Christ and the Churches: Part 1 (Revelation 2:1-11)

Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

If you have ever moved to a new community and had to select a new church home, you know how difficult it is to examine and evaluate a church and its ministry. Imposing buildings may house dying or dead congregations, while modest structures might belong to vibrant assemblies on the march for the Lord. The church we think is “rich” may turn out to be poor in God’s sight (Rev. 3:17), while the “poor” church is actually rich (Rev. 2:9).

Only the Head of the church, Jesus Christ, can accurately inspect each church and know its true condition because He sees the internals, not only the externals (Rev. 2:23b). In these special messages to the seven churches in Asia Minor the Lord gave each assembly an “X ray” of its condition. They are commended for their strengths and warned about their flaws. But He intended for all the churches to read these messages and benefit from them. (Note the plural “churches” in Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.)

The Lord was also speaking to individuals, and this is where you and I come in. “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Churches are made up of individuals and it is individuals who determine the spiritual life of the assembly. Before Christ judges the world, He must judge His own people (Ezek. 9:6; 1 Peter 4:17). A purified church need never fear the attacks of Satan or men. As we go over these messages, we must apply them personally as we examine our own hearts.

First Love

I. Ephesus, the Loveless Church (Rev. 2:1–7)

The Ephesian assembly had enjoyed some “stellar” leadership—Paul, Timothy, and the Apostle John himself—but the Lord reminded them He was in control of the ministry, placing the “stars” where He pleased. How easy it is for a church to become proud and forget pastors and teachers are God’s gifts (Eph. 4:11) who may be taken away at any time. Some churches need to be cautioned to worship the Lord and not their pastor!

1. Approval (vv. 2–3, 6)

This was a serving church, busy doing the works of the Lord. No doubt their weekly schedule was filled with activities. It was also a sacrificing church, for the word labor means “toil to the point of exhaustion.” The Ephesian Christians paid a price to serve the Lord. They were a steadfast assembly, for the word perseverance carries the meaning of “endurance under trial.” They kept going when the going was tough.

The Ephesian church was a separated people, for they carefully examined the visiting ministers (2 John 7–11) to see if they were genuine. Paul had warned the Ephesian elders that false teachers would come in from the outside, and even arise from within the church (Acts 20:28–31) and John had instructed them to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1–6). Indeed, Satan has his false ministers, and the church must be constantly alert to detect them and reject them (2 Cor. 11:1–4, 12–15).

The Christians at Ephesus separated themselves not only from false doctrine, but also from false deeds. Jesus commended the church for hating the wicked practices of the Nicolaitans. This was a sect who “lorded it over” the church and robbed the people of their liberty in Christ (3 John 9–11). They initiated what we know today as “clergy” and “laity,” a false division that is taught nowhere in the New Testament. All God’s people are “kings and priests” (1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:6), and have equal access to the Father through the blood of Christ (Heb. 10:19). We will meet this dangerous sect again when we study the message to the church at Pergamos.

The believers at Ephesus were a suffering people who patiently bore their burdens and toiled without fainting. And they did all of this for His name’s sake! As we examine this congregation up until this point, you may conclude they are just about perfect. However, the One among the lamp stands saw into their hearts and He had a different diagnosis.

2. Accusation (v. 4)

This busy, separated, sacrificing church really suffered from “heart trouble”—they had abandoned their first love! They displayed “works … labor … and patience”, but these qualities were not motivated by a love for Christ (compare with 1 Thes. 1:3). What we do for the Lord is important, but so is our motive for doing it!

What is this “first love” they had forsaken? It is the devotion to Christ that so often characterizes the new believer: fervent, personal, uninhibited, excited, and openly displayed. It is the “honeymoon love” of the husband and wife (Jer. 2:1–2). While it is true that mature married love deepens and grows richer, it is also true that it should never lose the excitement and wonder of those “honeymoon days.” When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted and life becomes routine, then the marriage is in danger.

Just think of it: it is possible to serve, sacrifice, and suffer “for My name’s sake” and yet not really love Jesus Christ! The Ephesian believers were so busy maintaining their separation that they were neglecting adoration. Labor is no substitute for love; neither is purity a substitute for passion. The church must have both if it is to please Him. But the Ephesian church had fallen and was not living up to its heavenly position in Christ (Rev. 2:5). It is only as we love Christ fervently that we can serve Him faithfully.

3. Admonition (vv. 5–7)

Our “first love” can be restored only if we follow the three instructions Christ gave. First, we must remember (literally “keep on remembering”) what we have lost and cultivate a desire to regain that close communion once again. Then, we must repent—change our minds—and confess our sins to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Third, we must repeat the things we did at first, which suggests restoring the original fellowship that was broken by our sin and neglect. For the believer, this means prayer, Bible reading and meditation, obedient service, and worship.

In spite of the privileges the church of Ephesus had enjoyed, it was in danger of losing its light! The church that loses its love will soon lose its light, no matter how doctrinally sound it may be. “I will come” is not referring to the Lord’s return, but to His coming judgment then and there. The glorious city of Ephesus is today a heap of stones and no light is shining there.

Revelation 2:7 makes it clear that individual believers within the church may be true to the Lord, no matter what the majority is doing. In these seven messages the “overcomers” are not a “spiritual elite,” but rather the true believers whose faith has given them victory (1 John 5:4–5). Sinful man was banned from the tree of life (Gen. 3:22–24), but in Christ we have eternal abundant life (John 3:16; 10:10). We enjoy this blessing now and we will enjoy it in greater measure in eternity (Rev. 22:1–5).

The church of Ephesus was the “loveless church,” made up of careless believers who neglected their love for Christ. Are we guilty of the same neglect?

Smyrna Church Persecuted 2.8-11

II. Smyrna, the Persecuted Church (Rev. 2:8–11)

The name Smyrna means “bitter” and is related to the word myrrh. The Christians at Smyrna were experiencing the bitterness of suffering, but their faithful testimony was like myrrh or sweet perfume to God.  The assembly at Smyrna was persecuted for the faith, which explains why the Lord emphasized His death and resurrection as He opened His message. No matter what experiences God’s people may have, their Lord identifies with them.

1. Approval (v. 9)

The church at Smyrna was not having an easy time of it! The church in this city struggled against two hostile forces: a Jewish population strongly opposed to Christianity, and a non-Jewish population that was loyal to Rome and supported emperor worship. The members were persecuted because they refused to compromise and worship the emperor. Smyrna was an important center of the Roman imperial cult, and anyone refusing to acknowledge Caesar as Lord would certainly be excluded from the society.

The believers in Smyrna suffered affliction and poverty. The word affliction means “pressure” or “crushing weight.” It resembles the persecution of God’s people in Egyptian slavery (Exod. 3:9; 4:31) and their exile in Babylon (Deut. 4:25–31; 28:47–68). As a result of affliction, these Christians were reduced to unemployment and poverty. The word used here for poverty means “abject poverty, possessing absolutely nothing.”

But they were rich! What a comfort it was for the Christians at Smyrna to know that Christ knew all about their sufferings: “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!” They lived for eternal values that would never change, riches that could never be taken away. “As poor, yet making rich” (2 Cor. 6:10; 8:9). Their suffering for Christ only increased their riches.

2. Admonition (vv. 10–11)

No words of accusation were given to the congregation in Smyrna! They may not have enjoyed the approval of men, but they certainly received the praise of God. Jesus commended the church for its faith in suffering and gave solemn words of admonition as they faced increased suffering: “Don’t be afraid!” More suffering was in store for the Smyrnians at the hands of the devil. The word devil means “slanderer,” “accuser,” or “adversary.” In the Old Testament the devil is like a public prosecutor (Job 1–2; Zech. 3). In the New Testament, he is the source of all falsehood and deception. God is allowing Satan to test the faith of Christians, providing the opportunity for them to show their commitment to suffer for Christ.

Jesus assured the church He knew the devil’s plans and He was in complete control of the situation. Some of the believers would be imprisoned and tried as traitors to Rome, yet their tribulation would not be long. Their affliction was to last only for “ten days.” In the Bible, ten days signifies “a brief time” (Gen. 24:55; Acts 25:6). The important thing was faithfulness, standing true to Christ no matter what the government might threaten to do.

The Lord reinforced the promise given by James (James 1:12) and assured His people there was nothing to fear. The “crown of life” was the winner’s crown awarded at the annual athletic games. Smyrna was a key participant in the games, so this promise would be especially meaningful to believers living there. Because they had trusted Him, they were overcomers—victors in the race of faith (Heb. 12:1–3)—and, as overcomers, they had nothing to fear. Even if they were martyred, they would be ushered into glory, wearing crowns! They would never face the awful judgment of the second death, which is the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14; 21:8).

It costs to be a dedicated Christian, in some places more than others. As end-time pressures increase, persecution will also increase; and God’s people need to be ready (1 Peter 4:12). The world may call us “poor Christians,” but in God’s sight we are rich!

In Part 2, we will look at Christ’s message to the next two churches.

https://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2015/05/20/christ-and-the-churches-part-1-revelation-2/

The Power of Patience: Part 2 (James 5:7-12)

Pastor Joe Quatrone, Jr.

James knew his readers needed patience. They were facing persecution because of their faith. In Part 1, we saw two examples of patient endurance: the farmer and the prophets. Today, we will look at the third example.

Job (James 5:11)

As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

You cannot persevere unless there is a trial in your life. There can be no victories without battles; there can be no peaks without valleys. If we want the blessing, we must be prepared to carry the burden and fight the battle.

I once heard a young Christian pray, “Lord, please teach me the deep truths of Your Word! I want to be lifted up to the heavens to hear and see the wonderful things that are there!” It was a sincere prayer, but the young man did not realize what he was praying. Paul went to the “third heaven” and learned things too marvelous for words; and as a result, God had to give Paul a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble (2 Cor. 12:1–10). God has to balance privileges with responsibilities, blessings with burdens, or else you and I will become spoiled, pampered children.

When do “blessings” come? In the midst of trials we may experience God’s blessings, as did the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3); but James taught there is a blessing after we have endured. His example was Job.

The Book of Job is a long book and the chapters are filled with speeches that, to the Western mind, seem long and tedious. In the first three chapters is Job’s distress: he loses his wealth, his family (except for his wife, who told him to commit suicide), and his health. In chapters 4–31, we read Job’s defense, as he debates with his three friends and answers their false accusations. Chapters 38–42 present Job’s deliverance: first God humbles Job, and then He honors Job and gives him twice as much as he had before.

In studying the experience of Job, it is important to remember Job did not know what was going on “behind the scenes” between God and Satan. Job’s friends accused him of being a sinner and a hypocrite. “There must be some terrible sin in your life,” they argued, “or God would never have permitted this suffering.” Job disagreed with them and maintained his innocence (but not perfection) during the entire conversation. The friends were wrong: God had no cause against Job (Job 2:3) and in the end, God rebuked the friends for telling lies about Job (Job 42:7).

It is difficult to find a greater example of suffering than Job. Circumstances were against him. He lost his wealth and his health. He also lost his beloved children. His wife was against him, for she said, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9). His friends were against him, for they accused him of being a hypocrite, deserving of the judgment of God. It even seemed like God was against him! When Job cried out for answers to his questions, there was no reply from heaven.

Yet, Job endured. Satan predicted Job would get impatient with God and abandon his faith, but that did not happen. While it is true Job questioned God’s will, he did not forsake his faith in the Lord. “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless, I will defend my ways before Him” (Job 13:15). Job was so sure of God’s perfections that he persisted in arguing with Him, even though he did not understand all God was doing. That is endurance.

God made a covenant with Israel that He would bless them if they would obey His Laws (Deut. 11). This led to the idea that, if you were wealthy and comfortable, you were blessed of God; but if you were suffering and poor, you were cursed of God. When Jesus said it is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven the disciples were shocked. “Who, then, can be saved?” they asked (Matt. 19:23–26). “The rich are especially blessed of God,” they were saying. “If they can’t make it, nobody can!” Sad to say, many people have that same erroneous idea today.

The Book of Job refutes that idea, for Job was a righteous man and yet he suffered. God found no evil in him and even Satan could not find any. Job’s friends could not prove their accusations. Job teaches us God has higher purposes in suffering than the punishing of sin. Job’s experience paved the way for Jesus, the perfect Son of God who suffered, not for His own sins, but for the sins of the world.

In Job’s case, what was “the end purpose of the Lord”? To reveal Himself as full of pity and tender mercy. Certainly, there were other results from Job’s experience, for God never wastes the sufferings of His saints. Job met God in a new and deeper way (Job 42:1–6), and, after that, he received greater blessings from the Lord.

“But if God is so merciful,” someone may argue, “why didn’t He protect Job from all that suffering to begin with?” To be sure, there are mysteries to God’s working that our finite minds cannot fathom; but this we know: God was glorified and Job was purified through this difficult experience. If there is nothing to endure, you cannot learn endurance.

What did Job’s story mean to the believers James wrote to and what does it mean to us today? It means that some of the trials of life are caused directly by satanic opposition. God permits Satan to try His children, but He always limits the extent of the enemy’s power (Job 1:12; 2:6). When you find yourself in the fire, remember God keeps His gracious hand on the thermostat! “But He knows the way I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Satan wants us to get impatient with God, for an impatient Christian is a powerful weapon in the devil’s hands. You will recall from our study of James 1 that Moses’ impatience robbed him of a trip to the Holy Land; Abraham’s impatience led to the birth of Ishmael, the enemy of the Jews; and Peter’s impatience almost made him a murderer. When Satan attacks us, it is easy for us to get impatient, and run ahead of God and lose God’s blessing as a result.

What is the answer? “My grace is sufficient for you!” (2 Cor. 12:7–9) Paul’s thorn in the flesh was a “messenger of Satan.” Paul could have fought it, given up under it, or tried to deny the thorn existed; but he did not. Instead, he trusted God for the grace he needed and he turned Satan’s weapon into a tool for the building up of his own spiritual life.

When you find yourself in the furnace, go to the throne of grace and receive from the Lord all the grace you need to endure (Heb. 4:14–16). Remind yourself the Lord has a gracious purpose in all of this suffering, and He will work out His purposes in His time and for His glory. You are not a robot caught in the jaws of fate. You are a loving child of God, privileged to be a part of a wonderful plan. There is a difference!

“Be patient, for the coming of the Lord is near!”

https://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/the-power-of-patience-part-2/

5 Reasons Why People Doubt Their Salvation

I am confident of this: that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

The Bible teaches not only does Jesus save us, but He keeps us in the faith. It teaches God not only gives eternal life, but will preserve us in that life. It is not life until we sin again, it is not life until we feel differently, it is not life until times get tough and our faith grows weak, it is eternal life which will never end. Scripture is filled with the assurance that our salvation is secure.

Many people, however, tend to doubt their salvation. Here are five reasons why:

1. They have a faulty understanding of how they are saved.

If a person thinks he is saved by good works, then it stands to reason he would think his salvation could be lost by bad works. This is the problem with many people today. They feel they can lose their salvation. They say, “If I could earn it, I could lose it. If I could deserve it, I could desert it.” But this is incorrect. The truth of the matter is since we cannot earn it, since it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast, then we did not deserve it in the first place.

This is why a proper theological understanding of salvation is important. God chose to save us, not based on our merits or what we deserved. Rather, He chose to save us in spite of who we are and contrary to what we deserved. Salvation is based on His goodness and grace, not on our merit. When we get a proper understanding of that, when we get a clear picture of how bad our sins are and how great God’s grace is, it will give us a new and deeper appreciation for our salvation.

2. They do not have a biblical understanding of perseverance.

Instead of realizing what God has said and trusting He will be faithful to His Word, many people have based their beliefs on what someone has told them, how they feel, on faulty interpretation, or something other than the revelation in God’s Word. This is the fundamental problem with all doctrinal error, that people have not rightly divided the Word of God and have based their belief on a view which is not biblical.

Many people base their beliefs on experience. They might say something like this: “I knew a person who was a great Christian for many years, but then one day he decided to walk away from the faith and leave God behind. He just laid down his salvation and abandoned God.” Scripture gives insight into such cases: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19). If we are truly saved, we will persevere in our salvation to the end.

3. They are ignorant of God’s promises in His Word.

The level of biblical illiteracy today is astonishing. Many professing Christians know more about their favorite sports teams than they do the doctrines of the faith. It is no wonder why so many of us are so easily led astray by every wind of doctrine which blows across the ecclesiological landscape.

The antidote for this is simple: get grounded and rooted in the Word of God, and learn what it says about who God is. God’s Word tells us He gives eternal life: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:12-13).

4. They are out of fellowship with God and do not sense His presence.

There are many Christians today who experience doubts about their salvation for no other reason than they are out of fellowship with God. Our salvation is all about relationship. It is about walking and talking, breathing and being; it is about practicing the presence of God in our lives. But many Christians have allowed sin to remain in their lives, unconfessed and unaddressed. They have grieved the Holy Spirit of God and are no longer sensitive to His presence in their lives, nor are they aware of His movement around them. It is little wonder why people in such a state doubt their salvation.

The solution for this is simple: Get right with God. “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

5. They are not saved and sense they are lost because they really are.

One of the reasons people doubt their salvation is simply because they are not saved. They may have knowledge of the church. They may have knowledge of Scripture. They may have grown up in a Christian home, surrounded by Christian friends and family, but at the end of the day, they cannot say they have ever experienced a transformation of their life, the kind of transformation which only Jesus can bring when He gives a person a new heart and a new mind.

It is to this end that Paul tells the Christians at Corinth: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). The reason many people will go to hell from a church pew is because they never gave themselves a spiritual examination. They never stopped to consider whether or not they were really saved. If you are truly saved, you should know it. God does not want you to be paralyzed by fear or doubts, which are ungrounded or unfounded.

The solution is clear: know what God’s Word says about your salvation. Stand on the truth that it is Jesus who saves you and not anything you have done. Ground yourself in good doctrine. Remember your salvation is a reflection and an extension of God’s character. Let Him show you if there is any sin in your life and stop for a moment to examine yourself spiritually to see if you are truly in the faith: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

* If you enjoyed this, I encourage you to read more in my book, Back to the Basics: A Guide for Christian Living.

Cover (woods)

https://joequatronejr.wordpress.com/2015/03/28/5-reasons-why-people-doubt-their-salvation/

VIDEO Growing in the Valleys – Persecution for U.S. Christians – MacArthur to Biden – Overcoming an Intimidating Culture

by Greg Laurie on Jan 15, 2021

I’m glad I don’t know the future. It would be very troubling to always know what will happen next. And of course, if I knew certain things were going to happen, I’d do my best to make sure they didn’t happen. Not only that, but there would be other things I’d try to make happen sooner, and I’d mess everything up.

Jesus, being God, had complete foreknowledge. He knew exactly what was ahead of Him. He knew that His disciples would forsake Him. Worst of all, He knew that although He was sinless, He would take all the sin, corruption, and filth of the world upon Himself and be momentarily separated from God the Father when He became the sin sacrifice for humanity.

Jesus wasn’t looking forward to this, but He knew it had to be done. And at the halfway point on His difficult journey, He experienced a significant event.

Leading up to this moment, a conversation took place between Jesus and the disciples at Caesarea Philippi, where He asked them, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13 NLT).

They offered various answers, and finally Peter got it right, saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (verse 16). So Jesus commended Peter for his insightful statement.

From that point on, Jesus began to declare to the disciples how He must suffer many things at the hands of the elders and chief priests, be crucified, and rise from the dead on the third day. This was a new movement in the ministry of Jesus where He openly and clearly addressed His certain future.

And Jesus apparently believed the time was right for some of His disciples, specifically Peter, James, and John, to have a greater glimpse of His glory.

I find it interesting that Jesus singled out these three on a number of occasions. It might lead us to believe they were sort of the spiritual elite. And that’s one way to look at it.

But here’s another perspective: maybe they just needed spiritual attention. For instance, when I was in school and got into trouble, the teacher would say, “Greg Laurie, come up here and sit right next to my desk so I can keep my eye on you.”

I wonder if Jesus thought, “I want to keep an eye on you boys.”

Don’t forget that James and John wanted to call fire down on people who weren’t hospitable toward them. That’s why they were known as the Sons of Thunder. And of course Peter needed attention as well.

Whatever the reason, Jesus singled out Peter, James, and John for a rare privilege: to witness His transfiguration. There on the mountaintop, Jesus’s garments “became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2 NLT). His face shined like the sun. And the fact that Moses and Elijah were there speaking with Him only added to the drama of that wonderful day.

We might think the miracle was that Jesus shined like the sun. That was a supernatural demonstration, but I don’t think it was a miracle. I think the real miracle was what happened on all the other days when Jesus didn’t shine like that.

The Transfiguration wasn’t so much a new miracle. Rather, it was the temporary ceasing of a habitual one. In other words, Jesus was God. For Him to shine was not a great feat. A greater feat was for Him not to shine all the time. Jesus veiled His glory.

In the New Testament book of Philippians, we read that Jesus “gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (2:7–8 NLT).

Jesus never stopped being God. But He laid aside the privileges of deity and walked among us as a man.

So at the Transfiguration, He was effectively saying to Peter, James, and John, “Take a look and see who I really am.” He let His glory shine out.

And who wouldn’t be dazzled by such a display? It was so wonderful, so awe-inspiring, in fact, that Peter wanted the moment to last forever. He blurted out, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (verse 4 NLT).

When something wonderful happens, our natural inclination is to hold on to it, to freeze it in time and never let it go. But God doesn’t want us to build our tabernacles in the place of glory when the world is in flames.

Waiting for Peter, James, and John at the bottom of the mountain was cold, hard reality. They learned that we can’t always have mountaintop experiences. On those occasions when we do, they’re preparing us to live in the valleys.

The real character that God develops in our lives usually doesn’t happen in those great moments when we bask in glory as much as when we’re in the valley of reality, putting into practice what we’ve learned.

As this world grows darker, our tendency is to want to withdraw into our own subculture instead of realizing there’s a world out there in need. We may think, “Oh, I wish I could find a Christian city. We could have a Christian mayor, Christians on the city council and Christians on the police force. Everyone would be Christians, and that would just be wonderful.”

But God doesn’t want us to build a Christian city on this Earth; rather, He wants us to reach the world with the gospel. So we have to come down from our mountaintops. We have to come down from our emotional experiences and live this Christian life in the real world.

Often after the great works of God in our lives, there will be challenges. But don’t dread them. Just keep moving, keep growing, and keep learning.

For our small faith to become great faith, we must apply it. We must use it and stretch it. And we must avoid the temptation of spiritual slumber and laziness so we don’t miss out on what God is doing.

Learn more about Pastor Greg Laurie.

This article was originally published at WND.com.


Persecution for U.S. Christians Could Come Quicker Than You Think

“Come on man,” get with the program. Joe Biden and his congressional allies on Capitol Hill hope to pass a new domestic anti-terror law. Guess who it may soon be targeting. Rod Dreher explains on this segment of “Where in the World.”


MacArthur to Biden: “You’d better be careful when you put your hand on God”

On 1 24 2021 #JohnMacArthur gave a scathing rebuke of #Biden ‘s Inaugural address, a rebuke that all Christians should affirm and defend. [ We affirm and defend the rebuke]


Elijah: Overcoming an Intimidating Culture | Dr. David Jeremiah

Our society is tolerant of almost everything except biblical Christianity, and that can put us on the defensive. Today, Dr. David Jeremiah studies the life of Elijah and shows us how we can overcome our timidity as we follow Christ.


VIDEO Full Documentary: ‘Up We Soar’ Brings to Life a True Story of Courage

"Up We Soar." (NTD)

“Up We Soar.” (NTD)

BY EPOCH TIMES STAFF December 20, 2020

The Epoch Times and its sister media NTD will premiere the documentary film “Up We Soar” this weekend.

The film follows the true story of seven-year-old Fuyao and her parents in China.

Fuyao’s parents are victims of Communist China’s persecution against Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. A spiritual practice rooted in Buddhist tradition, Falun Gong is followed by millions and targeted by China’s communist regime. Since July 1999, Falun Gong books have been banned and burned. The regime’s propaganda machine slanders the practice. Hundreds of thousands of followers have been arrested. Many are tortured to death.

Amid the persecution, Fuyao’s father, who was working as a news anchor, was forced to do forced labor. Her mother, a teacher, was banned from her job. Fuyao and her mother were placed under house arrest. Fuyao’s mother had to leave her to avoid being arrested. She was later captured and thrown into prison to serve a seven-year term for distributing Falun Gong flyers and DVDs.

Despite the hardship Fuyao faced, she became a key source of inspiration for her scared mother, who was surrounded by murderers, drug dealers, and brutal prison guards. As her mom gradually regained her inner strength, she nurtured and safeguarded Fuyao during her turbulent teenage years, using extraordinary means.

The animated documentary film, produced by New Realm Studios and NTD Television, is one of a series of documentaries produced by NTD’s Legends Unfolding.

Through animation and live interviews, the film brings to life a true story of courage, love, and perseverance in the darkest of times.

Watch Here:

Premiered on Website on Dec. 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET:

NTD website:
https://www.ntd.com

The Epoch Times website:
https://www.theepochtimes.com

NTD Twitter: https://twitter.com/news_ntd

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Why Do Some Pastors Sabotage Their Own Ministries?

And how can they avoid the allure of the self-destruct button?
STEPHEN L. WOODWORTH

Why Do Some Pastors Sabotage Their Own Ministries?

Can we be brutally honest with one another for a moment? Can I ask you, pastor to pastor, the question that no one dares to ask.

How often do you want to quit?

How often do you fantasize about doing something else, something that refuses to weigh so heavily on your soul, something that offers more money? Or less? Something that doesn’t cost your family so much of their time, energy, and privacy? Something that helps you feel “normal” when you talk to fellow parents at your child’s school or their weekly sporting event? Do you ever wonder if there might be another way to make a living that doesn’t cost so much?

I do.

I do on those Monday mornings when the post-sermon blues hit me so hard I could stay in bed for days. When people judge my children, second-guess my motives, and criticize my teaching. When I spend another sleepless night on the couch, in the silence and stillness of my house, wondering if there might be anything else in the world someone like me could do, but when the thing I know how to do best is pastor the souls of broken men and women.

These haunting questions are the unspoken underbelly of the pastoral calling. They are asked by those torn in two by the burden of their calling and the desire for escape, those who have invested too much time and money building a platform they can’t afford to lose, and those who wake up some morning to discover that all the years of preaching truths they never experienced themselves bored a deep cynicism into their souls.

This kind of pressure pushes some pastors toward the light, draws them closer to Christ, and grows them into greater spiritual maturity. Yet it casts others into the darkest of corners, sends them running away from Jesus, and tempts them to give in to temptations that have haunted them for years. While many pastors handle the burden of ministry with grace for decades, why do some crash and burn in only a few years?

Many people believe the reason is quite simple: the sinful human heart. This is true, of course, but also vague enough to be of little value for those seeking a specific prescription. Others suggest pride or a culture of celebrity that elevates pastors above the law. Still others talk about pastors’ isolation, their lack of confession, their diminished willingness to engage in self-reflection. Or as my wife suggested, some pastors have gotten so used to faking it that this becomes the norm in every sphere of life. Undoubtedly these all play a role in pastoral failure.

But I want to suggest another option: Some pastors sabotage their ministries on purpose.

Hitting the Self-Destruct Button

I often read that pastors never decide one morning to become addicted to pills, to bed down with someone other than their spouse, to endlessly click through pornographic websites, or to drink until life becomes a dull blur. And while it’s true that these decisions probably aren’t spur of the moment, we deceive ourselves if we pretend pastors never willingly and intentionally decide to fail. Some do.

As Carey Nieuwhof reflects, failure is sometimes the quickest escape.

When I first started out in ministry, I met with a pastor who had just had to resign because of an affair. He was 20 years my senior, and we met for lunch.

I asked him why he had an affair, and he told me in part it was because he couldn’t handle the pressure of ministry anymore but couldn’t find an easy way to get out. The affair forced him out.

Years later I would discover the pain of burnout personally. … I was so burnt out an escape from my life looked appealing. By the grace of God, I knew enough to keep my head in the game even though my heart had stopped working. As a result, during my darkest months, I kept saying to myself “whatever you do, don’t do anything rash—don’t cheat on your wife, don’t quit your job and don’t buy a sports car.”

In its simplest terms, self-sabotage, or self-defeating behavior, includes any behavior that undermines a person’s own goals. Psychologist Ellen Hendrickson suggests that, among other reasons, many people self-sabotage because it gives them a feeling of control over their situation. She notes, “It feels better to control your own failure. At least when you’re steering the ship, going down in flames feels more like a well-maintained burn.”

Others may sabotage themselves due to insecurity. Many pastors feel like imposters, and it may feel easier to fail morally than face the potential of being fired for inadequacy. “How does this manifest?” asks Hendrickson. “Feeling like a fraud easily leads you towards procrastination and diversion—if you’re faced with a task that makes you feel like a phony, it’s a lot more tempting to … realize there’s no time like the present to immediately start a DIY spice rack project.”

And then there are those who pursue self-sabotage as a way to return to a sense of equilibrium. To one degree or another, every pastor feels the gnawing sense of their own hypocrisy. We are called to preach, week after week, about a vision of Christianity that we may not fully experience, a love from God we sometimes don’t feel, prayer we don’t practice, parenting and marriage advice we forget to employ in our own homes, forgiveness we struggle to give, an identity in Christ in which we struggle to stay rooted. Amid that tension, pastors may look for a way to balance others’ external expectations with their internal reality. The higher the pedestal, the stronger the pull back down.

For this reason, it doesn’t surprise me anymore to see those in some of the largest and most influential ministries in America jumping toward the ground. Sin is the norm and sainthood our elusive goal, so it can be a bizarrely cathartic act for some to give in to their temptations in order to feel “normal” once again. I have watched this principle play itself out among colleagues who have confessed to retreating to their office immediately after the sermon to look at porn, swallow a pill, or drain a bottle of liquor.

I do not believe pastors misunderstand the ramifications of these sort of actions. Certainly, many have successfully hidden their sins for years, but the truth usually finds its way to the surface. And when it does come into the light of day, pastors can’t speak about biblical ignorance or moral ambiguity. Indeed, perhaps the greatest irony of pastoral failure is the amount of teaching, preaching, and writing pastors have often dedicated to decrying the very sins that lead to their fall. Pastors are uniquely positioned to understand the gravity of their immoral decision. This is precisely why their moral failures are more shocking, and why it is difficult to deny that, at least in some cases, pastoral failure is an intentional push of the eject button.

Even while I use the word intentional, it is important to remember that the motives for our self-defeating behavior may be hidden from us in the moment. As with many poor decisions we make, our motives may be limited to hindsight. Such is the case for Darrin Patrick, who underwent three years of restoration since his firing from The Journey church in 2016. After years of counseling, reflection, prayer, and repentance, Patrick came to understand his own act of ministerial self-sabotage was driven by a deep need to be rescued and rebuked:

In my own story, this self-sabotaging was a cry for help. It was me throwing the white flag up and saying, “I need help.” I was saying, “I want to be known, I want to be accepted despite my flaws, I want people to know I have struggles, I want people to know how hard it is and how much I have sacrificed.”

Perhaps most important for Patrick during his season of restoration was the counsel he received from CrossPoint Ministry founder Richard Plass, who shared with Patrick, “You have been crying out for help since you were a little boy; you’ve been wanting somebody to come and be your dad, be your older brother. You’re acting out in order to be rebuked.”

Stepping Back from the Ledge

I shared these reflections recently with some pastoral colleagues who resonated with many aspects of the self-sabotage temptation. When I asked them how they had managed to avoid this fate, a few themes repeatedly rose to the surface of these conversations.

1. Avoid Isolation

Several pastors mentioned that their primary driver of frustration, disillusionment, and sometimes despair is the inherently dehumanizing nature of ministry. In too many churches, the pastor is a role, not a person. Pastors fulfill certain duties—they pray, they preach, they visit, they counsel—but many don’t feel seen as individuals. When someone or something makes a lonely pastor feel “human” again, that pastor may struggle not to run straight into its arms. And the temptation grows even stronger when giving in to it might provide an easy out from a ministry that otherwise feels unavailable. This is the temptation Henri Nouwen was guarding against when he wrote about the need for constant community in the life of a pastor:

When spirituality becomes spiritualization, life in the body becomes carnality. When ministers and priests live their ministry mostly in their heads and relate to the Gospel as a set of valuable ideas to be announced, the body quickly takes revenge by screaming loudly for affection and intimacy. Christian leaders are called to live the Incarnation, that is, to live in the body, not only in their own bodies but also in the corporate body of the community, and to discover there the presence of the Holy Spirit.

2. Watch for Patterns

Second, my colleagues suggested that pastors on the verge of self-sabotage begin to notice the moments in which temptations strike hardest and keep track of when their particular struggle rears its ugly head. Is every spiritual success, every instance of high praise, met with a plunge into the depths of darkness? Pastors on the verge of collapse should ask those who love and know them best if they recognize a pattern in their bouts of depression, anger, despair, or defeats with temptation. If these pastors are seeking a sense of stability to help balance their external persona with their internal reality, they should talk to older pastors about their feelings of inadequacy, their guilt of hypocrisy, and their desire to leap off the pedestal. More ministry “success” will only aggravate the problem.

3. Grieve Your Losses

Finally, and maybe most importantly, my colleagues recommended that pastors learn to grieve. Pastors everywhere, regardless of ministry context, size, or denomination, will sometimes experience a sense of personal loss, betrayal, and anger toward congregants—people who criticized their ministry, tried to get them fired, or consumed their time with petty gripes about music, sermon topics, or the youth ministry. People they poured their life into, yet they still left the church for another one down the street with better coffee in the foyer. People who tried to split the congregation over a trivial issue or personally attacked their spouse or kids. People who hurt them.

Pastors need a way to take these wounds seriously and address them in healthy ways that don’t include passive attacks from the pulpit. They should make time for regular, extended Sabbath rest and quarterly appointments with a trusted counselor who can help them process their pain.

Finally, let me say this: It’s okay to quit. You are not your church. You are not your ministry. You are not the sole bearer of the kingdom in your corner of the world. And stepping away from a role in full-time ministry is not equivalent in any way to stepping away from God. In fact, for some of you, stepping away from full-time ministry may be a step toward God. Every time a pastor escapes ministry through self-sabotage, an entire community is devastated and the global reputation of the church is harmed. Some pastors need to resign rather than escape. Yes, the church needs pastors, but it also needs to stop getting hit by shrapnel when they crash.

 

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