Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Revelation Wrap Up--What if a Letter was written to Us?

A few weeks ago, Vicky and I went to the IBSA Annual Conference and as much as I hate to admit it—in the middle of a rather unimpressive sermon, my mind caught on to a single verse that’s very relevant to the series on the churches from Revelation.

—2 Timothy 4:8-- Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day--and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

The question that came to my mind was
Do I Love His Appearing? Does the reality of the Return of Christ for His Bride Thrill me? Jesus was speaking to & through the Apostle John to a group of churches that were struggling to come to terms with their place in a world they were convinced would be over soon. They longed for Christ’s appearing b/c of the great injustices they were seeing, for the pain and torment they were feeling, for the anguish. The return of Christ was and is a Very Real Event—and Jesus knows this and He sends them these letters—He preserved them in Scripture so that we as this church might benefit.
We as the church examine ourselves in light of the letters in Revelation.

In essence--what if Jesus wrote a letter to our church like the ones that appear in Revelation? What would He say?

If you love His appearing you will:

1) Hear His Encouragements
a. Almost every letter begins with a word of encouragement. Jesus has something explicitly good to say about 5 of the 7 churches.

b. You know you Love His Appearing When:
i. Ephesus—Persevere in your Hard Work, you do not tolerate Wickedness, but test all teachers for truth
ii. Continue to Bear your Afflictions and remain faithful even when Lacking
iii. Remain True to His Name & you don’t Renounce your Faith
iv. Growing & Doing More than at First
v. Remember the faith that you Received & obey it
vi. Keep His Word & do Not Deny His Name
vii. Fulfill Your Purpose
c. He will tell you what you need to know
d. He will tell you what you need to do—be faithful, overcome, proclaim
e. He will tell you what you need to hear
f. He will tell you what you need to say
g. If you are doing what God has called you to do

h. A demonstration that you love His appearing is that you want to see more and more people ready for that appearing, more and more people looking forward to it, more and more people ready to

i. When you are struggling in the face of great opposition, when you are depressed and wondering if it’s worth it, if you are making a difference—know that Jesus sees and recognizes your faithfulness—no matter the appearances of success, if you are being faithful, not taking advantage, not being lazy, not taking for granted your calling then Hear His Encouragement.

j. If you are doing what God has called you to do… you’d better keep doing it.

k. I don’t care who tells you to stop, who tells you to be quiet, who tells you you’re not doing good enough, who tries to discourage you—opposition which may come from outside the church but can also come from within the church if you are Faithful to the calling of God—Hear His Encouragement—Keep Doing What You Are Doing—Keep Being Faithful—Hear His Well Done—His opinion is the only one that matter

l. If you have the Approval of God, you don’t need the Approval of Men.

m. God knows our situation and wants to encourage you and me in our situation. He knows your works and all that you have been doing to serve Him and make Him known. He knows the spiritual darkness of our community, the apathy, the indifference, the coldness, the hibernation toward the things of God of so many living in Macomb—and how you and I are called to be the light that shines into a dark place—that is our calling as the church—to be the light—to fulfill our Mission—and in fulfilling that mission as a church—each of you has an individual calling and gifting to strengthen the church to do what God has called us to do. So hear the encouragement—if you Love and Look forward to your calling, then:

n. Obey Your Calling With Passion
o. Obey Your Calling with Faithfulness
p. Obey Your Calling with Persistence & Endurance—don’t quit just because it gets hard or not everyone understands it.

What Would Jesus Encourage Us About?

2) Loving Fellowship—people are welcomed and there is a strong desire for a sense of family love & connection
3) Sound Doctrine—we are unified around the essentials of the faith without being uniformists—we exemplify the traditional Christian phrase—“in the essentials—unity, in the non-essentials—liberty, in all things—charity”
4) generosity—UBC is a very giving church—I know not everyone tithes, I know your bills scare you into holding back—but I also know that when someone is in need—you will be generous.
a. Hear His Encouragements but also…

5) Heed His Warnings
a. Why should we?

b. Because you do want to be ready—heed His warnings because you want to accomplish the task, the calling He has given you. if you’re not doing what God has called you to do then Heed the Warning—Be about His business, the Business of the Kingdom—

c. Also, heed His Warnings b/c there is no perfect church. There are many things for Jesus to be pleased with—but every single church this side of heaven will need some correction—Always remember, this warning, this rebuke is a proof of His love—those He loves, He rebukes and disciplines—according to 3:19. So the fact that He warns and rebukes is not a bad thing—it is proof that He wants more for us.

d. If you’re not doing what He has called you to do—watch out—Shape Up—Stop Drop & Roll
e. If you’re not doing what He has called you to do—heed the Warning b/c Jesus wants you to fulfill His calling!

f. Symptoms that you don’t love His appearing:
i. You have Forsaken Your First Love and have stopped doing what you did at first—prayer, bible study, sharing, service
ii. You are Compromising your faith in Belief & Behavior excusing yourself and becoming a stumbling block for other believers.
iii. You have a reputation of being alive, but you’re really going through the motions and are in need of CPR
iv. You are not fulfilling your purpose—neither hot nor cold—remember, being cold in this context is not a bad thing—just like it’s OK for you to not have every gift that some other believer has—if your purpose and function is being cold—then do it. A symptom that you don’t love His appearing is that you have a Gift, you have a Calling and you’re not doing it—you’re resisting it—you’re ignoring it—you’re afraid of it.

g. Remember your first love or your lampstand/church will die

h. Stop Compromising your faith in Belief or Behavior and becoming a stumbling block for other believers or Jesus will oppose us to defend the truly faithful

i. Stop tolerating sinful beliefs and behaviors—no matter someone’s reputation or position, stand for the truth or everyone who follows them will suffer.

j. WAKE UP—if you love His appearing—then you can’t be dead and indifferent. The more we are lukewarm, the more you compromise our beliefs and behaviors, tolerate the attitudes of this world—the less you love and are looking forward to His appearing

k. We are in danger having lost our first love—the energy, the passion with which this church was built needs to be restored—we have such generosity, but

l. Peter lets us know that it is our faith that is more important to God than anything. He wants to refine it, to make it pure, to ensure that you are the best disciple you can be—He doesn’t want to see us going down the wrong road—so He will warn, He will seek to restore our Love—has your love grown cold? Have you forgotten your first love?

What Would Jesus Warn Us About?
1. A Tight Christian Family —Group Dynamics—a tight group can quickly become a closed, self-serving group--can easily dampen the burden for the lost and hurting. Our sense of family must never make us a closed group to new people with new ways to serve—with real hurts and struggles
2. Financial generosity must never take the place of hands on ministry to advance the kingdom of God
3. don’t forget your first & most important love—do what you did at first with more mature motives Now than then.
4. We are in Danger of being Distracted from Our Mission—Missions is not something you have to go off to Africa or Asia to do—Missions happens when you walk across the street to talk to a neighbor, you can fulfill the mission of the church when you go to the store, get in a conversation—don’t make an appointment for someone else to –we exist as a church not to serve ourselves but to Magnify His Name—to Advance His Kingdom—to Make Disciples—to see that others Long for His Appearing

6) Hold On to His Promise—don’t lose sight of it.
a. To him who overcomes…
b. The Tree of Life that had once been denied will be yours. The paradise from which humanity was thrown out—you’ll once again be able to walk in.

c. The Provision of God—the sustaining manna—even in the driest, most depressing times in life, God promises to be all you need—more than that He will give you the White Stone—the All Access Pass to the Creator of the Universe

d. You will See the Great Reversal—all the things that are wrong in this world will be restored to their rightful place under the command and leadership of God. You are promised the Morning Star—which is Christ Himself.

e. You will have the opportunity to walk hand in hand with your Savior and be Announced and even Celebrated before the Father and all the Angels

f. You will be made into a Pillar in the Temple of God and you will never have to leave the Temple of God—you will be a part of raising up the Temple—opening up the temple for God’s Glory to fill

g. Hold on to the Promise that says the Throne of Authority and Royalty is yours.

h. All of that is promised in the Second Coming of Christ—there are rewards—a crown of righteousness in store for you and me.

7) Do you love His appearing?
a. I hope that you haven’t lost sight of the vision of Christ’s Return—
b. Do you have a Vision of His Appearing? What happens when a people loses their vision?
c. Proverbs 29:18—“Where there is no Vision, the people perish” —where the church has no vision of our Savior’s Appearing, no Vision of our Mission and How to Fulfill it—no love for either—then we will perish.
d. Confusion—With NO Vision we won’t know What we’re supposed to be doing until He comes?

8) be like the servants, who when given talents while the master is away—doubles what has been given to them—because they loved their master—don’t be the servant who so feared the master’s return that he buried his talent in the sand—unused, unproductive.
9) you were never meant to be unused—you were never meant to be unproductive—find your passion

a. This vision of His appearing will lead us directly into
b. If you are not saved, if Jesus is not your Savior and Lord of your life, if you have not had your sins forgiven, then there’s no way you can love His appearing—you will be and should be afraid of it. The book of Revelation should freak you out. If you are nervous about seeing the Face

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gabriel's Baptism

These are pictures taken on November 11, 2007 during Gabriel's baptism. There are few things as a father that are more exciting and a greater blessing than to see your child declare their faith in baptism and pledge their lives to God. Praise God for this wonderful testimony.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Potentially Groundbreaking?

I found this Article in the Salt Lake Tribune about a wording change in the introduction to the Book of Mormon. It is a potentially groundbreaking change that has not happened in my adult lifetime. In many ways, I'm stunned and interested in the long term effect of this change in wording.

It opens the door for a shift in Mormon theology, by attempting to reconcile it to modern scientific theories. The significance of the change has to do with the ancestry of Native Americans--is that ancestry accurate as the Book of Mormon describes or has DNA and other archaeological evidence proven otherwise? The video below is about a 50 minute documentary of some of the difficulties for the history of America presented in the BoM.

The alternative of this kind of change that could prevent L-D-Saints from totally allegorizing the text, or totally abandoning it's historicity, or completely undermining the truthfulness of Joseph Smith.

To make a comparison, for me, it would be akin to all the archaeological, linguistic, and other evidences validating some Islamic claims that the Jews never occupied nor ever built a temple in Jerusalem--for that matter, ever lived in the territory called Palestine.

Like I said, it will be interesting to see how this plays out and how it affects the rank and file Mormon believer. If anyone reading this is Mormon, I would appreciate any insights into your thinking as well as encourage you to see the video.

Pursuing Answer to Questions of Faith & Life

Letter to Laodicea--Revelation 3:14-22

We’re coming to the last letter to the churches in Revelation—and in some ways, it might be the most challenging one yet because it carries a warning not just a church like UBC, but for all the churches in the United States, even all the churches in Western Civilization.

Laodicea was a very, very wealthy city, founded by Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodicea. The city was strategically located where three highways converged, thus it was highly commercial. It was well known for its banking industry, its manufacture of black wool and a medical school that produced eye ointment. The wealth in the city had been used to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths and fabulous shopping centers. Sound familiar? Sounds like any typical American city. So wealthy was this city that when an earthquake almost entirely destroyed it in 60 AD, its wealthy citizens refused help from Rome in rebuilding the city. They did it all themselves. If you were a real estate agent at the time it wouldn’t be hard to sell Laodicea. It was a great place to live. The land of opportunity. The only real negative about the place was its lack of an adequate water supply—and that will come into play later

READ Rev. 3:14-22

Jesus identifies Himself as the Amen—used at the beginning of a statement, it signifies that it is a statement of truth—used at the end—signifying Agreement—particularly in terms of Divine Truth, Action or Will--Jesus is the Amen—always agrees and is obedient to the Will of the Father ands o He is the Faithful and True Witness—testifyer in Word and Deed to the Rightness and Goodness and Glory of God. Jesus is the example of everything He has called us to be—faithful and true—in spite of suffering and difficulty—When we have seen Him—we have seen the Father—when we hear or read His words—we are hearing the words of God. He is the

Originator/Ruler/Source/Beginning of Creation of all creation—Colossians 1:16-- For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.”

We take comfort in that b/c no matter how big and intimidating and threatening this world may be—Jesus is greater—creation is answerable to Him—so we have the privilege of going to the highest authority—and no matter what this world’s opinion of us may be—if He is pleased with us—we are truly blessed.

1. Jesus walks among us and takes our Temperature—

a. One of the things that I always hate about taking one of my kids to the doctor with because of a fever is because invariably—when we get into the office and they actually put the thing in their ear, they don’t have a fever. A fever is often times the only symptom to know that something is wrong—there is some sickness, some illness, some cold, flu, infection impacting the body.

b. Temperature has been recognized for most of human history as an indicator of health—too warm—you have a fever with any number of causes—too cold—you may be loosing blood, hypothermic, or dead. Jesus didn’t have to be the Divine Son of God to know that temperature is an indicator of health. But He would have had an even better understanding of it. And in this letter, He lets us know that temperature is also a way to assess Spiritual Health as well. Jesus walks among us and takes our Temperature to assess the health of each of us and the whole congregation.

c. He is using a local, well known problem relating to their water supply to relay a spiritual meaning. I told you we would eventually get to this. This is a sort of parable, if you will!
Laodicea, as rich as it was, had a serious water problem. The city’s water was “piped in” from six miles out. It came to them along an aqueduct. By the time it arrived it was lukewarm. The city of Hierapolis, just seven miles north of Laodicea, was famous for its hot springs. Colossea, less than ten miles away, was known for its cool water.

d. But they at Laodicea were neither—they were neither Hot, like the water pumped in from Hierapolis, nor Cold, like the water from Colossae.

e. Right now they were neither—essentially, they are not what they are supposed to be—they are not fulfilling their expected function—

f. Why would He rather they be cold or hot? I’ve always thought of being cold as a bad thing, and being on fire for God was a good thing.—He wouldn’t prefer us to be one or the other unless something more were going on. But I still cannot reconcile the idea that Jesus would “rather” us be cold” than warm.

g. Cold water is supposed to be cold—on a hot summer’s day when you’ve just finished mowing the lawn the last thing you want is a hot chocolate. You want an iced tea, a cold glass of lemonade. Hot water is supposed to be hot—with it you can make the hot tea, coffee, chocolate—you don’t want iced coffee when it’s 30 degrees outside.

h. They were a church that had a function, that had a role that was intended to fulfill their purpose—just like in your house—cold water has it’s place—hot water has it’s place. Being a faithful and true witness to the Glory of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ—

i. This church was either Not Doing the Right Things—i.e.—not fulfilling their purpose or What they were doing, they were doing for the wrong reason—the wrong motive—and so not fulfilling their Mission & Calling.

j. In this Case, when Jesus takes the Temperature of the Church—when He sticks the Thermometer in our mouth—He wants to get a reading—He gages our spiritual health by getting a reading—and having a fever is a good thing—because we would be fulfilling our intended purpose—having a cold temperature is a good thing—b/c we would be fulfilling our calling.

k. It’s the room temperature, it’s the average, it’s the blending in temperature that is problematic and not the church that is faithful and true.

l. Just keep doing what we’re doing, don’t draw attention to yourself, don’t cause a scene, don’t rock the boat, maybe they won’t notice you, maybe they’ll have a good opinion of you, maybe they’ll leave you alone, maybe they won’t harass you, maybe they’ll even like you.

m. Such an attitude of compromise in the individual Christian and the larger Church body both saddens and sickens the heart of God—we are not fulfilling our Calling. vs. 16—“Because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you/vomit you out of my mouth.”—This church had become distasteful, this church had become unpleasant, this church had become potentially

n. Causes of Lukewarmness

i. Distance from the Source—the further from the source spring, the more like the surrounding temperature it was.

That is a humbling proposition—that we can be lukewarm because in reality are hearts are far from Him. Isaiah 29:13--The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”—when we are far from the source—the source of our power and strength—the ruler of God’s creation—we blend in—and that makes us distasteful

ii. Sitting Out W/Out being Used—perhaps we can be close to the source—but if we go unused for extended periods of time, then we become distasteful. I hate going to a restaurant, ordering a Coke only to have them bring me one that is flat—no bubbles. It’s no longer fresh—so it’s no longer fulfilling it’s purpose. I usually make them take it back and get me something else.

Think of all the things that when they get left out and sit around for a while or overnight that are no longer good for you or appealing—an ice cube tray, a gallon of milk, ice cream, coffee, leftovers

Think of all the skills and gifts and blessings God has given you that are untapped, unused.

iii. Scripture gives its own causes of Lukewarmness in vs. 17—not only does Jesus walk Among us and take our Temperature, but He also walks among us as our personal accountant—who knows our financial situation better than we do ourselves.

2. Jesus Walks Among us with a Calculator—vs. 17

a. Symptoms which make you lukewarm—I’m rich, I’m wealthy, I’ve got everything I need—life is good, so good that I’ve got nothing to worry about—I’ve got the best house, the best car, the best job, the best clothes—every symbol of the American Dream is mine--God was a convenience

b. Remember, this was a very wealthy city and maybe even congregation—they had refused help to rebuild. Imagine if New Orleans had said—No thanks to all the federal aid and assistance in rebuilding after Katrina.

c. They were the epitome of Self-Sufficiency—and it made them indifferent to the things of God—they thought they were Rich

d. But when Jesus calculated their wealth—He came up with different Numbers. They were ignorant of their real condition.

e. They lived like a superstar, demanded superstar/high roller treatment on a Minimum Wage Salary.

f. They thought they had it all—and were undoubtedly shocked to hear they had nothing of real value. They were the “Dot Com” or Enron investor who went to bed thinking they were a millionaire but overnight, woke up with nothing. They thought they were a Prince, when they were really a Pauper. They thought they were the #1 Draft Pick, when in reality, they were Mr. Irrelevant. They thought they were a part of God’s Best & Blessed, God’s Chosen

g. And when this Reality Check was put before them, when this mirror reflected the Truth, when this Faithful and True Accountant calculated their wealth—He came up with different numbers—and I guarantee it was a shock to hear.

h. This church thought things were great—they thought they were faithful—they thought things were going good—we’re rich—God must love us—we don’t need a thing b/c we’re not suffering, we’re not persecuted—so God must be pleased—NO—you’re ignorant of your true situation

i. You’ve got nothing—everything you’ve got is worthless—it’s fake, it’s virtual spirituality—you’re not rich you’re wretched & poor, you’re not well off—you’re pitiful, you aren’t seeing things clearly—you’re blind

j. Worldly wealth & comfort—misdiagnosis—the faithful and true witness says we are not as rich as we think we are, we are not as well off as we think we are, we are not doing so well as we like to think of ourselves.

k. Instead, we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked—we are totally impoverished, we’ve been ravaged by war, famine, we’ve lost everything to a fire, hurricane and earthquake—we’ve got nothing

l. The church in Smyrna had nothing—they were suffering. Jesus described them this way in 2:9—I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!”

m. The church in Western Civilization has it all—has peace and prosperity—the Church in America has more than anywhere else—we are rich—mostly self sufficient and it has made us largely cold and indifferent to the movement and the heart of God. The church in the West is overall Declining in numbers and influence. All while the fires of revival are raging in what we would call 3rd World or Developing Nations—the Christian population is shifting to Africa and Asia—they are beginning to send more and more missionaries to the very places that first brought the name of Jesus to them.

n. We are so wealthy, so self-sufficient, so self-indulgent, that we no longer rely on God for Power and so we rarely see the Holy Spirit at work. We have become Self-Deluding. We’re kidding ourselves, I’m kidding myself if I think I’m sold out for Christ—it costs me nothing, there is very little price for me to pay, very little threat to my life or livelihood. I blend in nicely

o. The standards Jesus calculates our wealth by is not gold or silver—He says (Matthew 6:19)—“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up fro yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

p. According to Jesus we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. We can’t even afford clothes for ourselves. But thankfully,

3. Jesus Walks Among Us Providing Everything We Need

a. He advises us to get our wealth from Him. Their riches and wealth are not refined by Jesus—they will not survive the fire—what they have does not make them rich spiritually

b. Your house, as nice as it may be—is not nearly as good as the house Jesus is building and decorating for you. your clothes cannot cover your sinfulness, no matter how expensive or what brand—you are totally exposed unless you are covered by the clothes that Jesus gives.

c. Despite the best glasses, contacts, and laservision—you still cannot see clearly. Laodicea was famous for it’s eye ointment—but they were still blind and unable to See what was Really important. They were blind to the things of God, blind to the movement of God, blind to the heart of God, blind to the their own need, blind to the need of the lost around them, blind to the true remedy—their best homegrown remedy could not do it.

d. Jesus promise to heal our spiritual blindness—to make us hot—to make us cold—He desires to make us useful for His Kingdom’s sake He desires to shock us back to reality—He desires to step on our toes so hard that it causes us to cry out in pain, and jump up off our pews and fulfill our Mission and Our Calling—

e. One of these Sundays, I’m going to install a zapper into all of these pews that I can just press a button—and zap you—to get your attention—to wake you up

f. Vs. 19—He’s not saying all of this stuff to us because He doesn’t like us—b/c He’s done with us, given up or moved on. In reality, He is saying all this to us because He loves us—and hates seeing us so self-deluded—thinking we’re on fire when we’re not. Thinking we’re rich, when we’re poor and really so pitiful and weak, like sheep without a shepherd. He hates seeing us unwilling to come in under His wings. He hates seeing us poor, blind & Naked. He hates seeing us Lukewarm when we could be On Fire—when we Could be Hot Chocolate on a cold winter’s Day or a refreshing Iced Tea in the Summer’s heat. Instead, we are settling for mediocrity.

4. Jesus Walks Among Us as a Door-to-Door Revivalist—vs. 20

If you want to be amazed—if you are ready for a sobering encounter with Jesus—then answer this door. This Door Knocking is not for the Purpose of sharing the Good News with the Lost—this is for the Purpose of bringing a Reality Check to the Saved—of Bringing an Awakening of Passion for Jesus Christ—because it is so easy, in our comfort to be lukewarm.

There are a lot of people like that in the church today!
They come to church once in awhile but they aren’t enthusiastic about it.
They come to worship but they have little conviction.
They come to church but they aren’t interested in the church’s programs or projects.
They come to church but they give little or no support in finances or any other way.

Ask yourself these questions: (intimacy inventory)

1. Do my mind and mouth switch to auto-pilot during the song service?
2. Is my last answered prayer just a dim memory?
3. Do I feel guilty, angry or skeptical when I hear someone talk about what they got from their private devotional time w/ God?
4. Do I read my Bible because I’m supposed to, and not because I want to?
5. Do I find myself critiquing and criticizing the service, rather than growing from it?
6. During handshake time, do I wish everyone would just leave me alone?
7. Do those smiling and happy Christians get on my nerves?
8. Am I continually looking for ways of becoming less committed, rather than more committed? (quitting areas of service)

If you can answer yes to one or more of those questions, you may be drifting toward Room Temperature--in danger of losing your first love.

Those He loves –He corrects—He rebukes and disciplines. No discipline seems pleasant at the time—some of you may not like hearing these messages—it makes you uncomfortable—it makes me uncomfortable to have the magnifying glass of Scripture applied to my life. But it is supposed to reap a harvest of righteousness a greater and growing glory to the Kingdom of God.

Just like last week—there is a door—last week, Jesus told us that the doors He opens—they stay open—those He closes—they stay closed.

You have a door—while He is strong enough to overpower you and knock your door down—He knocks & waits for you to open it and invite Him in—then that door remains open

You are the host & He is the guest, usually that means that you provide the dinner—but not this time. I believe in this case, Jesus does, He serves you the best meal-a foretaste of the Marriage Banquet Feast that is in the Future of the Bride of Christ

When you overcome—remain faithful and true witnesses—following in the footsteps of Jesus. He gives you the right to sit on the Throne with Him, in a place of power and rule. Each of these churches may, when reading these overcoming statements be looking around at their situation and thinking—I just don’t see how it’s possible. The rest of Revelation is God’s answer to that concern—it is supposed to be a validation, an assurance, an encouragement to the churches that each of those statements will come to pass.