Blog - Mount Vernon Grace Community Church

Service and Worship Times

18350 Hopewell Road
Mount Venon, OH 43050

  • Sunday Morning Prayer
    10:00 a.m. Prayer time prior to Sundays service
  • Sunday Morning Service
    10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
    Nursery is available and Sunday School classes are held for children preschool age through 12 during the sermon
  • Wednesday Night 
    Bible Study 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
    Teen Bible Study 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 pm

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Watchman 02/2015
Something that is been on my mind lately is the topic of being a watchman on the wall. Ezekiel 33 talks very specifically about this topic. To save space I'm going to paraphrase. In short the prophet quotes God and says 'if the sword is coming and you put a watchman on the wall, when he blows the trumpet and warns you and you don't listen but you go about your business and you don't pay any attention; when the sword falls your blood is on your own hands. But if the watchmen on the wall doesn't warn you your blood is still on your head but it is on his hands as well.'

We don't live in the country I grew up in. It's still called America but it doesn't feel like a nation founded on freedom and moral absolutes. I'm afraid we have lost our way.

Things are not good in our country. What was detestable and kept in the 'closet' 30 to 40 years ago is now acceptable. There is a show that has won 2 golden globes and its lead character has been praised as being heroic. The show is called 'Transparent'. It is about a man who seems to be a transvestite is going through the process of having a sex change. They are calling this ground breaking. Gay marriage is being discussed in our own state and the Supreme Court is gearing up to make it the law of the land.

Art exhibits that mock our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by putting the crucifix in a jar of urine are lauded as free speech but if we mention the name of Christ in a prayer or quote the bible in our schools, and the Statehouse, or in any public venue, we hear the cries of "separation of church and state"! (Incidentally, when I was in High School they were still praying "in Jesus name" over the loud speaker in the morning. That has become criminal in less than a generation. Has it made our school systems better and safer? You be the judge.)

Orange county Florida public schools are banning bibles to appease an atheist and a Satanist group. The fire Chief in Atlanta was fired because he wrote a book about marriage which mentioned that it was between a man and a woman.

The list is too long for this article and it is growing daily. I am standing on the wall and I am looking out over the landscape. The sword is coming down. The enemy is attacking. I see a small stir among the ranks of believers. (I want to emphasize the word small.) But I see a large army amassing, ready, organized and prepared for battle against truth. They are moving in and we are beginning to experience casualties.

All the warning signs to take up the armor and weapons of God and pursue the enemy are there. In our call to action in Ephesians 6 it specifically says 'put on, (you take responsibility and put it on), the whole armor of God... take into you the whole armor of God... gird your loins.other words get ready for war!

We aren't told to hide in bunkers; we are never called to retreat or turn our backs and run. We are told to stand firm and fight. This is no time for Christian cowards. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but we need men and women of courage that aren't afraid to stand for truth at ANY cost!

The Apostle Paul's final words to Timothy were " ready at all times... watch... fight the good fight... finish the course... keep (protect) the faith..." The captain of our army is the Lord of hosts. That can be translated as 'Lord of angel armies! "Whom shall we fear, of whom shall we be afraid?" "If God be for me, who shall be against me?"

Warning signs are all around us. In this age of information there isn't much hid. We are told to "beware when evil is called good and good is called evil." Evil is not only being called good but it is being applauded, celebrated; standing for unrighteousness is "heroic".

Apologist Eric Barger said "Nearly every evil previously rejected by society is now respected and flaunted: abortion, homosexuality, the sickest violence, unbridled lust, rejection of purity." I would add to that our fascination with death, zombies, and witch craft. There is a huge rise in interest in the supernatural, and new age is infiltrating the church.

Now more than ever we need to hone our prayer life, personally and corporately. We need to saturate our self with the Word of God. (Read it, meditate on it, memorize it, defend it, and keep it close to your heart.) We need to love each other and we must never be afraid to speak the truth in love to a world that is spinning out of control. Jesus really is the only answer.

The alarm is sounding. The enemy is attacking. Will you hear it? Or will you just ignore it pretending to be concerned, but hiding behind the walls of what we call a church building.

Ezekiel finishes chapter 33 with a very pointed warning to those that hear but choose to not act. 30 The Lord said, "Mortal man, your people are talking about you when they meet by the city walls or in the doorways of their houses. They say to one another, 'Let's go and hear what word has come from the Lord now.' 31 So my people crowd in to hear what you have to say, but they don't do what you tell them to do. Loving words are on their lips, but they continue their greedy ways. 32 To them you are nothing more than an entertainer singing love songs or playing a harp. They listen to all your words and don't obey a single one of them. 33 But when all your words come true—and they will come true—then they will know that a prophet has been among them."

Is that You?

LORD please don't let that be me. Set my heart on fire for you, your truth, prayer and your church. Help me to not look for entertainment but to love truth. You said if I love my life I will lose it. Put within me the ability and desire to love you more than life.

Who's Your Daddy?

John 8:44: Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

John 14:6: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”

It seems we are drawn to negative news. I know I have probably written and preached about this before but, oh, well, here we go again. We say we hate it but the worse it is the more we will repeat it. I have wondered what kind of effect that has on us as a society and as individual believers. If the enemy (Satan) can convince us that things are bad, especially in the church, what kind of effect does that have on our faith? If it’s bad and we know it’s bad, why pray, why try? Have you ever felt like there just isn’t much power to our faith? We have heaven but there doesn’t seem to be much else.

I believe there are serious problems with in the church. This past month, four denominations have decided to make same-sex marriage part of their program. That’s a problem! Churches pass out ear plugs as people enter in case the “worship” music is too loud. That’s a problem. Sunday night and Wednesday evening services are all but disappearing. That is a problem. According to the Billy Graham association, only 2% of American Christians have ever shared their faith with anyone. That is a problem. It seems church stuff falls way down on the list of priorities for people. That is a problem…

I could go on but all this negative input is only adding to the problem. I wonder if this is the reason we have all these problems. We spend so much time and energy focusing on the things that are wrong we have lost confidence that what we believe to be true as Christians is really real. “Why not accept GBLT relationships as normal? There doesn’t seem to be any power to overcome the lifestyle so God must have made them that way. Why not believe the divorce rate is high in the church? It gives me less reason to work hard on my marriage. Why not have 'worship' that entertains me? At least I can conjure up a feeling that God is present for a few minutes. Why bother with Sunday evening and Wednesday church? It’s just a watered-down version of Sunday morning and I have better things to do with my time. Why share my faith with anyone? I’m not totally convinced it’s doing anything for me…”

The lie is more appealing than the truth. Satan began perfecting the lie way back in the Garden of Eden. “Come on, Eve, all that God stuff is baloney. God didn’t really mean what he said. He just doesn’t want you to really experience life. Eat the fruit, Eve, it's good stuff.” And so we have struggled ever since with letting the lie influence us over the truth.

Satan is the father of lies. He doesn’t want you to see the truth. The truth is we serve a very powerful and awesome God; the creator of the universe; a God who "is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think." We serve the God who is able to transform lives. Yes even those caught up in the LGBT lifestyle or a couple whose marriage is failing. We serve a God that is worthy of worship. Worship that comes from the depths of the heart, not from my own fleshly desire for feel good entertainment.

I am afraid we have bought into the lie that God can’t do it so we have to work it up for ourselves.

Here’s some good stuff: It has been said, (and I have used it as sermon fodder because the negative preaches so well), that the divorce rate is close to 50% in the secular world and the church is about the same. This would make one wonder what the church really has to offer in the way of solid relationships.

Well, turns out that this is a subtle lie from the pit of hell. Of course Satan doesn’t want the church to think they are anything special. According to Harvard-trained researcher Shaunti Feldhahn, the rate of divorce among church attenders is “maybe 15 percent, maybe 20 percent for all marriages.” Here’s part of the article: Feldhahn could find no actual evidence that the divorce rate in society at large and the church was an abysmal 50 percent. She spent eight years seeking the truth in this matter, and she came to dramatically different conclusions from what “common knowledge” describes. Feldhahn produced a book called The Good News About Marriage to debunk the discouraging notion that divorce in the church is around 50 percent.

Feldhahn describes the discouraged attitude many in the church had because of the false statistic: For the average person in the congregation, there’s this subtle feeling like, "If that’s true, if on something as important as marriage, doing what the Bible says doesn’t change anything; what does that mean about the Bible?"

Her husband, Jeff, describes the response of people once they hear the truth about the divorce statistic: They go, "I can’t believe I believed this all these years. And I’ve heard it so many times. And I’ve heard it from the pulpit so many times." Another encouraging statistic Shaunti Feldhahn shares is that eighty percent of marriages are happy, not 30 percent. These statistics show that the truth is radically different from what people have been hearing these years–and gives real hope to the married within the church.

The same is true in other areas of life. People are set free from addictions of all kinds when they give their life to Christ. It isn’t 100%, but that is the fault of the individual, not God. When the Bible says, “the truth will set you free,” it really does!

My point is, as the Bible says, “Satan is a liar, and the father of it.” The church needs to be very cautious about what it listens to. Just because it is negative news doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Some of the negative might very well be a ploy of the Devil to discourage the church into thinking we don’t have the power we thought we did.

Again, Satan is the father of lies. He doesn’t want you to see the truth. The truth is we serve a very powerful and awesome God; the creator of the universe; a God who "is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above anything we could ever ask or think." We serve the God who is able to transform lives. Yes, even those caught up in the LGBT lifestyle, or marriage problems, or addictions. We serve a God that is worthy of worship. Worship that comes from the depths of the heart not from my own fleshly desire for feel good entertainment.

Maybe we should sing along with Moses and the Psalmist this song: “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!”

Things may not be good in our nation and our world but the church does have the answer. “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also give life to your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.”

Let’s grab hold of the truth and start acting like the people we are. We are the children of the most high, most powerful, most loving, most gracious awe inspiring God in the universe!! What can’t we do? What don’t we have the power to overcome?

John 8:44: Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

John 14:6: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”

Who’s your daddy?


Prepare for Your Appointment

Hebrews 9:27-28 …it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
    What a sobering thought; death, then judgment is our appointment. It is sobering unless you are one that is looking for Jesus to come back. Are you? Most of you reading this would say yes. Some of you will say no. I know within any church body there are different schools of thought.
    In our own church body we have people that don’t believe any of this bible stuff but they enjoy the people. There are those that believe some of it but feel a lot of it is mandated to how ever you want to interpret it. Others believe it but don’t want to take it too far or be too radical with it. Some of you reading this actually believe God and his word are worth giving your life for.
    If you fall in that final category then your pursuit in life is going to look different than those in the other three categories. You aren’t going to be so concerned with silly childish pursuits that only fulfill your personal lust. Paul dealt with this in Corinth. He told the people of Corinth “I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (I Corinthians 3:1-30)
    The word "carnal" vividly describes people who don’t take God at his word. It literally means "to be given over to animal appetites;" "governed by fallen human nature rather than the spirit of God." Paul tells them that because they choose to act like animals rather than be led by the Holy Spirit they are caught up in envy, strife, and divisions.
    Animals don’t reason, they act on impulse and instinct. An animal won’t love his enemy because it is against his nature. An animal won’t return good for evil because it is against his nature. Humans that walk after the flesh will instinctively devour those that they feel threatened by or they feel have done them wrong. They certainly aren’t going to return good for evil done to them.
    “I want the treatment I deserve!” If I think you have done me wrong I will stand my ground for my right to be angry and bitter until Hell freezes over or you come on bended knee begging forgiveness! If you feel I have done you wrong you probably got what you deserve. And so we have envy, strife, and divisions.
    If you fall into the category that God and his word are worth giving your life for, you see things a little different. Jesus is more important than any of your earthly pursuits. Your outlook on life, rather than animal like, will be guided by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:1: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.) "Milk" won’t be enough to sustain you; you will crave "meat." You believe that sacrificial obedience to Jesus is far more rewarding than appeasing my flesh. (Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.) You actually recognize childish behavior in yourself and you strive through the power of the Holy Spirit to grow up. (I Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.) You simply live life to glorify God because that is what you were created to do. (Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Revelations 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.) You don’t have time for envy, strife, and division because your time is consumed with Jesus.
    Let’s go back to Hebrews 9:27-28. …it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.      
    I have personally failed in a lot of ways. Some of you have helped me see that. Generally our failures happen because we are trying to fulfill some personal desire or selfish lust. None of us are exempt from selfish pursuits because of our sinful fallen nature. But it is still a choice we make. I choose to fulfill my own "carnal" animal-like desires or I choose to follow Jesus advice and "deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow him."
    If you don’t believe this "bible stuff" then there isn’t much hope or help for you. If you believe it but don’t want to take it seriously there is hope and help but you are going to have to choose to change your attitude towards it.
    I have failed Jesus in many ways. Jesus has forgiven me. I have failed some of you. I hope you can forgive me. All we can do is wake up each morning with a new resolve to choose to walk after the spirit and prepare to meet our appointment with death and judgment and to stand face to face with Jesus who will welcome us into his eternal presence.

(I submit this in honor of my mom, Ernestine Tickle, a lifelong faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Her faith has become reality!)

It's All About ME?

For a long time now I have had this nagging feeling in my spirit that church needs to change direction. We have been under the false assumption that we are here to speak to and fix the problems of the people in the congregations. So we gear our sermons towards topics that will speak to your depression, your anxiety, your wound, your anger, your relationship problems, your addiction, your…
     Do you see a reoccurring word here? "Your;" a word taken from the word "you." When "you" is put in the first person it becomes "me" and then "I." This may not seem like a problem to some of us; after all isn’t that what "church" is all about? Isn’t the Bible and its teaching supposed to answer all my problems? Isn’t it supposed to take care of me?
     When we go to "church" the music should help me get into a worshipful attitude, right? The preaching should resonate with my heart, right? Basically, I am there for "me." I have never heard anyone say they left a church because they just couldn’t give enough and needed to find a place where they could be used more in the life of others. Usually the reason for leaving is “I’m not getting fed,” “I don’t enjoy the worship,” “somebody offended me,” “I don’t like the preacher,” etc. It usually has the word me or I attached to it as the subject.
     I submit to you, that is the very problem with the church in America. We have become too "me" focused. We have "I" problems. We give very little time to discipleship because it takes time away from "me." I don’t share what Jesus gave me because I’m afraid of what they will think of "me."  "I" won’t forgive someone because "I" deserve to be angry. (Small print disclaimer: Just in case you are getting offended I want you to know that your issues are important. I want you to be well in all levels of your life. For anger and bitterness try unconditional forgiveness as your solution; for depression or anxiety try worshiping God with no ulterior motive; for relationships try seeing Jesus in the one you are at odds with. This takes "me" out of it and puts God in focus. Really! Try it.)
     This sounds harsh in a world that teaches us to "take care of number one." We are trained to believe that I am what matters. I have to watch out for myself because no one else will. If my cup is full then maybe I’ll pour a little into yours.
     I really don’t mean to sound like a stormy cloud raining on your parade but we are facing a lot of turmoil in the church. We saw more people baptized and more confessions of faith in Christ in two weeks in Cambodia and Thailand than we have seen in 15 years at Grace Community Church of Mt. Vernon. We don’t seem to lack in stress, depression, anger, family problems, addictions, business…. I really believe we would start seeing more people interested in Jesus if the church would follow the example Christ laid out for us. 
     Most of what Paul and Jesus has to say about "me" puts "me" in second place. Galations 2:20: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." "I am crucified" means death to self. It is the only way we can really experience life through Christ. Paul is simply expressing the heart of Jesus for us. Matthew 16:24: "Jesus said to his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
     In His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus exhorts us to be a light that shines for others. In verse 16 Jesus tells us to let our light shine publically in a way that people will see the difference in us and God will be glorified. Matthew 23 gives us a good example of what Jesus thinks of people that live for their self. He calls them snakes and hypocrites. 
     Philippians 2:1-4: (Look really closely at verse 1.) "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies..."  The Expanded Bible puts it this way: [Therefore,] ·Does your life in Christ give you strength? [If there is any encouragement in Christ…] ·Does his love comfort you? […if any comfort from (his) love…] ·Do we share together in the Spirit? […if any fellowship/sharing of the Spirit…] ·Do you have mercy and kindness? […if any mercy/affection and kindness/compassion…] It is the exaltation of others above our self that gives us the victory we are looking for.
     Read veres 3-4: When you do things, do not let ·selfishness [rivalry; selfish ambition] or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more ·honor [regard; value] to others than to yourselves. 4 Do not ·be interested only in your own life [look out for your own interests], but ·be interested in the lives of others [look out for others’ interests]. Do you want to feel loved? Pour love into others. Do you want to feel at peace with God? Pour yourself into others. Do you want to receive mercy? Show mercy to others. Read verses 6-11 yourself. Christ is our example.
    Following Jesus requires faith. Loving others, especially those that are hard to love, requires us to walk in faith. We are instructed to walk by faith not by sight because we are short sighted. Jesus isn’t. We get hit with circumstances and people that are, at the very least, difficult to bear. Remember Jesus loved Judas as well as John and he endured the cross.
     King Solomon instructed us in Proverbs 3:5-7: "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil."
     We have to take him at his word no matter what the world around is saying; no matter what the world around us looks like. We have to walk in faith when we think we have to take care of number one because “no one else is going to.” Faith tells me Jesus will never “leave me nor forsake me.” Faith tells me to “cast all my cares on him because He cares for me.” 
     Just imagine what the church would look like if we, the church, would take God at his word and step into the footsteps of Jesus.             
     Jesus didn’t worry about number one but made himself a servant to all.
Jesus you are Lord and King. Help me to put you on the throne of my heart so I can be like you. Teach me to deny myself and follow in your footsteps. Help me to not let the cares and business of this world stand in the way of a close walk with you. It is all about you, Lord, not me.

I'm a Piece of Work, but I'm God's Piece of Work!

I Thessalonians 5:23: "Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it." Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." My life, as wretched as it may be at times, is in God’s hands.

Galatians 2:20 makes this point: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” It is his faithfulness that I live by, because mine isn't sufficient. "Faithful is HE." He is the rock. He is the foundation. He is the cornerstone. He is LORD of lords and KING of kings. He is the door. He is the way, truth, and the life. He is the Prince of Peace. He alone is holy… He is GOD!

Who am I? Where do I fit in? As the old saying goes, “I’m a real piece of work.” I am a sinner worthy of hell. I am a fallen creature. I am part of the "all that have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory." (Romans 3:23) "Jesus Christ came to save sinners of whom I am chief." (I Timothy 1:15) "I am among the lost that Jesus came to seek and to save." (Luke 19:10) "He [Jesus] was wounded for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquity. I am one of the sheep that went astray and turned to his own way." (Isaiah 53:5-6) Without Christ I’m nobody and I don’t fit in and neither do you.

II Thessalonians 5:23: "Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it." Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." My life, as wretched as it may be at times, is in God’s hands. II Timothy 1:12: "I am not ashamed for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him against that day."

If he called me/you he will finish what he called me/you for. I am not big enough or strong enough to deter God from his mission. God knew what he was getting when he asked me to be a part of his mission. He knew I was “a real piece of work.” He asked me anyway.

I Corinthians 1:25-31: "(25)…the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (26) For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, (the real pieces of work), to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30) But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord."

My calling on planet earth is to glorify God. That's it, nothing more, nothing less. That's why I'm here. I can't do that. Romans 7:15, 18, 24: "(15) For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I..." "(18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." "(24) O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

I'm a wretched man. He has to do it for me. He knew that when he called me! That's probably why he called me… Even as I write this I am gaining confidence that God actually wants to use me even though I'm a very flawed human being, a fallen creature. I am one of the foolish things God has chosen to confound the wise.

When we say "Jesus is everything" I'm not sure we really grasp the weight of what we mean. He literally is everything. I Corinthians 1:30: "…of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."

Bottom line: if he wants to use somebody as useless as me, who am I to argue with him? This is where the verse that I have talked about that haunts me comes into play. Ephesians 3:20: "Now unto him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly above anything I could ever ask or think according to the power that works in me." Knowing me the way I know me, just being a useful vessel for him is way above anything I could ask or think.  Listen to how Paul ends that prayer in verse 21: “Unto him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ…” He will be glorified in the ones he calls. The ones he has called need to believe that and trust him. II Thessalonians 5:23: "Faithful is he that calls you, who also will do it." Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." How about this one: Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!"
By the way, if you aren’t sure if you have been called I encourage you to make sure. Paul said to call out to him and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, (master; owner); and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead and you will be saved, (called). (Romans 10:9-13)

OK LORD I get it. I will do the best I can to "trust in you with all my heart, and I won't lean on my own understanding; I will acknowledge you in all my ways so that you can direct my paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6) Help me/us to remember this daily as I/we stumble through life: "I am your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works so that we can glorify you." (Ephesians 2:10) You began a good work in me/us at the very moment I/we said yes to you and I believe you will finish what you started. I trust you!

In Jesus name, Amen.

Do You Know?

As I write this, I am trying to beat a cold. So far it is beating me. I feel like crawling in the proverbial hole and just disappearing from sight. I’m tired, my back hurts, my eyes are burning… I know you know the feeling; you’ve had a cold before. Melodee thinks I’m a big baby when I’m not feeling well. I don’t see it. Besides, since I don’t get sick very often, I think I should be able to take advantage of it.

Anyway I digress. Physical sometimes remind me of spiritual things. We live in a culture that is becoming spiritually sick. I think we have far surpassed the cold stage and we have full blown pneumonia.
My mind keeps going back to the Laodicean church. They were rich, (monetarily); they were clothed well, (physically). They knew how to party so they thought they were happy. They thought they had good medicine for poor eye sight, (turns out the salve they manufactured was a placebo.) Jesus had a different take on their state. In his words, “You say you are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing; you don’t know you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” In other words, you’re sick and you don’t know it.

I highlighted the words “you don’t know” because they are scary important. I think the Laodicean culture was much like our own. Probably at one point they were on fire for the gospel. I imagine that when Paul went to that region with the life-changing message of Jesus they jumped all over it. But it wasn’t long after that a virus of prosperity and self-indulgence set in. They lost their fire for Jesus and their hearts started burning for self. They have a fever and it is making them delusional about who they are. “You don’t know…”

I have a cold. (I think I mentioned that.) When you are sick your judgment is off. It is easier to give in to depression when you don’t feel well. Temptation (throw your own weakness in at this point), is harder to resist when you are sick. I have known people that have been sick for so long that they have forgotten how it feels to feel good and they don’t know how sick they really are.

This is the Laodicean church. The fire in their belly was a lust for self. From where I sit, and maybe it is because I don’t feel well, this is where I see the church. I would like to say GCC is different but we have little viruses popping up in various places. I think we are healthy but healthy people aren’t immune to exposure to disease. A little gossip here, a little deceit there, throw in some bitterness and anger and you have a recipe for spiritual flu. Sometimes it is hard to diagnose where the disease really started but usually it starts with the other person. It certainly can’t be me.

The individuals in the church in Laodicea had a decision to make. Jesus told them, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent.” This has to be done on an individual basis. ‘Mono e mono’. One on one between me and God. You can’t go to the doctor for me I can’t go to the doctor for you but we can encourage each other to get regular checkups.

I know I have a cold. I have all the symptoms; runny nose, cough; if I were one of the seven dwarves I would be Sneezy. (My wife would say Dopey and that can fit with cold symptoms also.) I know I need cold medicine. I don’t know how I got the cold but I know that I have it so I can treat it.

Let’s go back to those dangerous words Jesus spoke to Laodicea: “YOU DON”T KNOW…” We will not seek a cure if we don’t know we are sick. I know two men in the past week that died of massive heart attacks and had no idea that they were sick. Would a checkup have uncovered a hidden heart disease? It is very likely. I know that one of those two men refused to go to the doctor. His decision was fatal.

Some things that have happened over the last year tell me we have symptoms of a struggling heart. We need to have a checkup. I shared this past Sunday that I have been in a spiritually dry place for a long time. This is a symptom of something wrong.

The Lord reminded me today of a situation quite different than the lukewarm Laodicean experience. Shortly after Jesus walked out of the grave two men were on their way to the village of Emmaus. They were talking about all that had taken place that day after they had heard that the tomb Jesus was in was empty. While they were walking, a man they didn’t recognize joined them. They invited him over for dinner. We don’t know what their conversation was about but it must have been life changing. We know they talked about the scripture and I would assume the man was showing them the scriptures that spoke of the Messiah and how he must die and that he would rise from the dead. Just before he left them he revealed himself to them and they recognized Jesus. They realized they didn’t just have an interesting conversation about the Torah. They were in the presence of God. In their own words “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scripture.”

How long has it been since your heart burned within you because of the presence of Jesus and because of his Holy word? I can remember a time in my life when I could hardly contain my enthusiasm for Jesus. I have done a pretty good job of containing it lately. Maybe that is why some of the little fires have been ignited. Maybe I have ignored some of the symptoms.

None of this is meant to accuse or point fingers so please don’t assume it is. This is a plea. Jesus closed his letter to the Laodicean telling them, “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.” He is saying, “I want to have dinner with you. I want your heart to be on fire in relationship with me.” Please make sure you are opening that door. Make certain your heart is in the right place. The Laodicean lie of wealth and health affected the entire community. Let’s not let a lie fester in our heart. We will either burn in our heart in the presence of Jesus or we will grow cold and die. Choose to burn!!!