Articles

Surviving Storms

Do you trust God?  Our currency has written on it, “In God We Trust.”  But do we trust Him?  It’s easy to say we do, but it’s another to live it and believe it.  It’s easy to raise our hand in Bible class and say, “We should always trust God.”  However, it’s different when you experience a death in the family, or if your child is suffering, or when problems arise in the church.  You wouldn’t think that God’s people would need to be reminded to trust in God, but we do.  God’s people have always needed reminders.  This was true even for the apostles.  In the gospels, we read about the apostles going through a couple of storms.  They would have to trust in God.  We can learn some lessons from these stories as we think about different storms we will face.

Storm #1: Mark 4:35-41.  After a long day of teaching on the sea, Jesus told the apostles to cross to the other side.  Soon after, there arose a fierce (great) wind.  Water began to pour into their boat.  This was no regular storm.  Fear quickly set in the hearts of the apostles.  They cried out to Jesus for help, and He responded, Mark 4:39. It was Jesus who then questioned them about their faith.

Storm #2: Matthew 14:22-33.  After feeding 5,000 people with a boy’s sack lunch, Jesus told His apostles to get into the boat.  While the apostles were in the boat crossing the sea, Jesus spent time in prayer, Matthew 14:23.  By the time Jesus began to cross the sea, His apostles were far ahead of Him.  Instead of Jesus taking a boat to catch up to His apostles, He decided to go on a walk.  It’s here that we find Peter asking Jesus to walk on water, Matthew 14:28-29.  That took some FAITH.  However, as he saw the winds, Peter became fearful, Matthew 14:30.  What can we learn from these stories?

    1. Storms will come.  Life can change from calm to stormy quickly.  Trials don’t make us unique (as one man said).  How we respond to them is what will make us unique.
    2. Storms will reveal our faith.  Trials will reveal what kind of faith we have.  The disciples’ faith was shaken but then strengthened as a result of the storms, Mark 4:41; Matthew 14:33.  Storms can be useful for us as they will help us to draw closer to God.
    3. Know that Jesus cares.  He cared for His apostles, and He cares for us.
    4. Trust the facts and not your feelings.  Always remember God is in control.

The Attacks Of The Devil

The Israelites never saw it coming!  By the time they realized what happened 24,000 souls were dead, Numbers 25:1-2.  Things seemed to be going well for Israel, but all of that would change.  How did this happen?  The devil attacked them.  He used Balaam and Balak to help God’s people to fall, Numbers 31:16.  The devil wants to defeat us, 1 Peter 5:8.  Sexual immorality is just one way that the devil will attempt to beat us.

Let me give you four other tactics that the devil has used against the church in the first century that he will use against us.  Let’s also consider how God’s people overcame those attacks.

    1. FEAR FACTOR:  Satan wanted to silence God’s people from speaking about Jesus, Acts 4:1-4; 5:17-23, 33, 40-42; 7:54-58.
    2. FAKE FACTOR:  Sadly, the devil achieved his mission with two Christians, Ananias, and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-5.  They lied to the Holy Spirit.  They were fakers.  While the devil won a battle, he had not won the war.  The people of God continued in their pursuit of spreading the good news, Acts 5:12-14.  They continued and so did the devil with his attacks.
    3. FUSS FACTOR:  The devil’s opportunity came in Acts 6:1-3.  Some complaints arose.  Certainly, the brethren would devour one another.  However, the devil’s plan didn’t work, Acts 6:7.
    4. FALSE FACTOR:  A controversy in the church occurred regarding salvation, Acts 15:1-11.  Some Jews believed the Gentiles had to be circumcised to be saved.  The truth prevailed.  God’s people prevailed.  But how did they do it?  Here’s how.

They kept their focus on Jesus.

    1. This is how they overcame the fear factor.  They prayed for boldness to stand firm during persecution, Acts 4:29; 5:40-41.
    2. This is how they overcame the fake factor.  The punishment that Ananias and Sapphira received was death.  Discipline was given.  It had an impact among the brethren, Acts 5:11.  Discipline is necessary today.  Being honest is still necessary today.
    3. This is how they overcame the fuss factor, Acts 6:1-6.  The apostles were concerned about God’s work.  They devised a plan to preserve unity.  It worked!
    4. This is how they overcame the false factor.  They stood on the apostles’ doctrine, Acts2:42. This must be our attitude.  The devil never stops his attack toward God’s people, Luke 4:13.  Therefore, we must always be on the defense.

One Word To Improve Your Marriage

It is one of the great blessings one can enjoy: marriage.  Yes, marriage is a good thing.  Marriage is from God, Genesis 2:23-24.  Marriage is a great blessing, Proverbs 5:15-19;  Ecclesiastes 9:9.   Marriage is to be a life long commitment, Matthew 19:4-6.

Sadly, there are those who are married who would not describe their marriage as a blessing, but instead as a curse.  Unfortunately, many marriages (even in the church) will end up in divorce.  That shouldn’t be.  How can our marriages be the way God wants them to be?  If you had one word to tell a new couple to remember as they begin their marriage, what word would you want them to remember?  Maybe words like “love” or “selfless” or even “forgiveness” come to mind.  Those are all great words and should be a part of every marriage.  But there’s another one I want us to consider: ETERNITY.  Have you thought about how thinking more about eternity will have an impact on our marriages?  As we think about our marriages, we need to be thinking about eternity.  Specifically, we need to remember the following:

Your spouse is made in the image of God.  They too were made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26.  Therefore, they are unique and important in the eyes of God.  This may feel like a “Duh” kind of point, but I think in the process of time we can fail to view our spouses correctly.  We can begin to see our spouses more superficially and fail to focus on the fact that they have a soul.  Remember they are made in God’s image.  Treat them right, Matthew 7:12.

God wants us to help our spouse go to heaven.  A husband and wife should be so concerned about the other because they are made in the image of God, that they will do hard things because they want their spouse to go to heaven, 1 Peter 3:1-7.  The sad reality, however, is that I’ve seen couples not help but rather hinder each other.  How often do you think a husband or wife is thinking about eternity as they contemplate committing adultery, forsaking the assembly, or are filled with bitterness?  Let’s do all we can to help our spouse to go to heaven.

God wants us to be in heaven too.  How we treat our spouses will have spiritual consequences for us, 1 Peter 3:7.  Let’s be wise and remember what’s at stake.  I realize we can’t control our spouses.  We can’t force them to do anything.  A person’s spouse may not do right.  But we can control ourselves.  Even if they aren’t thinking about eternity, we can!  What does God see when He looks at our marriages?  Let’s be sure He sees love, mercy, forgiveness, and us thinking about eternity.

King David: A Real Man

I love King David.  He did so much in his life.  David can teach us many valuable lessons.  He’s also a great reminder about what it means to be a man.  There’s much confusion in our society about the role of men.  What can we learn from David?

    1. David loved the Lord.  That’s what real men will do.  Real men will submit to the true and living God.  David certainly did.  He had faith in God.  He had a relationship with the creator of all things.
    2. David wasn’t afraid to show his emotions.  People today think that a man is a wimp if he shows emotions.  I say that’s silly.  Jesus wept.  David wept.  Read the book of Genesis and see how many times Joseph cried.  Real men have no problem showing their emotions.  David poured his heart out to God, Psalm 32, Psalm 9.
    3. David was a leader.  He solved problems (like defeating Goliath).  He took action when it was needed.  It takes courage to take action.  That’s what we must do.
    4. David was skilled at many things.  He was a musician, a king, a warrior, and tended to the animals.  As men, we need to have a variety of skills.  We need to be knowledgeable when it comes to how things work.
    5. David was not perfect.  However, he was able to own up to his mistakes.  Many (including myself) think about his adultery, his poor decision of numbering the people, and a list of other sins we could mention.  Yet we often miss the fact that David repented of his sinful behavior, Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.  That takes courage.
    6. David was a great friend to Jonathan.  Their relationship would make men today uncomfortable.  They loved one another, 1 Samuel 18:1.  Shame on people who try to change their close friendship and make it some sexual type of relationship.  As men, we need to learn how to be close to one another.
    7. David was a student of God’s word.  He had to make a copy of the Law for himself, Deuteronomy 17:18-20.  He spent time regularly in God’s word.

David was a MAN.  Both young and vintage men need to be reminded of him and learn from him.  Let’s be MEN.

I See This In Jesus

“I see this in Jesus, but do I see it in me?”  That’s a statement I read in a book recently.  It stuck with me.  I’ve been reading through the gospel of Luke this year and have learned a great deal about Jesus.  As His disciples, we are to follow in His footsteps.  I like to share some of the things I have seen in Jesus during my readings.  What I see in Jesus is what I need to see in myself.  It’s what we need to see in ourselves as His people.

    1. I see how Jesus relied upon God’s word when I read Luke 4:1-13.  As the devil tempted Jesus, He responded with “It is written.”  Jesus knew the word.  He believed it to be true.  But do we see this in ourselves?  God’s word is powerful.  We should trust it, believe it, and follow it.
    2. I see how Jesus focused on doing God’s work, Luke 4:42-44.  Jesus knew what His mission was and He would accomplish it, John 17:4-5.  I see an intense focus in the life of Jesus.  Do I see that in myself?  Do we see that in ourselves?
    3. I see how Jesus prepared His disciples to become fishers of men.  In Luke 5:10 it says, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”  During His ministry, Jesus prepared His disciples to proclaim the good news, Mark 16:15-16.  Making disciples is what Jesus wanted His apostles to do.  Nothing has changed.  As Christians, Jesus wants us to go and make disciples.  This was the mindset Jesus had.  Is this the mindset we have?
    4. I see how Jesus had compassion toward others.  In Luke 5:12-13, we see where Jesus healed a man who had leprosy.  If you know anything about leprosy, you know how terrible it was.  One who had leprosy would have been an outcast.  Jesus would change this man’s life.  Jesus has had great compassion for humanity by dying on the cross.  This is what I see in Jesus.  However, do I have great compassion and concern for others?   Do we see that in ourselves?
    5. I see how Jesus made time to pray, Luke 5:16.  I’ve only given you one example, but there are many when you go through Luke.  Jesus was busy but never so busy that He didn’t have time to pray.  This is what I see when I look at Jesus.  Do I see this in myself?  Do we see this in ourselves?

Laodicea: The Church Who Didn’t Need Jesus

Jesus was kicked out of His own church! The church at Laodicea was gathered together, but Jesus was on the outside knocking to get in His own church!

Studying the background of the city of Laodicea brings some valuable insights. I have a few links below of some resources I used to write this article.

Laodicea was known for:

  • Legendary wealth – When the city of Laodicea was destroyed by earthquakes, they did not accept or receive assistance from Rome to rebuild the city.
  • Self-sufficiency and independence – The city was named after the wife of Antiochus III, but the word itself is derived from two words: laos, meaning “people” and dike, meaning “decision” (Strong’s Concordance). This city made their own decisions. They didn’t accept Nero’s help to rebuild Rome, they were going to go it alone.
  • Lukewarm water – According to Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “A six-mile-long aqueduct brought Laodicea its supply of water from the south. The water came either from hot springs and was cooled to lukewarm or came from a cooler source and warmed up in the aqueduct on the way. For all its wealth, the city had poor water” (comments on Revelation 3:14-22).
  • Black wool – Laodicean black wool was world famous.
  • Eye salve – Laodicea had a famous school of medicine. They also were known for a special ointment known as ‘Phrygian powder,’ which was famous for its cure of eye defects. One of the most famous graduates of the medical school was a man who was very influential in the field of ophthalmology.

Considering all of that, listen to how Jesus addresses the congregation in Laodicea.

Revelation 3:14-22 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. (15) “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (18) 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. (19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (20) 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. (21) 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. (22) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'”

The church in Laodicea in Jesus’ eyes:

  • Wealthy, yet poor.
  • Clothed with designer clothes, yet naked.
  • Great vision, but blind.
  • Self-sufficient, but pitiable and wretched.
  • And just like the lukewarm water of the city, was their heart and character to Jesus. They made Jesus sick to His stomach.

What they needed:

  • Was to “buy” Jesus’ gold which is refined by His fire.
  • Get clothed in white garments from Jesus.
  • And get Jesus’ eye salve so that they could really see!
  • To be “zealous” (hot) to repent to Jesus.
  • To let Jesus in the door of His own church! Stop being self-sufficient.

So, here is food for thought – What does a church look like today that doesn’t need Jesus? If we were like a Laodicean church today what would that look and sound like? And if that was the case in our church, how do we turn things around? On a practical level, how does a church start putting eye salve on its eyes and buying gold from Jesus? What does it look like and sound like when a church starts letting Jesus back in the door?

Here is another contrast to add to yesterday’s article: Ephesus was in danger of Jesus leaving its fellowship, Jesus was trying very hard not to leave Ephesus. Laodicea had already kicked Jesus out and He was trying very hard to get back in!

Resources:

Laodicea – Life, Hope, and Truth Website

Laodicea on the Lycus

Padfield.com – The church at Laodicea in Asia Minor

The Seven Churches: Contrasts

At our congregation we are studying through Revelation and right now we are in the seven churches section of chapters 2 through 3. Last night we had a discussion about some of the contrasts that existed among the churches.

The Seven Churches: Contrasts

  • Ephesus could not tolerate the “deeds of the Nicolaitans,” while Pergamum was tolerating those who held this doctrine (Revelation 2:6,15).
  • Smyrna was poor, yet rich, and Laodicea was rich, yet poor (Revelation 2:9; 3:17).
  • Smyrna faced the tribulation from men because of doing what was right, and Thyatira would face the tribulation from Jesus because of doing what was wrong (Revelation 2:9-10,22).
  • Thyatira was patiently enduring, serving and working for Jesus, but they had love as well, even though they were tolerating false doctrine and immoral behavior. Ephesus was patiently, enduring, serving and working for Jesus, but they had left their first love. In Ephesus they did not tolerate false teachers and tested every teacher to see if what was spoken was the truth (Revelation ).

With those contrasts came a few observations about Jesus and the seven churches:

  • There are not several standards for different churches, there is one standard for all churches, and that comes from Jesus Christ.
  • Each congregation had issues, problems, and sometimes even sin to correct, but Jesus was lovingly giving them time to repent.
  • What makes a “sound church” is much more than standing on the right side of a few issues.
  • All was not lost for a church that was dead, or tolerating false doctrines. Jesus was standing at the door, knocking and waiting for them to open and come to repentance.
  • There were faithful brethren standing strong and pure in the midst of those congregations with all those problems. These faithful few were told to influence, hold fast and strengthen the church, not flee and go to another group.
  • Jesus, not you or me, decides when a church loses fellowship with Him.
  • Our hearts must be like the Lord’s heart. He is not as quick as humans to write people off.

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 3:19-22)

Jesus and Smyrna

“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)

Here are some things I see Jesus saying in this short but powerful note to the church in Smyrna.

  • You are in poverty, but you are rich, because in Me you have everything.
  • You will suffer, maybe even die for your faith, but you will rise again, because I died and came to life.
  • You will be thrown into prison, but I will give you a crown of life. In Me you are free and reign as kings and priests. The world will try to take everything away from you, but I give you eternal rewards.
  •  You will face great fear, but remember that this time of persecution is short, and I will be with you through it. I know your tribulation. The Devil and those who follow him only have limited power for a limited time. I am the First and the Last.

Let’s take this encouragement from Jesus with us today.

Their First Love

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.
(Revelation 2:4)

Ephesus would have been considered by most of us as a “sound church.” From the outside they were doing all the right things. They were facing persecution and standing firm against the devil. The congregation would not tolerate false doctrine and were testing any teacher to make sure the things said were directly from God. They were patiently enduring for Christ, but Christ said that they were about to lose their fellowship with Him. He was going to remove their lampstand from its place. They were in need of repentance!

Why? Because they had left their first love. Maybe if we were in Ephesus we would be shocked to hear these words from Jesus. We are doing all the right things, why would Jesus tell us to repent? They were doing works, indeed, but Jesus said they were not doing the “first works.” Whatever they were like before, they were not like that now. On the outside all appearances looked like this was a strong, Bible-teaching congregation. But to Jesus, He saw a congregation that was now going through the motions. The love they had at first was not there anymore.

This is true in churches, organizations, marriages, sports teams, etc. At first the fire is there. We know our “why.” A young couple is just full of energy, love, passion and all things are new! But after time, years, struggles, pain, stress, busy-ness, etc., the couple just starts going through the motions. That couple may even seem to many others like they have a great marriage, but to each other they know the “first love” is not there anymore. What happens in marriages, teams, businesses, and churches is that we forget where we came from and how we were when we got started.

We have to get back to those beginnings! Jesus told the church at Ephesus to “repent.” But how is that done? He told them to, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Remember. Do the first works.

For a married couple it may mean going out on dates again. Getting out the wedding videos and watching them. Do you have those old love letters in a box somewhere? Read them. Remember when?

For Ephesus, they could do the same thing. They could get out the old love letters and read them again. There was this great letter called “Ephesians” sent to them by Paul decades before. It’s time to get that letter out and dust it off. Read the first half of Ephesians and you will rekindle the old flames once again. Remember what it was like when Jesus saved you from your sins and covered you in His grace and His blood. Remember where you came from. Think of the newness, fire and zeal you had when you were a new Christian. It’s time to get back to the beginning, back to the basics. Read the old love letters and rekindle the fire.

Are We Like Shem and Japheth?

Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” After the flood Noah lived 350 years.
(Genesis 9:20-28)

I listened to a sermon recently where the preacher was talking about covering one another in grace and love. The speaker referred to the above passage from Genesis when Shem and Japheth “covered” their father. Look at the lengths to which those two sons went to cover their father. They took a blanket, walked backward into the tent, and covered their father so that they would not see his nakedness. The other son, Ham, exposed his father’s shame, but the other sons tried to cover it.

How eager are we to “cover” one another in grace, love, mercy and forgiveness? Or on the flip side, are we like Ham in the tent mocking and spreading the word about another’s shame?

Here are some other passages for our meditation today. May we have the spirit of Shem and Japheth.

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
(1 Peter 4:8)

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
(Proverbs 10:12)

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
(Proverbs 17:9)

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
(James 5:19-20)