The Goose & the Swan – 500 years later

Luther was ordained literally “over his dead body” – just as that bishop had prophesied!

That Holy Place

mother grieving minne
Pastoral Reflection
Pre-death
A mother is crying, wracked with sobs, grieving as she cuddles her dying daughter.
No one can help. Not even the baby’s father. She has come to that place where she is alone with the Divine – only her grief between them.
During the course of my career as a pediatric hospital chaplain, I have been honored to be present many times when that Holy Place appears. I’m not the only one. Often there are others in the room. But most do not understand.
Why do I say this? Their words and actions betray them. When others on the team prod the chaplain to “say something” (words of comfort) or “do something” (pray, anoint, baptize, etc), I wonder – do they see it? No. Do they sense it? Maybe. Probably. But they don’t know what it is or what to make of it. Neither did I the first time.
This time it happened again. That Holy Place – the intersection of human grief and the Divine – had arrived in the room like a portal into another dimension.
It doesn’t always happen. But when it does the Divine touches a grief-stricken heart.
Others are not always present when this holy meeting takes place. Sometimes it occurs in an ambulance, in the back seat of a police car, at a crime scene, in a bedroom, on the street or maybe even in a cab…anywhere a heart is grieving.
But sometimes others are present. In the ICU…or the NICU…or the ED.
Though her daughter had special needs and this mom knew that she would one day die as a result of these special needs, mom was not prepared for it to happen today.
Sure, all of the spiritual prep had been done. But can anything ever prepare a parent for this?
“I want to be with her,” cries the child’s mom.
This is not an indication of suicidal ideation. It’s the expression of a grieving heart.
In using these words we learn that mom knows what has not yet been affirmed by the medical team. Her child has died.
There is nothing more to say even though the eyes of all the other team members are looking to you, the chaplain, to step in and say or do something to help.
They silently mouth their thoughts or gesture about what they think you might do:
Hands folded in a prayerful clasp along with a nod of the head in a direction that leads from you to the crying mother while their lips move saying “pray with her.”
Mouths forming the words “baptism” with a shrug or a questioning tilt of the head as they “ask” if that is something you, the chaplain should offer at that moment.
I wonder if they ever read my notes in the chart?
But I know the hearts of this staff. These gestures are simply the expression of their helplessness in not knowing what to do, but wanting to do something to assuage the grieving mother’s pain.
Yet this is not a time for words. There are no words that will help. This is not a time for rituals. There are no rituals that will help other than raising the dead. What can anyone say or do that could possibly ease the pain of her grief? This mommy’s beloved daughter has just died.
This is when “doing the work” of a chaplain is replaced by “being” a chaplain – being that which some are “called” to be. The time for clinical work is past. The time for “being” is here. To me, in this circumstance the ministry of presence is nowhere else more obviously needed.
When the Holy Place arrives most people sense it. They have an idea that something is up but don’t understand what “it” is. Many of the team paid only lip-service to spiritual things throughout the entire time of serving this family. But when the moment turns on the spiritual pivot of the presence of the Divine, their understanding of what is or isn’t spiritual care is unmasked as powerless.
Strong words? Yes. But true.
Don’t misunderstand. Everyone is powerless in this circumstance. Even the chaplain.
Understanding what’s going on does not empower anyone in that particular moment. This isn’t the place for medicine, or counseling or religion. This is the place of relationship.
Mom is in THAT place – the place where the Divine has entered the circumstance and has touched her grieving heart. The Divine is both present & gentle.
I learn much about the ministry of presence in these moments.
This is a Holy Place. Holy ground. And it is for mom alone. Anyone else would be an intruder. To step into that place, no matter how well-meaning, would be a violation of that which is holy.
The particular family’s religion is Christianity. They understand what their holy book, the Bible, says about physical death.
“we are willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” [2Cor 5:8]
But spiritual truth does not assuage grief. Even with the peace found within those truths, that Holy Place where the Divine has just arrived is deep in mom’s heart. It is too deep a place for cognition to reach. It does not rise to a more visible level. It is where her grief is rooted – that place where a mother’s unchangeable & unconditional love resides. It is the foundation of this woman – and grief has overwhelmed that space.
Until now. The Divine has arrived.
As Christians this family believes that death is the ultimate healing. But everything in this present circumstance, in their bodies – yea, in the whole world – screams just the opposite.
In this world we often see physical death but rarely see spiritual life. This dichotomy underscores this grieving mom’s struggle as she does her best to “walk by faith and not by sight” [2Cor 5:7].
What will she do?
Not everyone who enters this Holy Place reacts in the same way.
Not everyone accepts the invitation extended by the Divine when He arrives.
When face-to-Face in that place, some – most – surrender to the truth their hearts already know. They know because the Divine has already been at work preparing them for this moment.
But others continue to fight against it, allowing the unmitigated intensity of their raw emotions to suppress and try to ignore what the Divine has already spoken to their hearts.
Yet He does not leave alone even those who try to ignore Him in the abyss of their grief. He shows up to walk with them through the darkness. But they do not reach out to the only One Who can touch a grief-stricken heart. They choose rather to hold onto that which the Divine has already said shall not be.
Though help is freely offered, they have chosen not to accept.
And so the moment passes. The door closes on that Holy Place.
One reaction is not more “right” than the other.
Yet the ability of one heart to receive heavenly peace is far greater than the other.
Post death
Then the inevitable happens – the child has been pronounced dead. Regardless of whether or not the grieving parent was receptive at the moment when the Divine touched his/her heart, every one is for a moment the same.
– overwhelming grief
– tears
– body wracked with uncontrollable sobs
– expressions of love and regret
All of these & more…and all are “normal” because grief has no format.
Hours later I weep silently in my office. It has been a long, long week.

Spiritual Self Evaluation – part 7 (of 7)

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Revelation 3:14-22

What is your favorite sport? Is it football (aka “soccer”), American football, baseball, an Olympic-style sport? Whichever you prefer, at some time the competition gets to where the best in that sport meet to decide who is the champion. Maybe it’s a fight for the Olympic gold medal, or the Premier League championship, or the MLB World Series or maybe even the Superbowl.  In that competition the winningest teams or individuals meet to see who will, well, win!
Every player will wear the uniform of his team. The jerseys have the name & logo of their respective teams, the player’s number & the player’s name. I’m sure the players are proud to have been chosen to wear those uniforms.
What does this have to do with our spiritual evaluation? I simply want to remind us about part 6 of our evaluation which was taken from Revelation 3:7-13, the letter to the church in Philadelphia. In Rev 3:12, we read that the faithful believers of that church – whether of the city of ancient Philadelphia or the faithful believers of all ages whom they represent – will at some point in the future be chosen to wear the name of Almighty God, the name “New Jerusalem” & Jesus’ new Name.
All believers will be humbled & proud to be part of that team!
But the choice to be on that team will be ours. Will we choose to be like the believers from the church in Philadelphia, or will we choose to be like the believers from whose testimony we get the 7th part of our Spiritual Evaluation, those in the church of the Laodiceans.
Laodicea, was a city of great wealth, commerce & Greek culture. Cicero held court there. It had an excellent (for that time) medical school. It had an amphitheater which seated 30,000 & was filled almost every day with people wanting to be entertained. Laodicea, was very affluent.

This city was famous for 4 things:
1- its wealth & banking
2- black wool
3- Phrygian powder (used to mix an eye salve)
4- two aqueducts

Unusually for a city in that part of the world, Laodicea was not militarily defensible. They were constantly threatened by other cities. Like Switzerland today, the Laodiceans were always making deals & compromising in order to ensure their existence.
Laodicea was leveled by an earthquake about 60 AD. When the Roman government came with help, due to their wealth the Laodiceans said  “We have need of nothing.” They could afford to rebuild without government money.
But this self-sufficient attitude had crept into the local church. The believers of Laodicea thought their material wealth was an indication that God was blessing them for their spirituality. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Jesus hit the nail on the head in His address this congregation.  To them He says, “to the church of the Laodiceans.”
“the church OF the Laodiceans” as opposed to ‘the church IN Laodicea’
This is an important distinction.
Laodicea comes from 2 words:  laos = the people & dice (dee-kay) = rights of
Laodicea means ‘the rights of the people’ or ‘the people rule’
At least in the first six letters we understand that the Lord is addressing His Bride, the Church.  Not in this letter. He calls it what it is – their church, not His. The people in this church had usurped leadership from Christ. This church was led by the people, not by the Holy Spirit.
Somewhere, somehow the Laodiceans had gotten their eyes off the Lord.
Laodiceans, wherever you may be, this is addressed to you.
In Deuteronomy 8:11-17, the Lord warned national Israel not to allow material wealth cause them to forget the Lord, and not to rely upon their material wealth instead of God.
The Laodiceans had not heeded this warning. Their hearts had wandered. They trusted in their material riches. This materialism led to deeper compromises of the truths found in God’s Word.
They forgot about the Lord. Since this is an issue of the heart, Jesus, speaks to their hearts.
To their hearts Jesus says, “You have no passion.”
v.16 –   “YOU are lukewarm.”  The Laodiceans  had no passion one way or the other regarding the Lord.  Their religious practice was clinical, sterile, mundane.
Though their works might have been very philanthropic or humanitarian in nature & helpful regarding the social needs of needy people, those works were spiritually distasteful to God.  He will spew the lukewarm Laodiceans out of His mouth.
“spew” is a Koine Greek word that means disgorge; vomit; hurl; a violent expulsion of something that is not good for the body.
Yet the Laodiceans  didn’t recognize their own spiritual condition. Why?  Because they no longer looked to God’s Word for absolute truth. They looked at the world & took direction from what they saw with their eyes. They walked by sight, not by faith.
They were in need of a Spiritual Self-Evaluation!
On the outside Laodicea looked great.  It was wealthy & busy. But material prosperity – large congregations, many outreach ministries, nice church buildings, money in the church bank account & physical health – are not accurate indicators of spiritual condition.
The truth about the Laodiceans is that they had no spiritual passion for Christ. From Heaven’s point of view they were: wretched, miserable & poor. Though they had wealth for their flesh, they had no provision for their own souls – and they didn’t even know it.
In a city that produced eye medicine, this church was spiritually blind.
In fairness, none of these 7 churches had an accurate estimate of themselves.  We too must be careful not to overestimate our spirituality.  We must continually measure ourselves by God’s standards as found in His Word.
The Laodiceans of the 1st c AD, were not only prosperous. For the sake of being friends with everyone & in order not to invite attack, Laodicea was a politically neutral city like the modern nations of Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland & Ireland.
Political neutrality might be helpful at times. But spiritual neutrality leads to spiritual death.
Matt 12:30 “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
For the sake of your eternal soul, spiritual neutrality is not an option.

Self Evaluation Time!

Do you find that your passion for Christ has waned? Is it difficult to get motivated to attend church services regularly? Do you struggle with mid-week Bible study or being active in church activities?
What can you do?
Our “Wonderful Counselor” [Is 9:6], does not cast off or reject the lukewarm, Laodiceans. He teaches them how to “heat up” – how to rekindle their relationship with Him again.
If your relationship with the Lord has cooled off what can you do?
#1 – Get into the fire.
Lord Nelson, Admiral of the English Navy, knew that the Battle of Trafalgar would determine the fate of Europe. Before that battle he assembled his men and said, “Gentlemen, in case you cannot read the signals in the heat of battle (semaphore), know this: No captain in this fleet can do wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.”
“Captains, if you can’t read my signals & you don’t know what to do, then do this – engage the enemy in battle.”
Get in the battle! Go for it! If you are not certain of the Lord’s marching-orders for you today, you can’t go wrong if you share your faith with others or take a stand for what is right against what is wrong according to God’s standards.

“But people will get mad at me.” Maybe. Probably. So what? Do it even if it means you will have trouble, because it is in the trials — in the fires — that you will heat-up again for the Lord.
#2 –  Be clothed with white raiment.
Rev 19:8, tells us that the Bride of Christ, the Church — comprised of those who believe in Him — has been granted (given) “linen, clean and white” & that this “fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”

But many people, including believers, are “going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Here’s the problem: all the good works we do for the purpose of being righteous are unacceptable to God.
Isaiah 64:6  “…all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”

Have you reverted to doing things that seem good to you without verifying with the Lord, what He wants you to do? Like the Laodiceans, have you usurped the Lord’s leadership of your life?
#3 – Come to Jesus & allow Him to anoint your eyes with eye-salve.

The ‘Great Physician’ is where we start & end. He can & will open the eyes of your heart & soul so that you can see clearly.

Hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.
In His Hands, Pastor Fran

Spiritual Self Evaluation – part 6

7-rev-churches

Revelation 3:7-13

In these 7 letters, Jesus typically describes Himself using images that come from the description given of Him in chapter 1. But not always. This is one of those times when He uses a descriptor not found in the first chapter. This should cause us to ask “why?”
Every self-description Jesus uses is important to the people in the church to which the letter was addressed. In this letter to the believers in the church in Philadelphia, Jesus describes Himself as “he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens.”
“The key of David” is a phrase from Isaiah 22. Why?
In Isaiah 22:12-13, God called for humble repentance. Instead, Israel, trusted in their own defenses & partied with an attitude of “lets eat & drink for tomorrow we die” – sort of like Western culture today.
In Isaiah 22:15-25, we read about Shebna. Shebna, was the guy “over the house” – the steward entrusted with the “key to the house of David.”
In that day, the chief royal steward would have the large master key of the palace fastened to the shoulder of his tunic. Shebna wore the keys to David’s kingdom on his shoulder – the keys to the treasuries of the kings of Judah. This also refers to the responsibilities of government held by a man in that position. The government, like the heavy key chain hanging from his shoulder, was said to be metaphorically “upon” him.
But Shebna misused the money, building for himself a grave [v.16 “sepulcher”] & buying chariots. He was busted. The keys were taken from him & given to a faithful man whose name was Eliakim.
The same prophetic promise was made about the coming Messiah.
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder”
Isaiah 22:20, starts by speaking of Eliakim, but moves ahead in time to speak of Messiah.
The key was a picture & demonstration of the authority of the chief steward. Here, the LORD gives Eliakim the authority to open & shut as God’s representative, which no man can oppose.  The name “Eliakim” means ‘God raises up; God establishes.’
In this, Eliakim becomes a “type” or symbol of the Messiah, because Jesus told us this passage spoke of Himself:
“I have the key of David. I open and no man can shut. I shut and no man can open.”
Jesus already has the keys to hell & death [Rev 1:18]. Here we see that He has taken up the keys to the authority of all Earthly governments. This authority was given to Him in the past [see Matt 28:18, where the word “power” is the Greek word exousia, meaning ‘delegated authority.’
Jesus has the authority to open & shut doors in our lives as He pleases.
Job 11:10 “If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?”
Job 12:14 “Behold, he breaks down, and it cannot be built again: he shuts up a man, and there can be no opening.”
Jesus’ self-description tells me that regardless of what our eyes see in the last days, it is He, Christ, Who is in control.
HE is holy
HE is true
HE controls the world’s governments & finances
HE opens & shuts & no man can change the choices HE makes
In Rev 3:8, Jesus says, “you have a little strength…” He opens & closes doors for us – then keeps then open because we don’t have the strength to do so for ourselves.
Believers in all ages are characterized by a great desire to be holy & true in their lives. Yet they fail like every human does. Believers in every age fail. We must always keep in mind that it is upon HIS holiness & the truth that comes from HIM that we rely, not in or of our own selves – not even in our newly regenerate selves.
But this is comforting! In these last days we believers sometimes live with guilt that we aren’t as strong or as faithful or as effective movers-&-shakers (spiritually speaking) as believers in past ages. We think the reason for this is a lack in us.
It may well be that we are lacking in ways that render us spiritually ineffective. So we work to create better spiritual habits so our flesh isn’t a hindrance to our spiritual effectiveness. But once that’s done, once we’ve committed & made all the earthly changes possible for us to be better servants of the Lord, we might still find that we are lacking.
What are we to do?
Believers in every this age must rely on HIS holiness; HIS words of truth; HIS authority; HIS ability to open & close doors, trusting that no man can shut or open doors that HE lays in front of us.
Yes, to me this is comforting.
The believers in ancient Philly only had “a little strength.”  But Jesus gave them an open door because of that strength!
“I have set before you an open door…FOR you have a little strength” (caps & italics mine).
What was their strength?
1- they kept His Word – the word “kept” is translated from a Greek word that means both ‘to observe’ & ‘to guard’
God’s Word is critically important. It is so important that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write:    Ps 138:2 “You has magnified Your Word above all Your Name”
Philadelphia represents the church that has returned to the Word of God.
2- they had not denied Jesus’ Name
Acts 4:12 “no o/er name under heaven whereby we must be saved”
There is power in Jesus’ Name.
Did you ever wonder why people don’t shout out the names of other religious figures when they smash their thumbs with hammers? As they hop around in pain, you don’t hear them yell “Oh, Allah/Buddha/Krishna” or any other name. But they DO yell out the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ Name is crucial. The name”Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua.” Joshua & Jehoshua are the same in Hebrew. Both names mean ‘Jehovah is salvation.’
Yes, Jesus’ Name is very important!

Self Evaluation Time

Do you diligently guard God’s Word?
Do you not deny the name of Jesus, including what His Name means?
Sometimes the pressure put on us by our societies, jobs & friends make it difficult to guard the Word of God & to be bold in our belief in the Name of Jesus. Some circumstances can shake us to our core. Hold on when that happens. If you fall, get up & hold on again.
The historian, Strabo, who lived between 64 BC & AD 21, said that the ancient city of Philadelphia was “full of earthquakes.” He may have been there in AD 17 – the year of the great earthquake that destroyed the city. Unfortunately that was only one of a series of quakes which kept the citizens in a state of fearful expectancy.
Strabo wrote: “Philadelphia has no trustworthy walls, but daily in one direction or another they keep tottering and falling apart. The inhabitants, however, pursue their original purpose, ever keeping in mind the writhing pangs of the ground, and building with a view to counteracting them.”
He was amazed that a city would ever have been founded in such a place & questioned the sanity of the people for re-entering the ruined city & planning to rebuild. He felt when people were driven from a city by earthquakes they should be wise enough to not return. He wrote that the walls of the houses were continually opening. Sometimes one & sometimes another part of the city was experiencing damage, so the citizens lived in constant dread of quaking earth & falling buildings.
Because of this situation the people often fled to the open country living in tents or booths. This kept them out of range of disaster during earthquake season.
This constant fear of the day of trial when the citizens had to run for their lives gives us some insight into Jesus’ statement in v.12 – “I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.” Jesus encouraged His people with the promise that if they were faithful they would one day enter the New Jerusalem – the city of God, where they could dwell safely and “go no more out.”
That day is soon approaching. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
In His Hands, Pastor Fran
 

 

Spiritual Self Evaluation – part 5

7-rev-churches

Revelation 3:1-6

When I think of stars, I think of them shining in the dark night sky. I don’t typically think of them as shining during the daylight.
Astronomers tell us that even though light travels 186,000 miles per second, or  5,878,499,817 miles per year, the light from stars takes many, many years to reach earth. This means that the stars we see tonight could have been extinguished years ago but we wouldn’t know it yet. Tonight those stars could shine in the sky as brightly as if nothing had happened, but they could actually be dead.
Does this have any bearing on Jesus’ next words – “thou art dead”? – v.1
The church at Sardis, had a reputation for being spiritually alive. But that wasn’t true. Their rep  was leftover luminescence from a brilliant past. It was spiritually dead.
At one time it had been a strong, vibrant, Christ-honoring congregation. They still called themselves Christians. But their spiritual life was gone. They were merely going through the motions of religion – just like many churches today.  At some point in its existence, the spiritual light in Sardis, had been extinguished. In the present it was dead. So Jesus, Who is the Truth spoke the truth: “you have a name that you are alive, and you are dead.”
Ouch! I often worry about this on a personal level for myself. I worry about this for my  congregation. I don’t want us to be spiritually dead & not know it. I don’t want us to be like Samson, from whom the Lord departed but “he wist not” [Judges 16:20].
This church might have been doing a great number of good works. They were surely doing works on some level because Jesus said that He knew their works. But then Jesus adds that although this church appeared to have spiritual life, in actuality it is spiritually dead.
When the world sees a church filled with programs that help with the social problems that plague people, the world deems that church to be spiritually fruitful. But God sees things differently.
This is not an injunction against the Church doing works that help people with earthly problems. The Church should be helping people. But the primary mission of the Church is to share the Gospel. If the Church neglects its primary mission for the sake of providing social services, it becomes no different than any other philanthropic organization.
We as the people of God have the deposit of the Holy Spirit within us. We have been tasked with sharing the truth of eternal life with an unsaved world. How much more valuable is this than any amount or type of earthly social work!?!
Eternal life is something for which all people are looking. Anti-aging tactics, creams, medications, health foods, gym memberships, the Fountain of Youth… you name it & the world is doing it for the sake of staying alive – all to no avail. Everyone will one day “go the way of all the earth” & physically die unless they are taken from earth in the Rapture.
Into this life-seeking world the Church has been planted with the answer. Eternal life!  We have what everyone is seeking, and we were commissioned by Jesus to offer this free gift to every creature & to all nations.
The problem is that we are human. The Bible calls us “earthen vessels.”

Spiritual Evaluation Time

Though our message is directly from Heaven, the problem is that we are “EARTHen vessels” & not HEAVENLY vessels. This includes the brains in which our knowledge & understanding of the Gospel resides.
As our hearts grow more like Jesus’ heart & we begin to love the world as He does — “not willing that any should, perish but that all should come to repentance” [2Peter 3:9] — our earthen-vessel-thinking leads us to do good, but less-than-eternal-life-giving things as we try to help people with the problem issues with which they struggle. Social work. Good works. But earthly – not works that lead to eternal life.
“Be watchful…”
Sitting on a plateau, Sardis, was virtually impregnable. But twice in its history the city fell. Once when Cyrus the Persian conquered the city in 549 BC, his men scaled a crack in the cliff wall by night – entering on a wall where there was no guard posted. The 2nd time was the army of Antiochus the Great, which used Cyrus’ strategy to take the city.
So when Jesus said, “Watch,” the people in Sardis knew exactly what He meant. On both occasions an enemy had snuck in.
“Be watchful. Keep your eyes open. Look out. Don’t think that just because you have all the right doctrines that you are safe. Don’t rest on your past accomplishments. Strengthen the things that are about to die. I have not found your works perfect before God.”
Oh how different the advice of Jesus is from that of the devil! When we are finally aware that we have drifted away from the passion of our early lives as new believers we are filled with remorse. Into the darkness of this emotion the prince of darkness comes & whispers, “You’ve blown it. You might as well quit being a Christian. You can’t hack it. You’re not worthy to continue in the ministry. You’re not worthy to witness to the lost. You’re a loser. You were never really a Christian. etc, etc, etc.”
Since we as believers know that we are unworthy, these things feed our remorse & can turn us towards long periods of gloomy & dark thinking, freeze us in our spiritual tracks or even drive us into depression where we might experience suicidal thoughts.
Rebuke those thoughts.  Then do what Jesus says here is the remedy. “Remember…hold fast…repent.”  This remedy is the same for all believers who have drifted from the vibrant & passionate love that characterizes the new birth in Christ.  Just as He said in the letter to the church at Ephesus, Jesus exhorted the church in Sardis, to remember back to an earlier time in their relationship with Him when their love was fervent & their communion with Him was open, child-like & intuitive.
You might think that “repent” should be first on the list. But you cannot repent until you remember.  You cannot repent if you do not know that you are doing something wrong or wrong in not doing something which the Lord has commanded.
You must recall what things were like in the past in order to know how far you have drifted here in the present. Think back…take stock.  Once this happens, remember that you ‘RECEIVED’ – you didn’t earn or purchase these things on your own. All are gifts from God.
“Remember therefore HOW you have received…” – v.3
Not only remember THAT you received, but remember HOW you received.  How? Freely & with joy.  How?  By faith.
Following the Dark Ages, the Holy Spirit moved in the hearts of men like Wycliffe, Luther, Latimer, Zwingli & Knox. During the Reformation, Protestants recovered the authority of the Word of God & the doctrines of the total depravity of man & justification by faith.
But today many churches & entire denominations champion things from homosexuality to a woman’s right to kill her own unborn child. Yet they have lost the authority of the Word of God. They have turned their backs on repentance from sin — something they don’t even mention for fear of offending — teaching instead psychology & education as the cure for man’s evil. They have exchanged the doctrine of justification by faith for ‘community service’ in order to reach heaven.
We must remember. One thing about humans is that even though we are “earthen vessels” and are weak in many ways, we tend to remember our own stories.
When you are faced with the truth that you’ve reached a point in your walk with Jesus where you have become dry & spiritually dead, think back to the time when you were first born-again. Remember the joy that came from having the burden of your sins rolled off of your heart. Recall the sweetness of the fellowship with the Lord in those early days. Remember how you were so attentive to His voice & responsive to His direction. Then hold onto the memory of you as that person. Childlike. Trusting regardless of the circumstances.
Then repent. Turn from whatever it is you are doing in the flesh — the work of an “earthen vessel” — & rekindle those things in your life that still retain a spark of those early days with Christ.
Jesus hasn’t changed. He’s the same “yesterday & today & forever.” In practicing those things that still have a spark of spiritual life in them you are fanning that spark & helping it grow into the flame it once was – and which  can be again!
But don’t miss that this is tied to watching for the soon return of the Lord. “If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief…”
Have you given any thought lately to the promise Jesus made about returning to earth?
No man knows the day or the hour. But those who are in close, heartfelt fellowship with Christ, whose love for Him has not grown cold, who are doing their spiritual best to serve Him in a childlike manner, will not be surprised when He arrives because their eyes are open. They are aware of the events which signify His return. More than that, because their hearts are focused on Christ, they yearn more to be with Him than to be in this world.
This is the remedy for religious routine & spiritual lethargy is to become reawakened to the nearness of Jesus’ return. Long before this time Jesus, told His disciples:
Matt 24:42 “Watch therefore: for you do not know what hour your Lord does come.”
As time goes on the probability that Jesus will return becomes greater. Therefore the urgency to be watchful intensifies.
Individual believers & churches that are almost dead must remember that He promised to return, then look back to their own conversions when they walked in newness of relationship with Him, repenting of their indifference.
Are we in danger of catching the “Sardis Syndrome?” Could even modern, unconventional churches relax into ritualistic religion?  Is it possible that we, either as a church or as individuals, could rest on past accomplishments & live on old reputations yet become spiritually dead? Are we in jeopardy?
Yes. It can happen to us just as it happened to Sardis.
Remember…hold fast…repent.
In His Hands, Pastor Fran

 
 
 

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