Sunday, July 11, 2010

Letters from Revelations

Our church started a new series last week called "Straight Talk From the Heart of God".  It's a series based on the letters to the seven churches in Asia from Jesus, as told to John by Jesus.  The first sermon in the series, titled "When the Spark Goes Out" The Message to the Church at Ephesus, spoke of something that is a hard subject to swallow: Leaving your first love.

The basic premise of this particular part of Revelation 2 is that the church of Ephesus was a very successful church, a church that was hard working, a church that persevered, a church that tested what was said by those claiming to be apostles and then calling them out when they were trying to lead people astray.  This is a church that persevered for Jesus' name!  But with all of this success, they had left behind the one thing that had defined them at the very beginning: their love for Christ.  They were not doing the deeds they did at the beginning.  They were not showing the love of Christ to those around them, nor it seems that they were showing their love of Jesus to Jesus.  They had become a loveless church.

I am still thinking on that sermon, and thinking that it applies to me today.  I keep wondering if I have left my first love.  I look at what I was doing when I was first saved and I know that I am not doing those things.  I would study daily, seeking God's guidance in His word and today I am starved for time to do even the simplest things it seems.  I attended church regularly which I still do today, but I seem to go and listen and learn, but I feel like I could be doing so much more!  Have I left my first love, that love I felt when I first surrendered to Christ all those years ago?  Yes, I think I have and it shames me to say so.
But there is still hope and Jesus shows that hope to both the church at Ephesus and to me and you who might be in this same situation!  Jesus says:

'Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.  (Rev 2:5 NASB emphasis mine)
 Remember from where you have fallen.  What did you do at the beginning, when you were first saved?  Repent from this moving away from, this falling away from your first love!  Do what you did at the beginning and show the world that it is Christ that you love! 

 And Jesus gives a wonderful promise to those who overcome.  The promise is the chance to eat from the Tree of Life. 

So what are you waiting for?  If you have left that first love, as hard as that is to admit, then repent and turn back to what you did when you first met and surrendered to Christ!  You will not be sorry.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Living Sacrifice

At my home church, we are finishing up a study called Transformations.  It is more of the practical applications of living a Christ centered, Holy Spirit filled life.  What I have done is to go back to the beginning and start again, this time taking things more slowly.  It really is a great series and I would gladly recommend it to anyone.  There are worksheets as well as the podcasts from the sermons so far.  You can find it at Woodcreek Church's Transformation Series.

So the verses for today come from Romans 12: 1 and 2. 

(Rom 12:1)  Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

(Rom 12:2)  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
As I read these, it dawned on me just how much time I have been spending immersed in other things, things of the world.  Things that have taken my time away from doing that which I need to do.  Study, pray. To be still and know that He is God.  There is a reason for everything that happens to each of us.  I believe that the reason for me to start again from the beginning of this series is to be shown just where I am at the moment, and to realize where I need to be in my walk.

I normally don't like the paraphrase versions of the Bible, but the software I use for Bible study, e-sword, allows for a parallel translation of the Bible.  One of the versions I keep open is the Message version.  I appreciated how the verses were presented from this version:
(Rom 12:1)  So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

(Rom 12:2)  Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I am not where these verses say I need to be right now.  You see, every aspect of your life needs to be a sacrifice to God. What I believe that sacrifice to be is more of an offering of praise; praise and worship. So again, I am not where I should be in my walk.  But like the prodigal son, I know that being a slave of my Father is better than wallowing in the filth of this world.  And that is what it boils down to.  Turning away from the world and running back to my Father.  This is why I started the series over.  I may not offer my body as a living sacrifice right now all the time, but with God's Grace, and the Holy Spirit's guidance, I know I will offer it more and more frequently.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Darkness and Light

There are times in my life in which the darkness comes calling still. It's hard to admit but it happens. Recently it's been a battle of depression but something more sinister has come with it.

I have battled depression for most of my life, although as a teenager, I didn't really understand it. Now I am diagnosed, and though I wanted to fight this without medication, I feel as though I have to go back to the doctor, to go back to the medication. I sometimes wonder how that makes me look as a Christian, how others would perceive Christ in me, as a depressed man.

The turning point was just this last week. I actually had thoughts of suicide this time. Something that I abhor, something that my father did, and my mother attempted. I don't know where these thoughts came, I do know where they came from. And I am not scared, but startled that these thoughts have come to light. After all the years that I have told others that I had never entertained thoughts of suicide, that I thought it was the coward's way out, here I was, thinking about how much rope it would take, and was there a beam sturdy enough to hold my weight.

Then out of the darkness, a light came into my thoughts. I felt that I should contact those who know me right now, who know some of my most darkest secrets. I thought that I needed to contact them and ask them to pray for me at that moment. I didn't though. It was enough however, to have the suicidal thoughts leave and be replaced with thoughts of my friends, my brothers in Christ; those whom I know would not judge me for those thoughts.

I have slipped it seems into a silent solitary place, from which it is hard to climb out of. But it is a hole that can be climbed out of. It is a prison cell, a solitary confinement that the enemy wishes to keep me in, and I have to admit that I wonder at times why the enemy would even bother. I long to be like my Brothers in Christ that I know; on fire for Christ and full of joy! But I digress and I feel like I am rambling on like a madman at the moment.

I went back today and read Romans 8:28-30.

  • 28.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
  • 29.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren ;
  • 30.
and these whom He predestined, He also called ; and these whom He called, He also justified ; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

As I read this, I felt like I was hit with that proverbial spiritual brick, as if the Holy Spirit smacked me upside the head. The words popped out and I saw them as if for the first time. Verse 29 hit me first.
  • Foreknew - from the Greek word proginōskō -- to know beforehand, that is, foresee
  • Predestined - from the Greek proorizō -- determine before, ordain, predestinate
  • Conformed to - from the Greek summorphos --conformed to, fashioned like unto
  • Image -- from the Greek eikōn -- representation, resemblance
Here I am reading that God knew before I did, knew before the founding of the earth, that I would surrender, that I would say yes to Him. And it was determined even before I knew it that I would be conformed to the likeness, the resemblance of Christ, of Jesus my Lord and Savior.

Then I went back to verse 28 and this stood out...
God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God

No matter what I battle, no matter what thoughts I may have placed in my head by the enemy, it will still all work out for good. I love God and I know this for a fact as I have read it in his word.
And then there was verse 30. What I love is again the verbs are all past tense. Predestined, Called, Justified, Glorified. To me anyway, this is one of those mysteries that I will eventually understand. These things have already happened to me, as best I understand the verses at this time.

So Devil, you may have your minions put the thoughts into my head at the darkest times I face, but God through the Holy Spirit indwelt in me, brings to the surface those things that I can hold onto, that I can cling to, that brings me back from your darkness. I may feel alone at times, but I know I am not and it is the one thing I must never forget.


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