Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Believe the Designer

There is so much we never see. We all drive cars but how many of us have seen the elaborate complex factories that produce them?
 If there were no assembly lines and factories to produce parts there would be no cars. Of course behind all the machines and parts and designs there is a man or woman with an idea. They see in their mind what could exist in reality and they set about to make it all happen.
We drive our cars but how often do we think of the designer? Chances are not even one person who will read this knows the name of the person who first sat down and from their mind sketched out the car they are now driving. The design gets the glory and the designer gets forgotten.
Romans 4:17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations” in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. 20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness."
God was the designer. He had the plans. He stepped into Abraham's life and showed him the plans. They were not building plans or plans to make a chariot or car or any other object. They were plans to build a family and nation starting with Abraham as the father. Through this nation the Seed (Jesus) long before promised to Eve would come.
The plans could only be messed up by one thing. There was only one condition upon which all the plans depended. Abraham had to believe God could carry out His designs through he and Sarah. The problem was they were childless. He had to believe it was still possible after he reached the age of 100 and Sarah was 99 and past the years of child bearing. Menopause was in her rear view mirror. Having children was no longer possible yet they were asked to keep believing...
Sometimes plans get altered. Sometimes the original design confronts insurmountable problems and must be changed. God made no changes. Abraham suggested adoption. God said "That is not my design". Sarah suggested a surrogate mother. God said "That is not my design". They were bewildered. They even laughed at the audaciousness of the plan but they continued to believe. Contrary to hope (in made no logical sense to hope) in hope they continued to believe and it was the belief, not the birth, that made them righteous.
In John 6:28,29 some religious folks ask Jesus "What do we need to do to be righteous?"
Jesus replied "This is what makes a man righteous - believe in the One He sent".
Someday God will have fully restored perfect humans living with Him for eternity. In their hearts and minds will be nothing but love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, patience, goodness etc. Someday it will happen. It is an audacious plan. The impossibility of me being there staggers me yet against hope in hope I continue to believe. Why? Because the Designer is greater than any obstacles and impossibilities I see.
I believe and that makes me righteous. There are no words sufficient to express how amazing that reality is...
See you tomorrow :)

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Faith Killer

It's amazing to me that certain moments of our lives make such an impression that they can't be forgotten. I remember both of my little sisters coming home from the hospital and the very first time I saw them. I remember waiting for the bus on my first day of school. I clearly remember breaking the windows of our landlords garage when I was 4 and I particularly remember the look on the face of the man who caught us... not good.
The memory I want to talk about happened on the school bus. My friend and very distant cousin was clearly upset. I asked her what was wrong. The conversation that followed I will never ever forget. She started to cry which if you knew her was quite something. A rumour was circulating that she was having sex with basically anyone who wanted to. The word being used to describe her was "slut". The rumours were not true. As I recall it was another girl who was angry at her that started the rumours. What struck me like an arrow to the heart were her last words as she finished explaining why she was so upset. "If that is what people think about me I might as well go and do it".
Here is what Paul wrote next:
14 "For if those who are of the law (Jews) are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be" according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."
What does this have to do with my cousin on the bus over 20 years ago and with us now? Quite simple really. God has given to every person a measure of faith. It is in us to believe. The devil wants to choke out any hint of faith and leave us feeling hopeless.
Every false teaching is designed to kill faith in someone. The false teaching Paul is specifically referring to in this passage is the idea that only legal blood line descendants of Abraham have an hope. A convenient teaching for the Jews but what does it do to everyone else? It excludes them. And if I am hell bound anyway and there is nothing I can do about it then I might as well live like it. If everyone sees me as a slut I might as well be one. See the obvious connection? People live up to or down to the level of hope they have...
What is the truth though? God had promised to Abraham "In you (through the Seed - Jesus) all the nations of the earth will be blessed".
And what did Jesus say? "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."
The truth is we all have hope and if we believe we have hope we will live hope filled lives because "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he". Let the devil lie all he wants to you or about you. God knows the truth. God is the Truth. Listen only to Him.
See you tomorrow :)

Friday, 28 November 2014

It Didn't HAVE To Be This Way

Every day we make choices. Some of those choices open new doors and close old ones. Some of those choices help form the person we will be tomorrow. Some are of little consequence and some of huge consequence. Some could even affect the world long after we are gone. Choices are potentially powerful forks in the road of our life.
Let me briefly review some life altering choices in my own life. I currently live in Grande Prairie, AB with my wife and two children. I never ever dreamed or planned to live here. If you had told me two years ago that I would live here I would have laughed. Let's go back much further though. Ever since I was a child I knew God wanted me to be a pastor. My dad still keeps my little journal from grade 1 when at 6 years old I wrote that I would be a pastor.
At 15 one of my best friends died in a bicycle accident. It shook me and for the first time I questioned God and seriously considered other choices for my future. Had I pursued any of those other choices I would never have met my wife and my children would never have existed.
 When it was time to go to college and I discovered the financial challenges I again began to reconsider. Had I not believed God would provide I would not have gone and again would never have even met my wife.
I could write all day long about forks in the road of my life but each choice has played a part in putting me where I am at this moment and closed untold other doors along the way.
The key is that every fork in the road was a choice, my choice. Every day remains my choice. I can at any moment alter my path. I could quit pastoring, I could... the possibilities are limitless. All choices.
Just one verse today:
"For the promise that he (Abraham) would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law but through the righteousness that is of faith."
Two critical points here: the first is that Abraham's life was not scripted by God. He is known to us through Scripture because of the choices he made. Jesus did not have to be born through his family line. That privilege became a reality because he chose to believe the promise. Had he thrown the promise away because of unbelief God would have offered it to someone else.
Every church I have pastored would have still had a pastor during those years if I had walked away from God’s offer to serve Him in this way. God still would have had someone. There was no script or law written in eternity past that stated I must be exactly who and what I am. My journey thus far has been what it has been because I have chosen to believe. It was the same for Abraham. It works the same for all of us.
The second and more important and more contextually accurate point is that Abraham was not offered the promise based on merit. You have no idea how many times I have looked at myself in the mirror and said "Surely God there must be someone better for this!"
Abraham was not offered the promise because he was a perfect law keeper. You only need to read his life story beginning in Genesis 11 (near the end) to discover he made some pretty serious mistakes and was very much human. Abraham was offered the promise because God offers promises to us all and those who embrace His promises by faith are counted perfect simply by believing He is able to keep those promises.
Following God is not a scripted duty or burden to bear. Rather it is a miracle wrapped privilege to embrace. Grab His promises and enjoy the journey. It ends well.
See you tomorrow!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Paid In Full

You work then you get paid. You eat your meal and then you get dessert. You buy your ticket and then you gain access unless of course you are travelling by train. In that case you can get on without your ticket but will be asked to show it later.
You've probably heard the story of Albert Einstein travelling by train. When asked for his ticket by the conductor he couldn't find it. The conductor told him it was alright, he'd just grab it on his way back through the train. Einstein kept searching. When the conductor came back Einstein was under the seat frantically looking for his ticket. "It's ok Mr. Einstein if you don't find it. I trust you had one. You always do."

 Looking up from the floor with panic in his eyes Einstein replied "You don't understand. I need that ticket. Without it I don't know where to get off!"
Picking up from where we left off yesterday Paul had contrasted grace with wages. Wages are earned and they must be paid when the worker has earned them. Grace can't be earned. No amount of doing good today will erase my bad yesterdays. Grace is necessary and grace is not wages. Paul continues with words from David, the great Old Testament king and the boy who killed Goliath.
Romans 4:6 "David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”
9 Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. 10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. 11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised."
See David says we are blessed not because we were good but because God didn't count the bad stuff against us. In Jesus we were forgiven. We didn't earn the forgiveness, Jesus earned it.
Then Paul asks "Who is this forgiveness for, the circumcised only?" Paul is continuing to tear apart the thinking that there is only a special class who will be forgiven and receive grace and be invited into God's eternal kingdom. For generations the Jews were taught that they were the special ones and God's favour was only for them and it was theirs by birthright. They didn't even really feel they needed grace. They had earned His favour simply by being born Jewish. They were of the circumcised ones.
What is all this talk of circumcision anyway? Circumcision was instituted for males by God to Abraham to mark the family line through which Jesus would come. That is why Paul in many places writes that now circumcision has no purpose or value. Circumcision was another sign pointing to Jesus. You don't keep studying the map after you have arrived at your destination. You turn the GPS off and go enjoy whatever event you were driving to. So with circumcision. It pointed to Jesus coming from Abraham's line and He has long ago arrived.
Paul has a greater point though. He points out that circumcision can't be the ticket to acquiring God's favour as the Jews mistakenly believed it was. Why? Because Abraham through believing God’s promise was called righteous by God before he was ever circumcised.
Let's face it. We can't earn or buy what has already been paid in full by His Son. If you are still trying to find a ticket you don't know where you are going...

See you tomorrow

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Abraham Believed

Have you ever been in a group of people where you were the outsider? You weren't literally an outsider because you were invited and wanted but the group had history in common and you weren't there. When I went to college I was sort of adopted by a group of students from Nova Scotia who all had gone to school together. They included me and I enjoyed their company. I even married one of them. However I remember many times when they got on a roll telling stories and I could only listen because I wasn't part of the story. They were shared experiences that I didn't share.
Stories are awesome. We don't tell enough of them and even when we do we often fail to link stories to the profound lessons they teach. Paul has spent 3 chapters building a case that all of us are in the same boat. We may sin differently, behave differently, and be classified differently by society but at the end of the day we have "all sinned and fallen short of the glory (character) of God". Furthermore no amount of effort or attempts at law keeping (being good enough) will change that fact. Now that he has made the case he tells a story to seal his point.
The 'problem' is he doesn't 'tell' the story, he just refers to it without any detail. Here is what he said:
"What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Romans 4:1-5
When Paul says "flesh" he means things we accomplish on our own. When he says "grace" he means things God does for us that we couldn't do on our own.
Paul doesn't tell Abraham's story because he assumes you already know it. If you don't you are not ready for Romans. Truthfully attempting to understand the New Testament without first being familiar with the stories of the Old Testament is like trying to take a calculus course without first learning basic math.
So just in case you need a refresher Abraham was called by God (Genesis 12) to become the father of a large family, a family that would become a nation and through which the Seed (Jesus) would be born. The problem was Abraham didn't have a large family. Abraham didn't have a single child. He and his wife Sarai tried and tried but they just couldn't have a child. As the Bible says "the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak". They wanted to fulfill God's plan for them they just couldn't.
Now consider again what Paul said in Romans 4:1-5
"What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? (He found zero ability to produce a child) 2 For if Abraham was justified by works(by trying), he has something to boast about (had he been able to produce a son he would have had something to be proud of), but not before God (For even if he had produced a son God is still the One who made it possible). 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (If you are given a job to do and you do it, your employer is not doing you a favour by paying you. He owes you. You earned it.)
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness."
See Paul is comparing Abraham's son Isaac (who was born miraculously after conception was no longer possible) to christian character. God's mission for us is to have a character like His. Like Abraham no amount of effort will produce it. We need grace. We need God to provide what we will never be able to produce. If we believe He can do it just as Abraham believed God would give him a son than we are believers and God will classify us as holy and righteous and just like Him.
Religion is self centered and tries in vain to achieve. Faith is God centered and simply believes.
See you tomorrow :)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

You Can't Do That...

Once I was in a hurry (that never happens... ) and I got stuck in a long check out line. When there was finally only one person left in front of me she pulled out a bag of change and literally dumped it on the counter. Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters sat in a mixed up pile. Not a loonie or toonie in sight. The cashier and I glanced at each other in disbelief as the lady slowly began to count out the mass of coins in order to pay for her purchase. Perhaps in heaven I'll discover that she was used to delay me and that delay saved me from disaster or death. Maybe she was just an eccentric old woman. Either way I remember thinking at the time "There should be a law against this." Well it turns out that there is. In Canada according to the currency act you can't buy anything costing $5 or more with nickels. The limit for loonies is a $25 purchase. In Petrolia, ON it is illegal to yell, shout, scream, whistle, or sing in the streets at any time of day or night.
Want to know some other bizarre Canadian laws? In Souris PEI it is illegal to make a snowman more than 30 inches high. In Canada it is illegal to own, sell, distribute, or have in your possession a comic that is crime themed. No Batman for us. In Canada it was also illegal in many places to hang a clothesline to dry your clothes. Who knew? That law has changed in the name of "going green" for the whole country.
You can be sure that behind every bizarre law there is a story. You can be almost certain that the person who initiated the currency act forbidding using too many coins to make a single purchase was stuck in line like I was once and decided the nonsense had to stop.
My money says that at one time in Petrolia ON a local citizen was either over the top loud or a local citizen was over the top cranky and couldn't stand to hear someone else expressing themselves vocally. Either way you can be guaranteed there is a story behind that law and every other strange law.
What is my point? Laws are reactionary. They are written to prevent the reoccurence of something someone didn't like. They don't work. At best laws give those in authority the right to implement consequences against those who break them. Speeding is a prime example of the powerlessness of laws. They do not stop "bad" behaviour.

 Romans 3 talks a lot about "the law". Essentially he is saying that the law can't make you right with God or make you a good person. The law (like an X ray machine) only exposes the fact we are broken. We have all sinned and fallen short of God's perfect character which is His glory. Law breakers aren't changed by more laws or by hammering them repeatedly with existing laws. In my experience few people need to be told they aren't perfect.
Paul says it is something else altogether that makes us right with God - faith. Faith in two things. Faith that we are washed and forgiven by Jesus and faith that by following Him, He can and will fix our brokenness. The law describes how we should not be but only Jesus can make us into what we are meant to be.
We'll discover more about all of this as Romans continues. See you tomorrow.

Monday, 24 November 2014

One Class of People

Three people were driving in their vehicles long before the invention of mobile phones. All of them were on time to get where they were going. All three of them had the misfortune of a flat tire.
The first person knew he had no jack so he just pulled over and hoped someone would stop to help him.
The second person got out and found his jack handle behind the seat of his pick up. He crawled under the back and tried to remove the spare tire from under the box but could budge the bolt securing the tire in place. Defeated he sat on his tailgate hoping someone would stop and help him.
The third person knew exactly what she was doing. She got the jack out, the spare tire out, and went to work. She loosened the nuts on the flat tire and began to jack up her car. She removed all the nuts and then the wheel. As she began to lift the spare in place the jack suddenly twisted under the weight of the car and collapsed. Jumping back to avoid any danger of being pinned under the car she sat dejected and defeated. Her car was now sitting on the ground with her only jack twisted and mangled and jammed under the weight of her car. All she could do now was sit and wait.
Romans 3 may have some verses here and there that seem hard to understand but don't miss the forest for the trees. 3 chapters have built to this point. We are about to discover that God does have a line in the sand, a standard. He even does something that in our politically correct culture is taboo - He classifies people.
The difference between His class distinction or His putting people in boxes is that there is only one class and only one box. It is a famous verse that anyone who has been around the Bible at all knows or has heard. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God". Another verse says "None is righteous, no not one."
Jesus told a story about two men. I mentioned one of them the other day. Here is the story: Luke 18:11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’"
Here is Jesus' analysis of the prayer: " 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
You see in truth there is only one class of humans. We are all sinners. We may have different desires and we may classify ourselves differently based on those different desires. At the end of the day we are all the same. However as Jesus points out in this story we don't see it that way and we end up in two categories. Those who think they are good and those who know they are not.
Let's come back to our three people sitting on the side of the road with flat tires. Picture the last one who had everything she needed and knew what to do with it. How easy would it be for her to think herself better than the other two? She had all the gear. She knew how to use it and was strong enough to loosen every nut. "Thank you Lord that I'm not like the idiot that carries no jack or the wimp that can't loosen a bolt. I carry all my tools and have the knowledge and ability to use them."
Yet there she sits in the same position as the other two. Some might even recognize she is in the worst position because her car is sitting on the ground.
Now suppose someone comes along and successfully gets all three back on the road. To whom goes the credit? See we are not going Home based on our ability or our resume. No matter how we may judge ourselves compared to our neighbour we are all in "the same boat", Jew/Greek, male/female, poor/rich, gay/straight or otherwise. My sins may be different than yours but they leave us all in the same place, in need of help.
 Help has come. Do you believe Him? Do you trust Him? Will you embrace the Gospel of His grace that both exposes our brokenness yet repairs everything?
See you tomorrow

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Hypocrisy Has No Place

Several years ago a very prominent evangelical leader in the United States was at the "top of his game". He was the pastor of a very large church and the leader of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was also one of the loudest voices in the country denouncing homosexuality. All of that ended abruptly in 2006 when a male prostitute revealed Pastor Ted was a client and had been for 3 years. He also revealed he sold him Crystal Meth. Other "sins" came to ligh...t later. I don't say this to rehash the tragedy of a man's life but to point out that while he was a religious leader representing Jesus to thousands if not millions he was putting down "greeks" while "greek" himself. In my experience as a pastor which is stretching to 16 years and 20 if you count intern work, a pattern has emerged. Those in religious circles who denounce sin and sinners the loudest have much in their own closets. One example was a man who was cheating on his wife while criticizing young people for what they were wearing. There are more extreme examples I could share but I won't. 
I'm not sure if you noticed yesterday but we essentially finished chapter 2. Paul used it to emphasize and re emphasize that when it comes to our need of the gospel there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek which in our modern culture would be between church goers and everyone else.
This is an offensive message. Our pride resists it. We like to flatter ourselves that stepping into church makes us a step above.
In fact that whole last section of chapter 2 is an exposure of our religious hypocrisy. We preach at others but do we follow what we preach? He goes a step further and says there are many in the world who don't even have the written code of God's laws as the Jews did yet they follow His voice through their conscience. I am being gentle. Read the section from verse 12 to the end and you will see Paul was much less gentle.
Why is Paul being so harsh on the hypocrisy that religion too often is? Again he is not doing it to be mean or critical. As we plunge into chapter 3 we'll clearly see where all this is going. For now take a look at yourself and the world around you and ask "do I think myself better than others?"
See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Beyond Radical

It's time to step back and look at everything we've gone over in Romans so far. There is a crucial element that has been present that you may have picked up on that I haven't really pointed out. It comes to out undeniably in chapter 2:11

"For there is no partiality with God."

Why does Paul say this? What is the context? What is the issue he is trying to address? Well in the 2 preceding verses and 4 times in just over a chapter Paul has mentioned the Greeks. Theses references are not a specific reference to those living in Greece. Before Rome became an empire the Greek Empire ruled the world and the Roman Empire was more an extension of it or more of the same than it was a radically new or different empire. When Paul says Greeks he is referring to the whole non believing world. 3 of the 4 times he says to or for "the Jew first and also to/for the Greek"

Again we need to understand the culture/context. Paul was not writing to us about our 21st century issues. He was writing to the believers in Rome. When Paul says Jew he means "believer". Now the Jewish mindset prior to Jesus was that only Jews had any real hope of being accepted by God. The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) ooze with references to the deep prejudice the Jews had toward everyone. They lumped all of humanity into one class they called gentiles or Greeks. These were to them godless vile sinners.

Then along came Jesus. Radical only begins to paint His picture. He traveled through regions that "good jews" would travel around. He talked with women as if they were equals. He paid attention to children as if they had value. He as we've mentioned already sat down and ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners of all kinds. (Tax collectors were considered evil because they were usually Jewish citizens collecting taxes from Jews to give to the Romans.) Jesus touched lepers. Jesus healed Romans and people from even worse places like Sidon and Tyre. He even traveled across the sea to Decapolis where they farmed swine and healed a demon possessed freak.

 His own disciples shook their heads sometimes at His apparent insanity. It was like He didn't have the sense to know where the lines were drawn between the people that deserved His attention and the people that deserved to suffer and die in their pagan, unfit condition.

Did you know there is a prayer of a Jewish man in the gospels where he thanks God he is not like other "lesser" men and that he was not born a woman?!

Perhaps now we can begin to appreciate Romans 2:11
"For with God there is no partiality".

Is Paul saying that every promise made first to the Jews is also a promise to all people everywhere? Is Paul saying there is no class distinction, no race distinction, no gender superiority, no lines of any kind? Is Paul saying God's love for us all is equal and the same? Is Paul saying Rosa Parks belonged at the front of the bus? Is Paul saying the natives weren't savages? Is Paul saying the Middle East is in the middle of God's heart right beside the deepest heart of Africa and secular Europe, and communist China, and mother Russia and and and...?

Is Paul saying the straight man and the gay man? Is Paul saying the man with money in his pocket and the man with the scraggly beard and the empty cup in his hand? Surely God must have some kind of standard, some kind of line... He does. He allowed His Son to be nailed to a cross and point in which direction His love extended. "For God so loved every corner of humanity that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life".

I am a member of a church but God will not check my membership card when He comes and draws a line between those that are His and those who do not want Him. He will not read my "card". He will read my heart.

See the Gospel is radical but Paul was not ashamed. Jesus turned societal norms upside down. Has He changed or have we forgotten? His kingdom has a standard and class distinction but nothing like what we worry about.

 See you tomorrow...

Friday, 21 November 2014

He Broke Down The Walls

Let's jump right back in as we go deeper into the passage we looked at yesterday.

2:5 "But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds": 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek."
I want to put a magnifying glass on this section today. So far whether we've specifically said it or not Paul has been talking about two kinds of people but only speaking to one group. It may be important here to point out that Romans like the rest of the Bible is written to those "on the inside". People who don't at least claim to believe in God are unlikely to ever read it so it clearly wasn't written to them.
The two groups Paul is speaking about are those "in the world" as church folk often call them. These are they who don't believe in God and simply live life as they choose. The general term for this group back then was gentiles or Greeks. The other group Paul is speaking about and the group he is speaking to is the church. He refers to them sometimes as saints or believers or calls them Jews.
As we have been discussing for the past couple of days Paul has an issue with the believers. He finds them very judgmental. He finds them looking down their noses at the "evil" Greeks who do "unspeakable things".
When you read Matthew, Mark, and Luke you discover leprosy was a common disease. When you do some research you discover it was not just a disease and a death sentence but it was a cutting off from society. When a person discovered they were infected they had to leave everyone and everything and live apart from society with the other lepers. If for some reason they had to mix with the uninfected they had to walk crying "unclean, unclean" so no one would touch them.
Now I'm going to rewrite the verses I quoted at the beginning and you'll see how this all fits.
5 But in agreement with your hard and your unfeeling heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will give to each one according to his deeds": 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good (for others) seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth (love is the truth), but obey unrighteousness (only thinking about themselves)--indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil (lives in opposition to love), of the Jew first and also of the Greek;
Here is the tragedy of much of religion: Those who thought themselves healthy disposed of the lepers as unclean and hopeless and waiting for death. They cut them off from society so as not to be infected by them. Then Jesus came along. He touched them in their unclean state. Jesus did other unthinkable things too. He sat down and ate with prostitutes and tax collectors and sinners of all stripes; The Clean with the unclean. How did He treat them? Perhaps He ate with them to make sure they knew how vile they were? I think not.
"No matter how weak the sinner may be; no matter how many or how great may have been his transgressions, the Saviour will accept him. Christ loves every member of the human race; for he has bought them all with a price;—and what a price!" RH Sept 3, 1903
Contrast that quote with this one:
"What have we done that even from within our own walls there is no room for the broken?" From Love Is An Orientation
Having grown up in church I hate to say this but religion can be an extremely selfish endeavour. It can take people into a mindset where their goal is heaven and if they have to cut the "sinners" loose to keep from being tainted so be it. The pursuit of heaven and "perfection" becomes all consuming. The plight of others becomes a secondary concern if a concern at all. It becomes a sick selfish race in which the only participant that matters is me. In essence survival of the fittest. How ironic. Religion ends up being a course plotted out by demons.

Paul is exposing the religious for what they too often are: self obsessed love killers. He is not doing it out of hate though. He has a purpose motivated by love.
See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

You Who Judge Part 2

Let's jump right in. I want to go a few verses further in Romans 2 today and then reconsider what Paul has said about our descent into sin and the causes of it. Today we begin to see the solution:
Romans 2: Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who "will render to each one according to his deeds": 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.
Are you catching who Paul is speaking to primarily? He is speaking to the one who judges others. Verse 4 is fascinating. He says "or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads to repentance?" In other words the very fact that you look down on others who have different struggles and temptations than you do and judge them for it proves that you know nothing of the goodness of God. Accusing others is a demonic trait. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. If you find yourself in the judgement seat you need Jesus. If you find yourself putting others down in an attempt to make yourself look or feel better you need the Gospel!
Think about it. Do placard carrying "christian" gay bashers look anything like the carpenter from Nazareth? Didn't he go out of His way to lift up the fallen? Wasn't Jesus accused by the church leaders of being a glutton and a drunk and a friend of tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners? He ate with them. He talked with them. He offered hope and healing to them.
God is described by three words in Romans 2:4
Goodness - literally a kindness that serves others
Forbearance - literally delays judgement or punishment
Longsuffering - literally delays anger
Fascinating. So the God of the universe who is infinitely holy and good treats sinners with a kindness that seeks to serve them and delays their punishment and withholds His anger. While He is doing that humans full of sin and far from holy who claim to be His followers run around hating and judging and displaying anger toward other sinners because they sin differently.
Something is wrong with this picture.

 First let's examine why God is so "soft on sin". God is serving sinners with kindness and delaying His judgements because He knows their sinning is not the problem. The problem we all have is that we are not persuaded of His love for us. What good would it do to show anger toward and punish a child who is disobeying primarily out of fear and lack of trust? Kind of crazy right?
Paul said He was not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for deliverance for all those that are persuaded. Sinners need the Gospel. They need to experience the servant kindness of God and His unwillingness to judge and punish.
Do you remember the day a woman, likely a prostitute was brought and thrown naked at the feet of Jesus? She was brought to Jesus by the church leaders for judgement. She had done wrong and she was guilty. She herself did not even attempt to claim innocence.
The law was clear. This sin of adultery carried the death sentence. (It is still a crime in 21 US states and carries the death penalty in many countries.) Jesus was asked point blank "What are you going to do about it?"
Jesus did 3 things. He treated her with kindness, He delayed judgement and showed no anger. Why? Because He knew she needed opportunities to be persuaded of His love. Did she do wrong? Absolutely. If after comprehending His love she chooses to continue in a life of rebellion will she face judgement? Yes. However she will be judged for rejecting His love and be given what she wants which is eternity apart from Him.
Radical isn't it? God's Son spent His time here not defending the law and passing judgement but rather persuading fear filled sinners of His Father's love. Then He said to those persuaded "Follow Me". In other words "Do as I do." On the night before His death He told His disciples "They will know you are My disciples if you love as I have loved you."
It is not your stance on abortion or LGBTQ or creation/evolution or any other divisive issue that will persuade people they can trust Jesus with their entire lives. If you want to have a Kingdom effect on sinners serve them in kindness and delay all judgements and anger. If the goodness of God does not lead us to genuine change of heart nothing else will either.
See you tomorrow

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

You Who Judge...

Continuing from yesterday:

Step 1 - suppressing/denying truth
Step 2 - dumbing down of society
Step 3 - redefining God/idolatry
Step 4 - further dumbing down of society: thinking themselves wise they became fools

Now Paul is going to reveal what happens after this systematic denying of truth and redefining of God into our own preferred image:

Romans 1:24 "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
Romans 2:1Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things..."
Now you know why I said the chapter break from Romans 1 to Romans 2 must be ignored. Romans 2:1 is directly linked to step by step outline Paul just went through of how we go from clear thinking God worshipping people to blind fools who are a threat to ourselves and everyone around us.
I know that sounds harsh but the reality is no one becomes out of control in a day or by one decision. The path that leads to a life that is out of control is a step by step denial of God, denial or right and wrong, denial of conscience etc... To feel better about ourselves as we head the wrong way we start to rationalize and redefine "truth". We label and attack anyone who tries to disagree with us. We surround ourselves with like minded people. We convince ourselves that we are becoming more free, more enlightened, more our true selves.
As we go down this path there comes a tipping point. A point at which God says "If that is what you really want and what you are determined to do then I will respect your choice and your freedom".
The Bible faithfully records many instances when His people wanted the opposite of what was good for them and each time He warned them of the dangers and then allowed them to do as they chose. Never did their rebellion end well.
I know homosexuality is a huge sensitive topic. Frankly I see two sides and can't stand comfortably on either one. It is critical at this point to make it clear that our increasing sexual deviance is a byproduct, not the cause of our condition. God essentially says "Because you have rejected Me, this is what will happen" Then in chapter 2:1 he says to those of us who aren't necessarily struggling with homosexuality "Don't judge them because you do the same things."

I must admit and confess that the first time I truly processed this passage of Scripture I was angry and offended. How dare God accuse me of being like them?!!! It's been a long humbling road since then. Now I know exactly what He is saying to me. He is saying sexuality is a desire. The twisting of sexuality into other forms is a desire that He did not create. It is a byproduct of human rebellion. The human heart wants to satisfy every desire it has. Every time I satisfy a desire that did not come from God I am as guilty as anyone else. It's easy and highly hypocritical of me to satisfy my desire to sleep with my secretary and then condemn my neighbour when he satisfies his homosexual desires.
 Human nature is to villainize those who struggle and sin differently than I do. We especially villainize those who are in a visible minority. God is clear. Don't judge them because you are no different...
When we head down a path of denying God and suppressing truth we have no real concept of where it will lead. To get a glimpse we can look at history. Just research the sexual deviance of ancient Rome...
When we play with desires that didn't come from God we are playing with the devil and we won't win. There is help and hope and healing for all of us. It's time to stop judging each other and start helping each other find freedom through the Gospel. More tomorrow...…/

Tuesday, 18 November 2014


Let's trace the context again quickly just to make sure we are clear on where Paul is coming from. He has a passion for sharing the gospel: the good news about what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for humanity. He wants to go to Rome to share the gospel but God has not asked him to do that yet. Then he states "I am not ashamed of the gospel..." and he clearly says why. "It is the power of God for deliverance for everyone who believes".
Following his declaration Paul transitions to how others are handling the gospel. As we talked about 2 days ago the first step for those who are ashamed of (or worse) are enemies of the gospel was to suppress the truth. Throughout history from book burnings, to censorship, to murder, men have always tried to suppress and silence the voices they didn't want to hear. It starts with Cain killing Abel and it has never stopped. Ultimately the Voice they are trying to silence is the voice of God. As His Voice and His character and His wisdom are removed from a society the 2nd thing we find is a dumbing down of that society.
Step 3 is not a wholesale rejection of God but rather a redefining of God. The Bible calls this idolatry. Sometimes idolatry begins with using images to represent God. This has happened countless times in history and is happening still in many parts of the world. The inevitable result of using an image to represent God is our thinking less of Him. How can the true God who knows all, sees all, and has limitless power be captured by an image? He can't be. So rather than the image capturing all that He is, our concept of Him is limited by what the image is. We have no true understanding of the damage done inside our minds by trying to use images of much lesser things to represent Him.

 In our culture we don't do this. We have a more "sophisticated" form of idol worship. We worship our ideas. Make no mistake. The Israelites did not build a golden calf because they believed the image was God. They built a golden calf because they knew it could be controlled by them and wouldn't oppose their ideas. Moses was trouble to them. He was not open to their ideas. He only did what God asked him to do. They hated going one way under the leadership of God through Moses when they really wanted to go a different way. When it seemed Moses was dead they seized the opportunity to make an inanimate leader so they could go wherever they wanted without argument.

 Think about our society today. The theory of evolution was birthed by a preachers son seeking freedom from religion, from the leadership of God. By explaining away our origins through a method that requires no God we become free to go our own way and evolve into whatever we choose. We trumpet this godless freedom as enlightenment and now new age as taken the "enlightenment" a step further and claims we are all gods.
 Our enlightenment claims whimsical things like we can all have our own path and whatever is good for you is true for you and whatever is true for you is good for you. There are no absolutes. Rules and moral law are only human constructs and can easily be changed without consequence. Love is what we need more of and love is defined as no rules, no judgments, no limits.

 We have become a generation of rebellious children wanting all the benefits of our parents affluence but no input from them and no limits put on us. We judge God and truth by our own thoughts and feelings rather than judge our thoughts and feelings by our all knowing God. "Thinking themselves wise they have become fools". This is not an experiment that hasn't been tried before. Ask ancient Egypt how it ended for them? Ask Greece and Rome. Ask France how it went for them when they deposed God and exalted reason.

 The reason there are so many different religions is not because God has multiple personalities or because His Word is hard to understand. It is because we all want our own way. Each religion is a golden calf. God says "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft".

 The irony is we kick and scream and oppose others to achieve a freedom we already have. God has given us this life to do with it as we please, believe as we wish, and behave as we choose. Israel didn't have to follow Moses. They were free to stay in Egypt. You too are free. Free to embrace God’s love expressed through the sacrificial life of Jesus or you can walk away. I am not ashamed of Jesus. He is the power in my life that has set me free to live and love and serve. I wouldn't trade Him for anything.
See you tomorrow...

Monday, 17 November 2014

Rules of Engagement

Context. It's a great word. I always liked the sound of it. However it is far more than a great sounding word. It is a critical concept for properly understanding and interpreting the world around us. If you are play fighting and tickling your significant other and while laughing and trying to squirm free she says "I hate you" the context is far different than if she just discovered you've been leading a double life for 10 years and is throwing plates at your head and says "I hate you".
The words are exactly the same. The context is as opposite as can be. The context, not the words, determines the meaning of the feelings being expressed.
Yesterday while sorting through a box of donated books at our church I came across one with the title "Why So Many Denominations?" If there is only one God and only one Bible how can there be so many different churches and sets of beliefs all claiming to be "the truth"? There are several reasons but a huge one is lack of context when interpreting what the Bible means. Rather than take the time to understand who Paul was, who he was writing to, and what motivated the letter, people grab a verse they like from Romans and tear it from its context and then use it as they please. 
In addition to this issue is a lack of understanding of the original structure of the Bible. When we read books they are typically divided into chapters. Each chapter is connected to the next but not fully. When a chapter ends and a new one starts there is typically a pause in time or a shift in thought and /or circumstance of some kind.
The Bible has chapters too but they can be very misleading. The reason for this is that the original authors never had verses or chapter breaks. These were inserted much later to make the Bible easier to navigate and use.
The problem is that in our minds when we come to the end of a chapter we assume we are coming to the conclusion of an idea. With the Bible this is a false assumption and some chapter breaks are a travesty.
I said all this as a lead up to the context of two very sensitive topics in Romans chapter 1 that continue into chapter 2. It is a text book example of both points I am making today: that context is critical and chapter breaks can be lethal to a proper understanding of what is being said.
The two issues are creation and sexuality but the context is seeing and understanding God through the lense of the Gospel story. Paul is saying that how we interpret our origins and our expression of sexuality is actually rooted in and a byproduct of our picture of God. Where the chapter break comes into play is that if you stop at the end of chapter one his line of reasoning seems stark and harsh but if you continue to the conclusion of his explanation the picture changes dramatically. 
Remember as we plunge into potentially hot water tomorrow that Romans is not about our origins as a human race or about our sexuality. Romans is about the Gospel and how our understanding of God affects every aspect of our life from how we see our beginnings to how we choose to live each day.
When we pick up again tomorrow you may choose to disagree with Paul but we must be fair in looking at the whole picture in context while throwing the chapter break out the window.

See you tomorrow. 

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Downward Steps

The unavoidable has come. I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed because Truth is the only antidote to our spiraling culture.
Ancient Rome as we discussed fell apart. It was not destroyed in an epic battle or wiped out by an unstoppable plague. Historians can't put a finger on exactly what went wrong. The reason is because Rome died from within.
As a pastor for over 15 years I have seen marriages die. When the autopsy is done to determine the cause it is almost alwa...ys the same. Marriages die of neglect. Each partner stops cherishing the other person. They put energy and give attention to anything and everything but each other. The final straw may be an affair or some other visible dramatic tragedy but peel away the drama and you most often find chronic years of increasing neglect.

 Rome suffered from neglect. As generations past they neglected the principles and morals that had made them strong in the beginning. Principles and morals like hard work, honesty, integrity, faithfulness, respect, family values, sexual morality etc...
Again Rome did not fall from external forces. Rome imploded over decades.
Paul is writing while Rome is still standing but the empire is beginning to show cracks. The elements that will eventually lead to its demise are in place and Paul outlines them with a clarity that is prophetic.
Step One in personal or national demise is to know what is good and right and true yet suppress it, ignore it, and do anything and everything to prevent the truth from being known. The first One to be suppressed and ignored is God. We cannot deny that we live in a culture that gives God credit and thanks for almost nothing yet when tragedy strikes the majority cries out "Where is God?!" The twin tower disaster of 9/11 is a text book example. For a few weeks churches filled up and then back to ignoring God as usual. Verse 21 is key: although they knew God they did not give Him glory or thanks...

 Step Two in the process of self destruction is the inevitable dumbing down of society as we get further and further from God, the source of all wisdom and enlightenment. All you have to do is trace academic scores in recent generations in America to see this is very real. Of course the downward trend happens so gradually that many don't notice and others try and deny it. Like gaining or losing weight it is those who see us less often that notice the changes. Rome paid large sums of money to build the Jewish temple precisely because they knew history and the power of the One True God. America today is on the downhill slope towards inevitable trouble primarily because America has chosen to forget God and the principles and morals that built that country from nothing to the world super power.

As we continue to trace Paul's words in Romans 1 we will see just how prophetic they were... see you tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Two Kingdoms

So last Thursday I had lunch in Las Vegas where the sun was shining and it was 25 degrees celcius or 77 Fahrenheit. This morning I'm thrilled because it has warmed up to -5C. Always something to be thankful for. :)
On my way to the airport last week to fly home I was sitting next to a stranger but we had something in common. We were both leaving SEMA, the massive automotive trade show where we had been all week. We started talking and I asked him what brought him to SEMA. He told me he was developing an aftermarket part for trucks and he came to SEMA to find out if there was anything being offered that was similar to his product or would be competition for it. He was quite thrilled that there was not.
I of course out of curiosity asked him what it was he was working on. He wouldn't tell me. He wouldn't take the chance that I'd take his idea and beat him to the market with it or become unwanted competition. He knew the answer to the question I asked but he would not tell me the answer.
Romans 1:18,19 reveals the fact there are people who know about God and His righteousness but they act as though they don't and they suppress anyone who tries to make Him known.

 The Gospel is good news but not for everyone. I remember how shocked I was when this reality first hit me. I was studying through the life of Judas, the disciple that betrayed Jesus with a kiss, sold Him out for some silver, and later committed suicide. I was trying to figure out why he didn't just seek forgiveness like Peter and the others. They all messed up. They all denied him. Why the tragic difference? God boldly declares that He won't turn anyone away that comes to Him. He promises any and all sin can be forgiven if confessed.
Judas walked with Jesus for 3+ years. He knew Jesus would forgive anyone for anything. Why didn't he seek forgiveness and make things right between them?
Then the sad reality struck me. He didn't want to. He didn't want to for the same reason satan rebelled in the first place. He didn't for the same reason religious people today who know the truth about God hide that truth and teach something else.
Judas was not interested in the kingdom Jesus came to create. When Judas finally realized what Jesus was about and what His kingdom would be Judas sold Him out and bailed.
A kingdom of mercy, love, equality, service for others - a kingdom where the greatest leaders are the greatest servants of others - this was not what Judas signed up for. Judas had been raised in the synagogue (church) to believe in a very different kind of kingdom. A kingdom where some were elevated above others. A kingdom where there were winners and losers. A kingdom where the least existed to serve the great. A kingdom of selfishness and oppression. Judas was hoping he could ride the "Jesus bandwagon" to the top so that when Jesus finally revealed Himself as the new all powerful king of Judah, Judas would be His right hand man. When Judas realized there would never be such a kingdom he bailed. Tortured between the reality of what he did and the reality that the kingdom he truly wanted would never exist he killed himself.
Many atheists and observers of history note that most wars and bloodshed occurred in the name of religion. It is a fact. However it is equally true that the only blood shed by Jesus was His own. He is the king of a drastically different kind of kingdom. The government is on His shoulders and He carries His kingdom. Some men know the truth and they deny it with every fibre of their being in order to preserve their own pseudo kingdoms.
Where are you and I in all this? Are we suppressing or liberating? Are we serving or seeking more for ourselves. Which King and which kingdom do we love?
See you tomorrow...

Friday, 14 November 2014

Afraid of the Light

At one point or another we have all been or will be in a dark place of our own making. A place that people we loved warned us not to go. A place we knew we shouldn't go but went anyway. It starts in childhood. We know throwing the rock is a bad idea. Mom and dad told us it was a bad idea yet it finds its way into and out of our hand anyway.
As we get older the dark places can get a lot darker and the consequences far more tragic but the process is still the same. The darkness seems to draw us. We stare into it first without going. We stare so long and so intently that it doesn't even seem dark anymore. We step closer. It's not so bad. Why did everyone say it was so bad?
It started in Eden didn't it? Suddenly the dark forbidden tree didn't seem dark at all. In fact the fruit now looked amazing. "It was pleasant to the eyes and desirable to make one wise".

 Yesterday I told you what I see in Romans 1:16 and 17 gets me in trouble but I never told you why.
We've all done it. We are in the dark and our eyes have adjusted to the dark and someone turns the light on. Instantly we close our eyes. It's painful. The longer we were in the dark and/or the brighter the light the worse it is.
Romans 1:16 says that in the gospel story the righteousness, the holiness, the light of God is turned on. In the old testament we find out God's presence is fearful to us. He is too bright, too holy, too pure. When we catch a glimpse we go scurrying for the darkness. We are comfortable in the darkness...
This summer a wild cat left behind on the property we are renting had kittens. Now it is getting cold and my wife couldn't stand to see them in the cold so she caught two of them in live traps this week. Now they live in our bathroom where she is taming them so they can go to good homes and be safe and warm. They have gone from the darkness to the light. They have passed possibly quite literally from death to life. One of them didn't take long to figure it out. Within 24 hours she was fairly tame. Now she rubs up against us and begins purring as soon as we pat her. The other one is not so easily convinced. Her nature is far more timid and fearful. When we open the door she retreats to the farthest darkest corner she can find.
It is getting better. She retreats more slowly and peeks out more quickly. Sometimes she even stays relatively close by and if we make slow movements she will allow us to pat her. She hasn't purred yet but she will.
We are like that kitten. We live in the dark and the cold and we are comfortable there. We resist the light. We run from it like it is some evil thing. When someone shows us a picture of God we resist. We say it's crazy or fanatical or even dangerous.
The reason I get in trouble is because I get brave enough sometimes to point out that it is often the church going folk who carry His name that resist Him the most.
Jesus said unless we become like little children, unless we are born all over again we will never SEE the kingdom. He was talking to a church leader when he said that.
When I was in my 20's and green as grass I preached a sermon on Revelation 3:14-22. I had no idea the reaction it would cause. It turns out I went into a dark room and turned on the light...
Revelation 3:14-21
The Lukewarm Church
14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write:
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ ”

This passage is not complex unless you are blind. The one speaking is Jesus. That is undeniable. The audience He is speaking to is His church. This is also undeniable.
All I did in my message that day years ago was point out where Jesus was. The people are inside the church, the door is closed, and Jesus is outside knocking.
Someone (a retired pastor) came up to me after visibly agitated and said "Are you saying Jesus is outside this church trying to get in?!"
All I did was read what the Bible says...
Isn't it true that when Jesus came the first time He was most rejected by His church? And isn't it true that a group of leaders came to Him one day and asked "Are we blind?". And aren't these words from Revelation 3 about a church where they think they see but they are actually blind? So blind in fact that Jesus is on the outside looking in and they can't even see it!
The antidote to this blindness is the gospel story. It is a revelation of who He truly is. It is shining the light of His character into a dark church where light is resisted and change is heresy and hearts are prone to unpersuadeableness.
That kitten will one day come out of the shadows for good because she will learn to trust our love from faith to faith. She will see us for who we are rather than watch us with blinding fear from the dark shadows.
Some day I hope to see my God in His fulness. It is a scary journey but His love is patient and kind... We will never really live until we are fully persuaded and the door is ripped right off the hinges never to be able to close again.