Church Shopping: Engraved

As much as we may seek peace as the ultimate prize—Jesus reminds us it is time to wake up, to com e down from our walls that we have built up and allow God’s plan to be:

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ENGRAVED (Revelation 3:4-6) Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. If you are a parent you know what it was like when your baby or toddler soiled their clothes, but the context is like what would happen if you were sitting on a park bench, only to get up and realize that it had recently been painted, your clothes would be soiled or stained, you would now bear the mark of the outside context. The church in Sardis had soiled their clothes, taking with them all the imprints of the world around them, rather than rubbing off on the world in the name of Christ. Continue reading “Church Shopping: Engraved”

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Church Shopping: Renovation

Jesus, doesn’t stop with pointing out their expiration date but points out it is time for a…

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RENOVATION- (Revelation 3:3) Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” Continue reading “Church Shopping: Renovation”

Church Shopping: Pergamum

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Sometimes compromise is absolutely essential to living life well. In 2005, the Guinness Book of World Records said that Percy and Florence Arrowsmith held two records—the longest marriage of a living couple (80 years) and having the largest married couple’s aggregate age (205 years). Both Mr. and Mrs. Arrowsmith have since died, but they left good advice for those who want to have a lasting marriage. Florence said, “You must never go to sleep bad friends. If you’ve had a quarrel, you make it up. Never be afraid to say, ‘sorry’.” Percy had slightly more humorous advice. He said the secret to his long marriage was just two words, “Yes, dear.” Source: New York Daily News, June 1, 2005

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Other times, compromise is excessive. Bill Hybels tells the story of pulling up to his church in the burbs of Chicago called Willow Creek. It is a massive campus, and one evening he stopped by the church just to encourage those who were there rehearsing for the spring musical. He didn’t intend to stay long, so he parked his car next to the entrance. The parking lot was across the street, it was late, dark, and it was going to be quick. After a few minutes, he ran back to my car and drove home. The next morning he found a note in my office mailbox. It read: A small thing, but Tuesday night when you came to rehearsal, you parked in the “No Parking” area. A reaction from one of my crew (who did not recognize you until after you got out of the car) was, “There’s another jerk parking in the ‘No Parking’ area!” We try hard not to allow people-even workers-to park anywhere other than the parking lots. I would appreciate your cooperation, too. It was signed by a member of the maintenance staff. Bill went on to say, “I’m sorry to report this staff member is no longer with us. He was late coming back for lunch the next day, and we had to let him go. You have to draw the line somewhere . . .” After drawing a laugh, he went on to explain—“No, I’m kidding. Actually he’s still very much with us, and his stock went up in my book because he had the courage to write me about what could have been a slippage in my character.”

We are in the midst of a sermon series called Church Shopping, through the 7 letters to the 7 churches in Revelation. Our goal is not to just be searching for a church that meets our needs, fulfills our preferences and desires, but become the church that makes Christ happy.

Our third letter is addressed to Pergamum, literally translates “thoroughly married” and although the Christians were supposed to be united with Christ—there were more than a few suitors trying to steal their hand. A city built on a lofty hill, the city of more than 150,000 people was a hub of intellectual excitement (maybe like Harvard of today) it boasted a library with over 200,000 volumes all handwritten on parchment and papyrus, a university, at every turn there was something to worship or work towards. Christ like a Great Physician looking at a growing tumor, begins by digging down to see if the church is living off the essentials or given in to excess: 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. Hebrews described the word of God as living and active, sharper than a double-edged sword it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, looking into our attitudes and actions. Christ opens up the church in Pergamum to see where they had said, “YES, DEAR,” “NO DEAR,” and “NEW DEAL”

“YES, DEAR”—(Revelation 2:13) 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives. What’s so impressive about each letter is how much insight Christ has into each church, the situation on the ground, their history, their heroes, and areas of heartache. For John living in exile on Patmos, it speaks to how divinely inspired this work truly is as Jesus starts off commending the Christian of Pergamum for holding on to their faith even though they lived in a city controlled by Satan. The opportunities for compromise, slipping in with the crowd was numerous: There was the temple to Dionysus where wine and women abound, you could seek counsel with Athena—wisdom and arts, or Zeus—ruler of all the gods, but as Jesus references the death of Antipas, the city seemingly had the prescription for life, but what looked so good on the surface, missed the mark down below. The city boasted a temple of medicine and healing—where the sick would spend the night in the temple to Asclepius—god of medicine and healing…you would arrive at the temple, stay overnight, where you would find some of the worse bedside manner imaginable: Indiana Jones-Raiders of the Lost Ark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClwIj3x24Q4. The wonders of modern medicine, you’d lay down and if the snakes crawled on you then you were healed. Beyond the façade of a beautiful temple, was emptiness. Continue reading “Church Shopping: Pergamum”

“Failure to Thrive” Part 1

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“Welcome to the dying room!”—Within the walls of a Chinese orphanage, Anne held her breath as the guide pushed open the door. The phrase ran through her mind like a broken recorder- “Welcome to the dying room!” She had heard people talk about such rooms, their existence rumored like that of the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot, but here she staring at the endless rows of children for herself. Replacing the familiar noises of children laughing, crying, and playing upon her arrival, was now the most ominous thing of all: silence. The looks on the face of each infant was the same—“withdrawn and distant, lethargic and immobile.”  The cause of their impending death was no deadly disease or rare medical affliction, but instead the common and every diagnosis of “A Failure to Thrive.” Each night two nurses would work the large crowded infant wing of the orphanage: changing one diaper and giving one bottle before disappearing to care for another one of the other 350 cribs.  Each week, a few more babies would disappear! The cause was clear- after months without any physical contact, social interaction, anyone to care, hold or rock them the baby was left in the semi-comatose state to wither away!  As Anne walked out of the room, tears ran down her face uncontrollably, the images engrained, emblazoned into her memory of the empty stares, the loveless lives, she vowed to do something!

 This epidemic of dying rooms with children “failing to thrive” should be impossible to ignore—leading many to cry out for justice from watch-dog groups to 60 Minutes, and yet far too often we ignore the same “failure to thrive” that wreaks havoc in our spiritual lives!  In our text from 1 John 1:1-10, we seek to go from a failure to thrive to a spiritual future that is flourishing! Yet, just like for those poor babies in the “dying room,” the thing they need and crave the most is what we need the most spiritually as well…

   RELATIONSHIP- In our text, listen to the apostle John who is writing, as his life is coming to an end, to help straighten out early believers who are failing to thrive in the midst other Gnostic teachings which held that truth was hidden in the mind alone!   (1 John 1:1-3) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to usthat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

John lays out the goal for all people who at times are withering in their faith rather than flourishing writing so “that you may have fellowship with us;” but also with God! In the Greek, the word translated fellowship is koinonia, and it means simply to “hold something in common.” So if relationship with both each other and with God is the goal how do we get there?  So he starts with a common core we can all grasp and build off of—going back to the Word made flesh Jesus Christ—God has made himself known through Jesus Christ, saying we don’t have a secret truth that is imaged, invented, or contrived—but instead a truth that lived and walked among us—My eyes have seen! My hands have touched! My lips have proclaimed! My ears have heard! 

John wastes no time taking us from the goal of koinonia through the means of Christ. Yet so often we see people who know what they want but they aren’t sure how to get it, and the frustration that follows! In fact, The Mars One Project sign-up sheet helped crystalize the problem. The project is asking for applicants to establish a permanent Mars colony– forcing all applicants to leave behind everything and start a new life not in a new county, country, continent, but another area of the cosmos! [You cannot sign up other people—put your smart phones away!] Remarkably, worldwide over 200,000 people, including 30,000 Americans paid the $38 application fee and signed up for blast off! One guy who said, life 352 million miles away on a freezing and radiation rich red rock “couldn’t be worse than life here!” Others are willing to leave behind husbands or wives, children and careers to make history! —-SOMETHING FOR MANY PEOPLE IS MISSING!

The answer is this radical koinonia—community—relationship with purpose! What we find is that X marks the spot.  Graphically, this naturally enough begins to look like a cross. When we have relationship with God in place—we can read Scripture about God, pray to God, but when we receive the Holy Spirit from God—we are given vertical relationship, that begins to change, impact, and improve our relationships on a horizontal plain. In fact Jesus confirms this in Matthew 22:37-38 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all yourself and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When we are able to move closer to loving God with our entire being, we gradually begin to love others as if they were just as important as us! Instead of wishing you could send everyone to Mars, we are tapped with new concern for the hungry, poor, mentally unstable, elderly and sick, the helpless infant or the unbeliever which comes directly from the CROSS—literally and figuratively.