Remember Your First Love

The church of Ephesus was described by Jesus, in Revelation 2, as a church that had persevered through many hardships for His name’s sake.  Men with evil intentions had tried to derail this worshipping community time and time again.  Many of them had claimed to be apostles, yet every time the church of Ephesus was tested they withstood false teaching proving each one of these men to be false teachers.
It is clear from Jesus testimony about this church that they had received the gospel message with full conviction. They had been taught the word of God by teachers like the Apostle Paul, Priscilla and Aquila along with Timothy who had laid a solid foundation for them.  One can easily detect the level of maturity that had been developed in their faith through the testimony of Jesus found in Revelation 2:1-7.
So, what happened to this church? Morally, they seem to be on top of things.  They hated evil, they were good at recognizing truth and exposing false teaching.  It would be really hard to know what is false unless one already knew the truth.  If the truth was so prevalent in the life of this church, what went wrong?
Jesus said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.” (Rev. 2:4-5)  Is it possible for a church family to have truth, faith, and moral clarity along with the determination to hold to these convictions and still be seriously lacking in love?  Well, it happened to the church of Ephesus, and it still happens in some churches today.
1 Corinthians 13:2 states, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”  What would your life be like if you knew all mysteries, if you understood all knowledge and you held in your hand the shield of ultimate faith?  It sounds like the makings of a super hero, but if one has no love those things would amount to nothing.
Do you remember what it felt like the first time you fell in love? I remember!  It was such a wonderful feeling to love and to feel loved in return.  My dad told me he saw my mom for the first time while she was working in a grocery store and he told his friend, “I’m gonna marry that girl.” Love at first sight happens, but she did not love him until they spent time together.  Although, two weeks later he popped the question and she said, “Yes!”  It does not happen that fast for everyone, but for everyone it happens once they invest themselves in each other.
Somewhere along the way the people of the church of Ephesus got so caught up in maintaining the image of a Godly church that they lost the simple and precious ways of daily relationship building with Jesus.  A church that teaches truth and maintains high moral character eventually becomes ineffective without the love of God. The Love of God is the key ingredient that enables all gifts and talents to touch the hearts of others.
Marriages are often revitalized when couples begin to do many of the things they did when they first met.  Married couples need to continue dating, go on adventures together, take walks together, play together and talk to each other like we did when we first met.  We need those same daily times of refreshing with Jesus?  Love can be stirred, love can grow, love can spread to others, but most assuredly when we return to the deeds that created that love in the first place.
Pastor Jonathan

The Treasure of Wisdom

Colossians 2:3 states, “Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”  Jesus is the word incarnate, the author and finisher of our faith, the beginning of all created things and He will be the very end.  It is crucial for us to grab hold of this all important truth that the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Jesus.  Why are they hidden? Everybody loves a good treasure hunt if there really is a treasure to be found, and especially if the treasure is of enormous valve. I get tickled at those individuals who say, “I do not even start buying lottery tickets until the jackpot is over $200 million.”  As if anything less is just pocket change.
Proverbs 8:11 states, “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.” The wisdom of God is to be considered of more value than any earthly treasure one could hope to possess. The only way to truly know that this is true is to seek after this wisdom.  Proverbs 2:4-5 states, “If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.”
Many people spend their life’s energy seeking after the riches they think will satisfy, but the word of God reveals a way of expending our life’s energy that becomes a well of living water springing up from within us.  When we place our trust in Jesus we should begin to seek after Jesus to follow Him and learn from Him.  This seeking process is where we find that the treasures of wisdom and knowledge begin to spring up from within our heart becoming rivers of living water that satisfy our soul beyond that of any earthly treasure.
Pastor Jonathan

How did Jesus become the Anointed One?

Jesus is the Christ!  Christ means the anointed One, the Messiah.  So, the question then is this, “How did Jesus become the Anointed One?”  Truth is Jesus has always been the Anointed One, but there was an appointed time when Jesus was about thirty years of age where His earthly ministry would begin.   The Gospel of John tells how John baptized Jesus with water, and after that John saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus.  John had previously been told by God that the one upon whom he would see the Spirit descend and remain would be the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  (John 1:19-34)

Immediately after the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days.  Jesus, upon His return, went to the Synagogue on the Sabbath. He read a portion of scripture from the scroll of Isaiah.  ”THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.” Luke 4:18-19  Then He said, “Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

So, who anointed Jesus?  John the Baptist saw the heavens open up and Spirit of God descend upon Jesus, and then he heard a voice say, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” This pretty much answers the question, but let us not forget the prophetic scripture from Isaiah which states “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME…”

The next question is, “Why did God the Father anoint Jesus His Son with the Holy Spirit?”  Luke 4 states, “TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”   Consider how this coincides with John 3:16.

The most important reason God anointed Jesus was because of His great love for us.  God, through Jesus and His anointing, completely sets us free, transforms our lives, and brings us into full relationship with God.  God loves us so much! His desire is that no one would perish, but that all would come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)  This is why Jesus seeks today to pour His Spirit out upon all of us.

Remember what John the Baptist heard God say about Jesus.  “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” John 1:33 Jesus is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  He poured out this wonderful anointing on the day of Pentecost, and He is still doing it today.  We need only ask Him to anoint us with His Spirit so we too, like the believers in the book of Acts, can be used by Him as mighty witnesses to help more people discover the life changing power of the Gospel.

 

Pastor Jonathan

How Can the Best Time of the Year Be Our Worst?

God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

There is nothing better than a bright sunny day, especially when the temperature is anywhere between 60 – 85 degrees. A sunny day is so good for our mental health. We feel better on and sunny day and we have more strength as a result. All of these conditions result in greater productivity, and getting things done always improves our outlook on life.

Christmas Depression?

The Christmas season is thought to be one of the worst times of year for depression. One would think a season as lovely and meaningful as Christmas would be the happiest time of year. This is actually part of the problem. People feel worse because they know it is a meaningful time of year, and yet they cannot shake their anxiety and depression. The Christmas holidays can be difficult for a variety of reasons. The change associated with the loss of loved ones leaves a person feeling lost and uninspired. Financial woes can bring added pressure that make the holidays difficult to handle. The loss of employment, being displaced from family, broken relationships and living alone are just a few of the circumstances that complicate what should be an otherwise happy time.

We handle all of these difficult circumstances much better in the spring, summer and fall, but Christmas happens to fall during a time of year where the days are the shortest. Winter has begun, dreary weather sets in, and there is substantially less sunshine. We need the light. We feel better in the light of day. We handle everything better during the light of day. Everyone knows a cold or any kind of sickness or flu is worst at night. Why?

In Darkness Seek Light

All I know is this. God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. We can seek God morning, noon or evening. No matter what time of night, and no matter what time of year God is light, and desires to bring His light into our lives. Do not wait until the days are shortest to begin to dwell in His presence on a regular basis. Think of your heart as a bank where deposits are placed on account. Make daily deposits with prayer, praise, study, meditation and service so your heart will be overflowing with the light of God during the shortest and darkest days of the year. Christmas lights although beautiful may not bring joy to our hearts, but they serve as a reminder that God sent His Son into a dark world so Jesus could become the light of the world, and bring light into our lives.

 

Pastor Jonathan

What Path are We Following

Paul stated in the opening words of this letter he is writing to all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints. (Romans 1:7)  Then Paul writes, “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:15-16)  The word Greek is “Hellen” in the Greek language.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states the definition of “Hellen” as, “1. A Greek by nationality, whether a native of the main land or of the Greek islands or colonies. 2. In a wider sense the name embraces all nations not Jews that made the language, customs, and learning of the Greeks their own.”  Paul, by using the word Greek, seems to be suggesting that the Gospel he seeks to share is intended not only for the Jews but now for all of the Greek influenced nations. I would suggest, when Paul mentions “them” in Romans chapter one Paul is referring to cities, regions and nations who have followed the downward path of rejecting the one true God to follow after other gods, appetites and/or desires.

How God Dealt with Israel’s Disobedience

Consider for example how God often dealt with the nation of Israel throughout their long and storied history.  When individuals within the nation of Israel rejected God and chose to follow their own sinful ways God always allowed time for the nation to deal with its sins.  If the leaders refused to deal with their sin God took measures to correct the nation and its leaders, but if they did not heed correction, God took further measures until eventually judgement came through defeat and/or captivity.   Captivity would often lead to repentance and a return to God by a remnant.  Notice, when God turned the nation of Israel over to captivity even the faithful suffered captivity along with the rest of the nation.

Eventually, the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms and God dealt with them accordingly.  Israel, being the name of the northern kingdom, eventually was carried off into captivity for the last time while the southern kingdom called Jerusalem lingered a while longer but both endured the same fate.  Why did this happen?  God gave them up to their uncleanness as they chose through the lust of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves.  Did all of the people live in ungodliness? Certainly not, but the entire nation experienced the slow but eventual downfall.

Has America been given up to uncleanness? 

God is long suffering and abundant in mercy, but Psalm 103:8-10 indicates He will not always strive with us.  Our system of government does not demand righteousness of its people.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon the people of God to pray for revival and be proactive concerning our witness of Jesus Who can heal every broken heart and set the captive free.

Pastor Jonathan