Leaving Laodicea
434 - Preparing for the Invite

434 - Preparing for the Invite

October 30, 2019

When we come to the Lord's table, often we spend little time in spiritual preparation to meet with our Lord.  But this is His table and He has offered to each of us, regardless of our sins and failures, the blessing to come and dine with Him.  Remember His words to His disciples?

Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15).

With "fervent desire I have desired."  Can you feel the intensity in His words?  This is something Jesus was passionate about, something that He truly wanted to do.  And it involved each of us.


Spiritual Preparation for the Invite

In the Philadelphia church age (Rev. 3:7-13) where the Lord only had good things to say about the church, just a few generations ago, the church took the Lord's Supper much more seriously than we do today.  In fact, they had printed prayers and a devotional study they spent the week going through to make sure they were not taking this in an "unworthy manner" (1 Cor. 11:29).  For example, let me give you the text for just Saturday, the day of Self-Surrender to the Lord.

My Father, You call me to Your table to participate by faith anew in the sacrifice of Your Son: I cry to You, in turn, to make me partaker of the power, the inclination, and the spirit of His self-sacrifice, that I, in fellowship with Him, may in like manner offer myself up to You. “Through the Eternal Spirit, He offered Himself up to God.” My God, let the same Spirit make me also, on my part, a complete offering to You.

My Father, grant unto me to see that self-offering constitutes the essence and the worth of His sacrifice. Let the surrender of my feeling and will to the will of God be the mark of my piety. Yes, Lord, let me live as one who offers himself wholly to the desire of God and man to further Your honor and their salvation.

My Father, at the Supper I desire truly to present myself as a living, a holy sacrifice, well-pleasing, to God—an offering that shall be wholly consumed.

For this end, I entreat You for grace to prepare myself for this sacrifice, as Your Son prepared Himself for the sacrifice on Golgotha by saying in Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Yours be done." So would I offer myself as a sacrifice to You with the complete surrender of my will: may Your will be all in all to me, O my God. Lord enable me to say in truth: “I live only to do the will of God.” In the strength of Jesus Christ, who lives in me and in whom I offer myself to You, I venture to make His language my own: “I come to do Your will, O God!”

Lord, prepare me also to say: I desire here before You to renounce every known and unknown sin. All self-seeking and self-will I desire to abandon before You. I take Jesus Christ as my holiness, my strength, my victory; and in virtue of the new nature which He has prepared for me, I say: Father, no more sin, but Your will only— Your will wholly, Your will always and in all.

Lord Jesus, who did give Himself for me, I give myself to You.  Yes, Lord, in this very moment, where I in solitude am this morning preparing myself for the Supper, I say before heaven and earth: Jesus, Son of God, I will give myself wholly to You, to live now and henceforth only for You. Lord Jesus, I do this now. And as one who is offered to the Father and to You, I will go to the Supper table, there to be confirmed in the faith and confession; I am no longer my own: I have been bought with a high price: I will glorify God in my body and my spirit, which are God’s.

Are you humbled?  Convicted?  Maybe you should be.  I know I am when I read this and the rest of what they prayed during their week of preparation for the invite.

Take some time and read through the days of prep the church of a time gone by spent preparing themselves to meet with the Lord.  And see, like me, if it doesn't give you a deeper view of what this Lord's Supper is all about.

The following is a study on preparing to dine with the Lord.

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

431 - How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

August 20, 2019

As we begin to see the darkness come over our land and persecution confront the church in ways unimaginable just a generation ago, it is well past time for each of us to understand and embrace the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit like never before.  As Appollo Creed said to Rocky to shake him from his fear, "There is no tomorrow!"

And Appollo was right.  There is no tomorrow.  The time for spiritual preparation is today.  Actually, it should have been yesterday, or last week.  The time for fervency towards our Lord cannot be put off any longer.  The well-worn excuses about family responsibilities, career advancement, and the general business of life seem trite at best, and will mean nothing when persecution comes.  And it will come.  Most assuredly it will come.  The Scriptures promise persecution.

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution - 2 Timothy 3:12

That is, of course, unless you aren't particularly interested in living godly in Christ.  Then you may be pretty safe, right up until the time you take the mark on your hand or forehead.  But that's another issue for another time.


How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

The key to living a life of assurance and confidence in Him is learning how to remain filled with the Holy Spirit.  And before you can remain filled, you have to be filled in the first place.  This is what this message talks about. We talk about some steps you can take to prepare yourself for His filling.  They are as follows:

First, you must desire to live a life that will please the Lord.

Second, be willing to surrender your life totally and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, confess every known sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and experience the cleansing and forgiveness that God promises in 1 John 1:9.

Fourth, ask Him, by faith, to fill you with the Holy Spirit. You can pray something like this:

Dear Father, I need You. I hunger and thirst for a more vital relationship with You. I admit that I have been in control of my life. And, as a result, I have sinned against You. Thank You for forgiving my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now confess and turn from my sins and surrender the control of my life to the Lord Jesus. By faith, I invite You to fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled. You promised to fill me if I ask according to Your will. I pray this in the authority of the name of Jesus Christ.

To demonstrate my faith, I now thank You for filling me with Your Holy Spirit and for taking control of my life. Amen.

But that's not the end of it.


There is so much more to learn.

You will need to understand the basis of God's filling, and it has nothing to do with the amount of time you spend praying or the people who lay hands on you.  The basis is on the command (Eph. 5:18) and promise (1 John 5:14-15) of God.  And the filling of the Holy Spirit is given to you the same way you received salvation, by faith.

But there is so much more about all this that we cannot do it justice in this simple summary. 

To find out more, you will need to keep listening. The following is a study on How to Be Filled by the Holy Spirit.

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

June 26, 2019

Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer's ancient adage proves true:  Familiarity Breeds Contempt.  It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love.  It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter. What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best?  What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, "we've lost that lovin' feelin'"?  What happens then? How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering?  We find the answer in the Lord's letter to His church in Ephesus.


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord.  They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.

“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; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary" - Revelation 2:2-3.

In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.

“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character).  And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work)."

I get tired just reading all that they did.  But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus.  The relationship!

“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)" - Revelation 2:4.

Sobering words.  The Lord said He is "against" them... even after all the good they had done.  How could that be?  And what can they do to right their sinking ship? It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.

"Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent" - Revelation 2:5.


Do You Remember?

It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.  Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:

What does it mean to remember? Take a moment and remember your first few weeks as a new creation in Christ. What were you like? Back then, how would you feel about yourself now? Did you make any promises to the Lord that you would not even think of making today? Did you keep whatever promises you made to Him? Has your relationship with Him cooled over time? If so, did it happen gradually, like a slow leak? Or did it happen all at once? What do you remember about that time?

There is so much more to remember.  To find out about the forgotten discipline of remembering, keep listening. The following is a study on Revelation 2:2-3.

427 - Are You In?  Or Are You Out?

427 - Are You In? Or Are You Out?

June 17, 2019

There comes a time in each of our spiritual lives when the Lord brings to us His divine interruption that always comes with a choice.  And that choice, other than obedience, seems to focus on our willingness to let Him move us into an area that we are totally unfamiliar with.   Or will we choose to remain where we feel safe and comfortable?  The choice is either to follow Him into the deep or remain in the kiddie pool holding fast to our water wings.  And as always, the choice becomes a matter of faith, of trust.

After all, we sing songs about Him being a "good, good Father."  Do we really mean it?  Or is that just for church?

The question or choice is simply this:


Are you in?  Or are you out?

If you look at the major faith personalities in the Bible, you will find every one of them had to ask themselves the same question.   Every one of them was faced with a choice that comes with a set of troubling questions:  "Do I continue in the course that seems right to me?  Or do I trust I actually heard from the Lord and go in a direction totally unfamiliar to anything I’ve ever done or known?  How much faith do I really have?”

We call these moments Divine Interruptions.

In this message, we'll look at these interruptions from the vantage point of:

David
Paul
Mary
Matthew
James and John and Peter and Andrew
Moses
And finally, Hosea.


A Personal Note

And I will share with you the divine interruption I received this week while preparing for this message from Jude.  In fact, in the weeks to follow I will share more about the changes the Lord has brought in my life regarding what His will is for me and this ministry.  And I rejoice in that.  Why?  Because He has simply answered a prayer I have prayed for almost two years in a most profound way.

But we will talk more about that at a later time.

The following is a study on Jude 1:1-3.

426 - What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

426 - What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

June 10, 2019

When it comes to revival, personal revival, we are somewhat hamstrung by the reality that many in the church today have no idea what that even looks like.  Think about it.  It's not like you can pick up the phone and call a mature Christian saint who is at the top of their game spiritually, and has been for years, and ask them to mentor us in personal revival.  It seems, at least in the West, that those people are few and far between if they exist at all. And this is to the shame of the church... and to each of us as individuals. So we're back to the main question.


What Does Personal Revival Look Like?

In this message, we'll look at a few Scriptures that describe to us what true, Spirit-led, personal revival looks like.  Some of the passages we'll examine are Psalm 119:25, 37, and 40, along with a few of the kingdom parables (Matthew 13:44-46).  We then look at Philippians 3:7-8, and a few other passages, and conclude by asking just a few questions.

What is worth selling all you have to acquire?
What is worth everything you are?
What is the thing you value the most?
Have you asked the Lord to show you things in your life that are worthless and deceitful and are causing you to sin and grieve the Holy Spirit?
Or are you too afraid of what He might say?
What will you do if He shows you what must go? Is the promise of living your life more alive and more abundantly than you are now worth more than holding on to what we are convinced brings lasting joy?
Will you ask Him right now to reveal it to you? But as we shared last week...


The Time is Now

Remember, our first step in seeking true revival is to ask HIm what we are doing, or not doing, that grieves His Spirit. Until then, be vigilant and strong and live out the life He intended for you to live.  Empowered by HIm, seeking Him, being dependent on Him alone, and faithfully serving Him wherever He commands. Adveho quis may. Come what may.

The following is a study on the reality of personal revival.

425 - Is Real Revival Possible?

425 - Is Real Revival Possible?

May 10, 2019

The greatest need for the church, and for our fractured nations, is revival.  No, not the kind of revival we have been satisfied with over the last two generations: the hired evangelist that comes once a year to preach all week to half the congregation of a church, salvation messages to people who are already saved.  That’s not real revival.  It’s a cheap second.  A knock-off.

So what is real revival and is it even possible?


The First and Second Great Awakening

Real revival has taken place on our shores, but it was several centuries ago and has become known as the First and Second Great Awakening.  It was spurred on by the preaching of Charles Finney, Wesley, Whitefield, and many others, who faithfully preached about the conviction of sin and the need for repentance and conversion.  In fact, the results in the communities where revival took place were remarkable.

But note this, modern, manufactured feel-good meetings are not true revival.  In fact, they are a cheap substitute for something Spirit-led and ordained by a sovereign God.

In 1932, William Sprague took upon himself to research the Great Awakenings in our nation and wrote a book titled, Lectures on Revival.  In his book, he quoted many ministers who had experienced, first hand, the Spirit-led move of God on this land.  One of these men was Francis Wayland, a Baptist pastor and president of Brown University.  Wayland described the true revival he had experienced as follows:

I believe in the existence of revivals of religion, as much as I believe in any other fact, either physical or moral.  By revivals of religion, I mean special seasons in which the minds of men, within a certain district, or in a certain congregation, are more than usually susceptible of impressions from the exhibition of moral truth.

For example, ministers are more than usually desirous of the conversion of men. They possess, habitually, an unusual power of presenting the simple truths of the gospel directly to the consciences of their hearers, and feel a peculiar consciousness of their own weakness and insufficiency, and at the same time a perfect reliance upon the efficacy of the gospel, through the agency of the Spirit, to convert men.

Christians, during periods of revival, are characterized by an unusual spirit of penitence, of confession of sin, and of prayer, by a desire for more holiness, and especially by a tender concern for the salvation of souls.

Unconverted persons are more desirous to hear the gospel, and particularly the plainest and simplest exhibitions of it; they readily listen to conversations on the subject and seem to expect it. Truths which they have frequently heard with total unconcern they now hear with solemn and fixed attention; and in many cases, for days together, scarcely a sermon will be preached, or an exhortation offered, which is not made effectual to the conviction or conversion of one or more souls.

This is what true revival looks like.  Ever experienced that?  Have you ever known anyone in the West that has seen God move this way?  I didn’t think so.  Me neither.


The Time is Now

But all of our excuses must stop.  Not one of us who have known the Lord for any amount of time should rest until we make a commitment to Him to do whatever is necessary to see Him move today, in our lives, our church, and in our country, as He has in the past.  Anything less is a great failure on our part and, quite honestly, a wasted life.

And remember, our first step in seeking true revival is to ask HIm what we are doing, or not doing, that grieves His Spirit.  But we’ll talk more on that later.

Until then, be vigilant and strong and live out the life He intended for you to live.  Empowered by HIm, seeking Him, being dependent on Him alone, and faithfully serving Him wherever He commands.

Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

The following is a study on true revival and draws from the first chapter of Isaiah and Malachi.

424 - Our Greatest Gift from Him

424 - Our Greatest Gift from Him

January 23, 2019

As the Christmas season is winding down, it would be appropriate for us to look at the greatest gift we have ever received from the greatest Person we have ever known— our Lord, and to give Him praise for that wondrous gift.  And for me, I find that gift revealed to me in Colossians. Let's look at this gift together.


No Longer Alienated and Enemies of the Lord

The Scriptures say that I, and all who are called by His name, are no longer "alienated and enemies" of the Lord.  Look at this marvelous gift found in Colossians 1:21-22:

And you (your name), who once were (past tense) alienated (apallotrióō – to estrange, alienate entirely) and enemies (echthrós – hatred, hostility, enmity) in your mind by (what) wicked works, yet now (present tense) He (Christ's actions) has reconciled (apokatallássō – the restoration of a relationship of peace which has been disturbed) in the body of His flesh (how) through death, (why) to present (paristánō – to cause to stand near or before) you (your name) holy (hágios – set apart, sanctified, consecrated, a saint), and blameless (ámōmos – unblameable, without spot or blemish) and above reproach (anégklētos –unreproveable, not merely unaccusable but unaccused, free from any legal charge) in His sight (presence, before His face).

But there is more.  He keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless before His glory.  Amazing.   Read it yourself in Jude 1:24.

Now to Him (Christ) who is able to keep you (your name) from stumbling (áptaistos – falling), and to present you (your name) faultless (where) before the presence of His glory (how) with exceeding joy (agallíasis – extreme exultation, exuberant joy),

And how do we respond to this incredible gift?  Read the next verse.

To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.

I pray you will begin the next year with the same praise and passion for your Lord that you ended the last one.  And you can do that by realizing what a great God we serve and what a great gift He has given us in His Son.  Will you join with me in exalting His Name?  Then keep listening. The following is a study on realizing our great blessings found in Colossians 1:21-22 and Jude 1:24-25.

417 - Do the Next Right Thing

417 - Do the Next Right Thing

September 17, 2017

You want some great advice?  Good.  Then "do the next right thing."

When we're faced with depression, chilling disappointment, or numbing loss, what are we to do?  What happens when all our dreams come crashing down around us like Jenga pieces scattered on our dining room floor?  What happens when the intimacy we once felt with our Lord evaporates right before our eyes— and we don't know why?  What do we to do when the only voice we hear is our own doubt and paralyzing fear?  What happens when our pain compels us to sleep 18 hours a day, and we forget who we are and Who we serve?  What are we do to then?

"Do the next right thing?"  Simply stumble forward.


Stumbling Forward

Do you realize that if your goal was to run 5 miles and all you could do was stand and then fall flat on your face, eventually you'd get there.  One body length at a time.  That's exactly what our Bible heroes of old did.  They stood on their feet and did the next right thing.  They chose to not doubt in the dark what they believed in the light.  After all, truth doesn't change.  But our circumstances do.

What did Moses do when decades passed and it looked like God had forgotten and forsaken Him?  He did the next right thing.  And remember Elijah, who was struggling with self-doubt and depression to the point he wanted to die.  What did God say to him as they met at the mouth of the cave?  Essentially this, "Do the next right thing."  How about David when he learned his son was dead due to his own sin with Bathsheba?  What did David do?  The next right thing.

The Scriptures are full of those, just like you and me, who stumble forward in the dark faithfully doing the next right thing, even when they didn't know why or how.  They just did what was right.  And they made sure it was the next thing they did.  Do you want to know more about putting one step in front of another and doing the next right thing?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on being faithful and doing the next right thing, no matter what.

405 - Come and Die

405 - Come and Die

June 2, 2017

In his classic book, the Costs of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the teaching of Jesus in this one phrase:  "When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die."  That's die to self.  Die to our dreams.  Die to our reputation.  Die to our wants and rights.  Die to our families, friends, and future.  And die to our very lives.

We see Jesus continually calling men "to forsake all and follow Him" (Luke 5:11)  Consider the following.

Matthew 16:24-26 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

Note the order.  First, there is the desire to "come after" Jesus.  This is followed by the list of conditions to "deny" yourself and then visibly and publicly show others your self denial by taking up your cross.  And finally, after the conditions are met, the desire is fulfilled.  Only then does Jesus say, "follow Me."

Which raises a few questions.  Do you follow Jesus?  Have you died to yourself?  If so, in what way?  Can others tell?  Are there areas in your life you have refused to die to?  And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

Do you want to know more about what it means to follow Jesus?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:19-25.

404 - Do You Enjoy God?

404 - Do You Enjoy God?

May 28, 2017

When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob's well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5).  It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.

John 4:23-24 - “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him.  God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”

Which, as usual, raises a few questions.

What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally? And what does true worship look like today?

One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:

Question:  What is the chief end of man?
Answer:  The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

Did you catch that?  We glorify by enjoying Him forever.  So, do you enjoy God?  Do you love your time with Him?  Is that time the highlight of your day?  Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth?  If not, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 4:23-34.