The Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. The sea is called “dead” because its high salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organisms, such as fish and aquatic plants, from living in it, though minuscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi are present. Just north of the Dead Sea is Jericho. Somewhere, perhaps on the southeast shore, would be the cities mentioned in the book of Genesis which were said to have been destroyed in the time of Abraham: Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 19) and the three other “Cities of the Plain”-Admah, Zeboim and Zoar (Deuteronomy 29:23) Zoar escaped from destruction when Abraham’s nephew Lot escaped to Zoar from Sodom (Genesis 19: 21-26) And, interesting fact I found among the ones mentioned above was that before the destruction, the Dead Sea was a valley full of natural tar pits, which was called the Vale of Siddim. King David was said to have hidden from Saul at Ein Gedi nearby.
This past week has been an emotional week mentally, physically and spiritually. I have questioned everything from my parenting skills to my spiritual growth or lack of it, my devotion to Christ and my own job abilities. I’m not depressed by any means, just beaten down little by little. I have prayed for God to get me through it all and he has because I am here. I keep my focus on him so I thought until today’s sermon. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t focus on him daily because I do. I carry on mini conversations with him throughout the day. In the mornings after dropping the twins off at daycare one of my favorite things to do is listen to either last week’s sermon on 9-11 or listen to one of my CD’s that has traditional Hymns and singing along with the singer while on my way to Starbucks for coffee before heading to work. Sometimes while I’m getting ready in the morning instead of my to do list playing over and over in my head, I hear one of my favorite hymns playing over and over in my head which is a lot more soothing. The focus that I’m talking about is a more intimate knowledge of Christ which turns into an intimate relationship with the one who paid the price for our sins before we even knew him, Christ. From the knowledge of Christ, to our intimate relationship with Christ shapes us into being more Christ like. For a while I didn’t understand what it meant to be Christ like but it clicked finally with what the preacher said today along with a few in your face realizations. The example he used was his relationship with his wife when they got married. Her interest started rubbing off on him until it became his interest. When we grow to know someone and spend time with that person intimately, you become part of that person. You will never be that person and you don’t lose yourself into that person, you just hopefully take on the better aspects of that person and in turn become a better person. I am a better person because of my relationship with Jon. He pushes me to be a better person whether I want to at that moment or not. I am a better person because of my five children. I am a better friend because of my best friend. God gives us the gift of relationships to understand and have a deeper understand of his Love and Commitment to us. We don’t desire it. It’s kind of like a relationship between a husband that is an abuser and the person being abused (his wife). And, it can be vice versa. That wife or husband (the abused) stays in the committed relationship in hopes one day the husband or wife (the abuser) will change and give them the Love they once gave in the beginning of relationship.
Our preacher today struck a nerve in me that I hope will encourage you as much as it has encouraged me today to stay more in the Word so I can gain the knowledge and have a more intimate relationship with Christ. He spoke on three of the seven Churches mentioned in Revelations. I could relate with all three churches. The seven churches were chosen since they represent the different trials and states that churches from that day until today would possibly face. The churches he spoke on today you can find In Revelation 2 and 3; the church of Ephesus, the church of Sardis and the church of Philadelphia.
The church of Philadelphia is the church we all strive to be a part of and in the beginning of our walk we resemble this church in the fact we are on fire for the Lord and we want to tell everyone. We have an open door that no one can shut because God’s presence is flowing through our blood. We believe that God is going to keep us from the hour of trial that will come upon the whole world. We are strong in our faith and nothing is going to take us down. We are pumped and are pumping everyone else up. We are similar to Rocky facing the Russian. Nothing can take him down, not even the Russian who had just killed his best friend in the previous fight, then reality and life hits us. We are okay for the first few trials and most of us can last through the next trial but we slowly lose our fight. Maybe because our fight is not guided by watching the true warriors of David and Goliath, Abraham, Noah, Paul and the best warrior of them all Jesus Christ but it’s based on movie characters like Rocky and the Russian or the winner of Survivor who managed to outwit and outplay other opponents by lying, cheating and sometimes stealing to win millions. My husband during Sunday school discussion said our focus needs more focus which is also on Karate kid. It’s so true.
The next Church that our preacher spoke on was the church of Sardis. This church had the reputation of being Alive but was very much Dead. It rested on its reputation and stayed there. It was in a comfortable state and became satisfied with its success which caused it to not grow at all. I take it to mean that it had decent sermons but never let it out. It was like the Dead Sea with inlet with no outlet. The Dead Sea has one tributary which is the Jordan River. The Church has one tributary which is the preacher. Now, I’m not saying that is how it was just how I picture it to be. I’m sure he was an awesome preacher because that’s what brings the people in. A new word that was added to my vocabulary today was Sponge Christians. I really liked that analogy of Sponge Christians because a lot of us are sponge Christians. We absorb it all in just as a sponge absorbs a spill however we don’t let it out and we sour just like a sponge would without it being released. How many of us hear a great sermon and instead of telling someone of it we tell them of our great weekend of shopping and laying around in our pajamas watching movies and that’s just Saturday! And, how many of us are guilty of saying, ‘Oh, yea….I went to church on Sunday and it was a good sermon. I got to wear my new dress or new shoes and was comfortable. So comfortable I nearly fell asleep but it was a great Sermon. What did you do?’ I’m just as guilty as the next person or we tell the one person about the sermon but it’s the same person we told ten other times because we are in our comfort zone with them. It’s like the Church of Sardis. Our reputation is good, we go to an awesome church, our kids rank the highest in Bible trivia and we are comfortable where we are at. Because of our comfort level we can either go to a church that has a reputation for being alive but dead or go to a dying church with is only a step above! This is the church that I could relate most to, although I can relate to all three. This is where I felt I was headed too. I’m by no means saying my church is a dying church because my church is the most like Philadelphia to me. Just take the building structure out for a minute and take the word “church” out and look at these letters on a more personal level. Look at it on your level with walking with Christ. Are you like the body of believers that are on fire for Christ, tell not only your friends and family but your co-workers and other people you meet on the street about what Christ is doing in your life, in your families’ life, in your church’s life, do you send out words of encouragement to fellow believers and others who might need a pick me up? Is your conduct worthy of the gospel? The list can go on and on.
The Church of Ephesus was the dying church. Christ knew this church’s good deeds and perseverance and that it could not tolerate wickedness. Christ knew that it had endured hardships for his name and still have not grown weary. It was still a busy church; however busy does not make it an active church. How many of us go to church almost every time the doors open and do our duties of awana’s, children’s church, meal preparation, nursery duty or any other job that needs to be done? Doing your duties is a great way to serve the Lord but doing it half-hearted is like not doing them at all. Before I truly started to understand what it meant to walk with the Lord, I half-heartily did my job at church. I would think it’s just church, I’m not punching a time clock and it’s not like everyone else is volunteering. My problem wasn’t so much volunteering my time because I love my Cubbies; it’s been more on letting my light shine out to others and to be more of an encourager than a sponge Christian. I need to find more time in my day to be in the word and less time in the day finding things to do that takes away that time with the Lord. When you plan a vacation, don’t you investigate where you are going, learn more the area and get directions? This is your life we are talking about. Shouldn’t you be getting directions on how to get to the very place you are spending eternity? This isn’t one or two weeks of your life that you get to spend with family and friends. And, don’t you want those same friends and family to go on the best, most rewarding vacation ever? The map can be found at church. And like all maps some roads are unverified but all are safe to travel with Christ leading the way. There will be struggles and trials along the way. Just keep in mind that with any race (life) that you are going strong in, your competitor (Satan) is right at your heels waiting for you to slip so he can get ahead and slow you down. The devil is not going to give up and will try harder and harder to remind you of the easy roads that lead you nowhere. Satan does that to believers that threaten his very existence. One more person that makes it to God is one less person Satan can use to further his kingdom. The trials we go through shape us into the person Christ needs us to be to defeat Satan and win the race. If you are wondering if you are in the right race, turn around and see if Satan is chasing you. If no one is chasing you then apparently you aren’t in a race worth winning.
A neat little side note that I read today in our upcoming devotional in Sunday school was something to think on and share with others as I am sharing you. I got this out of a devotional we are doing on Philippians. The word conduct comes from the root word ‘polis’ (“city”), which in earlier times usually refer to the city-states. The verb carries the basic meaning of being a citizen. But, by implication, it means being a good citizen, one whose conduct brings honor to the political body to whom one belongs. Philippi had the distinction of being a Roman colony, a highly privileged status that gave its inhabitants many of the right enjoyed by citizens of Rome itself. A responsible citizen was careful not to do anything that would bring disrepute on his ‘polis’ and he tried always to be considered an honorable citizen, so that he would never be removed from the list of citizens. If we, as citizens of this world, looked at what we are so devoted to that it takes us away from what truly matters and places our citizenship in Christ how much better do you think this world would be? Think hard on the excuses we give to our own selves on why we don’t make it to church or why we didn’t tell our friends about that sermon. I’m guilty of keeping it to myself because of fear my friends would think I was being too pushy or I couldn’t do Wednesday night because my friends would have thought bad of me for missing a night out. Last time I read the Bible, our reputation that we are trying to protect was not what was nailed to the cross. Christ is the biggest giver of all. He not only gave of his time, service, and self, he gave eternal life to not only believers but to those lost who may have a chance to repent and believe. How awesome is that?