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When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

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Stuck at the starting gate…

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Do you ever think about whether or not you are making progress in your walk with the Lord? Are you growing in your faith? Are you steadily marching along toward the goal of spiritual maturity?

Tough questions for all of us, aren’t they? Even after all these years, there are times when I think to myself “am I really growing like I should be”?

Do you feel like instead of progressing, it’s more like you’re stuck in neutral?

If we’re being honest, does it feel like you’ve been taking two steps backwards and one step forward?

Or are you one of the millions that have started on a journey with Christ, yet you are neither going forward or backwards, like you’re not moving at all?

In other words, are you stuck at the starting gate?

starting gate

If this is you, then read on because this post is for you!

Being stuck at the starting gate describes those of us who know the Lord as our Savior, who attend church regularly, read our Bibles, and for all intents and purposes are doing all the right things. We’re on our way to heaven.

Yet for all of that, something is missing. There is no passion, no excitement, no enthusiasm for the things of God. Just going through the motions of “churchianity”. We’re described in the Bible like this:

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;” Matthew 15:8

OUCH!

We’re present in body only. We can’t seem to find a way to become engaged. We just “are”. We’re stuck at the starting gate. Nothing moves us, nothing motivates us. We just “are”.

motivation not

This is a long way from the life that Jesus describes in the second half of John 10:10!!

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

The Abundant Life. You’ve no doubt heard about it. You’ve probably heard a sermon or two about it.  TV preachers talk incessantly about it. Book shelves are filled with volume after volume of authors who attempt to link prosperity with the Abundant Life. You know the ones:

  • The Laws of Prosperity
  • Blessed
  • Biblical Keys to Financial Prosperity
  • Christian Prosperity Secrets
  • The Prosperity Bible

OK, you get the point I’m sure. It seems there is no end to the amount of information out there about prosperity and the Christian. The world, and sad to say a great many preachers, says that living an Abundant Life means living a life of financial prosperity.

But that is NOT what Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the Abundant Life! Truth is, you can live an extraordinarily Abundant Life while being flat broke!

The Abundant Life is a life of meaning, purpose, contentment, joy, strength, and faith that culminates in eternal victory in Jesus Christ.

Now that’s an Abundant Life!

Of course, this does not mean that God doesn’t want us to be blessed and prosperous. Of course He does. What we have to ask ourselves however is what good does wealth and prosperity do us if we are miserable, unhappy, living in fear and doubt, and without hope?

Or what good does wealth and prosperity do us if we can’t get past the starting gate?

If you’re feeling like you are stuck at the starting gate, I have great news for you! The only thing keeping you there is YOU! The Gatekeeper is Jesus, and he has left the gate wide open for you to walk through and begin the journey of a lifetime!

The key to an Abundant Life is Jesus!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Ever flounder?

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Recognize this?

flounder

scaquarium.org

It’s a Flounder.Do you know what Flounders do?

They Flounder!

People flounder too. They don’t lie on the bottom of the ocean,but they flounder.

Whenever we struggle,stumble,lose our way,or aimlessly flail about, we are floundering.

We get stuck.

Without a purpose we flounder.

Without direction we flounder.

Without a definitive plan we flounder.

Without passion we flounder.

So how do we stop floundering?

We must find our God given purpose.

Many of us struggle with purpose. Well, at least I do. I struggle with it seemingly non stop.And I’m sure that a lot of my struggles are tied into my recent retirement. I’ve read several books on post retirement and they all seem to have one common theme. That is that you are not defined by what you used to do.

Oh really? I must have slept through the part where they told me that because it sure seems as though the person I once was wants to still be that person! Why else would I keep waking at 4:00 am, unable to go back to sleep because my mind won’t quit trying to figure out what’s next?

The harsh reality for me is I’m afraid. I’m afraid of being without a purpose.I’m afraid of not finishing well.I’m afraid of not mattering.I’m afraid of being miserable. Mostly I’m afraid of missing what God has in store for me.

I have a feeling I’m not alone in my fears,am I?

Some say “listen to your passion,your dissatisfaction,to your gifts”. Still others say “listen to others”.

I think I need to listen to God.

And right about now I sure need to hear from Him!

Cause I’m getting tired of all this floundering!

A Measure of Faith

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By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise;

10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.   Heb 11:8-10

Abraham was a doer of the Word,not just a hearer of the Word. He set out on a journey not knowing where or how it would end,but secure in the knowledge that Jehovah would guide his every footstep.

Abraham fully embraced his calling and acted upon it as though nothing else mattered.A man like that has sold out to a higher purpose,his new mission that of a divine mandate far beyond the scope of this present world.

While Abraham sojourned in a strange land he never took his eyes off the prize. Surrounded by strange people,customs,and religions as he walked this new land of promise,he was not to be deterred in finding that city whose builder and maker is God.

Abraham’s heart had been set ablaze with an all consuming passion to obey a calling not of this world.Funny thing about a man’s calling;it will engulf him to the end of his days should he choose to accept it and follow it.Little else will matter to him except for the assignment he has been given.He will sacrifice his health,his wealth,opportunities,and to an extent even his loved ones,all is secondary to the call. In short,he is consumed by it.

It will also consume him to the end of his days should he decide to reject it, or even worse, only partially embrace it.This calling is always at the forefront of his mind.It permeates his being in a way not easily understood by those around him.His thoughts are never completely on his work,his social status,even his family.Every thing he does or doesn’t do is weighed against the calling he has received.

In short,unless he fully embraces his calling he is like a double minded man, tossed to and fro on the waves of the tempest that ever churns within him.Doubt clouds his vision. Compromise is the norm.His life one of restless hesitation.Perpetually weighed on the scales of indecision.

Lord,grant unto me a sliver of the measure of faith that Abraham displayed.