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Leaving Laodicea:  Our Purpose

Leaving Laodicea: Our Purpose

While I was preparing for last Sunday’s sermon I was arrested, literally taken captive, by a statement Jesus made during His last message to His disciples before heading to the cross.  He was praying to His Father for them that they would be protected from “the evil one” (John 17:15).  He was not praying for the lost world, but only for His disciples (John 17:9).

But a phrase in Jesus’ prayer stopped me cold in my tracks.  He said:

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.  And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (John 17:9-10).

It was the last sentence that really got to me.  Read it again for yourselves.  Slowly.

Jesus said, in effect, that all that is His belongs to the Father and all that is the Father’s belongs to Him.  The context of the “all” is Jesus speaking of His disciples, those with Him in the Upper Room and those, you and me, the church, “who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20).  Jesus was also speaking of His church— the called, chosen, justified and redeemed (Rom. 8:29-30).

But look closely at what He said about His church, about you and me.  He said, “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10).  That’s not future tense, but present tense.  He is glorified, now, in them.  He is glorified back then, and also today, in them.  He is glorified in the present in them.  And the “in them” means, of course, the church.  “In them” includes those in the Upper Room and those of you reading this post today.  It includes all that call upon His Name for salvation no matter where they live or what local church they attend.  It includes all, everyone, who have ever been saved.

And it includes you and me, individually, and each of us, collectively, as the church— whatever local body of Christ we choose to attend.


I Am Glorified

But what convicted me the most was the glorified part.  Jesus said He is “glorified in them” or in us.  Not will be glorified or maybe, someday be glorified, but He is, right now, glorified in us.  How can that be?

The word, glorify means “to bring glory, honor, or praise to someone, to show great dignity, to highly esteem, to celebrate profound worth, to magnify and exalt above all others.”  Wow.  Jesus said He is all of that in His church and in you and me, right now.  I don’t see it.  I don’t see it at all.

Do you know why?  Because I live, like you, in the Laodicean church age (Rev. 3:14-22) where the prevailing spiritual mindset is embodied in the meaning of the name, Laodicea: “the people rule.”  That’s right, we call the shots.  We’re masters of our own fate, our own destiny.  We’re independent, self-made and proud of it.  We refuse to bend our knee to anyone or anything except our own selfish lusts and pursuits.  And this carnal attitude is engrafted into our DNA, into the very fabric that makes us who we are.

How can Christ be glorified in a church like that?  And, worse yet, how can He be glorified in me when the only glory I seem to seek is my own?

In my flesh, He can’t.  There’s no way.  It’s an impossibility.  There’s nothing I can do on my own to bring Him glory.  Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and He was talking about bearing spiritual fruit so that “My Father is glorified” (John 5:8).  He even goes on to say that we are created, as disciples, “to bear much fruit, (why), so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).  And bearing fruit, according to Jesus, is the greatest evidence of our salvation (Matt. 12:33).

But the good news is that with the Spirit “all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) and we can move beyond our inherent, diseased DNA and leave the land of Laodicea and strive to live in the wonder of His grace, of His Spirit, in union with the Father, as children of God and “joint heirs of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 8:17).  In other words, we can be different than those of the church age in which we live.  Things can change.  We can change.

“How?” you ask.  “How can we be different from all that is around us and all we’ve ever known?”


Leaving Laodicea

The answer to that question is the reason this blog exists.  Together we will devote our lives to knowing and understanding how to help each other move beyond our apathy, our cultural conformity and moral carnality and embrace the life our Lord designed for us to live.  Remember?  He called it the “abundant life” found only in Him (John 10:10).  Are you living the “abundant life” in Him right now?

If not, I’d say it’s high time to pack your bags and jump on the next bus out of Laodicea.  It’s time for all of us to leave Laodicea and never look back.


Are You Ready?

Are you ready?  Are you ready to forge ahead into the wild unknown in your life with Christ?  Are you prepared to “count the costs” of true discipleship? (Luke 14:28).  Are you willing to forsake everything, and I mean everything, for the sake of “knowing Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”? (Phil. 3:10-11).

Are you ready to live your life for the sole purpose, like Paul, of fighting “the good fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith”? (2 Tim. 4:7).  Are you prepared to “suffer hardship as a soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3) and to bear His reproach gladly?

Are you ready to experience an intimacy with the Lord Jesus that is beyond description?  Are you ready, maybe for the first time in your Christian life, to be truly one with Him?

If so, rejoice.  Because making a commitment, a definite resolution, a sacred vow to forsake your citizenship in the land of Laodicea and move to the promised land the Lord has given you, will open for you a promise of blessing previously unknown to the church for centuries.  It’s the promise to the overcomers, the blessing of Ephesians 3:20-21.  Read these words with a hunger and anticipation of the glory waiting to be revealed in you and “run with endurance the race that is set before us, (how) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).

This, beloved, is your inheritance in Him today when you leave Laodicea.

Now to Him (Christ) who is able to do exceedingly abundantly (or, immeasurably, beyond comprehension) above all that we (you and I) ask or think (or, can conceive in our minds), according to the power (Gr. dunamis – explosive, miraculous, achieving, overcoming power) that works in us (in you and me, in the church), to Him be glory in the church (in us, collectively, as the Body of Christ) by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen (Eph. 3:20-21).

This is our inheritance, our birthright.  Let’s not let the toys and trinkets of this world take it away, shall we?

Will you join me?
Come what may.

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When God Interrupts Your Life

When God Interrupts Your Life

Sometimes in our lives, when we least expect it, God has a tendency to show up and interrupt what we’re doing.  Now we know He’s sovereign in all things and is “in His heavens and does what He pleases” (Ps. 115:3), yet often we view His interruptions as an inconvenience, or as an annoying set of circumstances, or as some frustrating event, or just really bad timing.  But God, as God, has the right to interrupt our lives and our petty little schedules and plans anytime He wants.  In fact, we should welcome His interruptions.

Often He interrupts because we’ve grown cold, apathetic, lifeless, or lukewarm in our relationship with Him.  These interruptions serve as a well-timed wake-up call to get our focus back on the eternal and important and off of what is temporary and insignificant.  Sometimes He decides to break into our mundane existence, our stagnated spiritual life of ease and comfort and self-centeredness, to speak truth to us in a way that will forever change our future.  And when that happens, we should joyfully embrace these interruptions as loving gifts from a loving Father, and not as something to fear or dread.

Let me give you just a few examples.


David

One day Israel no longer wanted God to be their King but instead wanted to be like all the other nations and have a king like they had (1 Sam. 8:5-9).  So they rejected God and chose for themselves a man who looked the part of a king— a man of outward strong stature, a man with handsome features, an attractive man, a movie star type of man.  They chose Saul to be their king: “Long live the king!” (1 Sam. 10:24).  But what they didn’t know was that the “Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

Saul was not the king the Lord wanted and, in the course of time, committed sins so grievous that God said: “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments” (1 Sam. 15:10).  So the prophet Samuel brought word to Saul that God “has rejected you from being king” (1 Sam. 15:23) and that the party was just about over.  The die was cast, Saul was on his way out.  All that was necessary was to anoint the new king of Israel.

Unaware of all this political drama in Jerusalem, there was a young boy who was faithfully tending his father’s sheep on the backside of a remote hill in a forgotten desert far away from anything good that was happening in the world.  He was the youngest of eight sons born to a man named Jesse.  One day that young boy was called home to stand before the prophet of God, Samuel, who was there to anoint the new king of Israel.  Samuel had gone through the seven older brothers of this young man, one by one, repeating the same words, “The Lord has not chosen this one”.  But when young David was presented before the mighty prophet he was declared to be the new king of Israel.  Samuel said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one” (1 Sam. 16:12).  David was now God’s anointed king, His choice among all the people on the face of the earth.

What an incredible interruption.

From that moment on, David’s life was forever changed.  This young shepherd boy was now destined to bravely face breathtaking highs and heart wrenching lows he would have never had the opportunity to experience tending his father’s flock.  Once God interrupted David’s life with Himself he discovered the joy of indescribable intimacy with the Lord as well as the shameful pain of public sin that we still talk about today.  His faith was challenged on a battlefield facing a nine foot giant named Goliath (1 Sam. 17) and his very call from God and confirmation by Samuel was rejected by the current king of Israel, Saul, who sought to take his life.  By embracing God’s interruption David was driven into the wilderness to live like a vagabond and was forced to act like a crazed madman drooling saliva in the presence of his own enemies (1 Sam. 21:13).  And for a time, it seemed God’s interruption only produced pain and suffering in David’s life.

But we know the rest of the story, don’t we?

We know King David was called a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14) and we also know the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, traced His earthly lineage through King David (Matt. 1:1).  We also know of the blessed promise given David that his throne would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:13-16).

Such are the blessings of an interrupted life.

Are you interested? Would you like your life to be interrupted like David’s?


Paul

We also know of a man named Saul, later changed to Paul, from the town of Tarsus, who was a rising star among the Jewish intelligentsia of his day.  So committed to putting this Jesus cult down, he personally requested and was given authority from the High Priest in Jerusalem to travel to surrounding areas and bring back in chains those who claimed the name of Christ.  One day, around noon, on his way to Damascus, God interrupted his life.

God spoke to him from a blinding light and said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”  To which Saul responded in awe and fear, “Who are you, Lord?”  And the One who interrupted his life said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:3-5).

From that point on Saul, or Paul as we know him today, was a changed man.  He spent the rest of his life living for something and Someone greater than himself.  Nearing the time of his death, Paul summed up his life by saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7).  He was determined to know nothing but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).  And this man, this ordinary man with an interrupted life, was given revelations of the Lord God that simply boggle the mind. He was taken up into Paradise, the third heaven, and “heard inexpressible words which are not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. 12:2-4).

Such are the blessings of an interrupted life.

Again, are you interested? Would you like God to interrupt your life like He did Paul’s?


Mary

I’m reminded of a young, teenage woman who was approached by a godly man who greatly desired to take her as his wife.  She was a good daughter to her father and she was faithful to her Lord.  She was chaste, a virgin, modest in her dress, righteous in her conduct— she was literally everything a young woman should strive to be and the kind of daughter every father hopes and prays for.  A man named Joseph, well known in their town, respectable and God-fearing, had come and paid the bride price for her and was patiently dreaming of the day when he would be able to return and take her to be with him as his cherished, beloved bride.  But this young woman’s life was about to be interrupted by a vision from the angel Gabriel, the messenger of the Lord.

One day, as Mary was going about her duties, God interrupted her life.  An angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28).  Mary was more than a little surprised.  She was greatly troubled and probably in shock.  The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31).

Mary, seeing the natural impossibility of this, said, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-25).


What Will You Do With Your Interruption?

And now please understand this: When God chooses to interrupt a life, like David’s, like Saul’s, like Mary’s, and like yours, we always have a choice.  We can choose to accept His interruption and all that goes with it, good or bad.  Or, we can choose to reject His interruption and walk away.  “Thanks for the offer God, but I think I’ll pass this time.  Check back with me later.”  God never forces His will on anyone.  He offers us the blessing of His interruption and the choice to obey and accept or to reject and walk away is always in our own hands. It’s our call, our decision.

This is exactly what was presented to Mary.

With her future dark and uncertain, with no hope of Joseph or her parents or anyone for that matter believing her incredible story, with no means of physical support for her and her new child, and with the ever-looming danger and threat of her death by stoning, Mary nevertheless said in bold, courageous faith, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

And the world has never been the same.

So what about you?  Are you praying for God to interrupt your life?  Or, has God already tried to interrupt your life and you rejected His invitation?  The greatest blessing a Christian can ever experience is God’s divine interruption into one’s life.  God’s interruption means He wants to speak new truth to us, to lead us in a new direction, to infuse new purpose and meaning into our very lives.  It’s a profound blessing, a gift of grace.

God’s interruption means we’re not forgotten, we’re not forsaken, we’re not simply an afterthought or a footnote in the pages of His glorious dealings with mankind.  But God’s interruption means He has chosen you, and me, to do something specifically designed by Him and for Him.

Don’t be afraid of His divine interruptions.  Do not fear them.  But pray for them, ask for them, long for them, beg for them.


A Final Warning

But understand this, as Jesus warned those who haphazardly wanted to follow Him to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28), there’s also a great cost to be paid when God interrupts your life.  It may mean, and it usually does, that He will compel you to go into “all the world” (Mark 16:15) to do and say things to people you never thought possible.  He will usually move you out of your ease and comfort zone and into an area where you’ll be forced to trust Him, and Him alone, and not your own strengths (2. Cor. 12:10).  Words like, “I feel uncomfortable doing this” or “this isn’t my gift” or “I wasn’t trained for this” or “I didn’t sign up for this” will be banished from your vocabulary.  New words and phrases will emerge from your lips like, “Thank you, Jesus, for using me this way because I know that in my weakness I am strong when I rely on You.  I praise You for what You have accomplished through me.  It’s all You, Lord.”

Are you ready?

Are you ready for 2015 to be a year of life-changing interruptions from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?

Then get ready.  For your life is about to change.

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Podcast 282:  Looking for Revival in All the Wrong Places

Podcast 282: Looking for Revival in All the Wrong Places

As Believers living in the Laodicean church age, we tend to re-define terms that make us feel uncomfortable.  For example, when Jesus says, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), we redefine His command to say, “Study about how others go into all the world in your annual Missions Conference and rationalize to yourself you are obeying His command by looking at African artifacts and watching a missionary slide show during your Sunday evening service.”

But that’s not what Jesus said at all, is it?

We also re-define what the word “revival” means because we, as the church, are pretty much clueless as to what a true, Spirit-born revival actually looks like.  We look to follow those who tell us about revival but have never experienced revival themselves.  It’s like the “blind leading the blind” (Luke 6:39).

Do you want to be different?  Do you want to learn from those who lived in a constant state of revival?  Me too.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on How Not to Find Revival from Revelation 2 and 3.

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Podcast 280:  The Default Setting in Our Christian Life

Podcast 280: The Default Setting in Our Christian Life

Our experience may indicate otherwise, but the default setting for the Christian can be found in John 10:10 where Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Did you get that? Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us abundantly. This is the standard, the default setting in our spiritual life.

Is that what you’re experiencing in your life with Christ? If so, praise Him. If not, why?

Keep listening and you’ll discover how to reset and restore your spiritual life back to the default, factory setting.

The following is a study on the Hindrances to Revival from Revelation 2:1-11.

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Podcast 279: “Lord, Revive Us Again!”

Podcast 279: “Lord, Revive Us Again!”

As 2014 draws slowly to a close, I am once again reminded of our greatest need as individual Christians and as the church:  Revival!

“And what is revival?” you ask.

According to the Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, revival is: “the work of the Holy Spirit in restoring the people of God to a more spiritual life, witness, and work— by prayer and the Word after repentance.”

Leonard Ravenhill said, “Revival is when God gets so sick and tired of being misrepresented that He shows Himself.”  And Vance Havner summed it all up when he said, “Revival is falling in love with Jesus all over again.”

Do you need to fall in love with Jesus all over again?  I sure do.  Come join with me and together let’s ask our Great God for revival.

The following is a study on Our Need for Revival.

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