Four Things to do When We Fall…

Ephesians 6:13–“Wherefore, take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, TO STAND.”

The biblical ideal is to be able to resist temptation and STAND. That is…come out victorious. To NOT give in to Satan and his tactics. To not fall. To not ruin one’s testimony. That’s what we preach most often, and rightly so. We don’t want to fall into sin and potentially ruin our lives. But we also need to look at, what do we do WHEN we DON’T stand. It’s not the desired outcome, but it’s going to happen. So we must know what to do in the unwanted event we give in to the devil.

The first thing we need to realize is that when we fall, we will experience a flood of emotions. When Peter denied Christ, Luke 22:62 simply states that he went out and “wept bitterly.” We may experience sadness, like Peter, or even other emotions like self-loathing, anger, and disappointment in ourselves. This may be due to the fact that we realize we didn’t do all we could to stand. We may not have fought as hard as we should have. We may also feel emotions of worthlessness and unworthiness, as experienced by the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:21 who felt he was no longer worthy to be called his father’s son.

Secondly, and this is probably the hardest to go through, is the process of self-revelation. It is VERY hard because if we’re honest with ourselves, God may reveal some things about us that are ugly. When we see our self as we truly are and not who we THINK we are or who we WANT to be, it will be uncomfortable. Our ugliness is very revealing. That’s what is so uncomfortable. Self-revelation sheds light on our deficiencies. God certainly will show us by seeing ourselves against the standard of His Word (James 1:22-25). David suggests we partake of self-examination willingly and frequently (Psalm 139:23-24). Lastly, we need to evaluate how well we are armored (Ephesians 6:14-17) and do we have any weak areas that leave us vulnerable to Satan’s weapons, such as the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1-John 2:16).

Third, once we get over the flood of emotions, and after we have done a thorough and honest self-evaluation, we may want to see if there were any warning signs we missed. Before Peter denied Christ, there were warning signs to his upcoming fall. In Matthew 15:30, Peter was afraid of dying in the storm at sea. In verse 31, Jesus warns him he had little faith. In Matthew 26:40, we see Peter was carnal and fell asleep instead of praying. Jesus warned him in verse 41 that he was ripe for falling into temptation. We are witness to Peter’s impulsiveness when he cut off the ear of Malchus (John 18:10). Jesus warned Peter that he was quick to act without thinking things through (Matthew 26:52). All these warnings by Jesus didn’t help Peter, because more than likely Peter was too focused on himself to listen to Jesus. How about us? Is God warning us about our weaknesses and tendencies? Are we listening?

Finally, the most important point to remember when we fall is that it doesn’t have to end badly for us. If we look at Peter again, we can see that Satan thought he could destroy Peter (Luke 22:31), but Christ had other plans for Peter. But Peter needed to be broken before he could be used. In Luke 22:32, Jesus said to Peter, “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and WHEN thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” God allowed Peter to fall for his own good. See, prideful, impulsive, faithless Peter could have never preached the way he needed to in Acts Two and Acts Four when thousands were saved. How about us? Have we fallen? Maybe God is using for good what the devil meant for evil (Genesis 50:20) to prepare us to be used by Him to accomplish great and mighty things.

So when we fall, we need to rise up and keep moving forward (Proverbs 24:16). There is restoration and more work to be done. And looking at others who have failed, we’re in good company: Adam and Eve, King David, the Prodigal Son, Peter, and yes, even US if we manage our emotions, do honest self-examination, learn from our past failures, what led up to them, and determine to stand up and come out on top.

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What to Focus on in 2020…

There are so many options available to us with respect to improving our lives in 2020. We can look to many worthwhile pursuits, and not be wrong in engaging in them in the hopes of making our lives better than what we experienced in 2019. We probably all want (on some level) health, safety, prosperity, etc. The unregenerate world wants and pursues those things too. What should Christians focus on in 2020? I’m glad you asked…

There’s nothing more important to God than evangelism. God commissioned us to preach the gospel and make disciples, with the intent that these disciples will, in turn, evangelize and make disciples…and so the story will go on and on in perpetuity. Well in Acts 2:47, the statement is made, “…and the Lord added to the church DAILY such as should be saved.” As Christians, we should strive to be a part of that. But BEFORE people were being saved, the Christians were DAILY preparing themselves to be used of God in evangelism.

What the early Christians did to prepare themselves for being used of God for evangelism is found in Acts 2:42: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” That occurrence was relayed to us a few verses later in Acts 2:46: “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” The temple was the centerpiece of worship, so that implies the four disciplines were being done still on a DAILY basis.

Is our heart right toward evangelism? Is God able to use us? Do we even avail ourselves to God in the work of evangelism in some way? If the answer to those questions is “Not really,” you may just need to evaluate how you’re doing in each of the four disciplines of the Christian walk as clearly outlined in Acts 2:42: doctrine, fellowship, confession of sins, and prayer. The Bible gives us the standard against which we are to check ourselves. Let’s take a very cursory look at these four pillars of the Christian’s walk.

DOCTRINE: Today, we have the complete canonized Word of God. The biblical prescription for spending time in His Word is found in Psalm 1:1-2, where the man who is described as a “blessed” man is in God’s Word TWICE daily (day and night). The Bible is our instruction book, and obedience brings blessings. How can we be blessed for doing the right things, if we don’t know what those things are? And a blessed life will stand out to the unsaved world, and may just open a door to evangelize when asked why we get “all the breaks.” Plus, reading God’s Word will help us to see just how important evangelism is to God, thus spurring us on to obedience in that area of Christian service.

FELLOWSHIP: True fellowship can only be had between likeminded Christians who are saved, have that assurance of salvation, and are going through the process of sanctification. The unregenerate world is not spiritually minded. In Hebrews 10:22-25, the Bible mentions several aspects of fellowship. WE can draw near to God, WE have been saved, and WE are being sanctified (vs 22). WE have the ability to profess Christ without question (vs 23). WE can spur one another on to do good (vs 24). WE can urge one another to grow together corporately as a body by not neglecting the assembling of ourselves (vs 25). These elements of fellowship are lacking in our friendships with our unsaved friends. Light can not have fellowship with darkness. Fellowshipping with believers will build us up and make us stronger (iron sharpening iron). Spending too much time with the unsaved world in fleshly pursuits will bring us down (1st Corinthians 15:33).

BREAKING OF BREAD: This is known to be the act of confession of sins. At the Lord’s Table, we take time to confess our sins and develop a clear conscience before God. This also is done DAILY. In Matt 6:12, Jesus instructs us to ask for forgiveness DAILY. Another time to confess your sins is when the Lord is dealing with us to confess them. If we harbor sin in our lives, we will be less than able to do any work for God. We will feel miserable under the heavy hand of God as David experienced in Psalm 32. And if we don’t confess our sins, and continue in them, God is under NO obligation to hear your prayers (Isaiah 59:2; Psalm 66:18).

PRAYER: Again, prayer is seen as a DAILY occurrence. The psalmist described his prayer life to be THREE times daily…evening, morning, and noon (Psalm 55:17). In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs us to pray DAILY as some of what He wants us to ask for are specifically said to be asked for (prayed for) on a DAILY basis…like our daily bread…spiritual sustenance as well as physical. And praying is not an option for the Christian, but rather an expectation. In Matthew 6:5-7, the phrase “WHEN ye pray” is used. It’s not IF ye pray, but rather, WHEN ye pray.

So how does doing these four tenets of the Christian walk relate to more evangelism and more people being saved and added to the church daily? Again…glad you asked.

When we read God’s Word, we learn about our part in the “Great Commission” in Matthew 28. We read about what happens to the unsaved in Revelation 20:15, that they are cast into the lake of fire. This should move us to want to do something. We find help and motivation from fellowshipping with likeminded people who will support us, encourage us, help us, and labor with us toward that end. But this war is fought in the spiritual realm, and strongholds are taken away through prayer and fasting. But if we want God to hear our prayers, we MUST confess and forsake our sins.

If we don’t read God’s Word, we won’t be moved. If we don’t fellowship, we’ll grow weak spiritually. If we don’t confess our sins, we won’t feel like doing anything for God while His heavy hand of chastening is upon us. And even when we pray, if sin is not dealt with, God may just not hear our prayers. We lose out, and those we should be helping will lose out.

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Despising God’s Word? Skip Church!

In 2nd Chronicles 36:16, Israel “despised” the words of the God’s messengers, whom they “mocked.” They thought little of, took little thought for, and otherwise diminished the importance of God’s Word in their lives. The Israelite nation in Nehemiah Chapter Eight did anything but despise God’s Word. Let’s look specifically at one of the ways they proved not to despise God’s Word.

Nehemiah 8:1…“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate…”  Here we see that they gathered together. We notice later on that the reason they gathered together was for the purpose of hearing Ezra read God’s Word “And they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel.”

The central component of gathering to worship on the Lord’s Day is to hear the Word of God preached. It would be very odd to come to church on a Sunday morning and sing some hymns, listen to praises, hear people give testimonies, receive an offering and then have the pastor close in prayer and dismiss everyone without ever having the Word of God opened and taught. That would be very odd indeed.

Acts 2:1 shows everyone being in one place and in one accord. There they received the Holy Spirit. They may have sung (though its not recorded in Acts Chapter Two) but they definitely preached. So much so that the Spirit of God moved in the hearts of the hearers to the tune of three thousand souls. That was accomplished, in part, because of the preaching of God’s Word as Peter referenced such books as Psalms, Joel, and Isaiah.

Romans 10:17 says that “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” It’s expected that people need to hear the Word of God preached in order to be saved. One place that should always have an occasion for the teaching and preaching of God’s Word is in a Bible believing church. The Apostle Paul even alluded to having two but no more than three messages at any given church service.

Today, many churches have one watered down thirty minute sermonette, with no Sunday evening service anymore. The less services a church has, the less opportunities to teach and preach God’s Word. It’s one thing for Christians to skip out on church and prove to others that the teaching and preaching of the Bible is of little significance to them. It’s quite another sad commentary when churches themselves under the leadership of their pastor decide to forego a Sunday evening (or at least a second message in an extended service as some churches practice). This speaks volumes to their congregations about how important (or not) the teaching and preaching of the Bible is.

If there is an opportunity to hear God’s Word in your local New Testament church, you ought to be there, and for good reason too. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”  God’s Word will strengthen us and prepare us for the coming days when evil will permeate almost every aspect of society. To learn how to keep ourselves unspotted from this world will require us to learn God’s Word (2nd Timothy 2:15) and apply what we learn (James 1:22-26). Sadly many Christians don’t read their Bible for one reason or another, so skipping out on church, when that is probably the only time and place they will have an opportunity to learn God’s Word shows a position of thinking too little of God’s Word to make sure one gets to church, where the Bible is taught.

Folks display a despising of God’s Word when contrasted to how those same people treat football games, family outings, and other such lesser important things. To these people, the Bible can take a back seat to the aforementioned activities, and if it’s raining and the beach trip is cancelled, then MAYBE they’ll go to church. Again, the central component to gathering to worship is for the preaching of God’s Word to equip us with truths we will need to apply in this lifetime to be serious minded disciples of Christ who actually can make a difference for God in this present dark world. It’s my contention that no serious minded disciple of Christ will despise God’s Word, and likewise, anyone who does despise God’s Word is not likely a serious minded disciple of Christ.

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Do We Despise God’s Word?

The biblical definition of despise is not the way we define the word despise. We often use the word despise in a way synonymous with the word hate, or detest. And you know what? That’s just the way the devil wants us to define and use that word. Because no serious minded Christian would say, “I hate (despise) God’s Word.” Yet in the biblical definition, we have probably all been guilty of despising God’s Word in one way or another…and here’s why…

The word despise in the Bible means to “make little of,” or “to minimize,” or “to take no thought for.” This is what it meant in Hebrews 12:2 when it is spoken of Christ that “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, DESPISING the shame...” This means that compared to the joy that Christ would enjoy by dying for our sins, He took little thought of the shame He was subjected to during His earthly ministry and subsequent crucifixion. The shame He felt paled in comparison for what He gained in the end.

So get this down…to despise means to lower something in comparison to anything else you feel is far more worth it in the end. Christ’s atonement allowing billions the opportunity to be saved was far more worth it in the end for Christ than the shame He endured…therefore He was said to have DESPISED the shame. He “made little of it.” He “minimized it” comparatively speaking. He “took no thought for it” but kept His eyes focused on what was more important.

In 2nd Chronicles 36:16, after a succession of terrible kings who “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord,” it was said of Israel: “But they mocked the messengers of God, and DESPISED His words, and misused the prophets…” So, at the very least, we have to agree, and go from the premise that it is well within the realm of possibility that God’s people can indeed “make little of,” “minimize,” and “take no thought for” God’s Word.

In Nehemiah chapter eight we find a people who have had a drought of the preaching and hearing of God’s Word. That is until they had enough and called for Ezra the prophet to read the Word of God. Chapter eight is a good study to see the opposite of despise as Israel in this account did anything but despise God’s Word.

In just the first eleven verses, we find truths regarding God’s Word and what it looks like when a people DON’T despise His Word. Over the next several postings, I will take each of the eleven lessons to be learned and expound on them. To do it all in one posting would be much too voluminous. I wouldn’t be able to give each point the attention it deserves, save for expounding on each one in an individual lesson.

But one thing is for sure, God will not be mocked. In Nehemiah 8:17, after NOT despising, minimizing, making little of, or taking no thought nor God’s Word, they applied what they were taught by Ezra and “There was very great gladness.” Contrast that statement with 2nd Chronicles 36:16 where we are told Israel DESPISED God’s Word and “…the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy.”

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Why Dating Will Lead to “Eating Peas!”

This one’s mainly for the teens and young adults, but maybe for some of the older single adults as well…you never know.  This world can be a lousy place to live.  It can be especially lousy to live life without that special someone in your life.  You sit on a hillside over looking the city below as fireworks light up the Fourth of July night sky.  The crowd oooohs and aaaaahs over the phenomenal display of pyrotechnic pageantry.  You well up inside with so much emotion that you are about to burst.  You turn to your special someone and…UGH!!!  You don’t have a special someone in your life.  That fantasy I just described has come to an all too familiar screeching halt.  You’re alone and
you don’t like it.
So what do you do?  Well, if you’re a well meaning Christian you’ll pray to God to send you someone and then look at EVERY member of the opposite gender around you as THE ONE God created for you.  Am I wrong?  They don’t even need to be saved.  You can have an attraction for that boy in algebra class, and because of that strong attraction that just has to be divinely placed in your heart, you’re convinced all you need to do is lead this boy to the Lord and begin setting a date.  Why do we do that?  I too did that while I was in high school.
But there are so many problems that are borne through casual dating, even if it’s dating with the intention of becoming “exclusive” and eventually engaged and married.  Some cultures have arranged marriages, even today.  Many centuries ago the world witnessed the first arranged marriage.  Long ago, God created a mate for Adam, and her name was Eve.  Adam had those same unmet desires as you have sitting alone on the Fourth of July, and yes, he went to God and prayed, and he was given the one God had prepared for him.
Just think about Mary and Joseph and what the Lord knew was going to happen once Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  God foreknew the problems facing that young betrothed couple.  He knew Mary would be in a position to be ostracized by her family and society at the mere mention of her pregnancy as soon as the words were uttered by Joseph.  But God knew the character He had created in Joseph.  Joseph was a just man (Matthew 1:19).  He didn’t fly off the handle and rush to condemn Mary.  His demeanor allowed God time to send an angel to Joseph to straighten out the matter.  What would have happened if Mary dated several men and settled on anyone other that Joseph?  We’ll never know, because Mary and Joseph were put together by the divine work of God.  I believe that to be the inference, though the Bible doesn’t actually spell it out with a chapter and verse reference.
Well, actually, there is a chapter and verse that strongly suggests God is the one to put the right two people together divinely, without any assistance from us other than to be open to His guidance.  “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).  That verse does not imply that when we FINALLY find a spouse after years of searching and countless dates with the “wrong” ones, that we can claim to have been blessed by the Lord.  No!  On the contrary.  That verse implies that we have done nothing to “find” our spouse.
In the original languages, that verse implies that we “stumbled upon” our mate.  The word “findeth” in this case is analogous to stumbling over something of value.  Imagine walking down the street and getting hungry.  Boy you could go for some food right now, but alas, you’re wallet is empty.  As you turn the corner, you happen across a twenty dollar bill on the ground.  You weren’t walking around town looking for money, but rather God blessed you with divinely placed money.  That’s the spirit of Proverbs 18:22.  We are not to be searching high and low for our future spouses.  We should wait until we happen upon them at God’s appointed time.
And not doing things God’s way is always loaded with peril.  There are many problems with “dating.”  For example, in high school, I was absolutely infatuated with new relationships.  I enjoyed the novelty of a new relationship.  I wasn’t planning on marrying anyone I dated in high school, so as I look back on it now, what was the problem.  Here’s the big problem…the more you date, the more you set yourself up for future failure.  You will, if you’re not careful and exercise good wisdom, fail.  Fail how?  Fail by marrying the wrong person for the wrong reasons.  I believe that dating creates huge potentials for failure.
Let’s say you get your first serious relationship and the emotional intimacy and friendship is out of this world.  That’s great!  I’m happy for you.  Now you’re in trouble.  Because now that you have a taste for what an exclusive relationship can bring you emotionally, you will always crave and desire that.  Now if you’re one of the few that marries their high school sweetheart, that’s good.  For the rest of those people who do not, there is a void where that intimacy once was.  Now you have no one to share those special moments with next Fourth of July.  You now know what you’re missing out on…BUT…had you not dated when you shouldn’t have, you wouldn’t know what you were missing and you’d probably be content.
Imagine that you have just eaten a full meal in a restaurant.  Now suppose it’s an hour later and someone offers you a can of peas.  Peas are the most vile food on the planet.  Would you eat those peas?  Of course not!  Now it’s dinner time, and you’re hungry again.  You have the option of any restaurant in town to eat at.  Again, after dinner, I offer you a can of peas, and you politely decline.  After all, your belly is full with a good meal.  Now, you lose your job.  You have no money.  You can’t afford to eat out like you would like to.  You can’t even afford groceries after a while.  Now, you’re starving and can’t go another day without eating.  Now I show up again with that same can of peas you kept turning down.  Only now, guess what!  You eat those peas!  Why?  Because you’re hungry and desperate and will take anything to satisfy that hunger.
It’s the same with dating.  You experience the pleasures of emotionally intimate relationships.  You have come to rely on those for fulfillment.  Then, after a breakup, the needs are still there but now there is no one able to fulfill those needs.  The more you date to satisfy those needs, the more and more you will crave that fulfillment.  The only problem with that is that the longer you go without any prospect of finding that person to satisfy your longing for exclusivity and emotional intimacy, you will begin getting desperate until the devil tempts you with that “can of peas.”  That “can of peas,” though not to your liking, will serve its purpose.
That “can of peas” is a terrible substitute for the one God has planned for you.  But you know what?  You don’t see it because your too busy looking at them through rose colored glasses.  You’re needs are met.  You’re no longer hungry.  The fact that my hunger headache dissipates helps me to ignore the bad taste the peas leave with me.  So too will you look past the blatant flaws in that person’s character that makes them not suited for you at all.  Remember the story of Mary and Joseph.  What if Mary had been a serial dater and settled on someone who didn’t have the character Joseph had.
Now, the only thing worse than serial dating, is serial dating and fornicating at the same time.  Sex will only take the rose colored glasses and exchange them for blinders.  You will not be rational in evaluating these people as potential mates.  It’s kind of hard to focus on their spiritual life when you’re doing other things at the same time.  Not only that, but can you imagine how much more hungry you will be after a relationship has terminated if sex was involved.  That’s why sex is reserved for a married couple who are committed to each other for the rest of their lives, because it’s so powerful and is designed to keep each seeking after the other, ideally never to face that hunger again.  Again, Mary and Joseph weren’t involved sexually until after they were married (Matthew 1:18, 25).
You not only owe it to God to have Him play matchmaker, and you not only owe it to the one God has prepared for you, but you also owe it to yourself to avoid the pitfalls of the dating game.  If you play the game by the world’s rules, it will lead to failure.  If you play the game by God’s rule (Proverbs 18:22) you will win, but you may have to get out of the game you’re in right now.  Are you in a committed relationship that is designed by God and you both are honoring Him in you relationship?  If you are, that’s great!  If you’re in a committed relationship that is not sanctioned by God you’ll need to get out.  If that’s you, fear not!  Next week I’ll give advice on getting out and staying out of the world’s dating game.
There’s much to lose.  Wouldn’t you rather have a God-ordained never-ending lifetime supply of sweet tasting cranberry sauce (my favorite) rather than making the best of it with the never-ending lifetime supply of a bitter “can of peas” (blech)?  The two don’t compare.

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How to Keep Enjoying Your Marriage

I’ve heard it said many times from our pulpit at church: “A marriage is supposed to be enjoyed rather than endured.” Well that makes sense considering you enjoy things you like and endure things you don’t like. I enjoy my time at a hockey game. I endure my time spent at the garage getting my oil changed. There’s a whole lot of excitement for me at a hockey game, while there is absolutely nothing stimulating at all about getting my oil changed. I look forward to hockey games but not oil changes. That just makes sense…we enjoy the things we like…we endure the things we don’t like.
Maybe it was my naivety, or maybe it was my general optimistic sense of hope, but I just figured everyone enjoyed their marriage. It seems like a concept that is not far fetched at all. Couples with anniversaries of 10-20-30+ years showed commitment and longevity. They must be happy. They must be enjoying their marriage. After all, they are still together and haven’t divorced each other. I quickly found out that my optimistic sense of hope masked my ignorance on the matter of staying together all the while enduring a marriage and not enjoying it.
Why is that? I mean, I’m not talking about the Hollywood couples who get married for celebrity reasons. I’m not talking about power couples who get married to advance their standing in their social circles. I’m not talking about couples who met at a party in Vegas, got drunk, and got married at a drive-thru chapel. Those marriages with auspicious starts came about through a decision to use marriage as a means to an end, and very little thought was put into the marriage itself as a living, breathing entity.
What I am talking about are the marriages that are entered into in the more traditional way. Two people meet. Two people “fall in love.” Two people court each other and get to know each other and learn to relate to each other. Two people have enjoyed the time spent with each other during the courtship so much that at some point they get engaged and eventually marry. That’s the couple I’m talking about. That’s the couple that sadly can go from enjoying their marriage to enduring their marriage. Why? The reason is simple…marriage goes from easy to hard very quickly and then it requires work…and work is not as much fun as ease.
I have a dog and a cat. I’ve always wanted pets growing up, but the closest my parents ever got was maintaining a fish tank. Well, fish aren’t pets. They’re more like moving decorations than pets. If you take one out of the tank to play with it, it will die. So as an adult, I was determined to get a pet and (dare I say) enjoy my pet. Most pet merchants will warn you that having a pet requires a big commitment. In my mind, I was only looking at the fun stuff about owning a pet. Going for walks. Playing in the park. Showing her off to my friends and family. Of course I was told, and knew intellectually, that owning a pet was going to come with responsibility, and work, and I was going to have to accept that to keep my pet alive so that I could enjoy my pet. The enjoyment of the pet is actually the reward you get for all the hard work you have to endure.
If you neglect your pet…it will get lonely. If you don’t feed your pet, it will become weak and feeble. If you don’t water your pet, it will become parched and wither. Eventually, you won’t get the same enjoyment out of your pet as you once did for the simple reason that your pet CAN’T bring you that enjoyment anymore because it’s either dead, or near dead. Beautiful plants are the same way. If one doesn’t protect the plant from the elements, water it, feed it, prune it, and otherwise take care of it, it’s going to die, or be in such a state that you don’t admire that plant the way you once did. Well guess whose fault it is? The plant is dependent on you and your pet is dependent on you.
Your marriage is a living, breathing entity of two fleshes transformed into one flesh (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31; Mark 10:8). We have to agree that if one human being is living and if the other human being is living, when the two human beings are married and become one flesh, then that one entity has to be living also. So in order for living things to stay alive, they need to be protected, fed, watered, and nurtured…else they won’t grow and eventually die. So shall it forever be with your marriage. You HAVE to endure the work necessary to keep the marriage alive so it can be enjoyed by the both of you. Hence why I say you have to endure to enjoy. You have to do the things you don’t like to do so that you can enjoy the things you like in your marriage.
Why are newlyweds so characteristically happy? The reason is because they are living in a fantasy world for a little while after being married. They’re in a utopia relationship. Each spouse is perfect and without fault, and anything that could be remotely considered a flaw is “cute.” They move in together and the novelty of “playing house” for real is awesome. Now they add the element of sexual intimacy to their relationship. So much is going on that is new and fresh and fun and exciting and enjoyable and on and on and on… It’s been termed by people as “Young Love.” Remember that, because we’ll revisit that term in a moment. But these two young lovers are just so enamored with each other that they are unwittingly heaping loads of nourishment and nurturance into the relationship. Their marriage consists of the two of them and they are focused wholly and solely on each other.
At this point, that new marriage is a beautiful, vibrant, strong, and healthy flower firmly rooted in moist, nutrient rich, perfectly cultivated soil. Oh it’s a thing to behold. Oh the beauty that is enjoyed. But even if you water the flower and feed it, there is a threat that still comes in that you need to control…weeds. People misunderstand weeds. There is no such plant called a weed. Every plant has a name and was created by God. It’s just that sometimes they grow where we don’t want them to, or they grow too much, and we call them weeds. These weeds can choke a flower and steal from the flower what is vital for the flower to survive.
I would classify weeds as external factors that can affect the marriage. Jobs/careers are one of them, especially when they are not going well or take one or both of the spouses away from each other, thereby not allowing them to cultivate and nurture the marriage. A career that takes a spouse’s priority away from a marriage is a weed. Finances can be another weed if uncontrolled spending turns into debt. That debt, in order to be eliminated, requires more cash flow which will require a second job, or overtime hours worked…stealing precious focus on cultivating the marriage. Something that goes along with the finances and debt is desiring and maintaining a certain lifestyle (cars, house, country club membership, etc)…they all can lead to debt. More time and energy will be spent keeping the “nice things” rather than keeping the marriage the main focus. So those are weeds…things that are in this world…and are neutral…but given the wrong amount of them, can become bad for the marriage and begin to choke it.
Another danger to plants are sucker branches. These are part of the plant itself and must be controlled in order to get the best yield. Tomato plants are an example of a plant that has sucker branches. These branches don’t produce fruit, but rather take valuable energy and nutrients from the plant as the plant tries desperately to be what it should be. These are children. Children come directly from within the marriage itself. These are not external weeds choking a flower. Children are extensions of the marriage itself that can take precious attention away from the marriage. However, sucker branches aren’t all bad to the plant, as they have leaves and do provide some nutrients to the plant. So too do children add to the marriage, but they can also suck the life right out of it by the very nature of the time they require.
So consider this scenario that is repeated all too often in families. Dad is working and gone out of the house 10 or more hours a day, figuring in commute. A new mom, or a stay at home mom with several children dresses them, bathes them, feeds them, watches over them to keep them safe, cleans the house, does laundry, and whatever light housekeeping needs to be done. She never stops. But the dad works hard all day, so when he gets home, he wants to relax. Now the wife has a husband to tend to, and of course, if the husband wants to do “married people things” later, a wife can soon look at even that as something else on her list of things to do. Multiply that times many years and add to that the stress of children’s health scares, school experiences, driving, dating, puberty, etc and you can see how the marriage itself is threatened by weeds and sucker branches.
Think about an abandoned mansion in the Hollywood Hills that is showing signs of years of neglect. You could barely even notice it through the dense overgrowth that covers the stairs. The first thing that needs to be done is to clear away what needs to be cleared away to be able to assess the damage. Then, once you see the damage, you go to work on the most important element, like is the foundation damaged or is the foundation solid, or are the walls ready to fall down because they aren’t as strong as they once were and can’t support the weight anymore. People who never owned that house can sometimes see the potential in restoring it, but if you’re the owner, you already KNOW the former glory of that house.
Your marriage is similar to that abandoned run down neglected Hollywood Hills mansion. It is still there in its original form, with the potential to return back to its former glory, but it’s going to take work. So the question now is…are you willing to clear away stuff that is overrunning the marriage? Are you willing to endure the work necessary to enjoy the marriage once again? The marriage, like the neglected house, is still the same as it was decades ago…it just needs your attention again. It hasn’t changed since your marriage was labeled “Young Love.”
And speaking of “Young Love…” Proverbs 5:18 tells us to rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Simply explained, it’s like this. Regardless of how long you have been married, one should be able to find joy in their spouse as they once did when they were younger and first married. This strengthens my argument that the marital relationship really doesn’t change, but rather gets neglected because the Bible hints at the notion that we can still find the spouse of our youth at any age.
Ecclesiastes 9:9 tells us to enjoy the marital relationship to its fullest all the days of your life. So it’s possible to love someone at least the same…maybe even more as time passes. And since the Bible again makes it clear our love can last throughout the years, it’s possible to still see and find in your old spouse what once was there in the beginning during the early days of “Young Love.”
So if there are “issues” with the marriage, it’s probably a simple case of the marriage having been neglected. It has become overgrown with weeds and sucker branches. You need to endure some work in order that you might enjoy the marriage. Like that abandoned and neglected Hollywood Hills mansion, your marriage has lost its luster, and is unappealing, but the potential exists to get it back to its former glory. Again, endure the work to enjoy the marriage. And once you get it back…maintain it! Make the upkeep a priority. A living, breathing entity needs to constantly and consistently be fed, watered, nurtured, etc…and again, according to Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:31; and Mark 10:8 your marriage is alive…keep it that way.

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The Selfish Laodecian Church

The church at Philadelphia was giving church bent toward ministry to others:
1. They had a little strength, but willingly offered themselves.
2. They were open to and relied on God’s wisdom to make the best use of what little they had to offer.
3. They put others first.
4. They ministered as God led them, even in the face of opposition and naysayers.
These were probably the biblical principals they lived by:
1. Dying daily (1st Corinthians 15:31)
2. Living for the One who saved them (2nd Corinthians 5:15)
Unlike the Church at Ephesus, the Church at Philadelphia had not left their first love…which was people…
Philadelphia had it right:

1. They loved people enough to give of themselves
2. They ministered to people by putting them first
3. They sought God’s will in ministering most effectively
4. They didn’t quit
The Church at Laodecia was a selfish church that manifested its selfishness in at least three specific ways that we’ll see in a moment.
There was NO ministry. There was NO thought of others. There was NO consultation with God. There was NO sacrifice. There was NO love of others. There was NO concern for others.
Revelation 3:14-21:
A. The Church at Laodecia was a “lukewarm” church, “neither hot nor cold.” (verse 15)
1. May have been hypocritical in their outward lives
2. May have been inconsistent in their daily walk
3. May not have been fully committed to God or the world
4. Unlike the Church at Philadelphia, they didn’t want to sacrifice, be put out, or face difficult situations.
5. They we very willing to turn from satisfying God one minute to focus on satisfying the world the next.
6. On fire for God one moment and cold and indifferent toward the things of God the next.
7. This characterizes the self-preserving, self-serving Christian…which characterized the entire church. They elevated themselves and their well being above God.

B. They told the Lord, “We are rich…materially…we are all set.” (verse 17)
1. The church at Laodecia was indeed a very wealthy church.
2. In or around 60AD, an earthquake devastated the churches at Laodecia and Colassae.
3. Laodecia was able to rebuild itself on what they had amassed without any help from the governing Roman Empire at the time.
4. They probably had lots of nice things in their church being part of such a wealthy community.
5. Their members probably had the means to have lots of toys.
6. There was probably an emphasis on lifestyle and leisure among this wealthy church…they were.
7. Their focus was likely on the here and now.
8. This church was a self-sufficient, self-gratifying, self-supportive church. They did not need God.

C. God said to the church, “Knowest not…?” (verse 17)
1. Wretched—people feel sorry for wretched people. One would NOT want to be wretched.
2. Miserable—people who are miserable are sad and pathetic in their appearance and attitude and the way they carry themselves.
3. Poor—these people lack essential needs. They don’t have the necessary means to provide for those essential needs.
4. Blind—anyone who is blind is either lacking vision, or has NO vision at all if they are completely blind.
5. Naked—in one sense, being naked means one is completely vulnerable. In another sense, being naked is a metaphor for the fact that one has no shame.
6. This indicates to us that the church at Laodecia was a church that did their own self-assessment. They did not see what God saw.

As individuals, how do we measure up to the church at Laodecia?

1. Do we conduct our lives to serve God on a case by case basis ONLY when it’s convenient for us and won’t cause us any undue hardships?
2. Do we live our lives as though we are all set where we are with what we have and thereby live our lives needing nothing from God and having no need to rely on Him for anything?
3. Are we truly unaware of our present state? Do we dare look at the Bible and assess our lives against God’s standards or do we do our own self-assessment to make ourselves look better than we really are?
The church at Philadelphia was a loving and giving and self-sacrificing church.
The church at Laodecia was a selfish, self-serving, self-preserving, self-sufficient, self-satisfying, self-gratifying, self-supportive, self-assessing church.
As a member, how are you helping to define your church?

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