might get difficult. He told them to hold fast because there will always be trouble and persecution and suffering for those who are true Christians. He warned them that the Christian faith wasn't easy, and it would be filled with those who would try to destroy them or convince them their faith is worthless and crazy and wrong. Today, we have the same problem. We have millions of people who call themselves Christian, yet their faith is still in the world and they live and act like the rest of the world. These social Christians know nothing about persecution or condemnation from the world because they are in and of the world themselves. Many of these aren't real Christians and unfortunately they are also part of Satan's church. Calling oneself a Christ follower yet possessing none of His traits or characteristics or partaking in His suffering is not true Christianity.

Jesus said if you wanted to partake of Him, then you'd join Him in persecution from the world, no matter how new to the faith. Those simple minded humans, even the ones inside the church walls, you are to have nothing to do with them and let their words of criticism roll off you like water off a duck's back. The Lord knows what you are going through and knows about your difficulty and suffering. It will not be for nothing, as the Lord promises you the victor's crown if you can hold up under it, enduring it to the end. Be encouraged, and if you experience hardship on account of His name, then know you are actually doing something right.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:   Matt 10:22, Acts 5:41, 2 Cor 12:10, 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 4:12-13, Revelation 1 & 2

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Church is a Lamp

The Church is a Lamp
July 17, 2017
Matthew 5:14  "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden."

The Church is a lamp, something that gives light. The Bible says very clearly that we are the light of the world. This refers, not just to individuals who make up the church, but to the church as a whole, all Christians who claim to actually be Christ followers. When John, the beloved of Jesus, was exiled to an island, the Lord gave him a vision and told him to write it down. This became the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible. It starts out with several mini letters that the Lord told John to write down for seven lamps. No one knows if the mini letters every made it to the churches, but nonetheless, the Lord told John to write each of them a specific message. The Lord calls each of these churches a lamp, or a light representing Himself to the world.

Right before John starts to write the letters to these churches, he is introduced to Jesus as a deity. John knew Jesus as a friend when He was on the earth, but this meeting with Jesus it was different. Jesus was in human form but His hair was white and His eyes were balls of fire and his tongue was a sword. Jesus told John not to be afraid of Him, that it was in fact the same Christ that was once on the earth as a man. After the re-introduction, John was told to write the letters to the churches, to sit as a scribe, listening to the dictation of Jesus. Now, why would Jesus appear to John with fire in His eyes and a sword in His mouth, while He was instructing John to write a few short letters to some churches? The answer is that Jesus was angry and He was preparing to speak judgment and punishment upon each of those churches, those seven supposed representations of light to the world. If you read each letter, the seven letters have a specific criticism of each church. These seven churches were specific bodies of believers at one time, but are also meant as an analogy of seven types of churches all still alive today, one of which you might be a member. Jesus had a message for them back then and He has the same criticism for some churches alive today, all around the world.

The first letter written to a church was in Ephesus. This was one of the churches coached by the apostle Paul when he wrote a letter to that same church; the letter now known as the book of Ephesians. Jesus had a criticism for that church. Before He criticized them, He praised them for enduring hardships on account of His name. Jesus was quick to say that there was so much good about them, that they were healthy and dedicated to serving Him. They had a flaw, however, and that was over the years they had fallen stale in their love and dedication to Him. In fact, Jesus used a very harsh word, forsaken. Jesus said they had forsaken their love for Him. In honor of His memory for their years of service to Him, He was going to give them one last chance. He told the church to repent, and return to their dedication of loving Him. Remember, Jesus had fire in His eyes and a sword ready for judgment. Jesus was serious, and was giving them an opportunity to get it right before He executed His judgment upon everyone.

Christian, you are a lamp, a representation of Jesus, shining for the world to see. Evaluate yourself honestly, and ask if you've forsaken your first love over the years? Is your love for Jesus fresh and vibrant, or have you possibly forsaken it and now you just go through the motions, in the memory of your past? Jesus is giving you an opportunity to fix it, to make it right once again before He executes judgment on you. If you've nothing to repent, then don't fear the fire in His eyes or the sword in His mouth. Otherwise, no matter how much good you did for Him in the past, if you don't end things well, there will be harsh judgment. You may not be the church in Ephesus, but make sure you don't fall into that same trap.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 5:14-16, Revelation 1 & 2

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Snuffed Stars

Snuffed Stars
July 10, 2017
Daniel 12:3 "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."

There is a saying that says you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink. This speaks to the autonomy of the horse, the ability to choose what it wants to do even though you may have led it by a leash to the best thing for it. The horse gets to chose whether or not it decides to partake of that which will give it nourishing life, sustaining it and keeping it alive. The horse has the freedom to do what it pleases, just as humans have a free will in choosing the Lord and eternal salvation. The scripture in Daniel about leading many to righteousness, giving honor to the one who has led others, is a loaded statement, similar to leading a horse to water.

A human cannot be led by a leash to the wellspring of life, the eternal salvation of Jesus Christ. This choosing of Christ, this is the decision of righteousness by someone else that would honor the one who led him there. But there is so much more to it than leading a person to the point of salvation. Just because you point someone to the Lord does not mean you should be honored. The Scripture says you'd have to lead them. This leading is, again, not like pulling someone by a leash and arriving at a destination. The leadership spoken about in Daniel is a lifetime of example and coaching and teaching and encouraging and maintaining your own righteous walk with the Lord. The example of your life should motivate others to want your same relationship with the Lord. Standing on the roadside with an arrow on a billboard pointing to righteousness does not count. Taking someone by the hand and walking them over to the Lord is not enough. Encouraging someone else in the way of righteousness your entire life, and encouraging them to do the same, that's worthy of honor.

This is not an easy task, leading someone in righteousness. Notice in the first half of the verse it talks about wisdom. It says those who are wise will shine. This is a given, a wise person is always admired. But that wisdom will only adorn a person as long as he or she is alive. Long lasting brightness, even after you're dead or gone, is the application of that wisdom in leading others in the way of righteousness. The Bible is very clear that wisdom and righteousness go hand in hand. It says that the mouth of the righteous will always speak wisdom. I'm not sure which comes first, wisdom or righteousness, but as I understand it, wisdom begets righteousness and righteousness is required to be wise. Either way, leading in that way of life takes a great deal of maturity after a great deal of successful practice.

Scripture says you should be careful in choosing to be a leader. Those who put their lives out to be an example to others, to coach, to lead, to teach, will be judged by the Lord more harshly when we get to heaven. It says not to take that position of leadership lightly, but as a lifelong endeavor. The reason for this is simple, if you lead poorly, or only for a brief while, yet others are still following your example, then you could lead others astray, even to hell. Don't desire to be a shining star, desire first to be wise and live righteously. Practice this daily and sustainably in your life, then begin to lead, but only after you've proven that wisdom in your life. If not, your leadership won't even be a dimly lit star, it will get snuffed out.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 37:30, Proverbs 8:8-11, James 3:1

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Patiently Waiting

Patiently Waiting
July 3, 2017
1 Samuel 1:20 "So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son."

Hannah wanted so badly to have a child, any child.  She waited and tried and begged the Lord, and waited and tried and begged the Lord some more. But the Bible says the Lord closed her womb. It never said Hannah was barren or simply unable to have a child, but it said specifically that the Lord closed her womb. This closed womb represents a closed door. Hannah wanted so badly to walk through that door, but the Lord did not allow it. Hannah's husband had another wife, and the other wife was able to have children. The other wife taunted Hannah, made her feel like less of a human because she could not have a child. It seems Hannah was being punished by the Lord. He deliberately caused Hannah's inability to have children.

The Lord was not only responsible for Hannah's situation, but you could even blame Him, in a sense, for causing it. The Bible never records Hannah's sin for deserving such treatment; it just says that the Lord closed the door to the opportunity. It forced Hannah to wait patiently. I doubt she waited patiently, though, more like begging and pleading and begging and pleading of the Lord to change His mind. If I were Hannah, I would have felt like a caged animal, meant to run free but left pacing back and forth, back and forth. Hannah had no choice but to wait. I have no idea if she waited patiently or not for the Lord to open the door, but I do know she cried from her heart due to the pain of the situation.  I wonder though, when and why and how the Lord decided it was time to go ahead and open that door for her, to open her womb and allow her to have a child. He knew of her barrenness; He caused it, according to the Bible. She pleaded through her tears for the Lord to change His mind, to give her the opportunity to have a child. 

The Lord finally relented; He granted her prayer request to have a child. It is interesting to note that Hannah named the child Samuel. Samuel means, "because I asked the Lord for him." Did Hannah really need to ask the Lord? Was the Lord even teaching her patience? Was He trying to teach Hannah that He was in control? Was He trying to humble her? Did He speed up His willingness to grant her request because she cried and cried, in humble status? We will never know, but we do know that the Lord was in control the whole time and He knew what He was doing. He didn't need Hannah to tell Him that she wanted a child, to remind Him that she was unable to conceive. The Lord knew; He caused it.

My personal opinion on Hannah's waiting, was that she used the time to grow closer to the Lord rather than pull away. Why else would she be seen in the temple crying in sadness in front of the Lord? She could have been bitter with the Lord, but instead recognize He was the only one who could have honored the opportunity. She wasn't angry with Him for causing it; she was humbled that He alone could grant her the desires of her heart. She drew near to the Lord, and I think because of that, her waiting ended up in patience, at least teaching her patience in the end. It was probably more about patience and waiting on the Lord than it was anything else. She was a better follower of the Lord because of it, not worse. She wasn't resentful or hateful, she was grateful for the Lord, even if He didn't honor her request for the longest of time. It wasn't about the request, or her child, or the opened door; it was about her relationship with the One who controlled it all. She couldn't force the Lord's hand, she could only sit with Him and learn how to commune with him. Her waiting ended up in patience; she had no choice, even if her learning it came after the fact.

Today, you are waiting, but this is an opportunity to grow closer with Him. He already knows what you want and need, maybe He even caused it. But today, He is saying that your answer isn't just yet. Make the best of your time waiting for it and draw closer to the Lord. You may actually get the desires of your heart if your heart turns toward the Lord and not on what you actually want from Him.  If you let bitterness and resentfulness in, however, I doubt you'll get anything. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  1 Sam 1:1-20, Job 1:21, Is 20:31, Rom 8:28, James 4:8