In Revelation Chapters 1-3, we find that God sends his Angel to John in order for him to write greetings to seven different churches. Out of the seven churches mentioned in these passages, there is one that has always intrigued me. I would surmise that it has been more of a challenge to me than anything else. It is the letter to the church of Sardis.
Wikipedia states that "Sardis was an ancient city at the location of modern day Sart, in Turkey's Manisa Province. Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, the seat of proconsul under the Roman Empire, and the metropolis of the province Lydia in later Roman and Byzantine times."
We find the address by the Angel to John in Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV):
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
I have written a previous Blog on Soiling your garments, but for this piece of writing I wish to focus on one phrase: "You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead." There is so much that we can meditate on with just that passage, so allow me to briefly elaborate in hopes that I do not do this passage an injustice.
I have often found myself wondering if this church was one like so many churches here in America. You can walk in their doors and finds stacks of dusty Bibles and Hymnals that aren't being utilized. To take it one step further, maybe it mirrors what our own Bedrooms and Living Rooms look like, bookshelves with Bibles on them that haven't been picked up for quite some time. In my travels around the country I am intrigued at what I see. While in Los Angeles a few months ago, I didn't see a single church building. In my travels through Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, you will find two church buildings in every holler and hilltop. Even with that being said, I can't say that His Bride is always awakened out of the sinful curse of Apathy and Complacency.
So in breaking down this verse even more, I have realized something further. This church in Sardis was not as dead as a door nail from the outside looking in. It had the "Reputation" of being alive. From the outside it was thriving with all kinds of events. Maybe it had a kicking praise team that rocked the house. Or quite possible it had the top youth group that drew in the majority of the youth from the surrounding communities. I would venture to say that its childrens program was top shelf with all kinds of drama's. This is on top of the Men's and Women's ministries, and all of the events that they put on throughout the year. Jesus did not hesitate to say however, that they were dead. He says that He has not found their works complete in the sight of God!
Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. Everything that I have listed above is Great, if it is done through the Holy Spirit's divine power, and we are instruments that He works through in order for His ministry to take place. However, if we are just putting on a show of what we are interpreting as Majestic proportion, then we need to take a step back in honest evaluation of who the King of our life is that we are sitting at the feet of in worship.
My friends, may we all evaluate our relationship in the Body of Christ, and whether or not we have soiled our garments. May the things that we do and the worship that we raise be a sweet incense in His nostrils. Otherwise...we are members of a church that he says is DEAD. He says that those in Sardis that are faithful and have not soiled their garments will walk with Him, because they are Worthy. May we all humbly evaluate our lives and evaluate our walk with Jesus as Followers of His. I write this out of Love and concern, and not judgement, and pray that it is received in the way in which it was intended.
I have always said that a person should be prepared at a moments notice to give an account of what the Lord is working on in their life. So allow me to share with you something the Lord has been working on with me.
For a while now I have felt the Holy Spirit's conviction in my life that I am not loving others. Sure we can say that we love others, but is it really fair or just for us to make such a comment, as we are selfish and self-centered by nature. We might think that we are thinking of others above oneself, but who better to evaluate this in your life, than those that should be the recipients. One day a couple of weeks ago, my wife and I had a disagreement. Maybe that is a little too politically correct, as it was a pretty heated argument. The next day Amy asked me to read I Corinthians 13, and when I did I felt something inside me click.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13 (ESV)
In some way, I feel like I am surrounded by Cynics. I was raised around them, went to church with a group of them, and talk to them daily in my adult years. When I looked up the definition of "Cynic" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it said: "A faultfinding captious critic; especially: one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest." Well in many ways, I couldn't agree more that this describes mankind. The scriptures pretty much tell us such:
"And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done." Genesis 8: 21 (ESV)
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23 (ESV)
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." Romans 5:12 (ESV)
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9 (ESV)
So we can see that apart from Jesus Christ, we are inherently evil and all of us are sinners. A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to go visit the Reagan National Library out in Simi Valley, CA. It was one of the most incredible sites that I have visited. I hold a lot of respect for President Reagan. However, I was a little disappointed to see the epitaph on his gravesite: "I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life." I know that the Bible teaches us otherwise. However, it really got me thinking.
Reagan might have been on to something. 1) I know that scripture teaches that without our lives surrendered to Jesus, that we are not good. 2) I do believe that God will prevail over evil in the end. 3) God does want purpose for our lives, and does give a high worth to every life. However, we also know that Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
This means that I have immense Hope through Christ, if I am a true follower of His. Now getting back to the definition of Cynic, I agree with the definition in that mankind is wholly devoted by self-interest. So therefore, would it not be a fair assumption to deduce that before oneself becomes a Follower of Christ, he is therefore inately a Cynic. However, once a person becomes a Follower of The Way, that one should abandon his old ways of cynicism and portray the Love that Christ showed us not only on the cross, but during his life and ministry while on this earth.
So in conclusion, I am asking God to remove Cynicism from my life. As that I Corinthains 13 passage says, if I speak in tongues of angels, have all faith and understanding, but yet have not Love, I am nothing. I want to be something for the Kingdom of God. I think that it is about time that I show the Love of God in my life towards others, instead of being critical and judgemental. Please don't misunderstand that this does not mean that we are not to share the Truth of God with people, even if it hurts. It does not mean that we compromise in any way. It also does not mean that we abandon any theological roots in our progressive sanctifcation that occurs daily in our lives. It does mean that I will be obeying the following verse:
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)
So in conclusion, although theologically I disagree with Pesident Reagan's epitaph, I want to start looking for the good in people, rather than tearing them apart judgementally. I want to start living my life as Christ commanded, rather than to be so cynical and pessimistic that I am critical. I have started praying a simple prayer that I also encourage you to pray: "Lord break my heart for what breaks Yours!" If you do not know my savior Jesus Christ of which I have been talking about in this writing, then please leave a comment for me. I will be glad to pray that the Holy Spirits convicting power come upon you and convict you of your sins. I LOVE YOU!!!
"When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, "Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and
hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, "none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Luke 14:15-25 (ESV)
I have been thinking a lot lately about Time Management. My oldest son David, recently finished up Cross Country, and is now on the High School Swim Team. My middle son Nathan is playing Middle School Basketball. My daughter Hannah has been practicing for the Christmas Musical at church. Needless to say we are very busy running here, there, and everywhere. This is on top of the fact that my wife and I both work. One week had me conducting an Audit in Cincinnati, OH on one day, to just turn around and fly the next day to Washington, D.C. My point is that the Jacobs family leads busy lives.
I like to ask men in my church how their Bible Study and prayer time has been through the week. Quite frequently I get the common excuse: "Not very good, as I have been very busy." I don't know of too many people with busier lifestyles then mine with church, sports, and my travel schedule. This is why I say: STOP MAKING EXCUSES!" This morning I was reminded of the Luke passage listed above. It is so easy to make excuses for not spending time with God. However, my experience has shown me that it is not just busyness that stands in the way, but Complacency and Apathy as well. There have been a few weeks where I have been in town and not travelling for busines, that I take a look back and wonder where my week has gone. Sometimes I fail to spend time in His Word, and on my knees as well. Not because of busyness, but because of lazyness.
So you can see that it is a decision that we have to make. I choose to accept the Invitation granted to us to come to the Lord's Table and dine. I choose to stop making excuses about how busy it is during the Holiday Season, or any other time of the year. If I am not Deliberate about spending time with the Lord, then chances are it won't happen.
I would like to challenge you to start today. I hate New Years resolutions, as 99% of the time, they are a fad and are never maintained. I have lost 50 pounds this year, not from dieting, but from a Deliberate Lifestyle change. I choose to spend more time in exercise, and less time picking up a fork. Will you join me in leading a Disciplined lifestyle of growing closer to the Lord?
"And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelation 19:9 (ESV)
"Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
Luke 12:35--40 (ESV)
Maybe some of you have figured out by the tone of my writings that I am a Watchman. Quite simply this is somebody that has been appointed to Stand Guard on that wall and lay watch to call out danger that is coming. Notice I didn't use the word "might" come, as danger is inevitable. I have been told by some that my Blogs sound full of condemnation and don't always paint a rosy picture. To that I respond that each one of us has our own spiritual gifts that God has given to us. Mine is not one of an encourager, although I do that from time to time as well. Mine is one of being a strong arm of challenging and exhortation. This might come in the fashion of correction, or calling men on the carpet for their sins.
I was sitting in church this morning and a thought popped in my head: "What makes you think that you are any better than anybody else?" Allow me to answer that question right now. NOTHING!!! I am just as much of a sinner as the next guy. It if wasn't for the saving Grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I would be dead in sin and walking around like a zombie. However, because of the sanctification process of Christ conforming me into His image, then daily I find that I detest sin more and more. Occasionally I fall into my past carnal sinful ways and find myself wallowing back at the pigs trough. However, His Grace is always sufficient to point me clearly back to the path of Righteousness on the straight and narrow road.
Now to the passage in Luke that I have listed above. Verse 35 is not just written to Watchman who stand guard on that walls of the city. No, it is written to everybody that has placed their trust in Christ. I must spiritually stay dressed for action and keep my lamp burning. If I put my Sword down for even a moment, which I assure you I am as guilty as the next person of doing, then I can find myself in a compromising position with the enemy. If I do not keep oil in my lamp, then I can find myself falling asleep and slumbering, just as the enemy decides to scale the wall.
This weekend I have broken out re-runs of one of my favorite shows, Alias. This show starred Jennifer Garner, and it was all about her being a CIA operative. I find the action absolutely stimulating. Occasionally I find myself saying stuff like, "That guy was so unprepared for what she had to dish out." From kick boxing to shooting, the action is never ending. In a way, this is what verse 35 is saying. We are to stay prepared for Action. Just like my previous Blog that I wrote, I would like to reiterate my point. Is your Sword rusty and dull, or is it sharpened to a fine and shiny point? Are your clothes on, and are your ready for Action???
I have recently had an epiphany of realization that without Christ in my life, I am literally DEAD. The Bible mentions the word "LIFE" 412 times. I have realized that not only did He come to give me life, but life more abundant. This means more than I could ever ask or conceive. He tells us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Will you live for Him, or continue to wallow in Death and absolute absense from Him? I choose to LIVE!!!
I woke up this morning with a desire to write a Blog, but was unsure of what topic to discuss. As I was pondering, I started reflecting back to a conversation that I had yesterday with a friend. We were discussing the absolute necessity to be Watchful and Vigilant in today's society, and alert and aware that our guard is up at all times. Now for the most part some of this is second nature to us from a secular standpoint. We accept that it is wise and prudent to lock our doors at night in order to keep any malicious burglars at bay. We also know that it is not wise to pull up beside a Hells Angel biker at a stoplight, and tell him that his tatoo looks stupid. Point being that in life we have some moral and civic attributes that are absolutes in our daily practices. However, in Spiritual areas we might be lacking...
I was curious how many times that the word "Sword" was found in the Bible, so I pulled out my Strong's Concordance app on my iPhone, and literally counted every last appearance. Did you know that the word "Sword" is found 356 times in the Old Testament, and only 27 times in the New Testament (9 of which alone are found in the book of Revelations)? I had no idea. Now before you start jumping to conclusions and assuming that the Sword is less important in the New Testament than the Old, lets look at some passages:
"He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming Sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life."
Genesis 3:24 (ESV)
There is much speculation as to what or whom this Sword is or might represent. I look forward to studying more about this and writing a future Blog on this topic.
"When I blow with a trumpet, I and all that are with me, then blow ye the trumpets also on every side of all the camp, and say, The Sword of the LORD, and of Gideon. "
Judges 7:18 (KJV)
"When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s Sword against his comrade and against all the army. "
Judges 7:22 (ESV)
This is an amazing story of how 300 men armed with nothing more than Trumpets and Pitchers concealing a torch, went up against thousands of armed men. However, it is important to note that they were obedient to the Lord's instruction. The Lord fought their battle for them with His Sword, by turning the enemies swords on themselves.
"And each of the builders had his Sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, "The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."
Nehemiah 4:18-20 (ESV)
I love the story of Nehemiah, and would absolutely encourage you to read it soon. This passage talks about Nehemiah leading men to rebuild the wall. With opposition against them, they were watchful and alert. With brick and mortar in their hands, the sword was right there by their side ever ready.
"...and the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Ephesians 6:17 (ESV)
This passage in Ephesians is dealing with putting on the whole Armor of God on a daily basis. We can see here that the Sword is referred to has His Holy Spirit, which is the Word of God.
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged Sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
For anybody that tells me that the Bible is just an ordinary book that was written thousands of years ago by some men, I refer them to this passage. The Word of God is alive and active! He says that it is sharper than any two-edged Sword. This is because these are not just mere words printed on some paper, but rather THE WORDS OF GOD!
"From his mouth comes a sharp Sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords."
Revelation 19:15-16 (ESV)
I am speechless every time I read this verse. My LORD is coming back on a white horse. In the passage before it says that His eyes were like a flaming fire, and that His name is called The Word of God! This Sword is an instrument of judgement as a fullfillment of His Righteousness.
I think that it is safe to say that the Old Testament is definitely bloodier than the New, however don't ever neglect the aspect of trading a physical sword for a spiritual one. It is essential for Believers of the One True God to guard themselves spiritually with The Word of God every second of the day. May we always be ever watchful and alert that satan is lurking about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). Therefore, naivety and weariness are not viable excuses, and never have been.
My friends, Where Is Your Sword? Did you pack it away somewhere after church camp many years ago? Did you leave it at Walmart last week, after witnessing to some needy soul? Or could it be that you have never gripped the Almighty Power of the Sword of the Spirit? The time is too short to aimlessly walk through life hoping that eventually you might hit the target. Cry out to God if you have never gripped that Sword or you have misplaced it in your life. If you are firmly grasping your Sword, NEVER LET GO...
This is a tough Blog to write as it is innate in our nature to be Kingly and drawn to oneself. As fallen man we have a tendency to think that we have shed the curses of this world and bettered ourselves and our moral aptitude. After all, it would not be very becoming of oneself to attest that we have fallen short of the mark, or to even admit that we do not have an understanding of where that mark may lay.
The other day I was walking with my son at the KY Game Farm. I was watching as this woman walked her young child up to a measuring stick to see how tall the juvenile was. The backdrop was painted like a fish, and only went up to five feet tall. I was so tempted to go make a spectacle of myself, just to embarass my son. However, I refrained from placing my 6'7" frame underneath this measuring contraption, but I was motivated to write on this topic.
The question on the table is, "How Do You Measure Up?" My premise in posing this question has to deal with how you perceive yourself as a Christian (if you are a Believer in the One True God) and with what are your measuring your growth and depth as a Believer.
I am a firm believer that no matter how well versed you might be as a scholar of the Bible or close with your Maker, we must maintain a meek, humble, and contrite heart. Now let me clarify that I am not talking about a false sense of humility. We all know somebody that thinks that they are humble, because they do not have a problem telling you that they are. My friends, if somebody has to tell you that they are humble (rather than portraying this explicit character trait) than they more than likely are not.
There have been many times in my discipleship of men that I have exclaimed to them that I don't feel worthy of the adoption into the family of Christ. This is an open and aware realization that without Christ's all encompassing Grace in my life, there is absolutely nothing I could do to earn or deserve His love for me. Inevitably when I have made this statement, the comment back to me goes something like this:
"Greg, you are like a spiritual giant. You know and quote scripture, spend time in the Word and in Prayer, attempt to lead your family down the right path, etc... If you don't feel like you are measuring up, then who is? You stand head and shoulders amongst most around you (No Pun Intended)."
Now I would like you to dissect the above statement with me. The first thing that I would like to point out is a passage from the Apostle Paul:
"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost." I Timothy 1:15 (ESV)
I feel like that a lot of days. I don't know if we can come into the knowledge and understanding of the saving grace of God until we embark upon the path of Total Depravity. I am a wretch, and there is absolutly nothing that I can do to earn salvation. Now with that being said, I also accept and claim my birthright of who I am now in Christ, and how He has washed me clean by the shedding of his Blood as the Perfect Sacrifice, and has given it to me freely to accept. So when somebody takes my acceptance of Total Depravity and sums it up into a lukewarm paraphrase in life, in so many words they are saying: "Awe shucks Greg, compared to the rest of us, you are a beacon of shining light into the darkness." Herin lies the problem.
With or to what are your holding yourself out to be measured against? If you are measuring yourself against the world, then you will fail everytime! If you are measuring yourself against fellow Christians, then you will fail everytime! However, if you are measuring yourself agains the Lamb of God who was slain on the cross for your sin, then you have a starting point. See, it is at that point that we don't fail everytime, but rather that we start to become alive to Christ and dead to this world, and the things in this world. The natural assumption of this world is to compare yourself with the Jones's, as they are marching on the same stage and are in the same pattern of life as you, and therefore are fair game. However, it is never natural or willingly accepted to measure oneself next to the One who laid it all down for you, Christ Jesus. Satan loves to whisper in our ear that we can never attain "Christlikeness" so therefore it is better not to even try and thus to measure our goods and services based on those around us. I am here to tell you that Satan has been called the Great Deceiver from the beginning for a reason.
In summation, I have to strive for Christlikeness on a daily basis, or I am falling with the masses that are heading towards destruction and utter despair. Unless I measure myself with the ABSOLUTE measuring device, then I can be assured of the variance and inaccuracy of any other form of measurement they will provide. Daniel 5:27 is a very sobering passage. It says "...you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting." I don't know about you, but for me and my household we have chosen to serve the Lord. Not merely in verbiage, as talk is cheap, but through our Actions. Have you been weighed and found wanting, and if so, with whom are you measuring yourself?
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I Peter 5:8 (ESV)
I have thought long and hard about writing this blog, and it has taken me several days to compose my thoughts. This is fitting for the season that we are entering into, with almost every retailer catering to Halloween. Let me state up front that my family has never celebrated Halloween, nor will we ever in the future.
I really hesitated and prayed long about whether I should even put this picture on the Blog. I am very cautious about not giving credit to satan, but at the same time I really felt a tugging from the Lord that people need to see evil for what it is worth. Now to me this picture depicts utter evil and the heart of everything satan stands for. To some, it might be this years Halloween mask that they have picked up at their local outlet store.
The question stands, "Have We Become Desensitized?" As always, I would love for you to respond to this Blog and give me your thoughts. I have been studying Numbers 11. When the Israelites were brought out of Egypt during the Exodus, the people cried out to Moses that their souls were dry and hungry for the Fish, Melons, Leeks, and Garlic that they had while in Egypt. Granted they were slaves and treated as utterly despicable while captives in Egypt, they still craved these items. They were in love with what the world had to offer. They would rather blend in with their surroundings, although slaves to the world, then to be set free by Almighty God and have Him provide manna for them on a daily basis.
My point to this is simply that I feel that as society we have become desensitized to the world around us. We crave certain items because it is the "Norm" and everybody else is partaking in these items. It is almost like we, just like the Israelites, have "Stockholm Syndrome." We have fallen in love with our captor, and the thing that binds us up and holds us back.
I know many that say that they are opposed to Halloween, yet they are the first to corral their cars in a circle for "Trunk or Treat" or their local "Fall Festival" at their church. To me this is total Apostasy to what the Bible teaches. We have to be so cautious and careful that we are not forming our churches based off of "Church Growth" strategies, when Christ is the one that grows His Church. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! God does not want us to blend in with the world by having "Alternatives" to what the world has to offer. My Bible has the following to say:
"Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."
II Corinthians 6:17-18 (ESV)
I am not finding any passage in the Bible that says that we are to "Blend In" and be "Seeker-Sensitive" to those around us. My friends, we have become desensitized to the things of this world, because we are craving the Fish, Melons, Garlic, and Leeks just like the Israelites were. This might come in the shape of Addictions, Obsessions, and basically anything that is of the world and not of God.
For months now, I have been thinking about discontinuing my cable service. It had nothing to do with saving money (although that is always a positive), but solely to do with the fact that my family and I were watching way too much television. Whatever excuses you want to throw at this, nothing holds water if it is keeping you from communicating as a family, and spending quality time with Jesus Christ. So a couple of weeks ago I called and disconnected all of my cable service (we just get the Network channels). It has been interesting to see two seperate effects of this decision: 1) My family is really going through withdrawals on what they were addicted to watching, 2) My family has read more books in the last week, then the last 6 months. Although my wife and I enjoyed watching the Discovery and History channel, I didn't like what the world was teaching my kids about the dating scene on Disney and Nickolodeon.
So my friends, the question is out there about being Desensitized. Do the things of this world effect you, or are you numb to them? I recently rented a Tom Clancy Audio Book. About 30 minutes into the book playing, I had to turn it off. The cussing was more than my spirit could handle. Could this quite possibly be because The Holy Spirit is perfecting a work in me through the act of Sanctification? I believe that it is. I was at the local movie store the other night renting a few movies. I put most of them back on the shelf after seeing that they were Rated R. I have made a covenant with my eyes and heart not to watch anything above PG-13 (I might even get radical and have to lower this to PG).
So what things of this world are you so in love with that are of satan? What are you willing to give up to not blend in with your surroundings. God is calling us not to be a chameleon and simply blend in and camouflage to Babylon. No he is calling us OUT. He is sending us out from their midst as the II Corinthians passage above states. I am tired of having blinders on and using the excuse that "God just has not convicted me of that." If you would get in the Word of God and wear some holes in your carpet from praying, then maybe you would be able to see clear enough to see and hear what the Lord is calling you out from.
As always, this is meant to convict, challenge, and encourage you to Righteousness in Christ. This is not meant to be judgemental, but rather the Truth spoken in Love.
Oh peaceful morning, where have you been hiding. Upon the dew drops that nestle ever so gently on the slivers of grass, I see the handy work of your creator. In the fog that hovers ever so gracefully over the tightly trimmed grass of the green, I see your creator. As the wind rustles through the deciduous and evergreen trees, I see your maker. Through the rays of the sun, I can see the light of your everlasting power. Likewise, through the setting of the moon, I can grasp the full power of your creativity on the lunar landscape. As the squirrel scurries in front of me, I stand in awe of his creator as well. There is not a care in the world, no not one. All is silent and resting. The birds are roosting, and man has not set foot on the floorboards of life at this moment. Everything seems to just hover in humble existence. Nobody is awake to start the hustle and bustle of this thing we call life. Everyone and everything in nature are in a pause in honor of the one who made them.
Those are the words that come to mind from my experience of walking 6 miles around Clear Creek Park during the early morning hours. I snapped this picture this week and found it absolutely breath taking. I can get pretty deep and challenging in my Blog entries, but this one speaks for itself. It is about as simple of a blog entry that I have ever written, but at the same time, it is about as complex. Did you notice how I kept referring to their creator in the above paragraph? It is not that He is not my creator as well, but rather that sometimes I forget to stop and capture the beauty of my creator all around me. As Americans, we tend to get so caught up in noise and clanging cymbals, that we forget to take time out and realize the Majesty around us. When was the last time that you looked at dew this way, or is it just an annoyance on your wet running shoes? When was the last time that you viewed the awestruck power of fog on our level, or is it a matter for your high beams and wipers to contend with? When was the last time that you stopped to give a squirrel the right of way?
My fellow brothers and sisters, please take some time out of your busy schedule to take pause. To realize the Majesty and awestruck significance of how God manifests Himself around you. In order for me to also acknowledge Him as my Creator, I must also give creedence to all those other creations around me.
Upon searching in scripture for the word "morning," I found multiple references to "early morning." I am not talking about intoxicating oneself with coffee, then sitting down and watching the morning news. I am talking about finding oneself humbled in the presence of an Almighty God early in the morning before the day begins. Before you start your day and begin your journey, how about asking God for clear direction. We are so dependent upon our GPS when we travel, that we forget that God should be the GPS of our lives. In order for Him to program that direction, try humbly submitting to Him in quietness and solitude and acknowledging that HE IS KING OF THE UNIVERSE!
Last Sunday morning something happened that sparked my thought process. While I was waiting in the car for my family to exit the house to go to church, my wife appeared at the door and asked me to come inside. She had tears in her eyes, so I could only imagine that she was either hurt, or the kids had done something wrong. I know, I know, we are the only family in the world that struggle to get the kids out of the house on Sunday mornings in a timely fashion. After turning the car off and walking inside, she informed me that she needed me to take a shard of glass out of her foot.
Having three beautiful God-given children in the house, accidents are quick to follow. From a young age, one of them picked up the phrase "It was on an accident." Now they all say it when something happens out of the norm. Well that week Hannah had dropped a glass and it shattered on the kitchen floor. Her best attempts to clean it up evidently proved to be futile, as Amy stepped on a shard on Saturday night. She had mentioned to me that she thought that she had a piece of glass in her foot, but it didn't hurt while she was walking on carpet, or laying in bed. It wasn't until that next morning when she put her high heels on for church, that she "KNEW" she had glass in her foot. All of a sudden when she stepped down on the hard surface of those high heels, it went from a tiny little shard, to a broken window pane piercing fire up her leg.
The good husband that I am, I quickly grabbed my combat tactical knife in order to cut out this insidious creature that had dared to inhabit this part of my wifes body. After Amy kicked me away, with the knife still in my hand, we agreed to settle on a needle and tweezers instead. To make a long story longer, I went ahead and dug around a while with the needle, while my wife flinched and bit her lip. I finally realized that with my flashlight, I was able to make that tiny little shard of glass reflect light. I grabbed it with the tweezers, and heard a crunch while the two massive arms of those tweezers grabbed a hold of that big pane of glass, and extracted it never to be seen again.
Yes, part of what happened was comical (for me at least) and others parts not so much. It did get me thinking about how a little sin in our life can cause so much pain. When we are spiritually walking on carpet or laying down, we might not be made aware of the pain. However, when we are walking on a Firm Foundation of Christ, then we are made aware of the incinerating fire that is produced from sin.
A wise man is ever seeking in his heart to establish whether sin abides, but a fool is frolicking about living in the here and now fulfilling selfish desires. Once a man knows The Truth, then it is incumbent on him to walk in The Way.
"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
My friends, the challenge that I lay out to you today is quite simple. Do you have sin in your life? Many will say to me that we will not be free from the grip of sin until Jesus returns. I am not saying that we will not fall into temptation and sin, but we should constantly strive to be free from the grip of sin, and to be like Jesus, who was sinless. I am talking more about a sinful lifestyle. How long are you going to walk with glass in your foot? The Holy Spirits light will reflect on that shard, and He will extract it with your willing surrender. May I take a healthy look at my life and evaluate first and foremost if I have sin in my own life and family. May repentance start with me!
"I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness."
Romans 6:19 (NIV)
Do you ever wonder if life is harder now than it was in our parents generation? I constantly struggle with the question of whether I am raising my children correctly, or if I am being the husband that God would have me to be. I would say that a fair amount of families have questions like this.
The real question I have struggled with through the years is wondering if as a follower of Christ, do we have it harder now in todays society than 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 500 years ago, 1000 years ago, etc...
When I look at scripture that is God breathed, I am faced with the reality that sin and obstacles have always been there. Since the fall of Adam, sin has been prevalent, and a man's heart desires to fulfill the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. The difference might be in the way that the deceiver tries to tempt us.
Instead of hanging out at the city gates gossipping to the passerby's, maybe we spend our evenings on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of utilizing the services of a temple prostitute, maybe we seclude ourselves in darkness and look at pornography on the internet. Instead of denying that we know Christ in the dark ages in fear of losing our lives, maybe we just simply don't give a defense of our faith when asked around the water cooler. Whatever the situation might be, do you think that the challenges are any less today then in the past?
Friends, I wish we still had front porches, Sunday picnics, Black and White TV's, and no iPod's. I long for simpler times with less distractions. Or were there??? Maybe the distractions 50-100 years ago were just different. I used to have Depression survivors come into my office and share there stories about not having anything. However, could that not be a distraction as well. Do you think the human heart stops longing for the things of this world if they are not in its grasp?
This brings me to the passage above from Romans. When living in sin and not surrendered to God, we are a slave to impurity and wickedness. We long for instant gratification in any way that will fill our selfish purpose in life. However, when surrendered over to righteousness, we no longer are a slave to what once was, but to the Holiness of God, which looks nothing like what the world has to offer.
My friends, we can't serve two masters. As a follower of The Way, I can not be in love with the idols of this world. Idolatry is putting something up on a pedestal that inhibits or takes the place of communication with God. This could come in many forms, such as Sports, Work, Facebook, Pornography, Pride, Guns, Cars, Toys, Hobbies, etc...
So you ask, how then do I become a slave of Righteousness, which leads to Holiness. You can't unless you have been Regenerated by the All Consuming Power of Jesus Christ. Only Eziekiel 36:26 says that He will remove our heart of stone (in love with the idols of this world), and give us a heart of Flesh (Total Abandonment to the things of this world, and striving for Righteousness). To be Righteous is to be in "Right Standing" with God.
As I was laying in bed this morning, I was wondering if I was too in love with the world. Am I still watching the wrong kinds of movies, and listening to the wrong kinds of music? Am I waiting to see the latest gossip on the news in the evenings? Am I spending more time reading Fiction novels than I am the Words of God? Would I rather tell somebody about my Faith in Christ, then to live it out at home?
These are all real questions that I think we all need to ask. Just as I cleaned my basement last week, maybe, just maybe, the cob webs in my heart need to be cleaned out as well.