A Blank Page
Good Morning, Friends.
Today, I wish you a morning filled with shalom, brimming with the Holy Spirit's fiery presence.
Last week, we turned a page in our lives, and now, we stand before a fresh, blank page. This new page is where our present unfolds, just as previous pages have chronicled our past, and future pages await our stories. What will I inscribe on this pristine, inviting slate today?
I often ponder whether it's truly me shaping these pages, or if they reflect how others perceive me. It's a curious thought. After all, this is the book of my life. Am I the author, or is someone else holding the pen? Consider this: when my story began, I wasn't even born yet. "Chrisje," meaning little Chris, was just a week old in Jannie's womb, a life sparked by the love between Jannie and Hendrik. Would Hendrik write in his book, "Out of our love, little Christiaan began to grow in Jannie's womb"? I doubt it. It seems our lives are often narrated by external observers.
How does your book read? This week might end with a joyous note for Mr. and Mrs. Donaldson, who entered into Holy Matrimony on March 08, 2014. Others might end their week with a child's whine, "No, I'm not tired, I don't want to go to bed!" Or perhaps, like me, you planned to do more, but suddenly, the lights went out, and all plans were postponed. Yes, that was me, needing rest yet reluctantly accepting it.
The wedding ceremony was moving, and I had to fight back tears. But now, there's much to organize and set right. Someone else might write, "Today, I helped a lot by cleaning dishes and storing leftovers." It feels good to read such things in our own books, doesn't it?
Brothers and Sisters, consider the blank page before a wedding ceremony. It's like a default page of nerves and grumpiness, but we often skip it. Men like to appear unaffected, but inside, a storm of emotions and nerves rages. So, we turn the page on that chapter.
How do we read our book? In many churches, you'll see two candles burning, a tradition whose meaning is often forgotten. These candles represent the Shabbat commands: "keep" and "remember." Keeping Shabbat means observing it, and remembering it involves preparation. For Jews, it's a reminder of their liberation from Egypt. For us Christians, it symbolizes our journey from a life without Christ—a path leading to death—to a life in His light, promising eternal life.
Lighting these candles, we recall our salvation, the moment we accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The candle flames represent not only Jesus, the light of the world, but also the Holy Spirit's fire within every believer.
Proverbs 20:27 says,
"The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly."
This light illuminates our innermost being, with the Holy Spirit guiding us.
Luke 24:30-34 (KJV)
"And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.”
Consider the disciples' experience in Luke 24:30-34. Their hearts burned within them as Jesus spoke and opened the scriptures. This burning is the Holy Spirit's illumination.
Our life's pages before salvation might appear gray, filled with loneliness and worldly pursuits. But after salvation, they become bright with Christ's light. We're called to live and grow in holiness, following God's will and Jesus' example. The goal is to become more like Jesus, as the chorus goes, "To be like Jesus! This hope possesses me..."
As the prayer chorus tells us;
To be like Jesus!
This hope possesses me,
In every thought and deed,
This is my aim, my creed;
To be like Jesus!
This hope possesses me,
His Spirit helping me,
Like him I'll be.
Gowans and Larsons
In these times, we witness an increasing prevalence of false teachings and teachers, even infiltrating churches that were once steadfast in biblical truth. This isn't a new phenomenon; it's a trend that began nearly two millennia ago. The Book of Revelation, particularly chapters 2 and 3, addresses this through letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. Each letter, dictated by Christ Himself, serves not only as a specific message to these churches but also as a timeless guide for us today.
Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7): Known for its hard work and perseverance, the church in Ephesus is commended for its discernment against false apostles. However, Christ rebukes them for abandoning their first love. This serves as a reminder to us that while doctrine and discernment are crucial, they must be rooted in our first love for Christ and His teachings.
Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11): The church in Smyrna faces poverty and persecution. Christ offers them no rebuke but encourages them to be faithful, even to the point of death. This letter reminds us that faithfulness in trials is precious in God's sight, and eternal life is the reward for such steadfastness.
Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17): Located in a city where Satan's throne is said to be, this church held fast to their faith. Yet, they are criticized for tolerating teachings that led believers into sin. This warns us against complacency and the acceptance of teachings that compromise our moral and spiritual integrity.
Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29): This church is commended for its love, faith, service, and perseverance. However, they are rebuked for tolerating a prophetess leading people into immorality and idolatry. It's a stark reminder that tolerance of false teachings under the guise of love or openness can lead to spiritual decay.
Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6): Christ admonishes this church for having a reputation of being alive, but in reality, they are dead. This is a call for us to remain vigilant in our spiritual lives, ensuring that our actions reflect a living faith, not just an appearance of religiosity.
Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13): This church, with little strength, kept Christ's word and did not deny His name. They are promised protection and reward. It teaches us that even a small congregation.
Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22): The Lukewarm Church: Laodicea was criticized for being lukewarm—neither hot nor cold. Christ warned that He would spit them out because of their complacency. This church is a stark reminder of the danger of being spiritually indifferent and the need for fervent commitment to our faith.
Each church faced different challenges, from losing their first love to tolerating false doctrines. It's up to us to discern the truth, guided by Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 4 urges us to cherish wisdom and guard our hearts, for they are the wellspring of life. We must be vigilant in our walk with God, avoiding the paths of the wicked.
Proverbs 4 (CJB)
Listen, children, to a father’s instruction; pay attention, in order to gain insight;
2 for I am giving you good advice; so don’t abandon my teaching.
3 For I too was once a child to my father; and my mother, too, thought of me as her special darling.
4 He too taught me; he said to me, “Let your heart treasure my words; keep my commands, and live;
5 gain wisdom, gain insight; don’t forget or turn from the words I am saying.
6 Don’t abandon [wisdom]; then she will preserve you; love her, and she will protect you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom! And along with all your getting, get insight!
8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will bring you honor;
9 she will give your head a garland of grace, bestow on you a crown of glory.”
10 Listen, my son, receive what I say, and the years of your life will be many.
11 I’m directing you on the way of wisdom, guiding you in paths of uprightness;
12 when you walk, your step won’t be hindered; and if you run, you won’t stumble.
13 Hold fast to discipline, don’t let it go; guard it, for it is your life.
14 Don’t follow the path of the wicked or walk on the way of evildoers.
15 Avoid it, don’t go on it, turn away from it, and pass on.
16 For they can’t sleep if they haven’t done evil, they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone fall.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, shining ever brighter until full daylight.
19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; they don’t even know what makes them stumble.
20 My son, pay attention to what I am saying; incline your ear to my words.
21 Don’t let them out of your sight, keep them deep in your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them and health to their whole being.
23 Above everything else, guard your heart; for it is the source of life’s consequences.
24 Keep crooked speech out of your mouth, banish deceit from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze on what lies in front of you.
26 Level the path for your feet, let all your ways be properly prepared; then deviate neither right nor left; and keep your foot far from evil.
In the church, some may say that grace excuses all, but we must remember our duty to honor the Holy Spirit and our Heavenly Father. Just as we wouldn't want to grieve our earthly fathers, we should strive not to grieve our Heavenly Father.
Each of these churches reflects different challenges and spiritual states that are still relevant to us today. As we consider our own "book, " our own walk with the Lord, we must ask ourselves: Which of these churches do we resemble? Are we like Ephesus, strong in doctrine but lacking in love? Or are we like Smyrna, enduring trials with steadfast faith? Perhaps we are more like Laodicea, comfortable and complacent, needing a wake-up call to reignite our passion for Christ.
These messages to the seven churches serve as a mirror, reflecting our own spiritual condition and prompting us to introspection and action. They remind us to remain faithful, to repent where we have strayed, and to pursue a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. As we write the pages of our lives, let us be mindful of these lessons, striving to be churches and individuals that are pleasing in the sight of our Lord.
In our journey of faith, we often encounter crossroads where the teachings of the world conflict with the eternal truths of Scripture. Within the church – and by this, I mean the universal body of believers who declare Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – there are prevailing movements that sometimes misconstrue the essence of grace. They suggest that since we are forgiven, adherence to God's commandments becomes optional as if grace is a license to disregard the grieving of the Holy Spirit through disobedience.
But let's ponder this: Do we not love our earthly fathers? I certainly do. I recall my father's teachings and his warnings against habits that could harm me due to our family's history of fibrosis and alcoholism. His guidance was not just rules; it was an expression of love, a desire to see me live a healthy, fulfilling life. If I respect and honor my earthly father's wisdom, how much more should I heed the wisdom of our Heavenly Father, who embodies righteousness and knows the very fabric of our being?
Our lives are like books being written under the watchful eye of the Lord. When He reads my pages, will they be stained with His tears of sorrow over my choices, or will they reflect His joy and approval?
This is a profound reflection for each of us.
Moreover, there's another book – the Book of Life, held by Yeshua (Jesus), the Lamb of God. As described in Revelation, the world will face tribulations, a prelude to the ultimate confrontation between good and evil. Revelation 13:6-9 vividly illustrates this cosmic battle, emphasizing the significance of being inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life.
This book is not a record of our deeds but a testament to His grace. It's not about our righteousness but His sacrifice. When we stand before God's throne, it is Christ who will intercede for us, affirming our place in His book, cleansed by His blood.
For those not found in the Lamb's Book of Life, their own deeds will be their testimony, and as Scripture reminds us, all have sinned and fall short of God's glory. But praise be to God, for we are saved by grace, justified by His sacrifice. Our names are not just written in this book; they are sealed with the declaration, "He is mine," signed by Jesus Himself.
In this understanding, we find the true essence of our faith – a balance of grace and obedience, love and reverence, humility and assurance. Our lives, then, become a living testament to His grace, a journey marked not by perfection but by a heartfelt desire to align our will with His, to live in a way that honors both the sacrifice of Christ and the teachings of Scripture.
Praise His Holy name, for in His book, our names are not merely entries; they are declarations of His enduring love and our eternal belonging.