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Pretenders

Today God gave me something in Revelation 3, verses 1 through 4, which say:

“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. 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. 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. 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. (Revelation 3:1-4)

It’s possible to act like a Christian, and to talk like a Christian, but not be a Christian. This I believe is what the Church in Sardis was; pretending to be “alive” while they were living in sin. God is telling them here to wake up to their sin, and repent while there were still some in their congregation that weren’t yet trapped by sin… The same can be said of many Churches today; there are more than a few claiming to be alive in Christ, but not actually having faith in Christ as their savior.

I do not believe it is possible to lose your salvation, but it is possible to have never been saved. An empty confession of faith, which lacks actual conviction or meaning, means nothing. If we’re living in habitual sin, we need to really examine our-selves and see if our confession in Christ really is genuine. No Christian will ever completely fall to sin, though it is possible to stumble for a time. Thus, if we find our-selves in bondage to something, we need to ask God to save us from that which is enslaving us–it’s just common logic.

 
 

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God’s Anger

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 20 through 23, which say:

But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:20-23)

Talking about “God” is something Christians often enjoy. What they often times do not enjoy, is talking about God’s hate. God’s hate and wrath is somewhat taboo among Christians, because many think that for God to hate anything or anyone would be for Him to be a hypocrite. After all, He Himself commanded that no one should murder, and then through His son Jesus said that hate is murder. However, God’s anger is not like human anger. For example, here we see that God is angry at Jezebel, not just because she had sinned against Him, but because she was tempting the Church to sin. Basically, God’s anger is always righteous. He never acts rashly like we humans sometimes do, rather He gives the person time to repent. If they do not repent, and they still persist in hurting the Church, that is when He delivers punishment.

We humans get annoyed easily; some more so than others, some less, but it’s none-the-less true that we all get annoyed more quickly than we might like. God isn’t like that. God never got angry at us when we rejected His son prior to being saved, and Jesus didn’t even get angry when He was being wrongly crucified for sins He didn’t even commit.  This is because God never gets angry when it is He Himself being mocked by some foolish human (though that particular foolish human can expect some form of, un-angry, divine retribution), but He does get quite angry when it’s His people being attacked.

In the Old Testament, God ordered the Israelites to attack neighboring empires and wipe them out, or make them slaves. He did this because those people and the empires to which they belonged had angered Him by attacking or mocking His people. What He did not do, is punish them in a vindictive rage, intending to “make those people pay,” for something they’d done against Him.

This is why, while Jezebel’s punishment may seem harsh, just as the punishment God doled out to certain nations in the Old Testament may seem “harsh,” it’s not actually as harsh as we might think. What we frequently misunderstand is just how horrendous God sees a woman such as Jezebel, or a nation that mocks Him and His people. We look at people like her and are ashamed on behalf of the parents who raised her, or we consider calling the cops on her in a more modern World. God looks at her, and He sees that her heart only wanted to turn aside Christians, and that her mind was taken over by Satan. He sees the demon behind the mask, if you will. That is why God’s punishment is never as harsh as we think it is–He sees far more than we ever can, and thus understands far better than we ever can what should be done.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Today’s Sermon

Today the pastor was a gust speaker, who worked as representative of Shepherd’s College. As a result of his job, his sermon did seem to be a bit of a advertisement for Shepherd’s College (a college helping those with intellectual disabilities). That aside however, the actual passage he chose to preach on was 2nd Samuel 9:1-8.

Given that we had communion on this particular Sunday, and that they were trying to fit in a promotional video for Shepherd’s College (as well as a few stories about the people who had been changed by it), the sermon only had one point: We should love others, regardless of any disabilities they may have, just like David cared for Mephibosheth in spite of the fact that he was crippled.– To phrase it differently: In the same way that God showed His love for human kind by giving His son for us, in spite of our sinful nature (which must have looked to God much the way that a mental or physical disability in a fellow human looks to us), we should show love to others regardless of how they appear to us at the moment.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2013 in Todays Sermon

 

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At The Gate of Hell

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 12 through 14, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:12-14)

One interesting thing to note about this passage, is that God isn’t criticizing them when He says that they dwell where Satan’s throne is. To the contrary, it’s only after He mentions it that He says what it is He has against them. What the church in Pergamum was doing, was setting up a camp right next to Hell, if you will. Most Christians today aren’t even willing to go near the “bad side” of town, much less live in a city that hated Christians; they deserved some form of recognition. However, living so near to sin lead to some of them to return to it.

There is always danger when we are near to sin. Paul put it rather well in his epistle to the Galatians, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (see: Galatians 6:1) Though we might not fall for the teaching of Balaam, we may be tempted by other things. Everyone has something that, if they were not clinging to Christ, they would turn to–some type of modern-day idol. Which is why it is so important that we do evangelize and help others who have fallen to sin, but we do so while keeping our-self pure from the sin which they are caught in. And, as only Christ is pure in this World full of impurity, that means making sure that our focus is on Him. Of course, our focus should always be on Him, but even more so when we’re trying to help a fallen brother or sister.

 
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Posted by on August 2, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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More Than Conquerors

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 8 through 11, which say:

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘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. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Revelation 2:8-11)

God knew that the Church at Smyrna was in a time of tribulation and poverty. He knew that legalists (i.e., those who call themselves Jews because they, for the most part, try to obey the legal requirements of the law, yet don’t believe in salvation through Jesus’ death and Resurrection) were slandering them, and He knew that they were going to have to endure even more suffering in the future. Some even believe the ‘ten days of tribulation’ refer not to ten actual days in which the Church would be persecuted, but rather to ten Roman emperors under which Christianity would suffer.

In spite of knowing all this, though, God tells them not to fear. He even goes further than that, saying that not only are they not poor, they’re rich. And they were, too, just not physically. The reality is, you could be the poorest person in the World, and still be rich. You could not only be poor, but be suffering persecution for your faith, and be looking forward to nothing more than a life time still to come of suffering, and still have nothing to fear. These poor people were living in a very difficult time for Christianity, in a place that particularly disliked Christians. Yet, they could rest just as easy as many Christians today living in the United States, because they had Christ.

Jesus makes all the difference. You are never poor if you have Jesus, because your spirit will always be rich. You could be living as the Church in Smyrna was: with no foreseeable Earthly hope on the horizon, and yet you could still be happy and bold, because Jesus makes us look past the mortal on to the immortal. Everything on this Earth will pass at some point, but Heaven and God are eternal.

The last section of the passage makes this point nicely when it says, “The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.'” The ‘second death’ (which is complete separation from God in Hell) won’t touch Christians, because as Paul puts it, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (see: Romans 8:37). What cause have conquerors to fear? What cause have the rich to believe themselves to be poor? We simply have to look to Christ whenever we’re feeling like poverty is closing in, or when we’re being tempted by Satan. Whenever we look to Christ, we see that, in everything, He makes us more than conquerors.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Spiritual Divorce – Abandoning Our First Love

Today God gave me something in Revelation 2, verses 2 through 5, which say:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

If God has something against you, it tends to be wise to listen to what He says and change accordingly. This passage, however, could be confusing. ‘Abandoning your first love,’ could mean a variety of things. It could mean that many people in the Church were getting divorced, or even that some people were literally abandoning their spouse (i.e., leaving without being divorced). However, we should keep in mind what we talked about in the first couple of verses of Revelation: the book of Revelation is not a revelation about us, but a revelation of Christ. Therefore, it seems unlikely that this passage would be talking about physical divorce, as that in no way reveals Christ. Quite the opposite, actually, as whenever a couple divorces, we see a reminder of humanity’s fallen nature.

Spiritual divorce, however, is something this passage could be talking about. The reason for this being, that when you’re born again, you’re “first love” is always Christ. Before being born again, and being given a new nature, you could well have loved another human, and when you become a Christian that isn’t taken away. However, that fellow human is no longer your first love, Jesus is. Thus, when God talks here about how the Church had ‘abandoned the love they had at first,’ He seems to be saying that they abandoned their love for Christ.

Can you remember when you first became a Christian? You were likely feeling zealous for God, praying frequently, and possibly in the Word rather more than you are now… To put it one way,if you still maintain the same zeal, love, and passion for Christ as when you were saved, I’m afraid you must have already died and gone to Heaven. It is simply not possible while we still live in flesh and bone bodies to always be passionate for Christ. Along with everything else in the World after the fall, our love for God gradually decays if we aren’t constantly in the Word and around other believers. The Church in Ephesus, sadly, had let its love for Christ ‘decay’ so much that their worship was likely in a fairly poor state. Thus, God is warning them that if they continue to put Jesus off to the side in their services, He will have to take away their light. That isn’t to say He would take away their salvation, only that He would take away their effectiveness in the World as lights for God.

There is some pretty clear application for us here. We have to be careful that we don’t allow ourselves to become complacent in our love for Christ. He should always be the center of our worship, whether that worship is private or public (such as in a Church). Setting up a daily reading schedule for your family can help in this a lot, as can making time every day to be alone and pray.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Delivered Through Love

 

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The Seven Lampstands

Today God has given me something in Revelation, chapter 1, verses 10 through 13, which say:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. (Revelation 1:10-13)

Remember those “symbolic sentences“? This passage is has quite a few of them. However, one thing that somewhat sticks out, is the seven lampstands. There are seven churches which God tells John to send this book to, seven lampstands, and in the middle of the seven lampstands stands Jesus.

The specific number of lampstands (i.e., seven) seem to indicate a correlation with the seven Churches. An interpretation which makes sense, considering that the purpose of a Church is to uphold the light. Also, when we understand that it must be Jesus in the middle of the lampstands (given that only Jesus would have the voice of God and yet be in the form of a man), we see the Churches are centered around Christ. So then, what we see is seven Churches, upholding the light, and centered around Jesus.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Interpretation

 

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