December 9, 2019

Lukewarm, blah, ugh . . .

While reading “Switch on Your Brain” and other books, I’ve sensed the voice of the Lord saying, “Listen to me” and having portions of His Word pop into mind. In many cases, His Word affirms the words of the book but not always. I’m thankful for these reminders because I want to think God’s thoughts and not be side-tracked by human ideas that are not aligned with Him.

The last church to receive a letter from Jesus was in Laodicea. He did not commend them. His rebuke is sharp and yet not without hope:

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:14–22)

This rebuke would have been especially meaningful for two reasons. In their feasts as well as in their religious sacrifices, people at that time drank what was either hot or cold—never lukewarm. Besides that, Laodicea had their water piped in from a city a few miles north. By the time the water reached them it was lukewarm.

Jesus was rebuking their contentment with material wealth while being oblivious to their spiritual poverty. He used strong words to describe them. His reference to gold was another way of saying that the gold they enjoyed was not the best wealth. He also pointed to what they wore, beautiful clothes but they needed the white robes that symbolize righteousness to cover them. This was another meaningful rebuke because wool was a major product of the area and Laodicea was noted for a black garment made of black wool. Jesus also exhorted them to put His salve in their eyes. A medical school in Laodicea offered a salve to heal common eye troubles, but this church needed spiritual sight.

I am aware of modern churches that are unconscious their spiritual needs. They are happy with beautiful buildings and whatever else money can buy but without fellowship or genuine wealth. Their value systems are worldly, not godly. This letter appeals to them to open their doors and let Jesus in. Intimate fellowship with Christ means ruling with Him and sharing His victory. Lukewarm hearts miss much of God’s blessing and need to repent.

Lord Jesus, from these letters You encourage me to watch out for these dangers: losing my first love, being afraid of suffering, doctrinal defection, moral departure, spiritual deadness, not holding fast, and becoming lukewarm. These things happen to churches but also to individuals. Someone once said they would rather burn out than rust out. I tend to think that way too yet need to remember to rely on You, not try to do anything (great or small) in my own strength. As I begin this day, my prayer is for guidance, wisdom, and reliance on You in everything that You ask of me. Keep me filled with Your Spirit and with thoughts that come from Your heart.

Today’s thankful list . . .
- being more aware of my thoughts and how they affect my actions.
- knowing that I have eternal life.
- realizing how many times I live as if I don’t.
- the ladies who clean my house once a month.
- peace.

December 8, 2019

Long term value of being faithful . . .

It’s interesting to me that the terms ‘idealist’ and ‘perfectionist’ are often used negatively. Someone said yesterday that she was ‘picky’ about symmetry and balance, as if being that way was a flaw. Jesus told His disciples to “be perfect as Your Father in heaven is perfect.” It makes no sense to put down the seeking of perfection, at least how I would define it.

The Church in Philadelphia worked at it and their reward was huge. Jesus said to them:

“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.” (Revelation 3:8–12)

This church had “little power” yet they obeyed God, kept the name of Jesus, were patient in trials, and resisted false teaching. This indicates they relied on the Holy Spirit power God makes available to His people.

Jesus set before them an open door no one could shut. They were given opportunities and victory in their efforts regarding those opportunities. They may not have had much as the world regards power yet these words were from “the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens." (Revelation 3:7)

This “key of David” could refer to Isaiah 22:22, where the key of the house of David was given to Eliakim who then had access to all the wealth of the king. If that is the reference here, then Jesus is saying He has all of heaven’s wealth to make available to this church. It received no rebuke from Christ only commendation because they were willing to endure with patience.

For that, Jesus promised to keep them from the hour of trial that would come upon the whole world. This promise is a puzzle to those who think the entire church would experience a coming tribulation. This promise uses Greek words that mean to “keep from” — not the same words as “keep through” making it clear that this church would not experience that tribulation. My devotional source says that even though the church at Philadelphia would go to glory via death long before that time of trouble would come, if this church is typical of the body of Christ standing true to the faith, the promise seems to go beyond the Philadelphia church to all those who are believers in Christ with the same virtues.

The letter closes with the familiar appeal to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The promise given to the Philadelphia church and the challenge to continue to be faithful is certainly God’s Word to His whole church today and to me. In a broad sense, obedience to God will not protect me from all trials for it is through suffering that I learn obedience. Yet obedience means that I’ve learned the lessons God wants me to learn and I may not need some trials to teach them to me.

Lord Jesus, some might fear not being able to stand if worst came to worst. Around the world, Your people are persecuted and martyred for their faith. Would that happen here? Would that happen in our city? Our lives? My life? Would I be able to keep Your Name? This reading today tells me that if I rely on the Holy Spirit, my “little strength” is not an issue. Hundreds of years of faithfulness in the church in Philadelphia tell me that You are able to keep Your people in patient endurance no matter what. I’d like to be in that number!

Today’s thankful list . . .
- joy that God can keep His people from trials.
- joy that God can keep His people in trials.
- a wonderful sermon this morning about receiving a pure heart.
- brunch with several friends.
- time to tidy up my increasingly messy studio.
- good ethnic supper and the ability to skip cooking one day a week!

December 7, 2019

Considering the toxic parts useless and dead . . .

In the first part of Revelation, the word “angel” could also be translated “messenger” for it refers to the pastors of the churches to whom seven letters were written from the Lord. This understanding is helpful when reading these letters.

The church in Sardis, a pagan and commercial city, received one of those letters. This time, the Lord has nothing good to say about the church except that there were only a few in it that were worthy in their lives and service to Him.

“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. 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.’” (Revelation 3:1–5)

This congregation had a good reputation yet Jesus knew them in a deeper way than their outward appearance. They were “dead” which interpreted in the sense often used in the Bible means that they were separated from God. Their lives and their reputation depended on their own abilities and not the power of the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament is filled with exhortation to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. The flesh can look good, even moral and upright, yet those who belong to Jesus have crucified flesh; it is not alive to God.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6)

Jude also mentions what it means to have “soiled garments” when he writes, “save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” (Jude 23) He is talking about sin. Sin can be blatant, but it can also be subtle. Both extremes happen in the lives of Christians. Ask me how I know!

For example, I could take a pie to a new neighbor because the Lord nudged me to reach out. Or I could take the pie to show off my pie-making ability. One is a work of the Lord, the other a work of the flesh, but on the outside, few people would discern the difference. Yet the Lord knows.

These verses remind me that I am accountable to 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. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12–13)

He knows my intentions when I do things and when those intentions are pure or fleshy, works that please Him or dead works. I might fool others but cannot hide from Jesus. It is His blood alone that can purify my conscience “from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

Lord God, the conflict between flesh and spirit is a daily reality yet seldom preached. Many of Your people seem unaware of it and of the ramifications of trying to be good Christians in their own strength, an impossible task. Keep me alert. Keep me in Your Word. You bring me again and again to passages like these and remind me that I must be filled with Your Spirit to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of the flesh. Keep me aware of what motives me, always remembering that my fleshy sin nature is dead and useless. There is no point in being a slave to sin and wearing garments soiled by the flesh; it is the mark of doom.

Today’s thankful list . . .
- God helps me recognize fleshy stuff.
- the Holy Spirit has the answer to it.
- when in the Spirit, I am not really aware because if I was, I’d start patting myself on the back and being back in the flesh!
- an enjoyable sewing day with ladies from our city’s quilt guild.
- French toast using Pane Roma and Brie cheese, a successful experiment!