Tic Tic Tic
April 12, 2016, 10:32 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I awoke this morning and after looking at the clock, tried to return to sleep.  It is important for me to say that I didn’t find sleep difficult; in fact I had been sleeping in a very restful manner.  My dreams were pleasant and I was comfortable.  But as I have gotten older, I find myself waking at times in the middle of the peaceful condition called sleep.  So I tried to go back to sleep.  I couldn’t!  I am a weird person and fall asleep watching tv.  Tried it, couldn’t.  So I tried a noise free environment.  I don’t know if this every happened to you, but when I was younger there were times I couldn’t sleep because my heartbeat kept me awake.  I would be in bed and start listening to my heartbeat and couldn’t sleep.  As you might guess, I grew up in a very country setting!  Our home is a constant place of activity.  It seems we always have noise going on, much of it the laughter of people.  But early this morning, it was silent.  EXCEPT for the clock in the living room.  I never realized that the clock ticked SO LOUD!  As sleep escaped me, the pounding of the clock grew louder.  During the day, when the house is full and life is going on, you can’t hear the clock.  But early this morning, all I could hear was the clock.

Isn’t that like life?  We are such busy people that something that is constantly there goes unnoticed.  Perhaps that is way God tells us “be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”  Not only do we fill our lives full of busy activities and ignore God but because we do we miss that He is still exalted.  Just like the clock always ticks, it is only in those times when God becomes my focus that I hear Him and see Him as the Exalted One!  Maybe we need to heed the words of Psalm 46:10 and spend a little time being still!


Revival and Riot at Ephesus
April 11, 2016, 1:05 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book | Tags: , , ,

Ephesians cover from Cameron Duncan
Their time at Corinth had been difficult for Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla. Aquila and Priscilla had been forced to leave Rome when Claudius issued a decree that the Jews had to leave. The difficulty of leaving what they knew as home was hard but because of following Jesus Christ, the couple saw this as a great opportunity to share His story of amazing love and grace as well as their story of transformation from legalistic Jews bound by the traditions of the Pharisees to liberated Christ-like ones. Arriving in Corinth, they met Paul, who shared a similar story and who shared a passion for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with his people the Jews. They worked making tents by day as they took every opportunity to share their new faith with the Jews and Greeks who gathered in the synagogue. But even after being joined by Silas and Timothy, their message was met by unreceptive ears and hearts of those who refused to see Jesus as the Messiah. Their opposition grew as Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and trusted God to save him. Bringing Paul up on charges before the political leader of the region didn’t end with Paul’s arrest, so the Jews grabbed Sosthenes and beat him near the court area. The church at Corinth had its beginnings but would experience growing pains.
So Paul decided to return to Jerusalem to give a report of the success his missionary trip had experienced. To do so, he would journey by sea, so he traveled to the coastal area to catch a ship. He would first travel across to Ephesus, then transfer to a ship that would travel to the coast at Israel, so he would end up walking up to Jerusalem. Ephesus was the capital of the region of Asia and one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. A conservative estimate would be that Ephesus contained three hundred thousand people, but the number may have been closer to a half-million. Original the city was a great seaport, but by the time of Paul had become unusable because of the accumulation of mud and sand. While it had a huge library, the chief draw of the city was the temple of Artemis, or Diana. Visitors from all over the Roman Empire would come to worship at the temple of Artemis, known as the greatest of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The economy of Ephesus was based on this temple and the worship of this false goddess.
While at Ephesus, Paul went into the synagogue and presented the logical reasons for Jesus to be the Messiah. These Jewish people wanted to know more and begged Paul to stay. Although he was impressed by God to continue to Jerusalem, he left Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus to water the seeds of the gospel as they helped plant the church and nurture its growth. They found a great speaker by the name of Apollos, who knew the Old Testament scriptures and the message of John the Baptist. Taking time to share the gospel of Jesus, which was the story of Jesus, they led Apollos to a relationship based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He took the teaching to heart and helped in establishing the church before traveling to Corinth. After his time in Jerusalem, Paul began his third missionary trip and eventually ended back in Ephesus, where he would hear of the church’s growth. Upon arriving back at Ephesus, the Holy Spirit began using Paul in remarkable ways, explaining the gospel to men who had a love for God by not the knowledge of Jesus. This led to Paul preaching the great news of the kingdom of God to both Jews and Greeks. His preaching was supported by the miracles that God did through him to show His approval of his ministry. His popularity grew and pretenders, seeking to cash in on his fame, attempted to duplicate some of his miracles. Their failure highlighted that God was working in and through Paul. The Gospel was clearly presented and lives were so radically transformed that many in the city who practiced magic arts turned to God from the demonically-inspired practices and the economy of the city took a real hit, with 50,000 pieces of silver worth of books and objects used by those involved in magic turned into a huge bonfire. Paul saw his work finished and made plans to go to Macedonia to continue spreading the Gospel. He stayed to finish his commitments in Ephesus and faced a mob that resented his faithful presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those involved in the magic arts saw a decline in business and joined to rid Ephesus of Paul and his message. They incited the people with fear of a loss of money and the loss of their tourist attraction, the Temple of Diana (or Artemis) as they stampeded the theatre or stadium. The riot was stopped by the calming and reasoning of local political leaders but the battle lines were drawn. The church of Ephesus had become reality, but the gathering of those who were believers and followers of Jesus Christ would face battles and would struggle at times with their own sinful natures, but Paul would keep up with their growth and maturity. Soon he would write a letter to encourage them.

The Rest of the Story (Revelation 2:1-7)
April 1, 2016, 1:54 am
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

Paul Harvey
Paul Harvey was a popular radio host until 2009. In 2000, he signed a ten year contract with ABC Radio for one hundred million dollars to do a popular show called “The Rest of the Story”. Each story was true, but told unknown ends to famous stories. Harvey would end shows by saying “Paul Harvey . . . Good Day!” So let’s do a “Rest of the Story” about the church of Ephesus.
As Paul walked out the door, freedom had a nice feel about it. But the Apostle Paul lived in the presence of the Lord and saw Himself as not only one called to go on behalf of Jesus but one who willing placed himself as a bond slave to Jesus Christ. During his time in prison, Paul wrote to several of the churches that he had helped start or that were having problems. So one of the first things that Paul wanted to do after being released, he set out to visit several churches that were dear to his heart. One was Ephesus, a church he had help start and to whom he had written while in prison. Ephesus, by this time, was a church dealing with internal problems that threatened to destroy the unity and ministry of the body. While still having growing Christians working together, at the time of Paul’s visit he was concerned with the growing materialism in the church, the lack of godly leaders, disorder in worship and a growing problem with false doctrine. Paul left Timothy to deal with these problems and then wrote back to encourage and inform him of how to deal with these obstacles. Since Timothy was younger than some of false teachers and leaders at the church, his leadership was challenged. By the time Paul wrote the second letter to Timothy, Paul was back in prison and knew he was facing death. He sent Tychicus to take over so Timothy could visit his father in the faith before his beheading. According to other records, John also served as pastor of the church of Ephesus after writing Revelation.
So this church had been impacted by some of the most famous Christian leaders in the apostolic age. In spite of their influence, the working of the Holy Spirit, and the blessings God had given to this early church, trouble was brewing. Knowing this adds to the final letter written to Ephesus along with six other churches. The book of Revelation was sent to the seven churches of Asia Minor and Ephesus is the first one mentioned. However it is important to remember that John was writing the words that the Lord Jesus Christ was speaking relaying to us the words communicated by Jesus to the dear saints at Ephesus. Those words have been preserved by God because they were God-breathed Words. So when we read “unto the angel (pastor) of the church of Ephesus write; these things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and now thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy fist love. 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. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that heath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:1-7)
As this circular letter was read in Ephesus at the gathering, those hearing the words at first may have been thinking “here we go again, someone has written to us.” Their walk with the Lord had grown a little routine and not as exciting has it had been at one time. Maybe they perked up a little when the letter mentioned the them by name. When the Lord lets them know that He is walking in the midst of them, they became to focus on what was being spoken. How comforting to know that Jesus not only was in their midst and that He was the Lord of all the church. The segments of Revelation in which the Lord directly gives them a message contained a message that He knew them so they listened as the Lord Jesus Christ commended them for what He saw as good, followed by a message condemning their wrong actions and attitudes. Some churches had no commendation while others were not condemned. Realizing what God described as their spiritual condition, the Ephesians were given a choice by God that would either bring them back closer to Him or would lead to a judgment. Whatever choice that this church made would have consequences.
Nervously, the church listened as the words of the Lord were read. When they heard that the Lord was proud of them, they felt that God saw their greatness and was pleased to have them as His people. The Lord commends the church at Ephesus for three things. First, the Ephesians Christians were hard, committed workers who do things. Their lives were full of ministering to others, in our church world today we would say that they were busy “being the church” and not just “doing church”. The next good thing about the church at Ephesus was that they were solid in what they believed. They knew what the Bible taught and were able to defend their beliefs when challenged and refute the false beliefs that were inconsistent with the truth of God. Before he left in Acts, Paul called the leaders together and let them know to be alert for false teachers. Evidently, they heeded his warning. The third thing this church was commended about was that they had endured or lasted in the face of difficult times. They were not quitters. Their culture was hard but they continued to faithfully carry out what they perceived as their responsibilities.
At this point, the Ephesians must have thought that they were the perfect church but then came the word “nevertheless”. It is a word of contrast. Although they had done good things, Jesus called them out on something that was important to Him. “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Maybe they thought, somebody has lied to Jesus! We are busy serving Him. We constantly have activities at our gathering. But I think the Holy Spirit began to convict them that they had lost the correct focus. They had began to see the things of Christianity as being more important than the Lord of Christianity. So what does this look like? I think we lose the joy or glow of being a Christian. Everything becomes routine and we go through the motions. We become comfortable in our Christian walk and never are confronted with change. We also love our ability to love others unconditionally. Since we are not overwhelmed by the love of God for us and our focus turns from Him, we can’t love others the way we should. We become judgmental, critical, and full of complaints. The third area we see the lack of love for God is in how we view ourselves. We begin to think of Christ as someone who will give us all the things we want. We get upset with Him when He doesn’t and gradually find ourselves not able to worship and not able to worry about those around us without Christ. What we do for God is important because it brings attention to us. We are self-centered and consumed with what is important to us. Here we see the serious problem that takes a church from making an impact in their society to a “country club church”, a popular place of which people want to be a part, still doing religious things, but having no impact in their community. The best way to understand this is to compare this to a couple that just got married. They look at each other all the time gazing into each other’s eyes, they think about each other all the time, they want to spend time together, they seem to always be holding hands; in other words, “they’re in love”. Thank God for the marriages that stay that way. A godly husband who continues to love and cherishes his wife while having a wife whose love continues to grow with each day to the point that their children are constantly picking about their parents kissing each other. They are in love. Remember when you first got saved? If you were like me, you were constantly thinking about the Lord and what He had done for you. Reading the Bible was important, prayer often was filled with prayer and your thoughts were on Him. Then you started getting busy doing things for God and your time together suffered. You still had a relationship, stilled loved one another, but found yourself so busy that your devotion to each other cooled off. It is so easy because of all we are called to do. From running children from one activity to another, taking care of our parents who are growing older and sometimes need our attention, and being successful in our careers, we try to fill our time with God by doing something productive for Him.
So here’s the choice given to us: remember how you used to love God, repent and return to the love for God like you had when you were first saved or suffer the consequences. God wants us to love Him. He desires a relationship, not because He needs it but because He knows we do. Apart from Him, we are helpless and have no purpose.
So what is the consequence? God will remove our “candlestick” or lamp stand.
So the church at Ephesus began to struggle with staying in love with God. Paul’s instructions in Ephesians 4 to 6, if practiced would prevent a cold heart to the love of our life. But here’s the rub, we have a human nature that struggles with dying to self. We see the activities of others and base our walk with God on how everybody walks. If not, we become a church that meets, greets and then leaves and never impacts our society.
That’s why we teach our students how to study the Bible. We want them to know how to stay in love with God. Now after reading this book, you can as well. So here is the question? How is your love life with God? Fall in love with Him again, each day! Good day!