I live in a great, very old city. It was begun hundreds of years ago in an area that was, at that time, largely agricultural. Down through the years it was known for producing world-class wool. Over the centuries the city grew, changed its name and became a diversified business community. Located right on a major highway, the city also became a center for transportation, as well as commerce.
Because the businesses of the area have been profitable, the people who work in them have enjoyed great economic success. In fact, there is no real poverty in this area so I guess it would be okay to say that economically no one is lacking. Pretty cool, right?
The people of this area are interesting and very diverse — many different races and lifestyles — but everyone is exceedingly tolerant. In fact, our town is rich in tolerance and understanding, with a philosophy of “Live and let live.”
While there is lots of acceptance about different philosophies and lifestyles, there are some things we just will not allow to happen here. For instance, we do not allow radical positions nor do we allow anything extreme that would upset the core values of the area. We are a culturally relevant community — let me give you an example of what I mean.
As a community, we are open to churches of all faiths as long as they do not promote extreme positions. If some firebrand with a heated-up message of his own belief system comes to town and tries to trumpet that position, he is firmly told to be quiet and tone down the message or move on. We have rules and laws against that kind of extreme behavior!
Churches are to serve the people and not to proselytize. Those who go out and try to convince people that their belief system is right and others are wrong are considered extremists, and in a culturally relevant city like this that is a definite no-no! As I said, the churches are to serve the people and let the people come to them if they feel they need some form of religious experience in their lives.
All the different religions get along just fine here because, as we see it, they are all about the same thing. They worship the same God and they are moving toward the same ultimate destination. The churches just have different names and different ways to achieve the same end result.
Personally, I am drawn to the Christian church. I like their people, I like the way they do things, and I like their message. It is a message that makes me feel good about myself. Our church is the greatest place in the world to meet people. There are lots of singles because marriage is considered old-fashioned and same sex relationships are accepted. My live-in boyfriend and I met at one of the mixers for singles at the church and we are planning to have a church wedding next spring. Hey, there are even lots of “grey hairs” among us!
I like the social activities and the way the churches build us up with the emphasis on personal success and how to get the most out of life. I find this kind of approach very edifying.
A little earlier in the article I mentioned extremism and our church is a good example of how that can be handled. We had a couple of incidents recently that our church leadership had to deal with.
One of them was an outside group that came into town and began telling people in our church that the Bible was the final authority for everything that relates to the Christian Church. In addition, this group proclaimed that Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, was not the center of our church at all! Well, you can imagine how that went over. The church leadership had to get involved and remove these people by force. In the process there were some pretty strong conversations about Jesus, the Bible and the place they used to have in the church. We are way beyond that kind of thinking now. We still keep the Bible and images of Jesus around but only to remind us of where we came from. I mean, really now, is the Bible, which was written at least two thousand years ago, relevant to us today? I mean — really?
And then there was another group that came and were “way out there” extreme. They started talking about prophecy! Lots of our people are really into prophecy like Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce and all that stuff, but these guys were discussing prophecies about this town. Apparently a portion of the book of Revelation has the name of our city in it. You can imagine how upset the leadership got when this group told us we needed to repent and get right with God. We sent that group packing in a hurry!
The name of our church is “The Door” and one of this prophecy group had the audacity to say, “Jesus wants to come and bless your lives. He is standing at ‘the door’ and knocking.” How weird is that?
Hey, in my rush to tell you all about our city, I just realized I forgot to tell you the name of our great town. It’s Laodicea, one very laid-back place to live!
Written by David Patterson. You can find more about him – HERE
You know, discouragement comes to all of us at one time or another. And when it does, the following words from Gary Wilkerson can serve as a reminder about what is truly important and what we think is important.
Be encouraged, as I was, when you read the following.
Discouragement can hinder but it can never halt God’s plan for victory. Gideon fought against 100,000 enemy soldiers with his band of 300 and won such a massive victory that only 15,000 of the enemy were left. After the victory some of his brethren asked him, “‘What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?’ And they accused him fiercely” (Judges 8:1).
The people of Gideon’s own nation questioned his leadership, his decisions, his motives and his actions. Some of our most disheartening, soul-wrenching struggles often are not out in the battlefield of life but are in the fellowship of believers. Sometimes our own brothers and sisters hurl accusations at us and seem to find much to complain about. We expect such things from our enemies but we can be caught off guard and surprised when one of our own brethren fiercely accuses us.
Gideon was not discouraged, distracted or diminished in his faith, however, when he was questioned— He stayed in the battle! I love what he did: “And he said to them, ‘What have I done in comparison with you?’” (8:2). Gideon was saying to his accusers, “What are my victories compared to yours?” Instead of getting upset and into a fight with them, Gideon did what Nehemiah had done when he was building the wall and his enemies said to him, “Come down here. We need to discuss what you are doing.” Nehemiah responded to his enemies, “I don’t have time to discuss what I’m doing; I’m too busy doing it” (see Nehemiah 6:1-9).
The Bible says that Gideon and his 300 men “. . . came to the Jordan and crossed over . . . exhausted yet pursuing” (Judges 8:4). Gideon chose to get back into warfare with the enemy. He crossed over to the other side of the river and got back into the battle God had called him to fight. When you live out the mission that God has called you to; when you are not discouraged and dissuaded by what others say about you; when it is your holy ambition to do what God has called you to do— that becomes your victory.
Stay focused on your battle, stay focused on your calling, and God will give you the victory!
In reading the 11th chapter of Proverbs, I was struck by two simple questions: One, who are the Righteous that the Proverbs speak about and two, how do you become one?
Let me explain.
Proverbs 11 is basically a summary of the contrast between the wicked and the righteous (whatever that means). It shows, like Psalm 1, how each responds differently to situations or circumstances or experiences, good and bad, that are common to man. And the lesson learned is the righteous win and the wicked lose. Big time.
But the one promise that keeps repeating itself over and over again in this Proverb is that the righteous will be “delivered” from trouble, destruction, death or whatever calamity the wicked plunge headlong into.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
But the wicked takes his place.
With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor,
But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.
Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished,
But the descendents of the righteous will be delivered. *
You know, there are some promises here that we would do well to hold on to. But they are conditional promises— made only to those who are righteous or blameless or upright in their integrity. Can we, in all honesty, claim these promises are for us today? Can we truly say that our righteousness and desire for holiness is as great as… say, the early church? How about Believers living during the time of the Great Awakening or during the revival movements of the last 150 years or so. Does our righteousness come close to that of the Spurgeon, Wesley, Finney or Edwards? How about our passion for the holiness of God? How do we compare to Watchman Nee or George Muller or Brother Andrew? How about our desire to see all men saved? Where do we rank in comparison to Hudson Taylor, William Carey or Gladys Aylward?
Can we look at the plight of Job and assume that, faced with the same horrific set of circumstances, we would hold on to our righteousness as he did? Would we, after the death of our children, the destruction of our security and the failure of our health, echo the words, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” *
Or would we crumble in despair, blaming and cursing God, shaking our fist at heaven, claiming that He failed to keep His promise to us— the promise of “Your Best Life Now!” Geez.
I don’t know.
But I do know that Jesus said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (the ones who later attributed Jesus’ miracles to Satan), you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” * Really? That’s sobering. Scary.
So what do we do? Where do we go from here? Because I’m sure that very few of us spend as much time trying to be as righteous as the Pharisees did? For most of us, it’s not even on our radar.
One last passage from Proverbs 11.
The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord,
But the blameless in their walk are His delight. *
Ah, that’s it. To be His delight.
Can you imagine? Can you wrap your mind around what it must feel like to know that you are the very delight of the Lord? That you are blameless in your walk with Him and others? How does that happen? How can someone become His delight? Or, the righteous? Or, as Jesus said, “the people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”? *
I think it begins with a conscious effort, a determined spirit, a fierce commitment to find out what pleases the Lord and then make it our single ambition in life to do it. Just Do It! Because in the great scheme of things and the brevity of life, what else matters than to please the One who created and saved us?
What? Fame? Money? Sex? Acceptance? Ease? Come on, compared with being the delight of the Lord— all the stuff the world offers is nothing more than chump change. Cheap shiny trinkets and pieces of cut glass. Nothing of real, lasting, eternal value.
After all, isn’t that what Paul said to the Corinthians?
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord- for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as (what) our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
Join with me, will all that is within us, to make it our ambition to please the Lord.
Adveho quis may. Come what may.
Will you join with me? Come what may.
Proverbs 11:4, 8-9, 21, 20; Job 1:21; Matthew 5:20; John 4:23; 2 Corinthians 5:6-9
I still get a big ol’ catch in my throat every time I watch Andrew Peterson’s video, Family Man. It is my story, indeed.
Thanks to my family for helping me become a Family Man.
As Bob Dylan once said, “The times, they are a-changin’.”
And they are changing at light speed for the church in America. Actually, they’ve already changed.
Let me elaborate.
For years, decades actually, we as the church have been pretty much satisfied with sitting on the sidelines with our hands stuck deep into our pocket so as to not soil them with the dirty things of the world— with sin, and sinners, and a culture that laughs at our God and at His Word. Now don’t get me wrong, our reluctance to engage the encroaching sin in our nation and in our neighborhoods has nothing to do with us living the supposed “sanctified” or “separated” life the Scriptures talk about. It has nothing to do with us quoting, like a worn-out excuse, our mantra of “friendship with the world being enmity, or hatred, toward God”— or something spiritual sounding like that. * As if living a holy life was a sincerely held belief among the church today. Please. Our separation is not a sign of our spiritually, but of our apathy and our fear.
We desperately believe that, if we leave them alone… maybe they’ll leave us alone.
Ya, think? Well, think again.
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