Has Your Lamp Been Removed?
As I sat down with my morning coffee, I wondered what I would say, and how I would say it to you. What came to mind is our new journey. For one thing, we are all adjusting to the confines of the Covid-19 pandemic. For another, we are welcoming our new preacher and his family into our congregation.
When thinking about the adjustments we all need to make, I can’t help but wonder where I’ve gone wrong … what I need to change about myself … how I can be of better service to others? I think on this because of Revelation 1-3.
I imagine myself standing before the throne of God trembling in fear to behold his majesty. When I read God’s pronouncement upon the seven churches of Asia, I couldn’t help but tear up over what’s lacking in my life. I don’t want the Father to sit me down and tell me I’m good in this area of my life, but I lack in another, and if I don’t straighten up, I will be judged.
But how can I avoid such fate?
The Church of Smyrna and the church of Philadelphia are the only two churches out of seven found without fault.
What state will our church be in if Jesus comes with the clouds today? And what part have I played in my church’s demise or in my church’s glory before the Lord?
I don’t like new beginnings. I like routine. I would rather stay couped up in my house and not visit with a soul. I’m comfortable. Stubborn. Anti-social. I need no fanfare. I don’t care for gossip and I literally hate the telephone.
But as I write these words, I’m faced with this question: What am I willing to give of myself to further the kingdom of my Father?
The seven churches mentioned in Revelation are in Asia, specifically, modern-day Turkey, in the eastern Mediterranean area, on or near the Aegean Sea coastline, and were under Roman rule.
Ephesus was a city of 250,000 people, prosperous, wealthy, in the on/near the Aegean Sea, and under Roman rule. The ancient Greek city was located off the coast of Ionia, 3 Km southwest of present-day Selçuk in the Izmir Province, Turkey.
Smyrna is a city north of Ephesus – located on the Aegean Sea coastline that was later captured and destroyed by the Greeks, but rebuilt in the 3rd century, to later become an ally of Rome; is the third largest city in the country. It, too, was prosperous and had magnificent buildings. Today, known as Izmir.
Pergamos / Pergamon / Pergamum – located in the western portion of Asia Minor and north of Smyrna, approximately 15 miles inland of the Aegean Sea, and was once the capital of the Roman province.
Thyatira is located near the Lycus River and it’s where Paul and his companions were invited to stay at the house of Lydia where she and her household were baptized. This city is now known as Akhisar.
Sardis is located 50 miles east of Smyrna, 30 miles south of Thyatira. The Christian community was small and weak and a lot of them returned to their old religious beliefs. It was formerly the capitol of Lydia.
Philadelphia is located 30 miles southeast of Sardis, founded by Attalus II Philadelphus of Pergamos. It was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 17, but rebuilt by Emperor Tiberius. It is now known as Alasehir.
Laodicea is located 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 80 miles east of Ephesus in western Asia Minor – Turkey. It was renowned for its fine woolen garments and eye salves. This city is now known as Denizli.
The Church of Ephesus forsook their first love – Christ.
The Church of Pergamum had those in their midst who worshipped other gods and were sexually immoral.
The Church of Thyatira tolerated Jezebel who called herself a prophetess, teaching and misleading God’s servants.
The Church of Sardis is dead but pretending to be alive, their deeds incomplete.
The Church of Laodicea is lukewarm and is nauseating before the Lord.
What state are we in and how have I helped propel our sentence before the Lord?
I can’t answer this question for you, for I can’t assume to know what you know.
But I can say with certainty that each one of us has a role to play in helping to edify the Church of God. None of us has the right to warm a pew, nod in each other’s direction, cross our legs and criticize, sit back in silence, and carry on.
This is the time to pivot … to seize this opportunity … to set goals for ourselves in order to help the church move forward and not backward. We can’t afford to waste time waiting for a preacher, an elder, a younger person, or more families to move in, or our contributions to increase before we change our attitudes toward one another. When I stand before the throne of God, I will answer only for myself.
This is serious spiritual business. This isn’t a game. Prayer is not something you say, mere words, but is an interaction with God on behalf of another. Christianity is a spiritual communal affair. It requires engaging with others.
And have I mentioned that I’m anti-social and I’d rather stay home, alone, without a telephone?
How can you encourage me to change? What good can I be to the church with my selfish attitude?
Sadly, the answer is: I can’t be of use to anyone. Unless. I. Change.
And you won’t grow either if you do not change.
We are all called to grow in the spirit by the Word of God.
When I think of the seven churches and the seven angels assigned to them, I can’t escape the possible fate we may fall into, both individually, and as a church. I’m hoping my obedience to the Father will increase … my love for the brotherhood will be sincere … and most of all, my love for God will be fervent and without fault.
But to love God is to love my brother and sisters. In I John 4; specifically, v.7-11; and v.21, we are commanded to love each other.
If I continue to conduct my life … If you continue to conduct your life the same way you did a month ago, what have we profited? Do we not fear God’s wrath? Do you really think your church attendance is enough to ensure you have a seat at God’s table?
I want so much more than just to act like a Christian and attend worship service. I want God to change me inside out. I want God to scrub away the callouses until I am raw and tender in heart. I want to look upon people with love–not filled with hate, not by social class, not by political parties, not by ethnicities, not by education, not by financial status. I want to give all of me without complaining, without wishing and hoping for something in return. I want a steadfast love–a love without blemish, a love without fault, a love without judgment.
For all of that to happen, I must humble myself before the feet of Jesus and stop playing and acting the part in a play. I must turn in my Actors Guild Awards and replace it with bent knees, and a humble and repentant heart before the Father.
For all of that to happen, I must give up my complacency, give up my attitude of “I’ve put in my time. Let someone else do it.”
Until that happens, it won’t matter what preacher you’ve hired, how many people have joined our congregation, if we have an adequate number of elders, or if our contributions have increased. You see, if we accomplish all these things and have not love, we will stand before the Lord and He will not fail to voice his displeasure and tell us that we are lacking and have forsaken our first love.
Two of the main themes in the book of Revelation is God’s encouragement to the church — telling them that they have a greater future than the chaos surrounding them; and the revelation of God’s awareness of their deeds. A reward awaits those who endure. Jesus is still and will always be the head of all things. He is the King of all kings, God of all gods. In the book of Revelation, God unveils the church’s immediate future so they can be comforted in times of persecution. He’s encouraging you to hang in there, don’t give up, persevere, for when Jesus comes with the clouds the final victory of the Lamb over Satan will occur and we need to stand ready.
God knows your deed, your hard work, your issues with complacency and laziness, your unwillingness to volunteer to be of service to the church, your hardened heart, your perseverance, your fears, the tears you’ve shed over disobedient children. Like the seven churches, he knows your hate for wickedness, how you’ve tested friends and loved ones, members of the body only to find them false or lacking, yet, you have persevered and endured for his namesake and have not grown weary. Be of good cheer! Be of good courage for God rewards the faithful.
To the Church at Ephesus, he gave the right to eat from the tree of life.
To the Church at Smyrna, he promised no pain by the second death.
To the Church at Pergamos, he presented them with a white stone with a new name.
To the Church at Thyatira, he gave authority over nations.
To the Church at Sardis, he promises to never blot out their names from the book of life but will acknowledge them before the Father and his angels.
To the Church at Philadelphia, he wrote God’s name and city, the new Jerusalem, upon them.
To the Church at Laodicea, he gives the right to sit on Jesus’ throne and Jesus will eat with them.
The promises of God are sure, firm, and will not fade with time. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is, and was, and is to come. Daily renew these words in your mind basis so your spirit can be refreshed.
God will not gloss over your complacency. He won’t ignore it. Like he found fault with the seven churches of Asia, he, too, finds fault with me and you. Imagine you are before the Father. What will you confess? Or rather, what is the first thing you will try to hide from him?
My encouragement to you today, is, for once, be honest with God. Stop all the talking with one another and talk to God. Confess your complacency. Confess your unwillingness to give of yourself, to be of service to your local congregation, to love the brotherhood of believers. Confess why you are expecting so much in return and no longer willing to give of your time.
For anything short of repentance is no repentance at all. And without repentance, there is no seeing the Father face-to-face, no eating at his table, no crown of life, no eating from the tree of life.
I am lacking. I must do more.
How about you?
Are you really willing to run the risk of having your Lamp removed?
September 19, 2020
Donna B. Comeaux
I Am My Sister’s Keeper
Keep on loving each other as brothers.
As we go through this lesson, I want you to think about the sister in your life who needs help.
My family of three brothers–well, we are a mixed, dysfunctional, disagreeable group. But joined at the hip. And I’ve always, always loved them.
The idea of not considering myself as my brothers’ keeper is unthinkable.
Because we share the same mother, were bound by the same rules, eaten and kicked each other at the same table, bargained with one another to get what we wanted, cried for each other when we were hurt, shared in death and in new life, prayed for each other when hard times or sickness or sin beat us down.
That’s what families do.
Just like it’s a foreign idea for me not to be considered as my brothers’ keeper, it is likewise inconceivable to think of you, my dear sisters, as a stranger or alien. Like our earthly families, you and I share the same blood — the blood of Christ. His heart beats through our spiritual veins. He’s our life source; our foundation; our rock; and we are the apple of his eyes.
The love we receive from him should be passed on to one another, and this love should be driven and drenched and enamored by the Holy Scriptures.
But too often we fill God’s perfect love with debris.
Imagine holding a bottle of distilled water. Pure. Crystal clear. No matter where you position it you can see everything through it. Place a speck of dirt, sprinkle in a dash of pepper, add a pinch of breadcrumbs, throw in a couple of rock pebbles, weigh it down with a precious stone, stuff in pieces of string … then shake it up … and what you have is a noisy bottle of murky liquid.
The same happens when we substitute worldly love for the love God defines in the scriptures.
What’s surprising about this new substitute for love is we try to offer it to one another, disguising the added ingredients as something new and profound.
The end result.
Beautiful distractions of Deceit covering God’s love like spider webs. Confusion. Twisted Jealousy. Strife trailing behind us like littered breadcrumbs. Quarrels. Failure. Heavy loads of Guilt wrapping around our hearts and dragging us deeper and deeper into depression. Emptiness. Promiscuity.
God never intended for us to redefine his perfection. He showed us exactly what love means. He defines it this way –
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Corinthians 13:4-8)
There are all kinds of worldly love. The one in name only is something you say; something guided by emotions; it’s a love without action; shallow and hallow; a detached love that makes it easy to walk away from others in times of trouble; an affection driven by selfish desires (you give to me, I give to you; you stroke my back, I’ll stroke yours).
In Luke 16:19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus — the rich man is self-centered and pivots his attention from Lazarus to the elite at his table, thinking lowly of Lazarus, treating him like chaff, offering him crumbs instead of a full meal, refusing to give Lazarus a drink to quench his thirst.
The scriptures, however, speak of another kind of love. A knowledgeable love – one taking root in the reading of God’s word, one which struggles through life’s hard clumps of dirt to spring forth new life, and when it is full-grown, scatters its seed to replicate itself. If this love is growing inside us, it is manifested through God’s goodness and kindness toward us. This love knows scripture and is obedient and lives by it.
Luke 10:25-37 is a biblical account of two travelers who find a hurt man on the road. One traveler looks down at him, leaves him, and goes about his business.
The Good Samaritan later comes along and sees the same hurt man, stops, and takes pity upon him; bandaging and pouring oil and wine upon his wounds; places the hurt man on his donkey; takes him to an inn and cares for him; leaves him in the care of the innkeeper with a promise to compensate the innkeeper upon his return.
There’s something very striking about these two stories: Both travelers see the need. One chooses to ignore it and go about his business. The other chooses to seize the opportunity to help. Both men have choices. When I read this passage of scripture several more times, I found something else remarkable about this story. Regardless of their different financial status, both men were capable of helping the hurt man.
I remember, in 1986, two weeks before my middle brother’s graduation from college, he had a terrible car accident. My husband and I lived three hours away, so we asked neighbors to take care of our boys then we hit the highway. The wait in the ER was horrible. When the doctor finally came out to give us an update, he informed us that my brother had crushed the left side of his body—his left hip, crushed most of the bones in the left side of his face, and he lost his left eye. His jaws would be wired shut for six weeks. Upon hearing this news, I fainted.
After the doctor and my husband revived me, I phoned my mother.
One of the things I needed to do was find a place for my mother and her sister to stay because my husband and I would need to return home to see about our boys. So, I called the first Church of Christ in the phonebook. The gentleman on the phone was polite. I told him of our need, and he came to visit us at the hospital where we talked again. The bottom line, he told us there was no one to help us at this time.
My heart grieved. I didn’t know what to think of this. I sat in shock.
I took a deep breath, grabbed the telephone book, and called another church. A gentleman from a different congregation showed up. Though I can’t remember the man’s name or which congregation he attended, his kindness will never be forgotten.
Think about that.
Two churches. Both in the family of God. Only one seizes the opportunity to show God’s love.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of someone’s unwillingness to love you?
When this lesson is over, read I John 4:7-21, but because of time constraints, I want you to pay close attention to verse 10. It reads,
10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
How many of you picked up on the importance of that verse?
Let’s read it again.
10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Here is one of the things God is trying to tell us: Don’t let your need or expectation for another’s love consume you. Sometimes we forsake too many of God’s commands for relationships. Stop it. Don’t compromise God’s commands. Don’t mix God’s perfection with debris.
Our love for one another must become a sacrificial act. Imagine what the Good Samaritan gave up to help the hurt man alongside the road. Love comes at great cost. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave of himself. We, too, must give of ourselves—freely, impartially, void of grumbles, and complaints. To love means to put the interest of others above YOU. (Philippians 2:3) Your sacrificial love should be guided by the Holy Scriptures, through biblical examples, not by fleshly and earthly desires.
Love is learned. God is our teacher. Through his Word. When you are born into your family, you have no idea what love means. You learn to love over a period of time, through interaction with your family. In I John 4:21, it reads,
And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Yes, love is learned. It’s a command. There are no other options. No grey areas. We. Must. Learn. To. Love. One. Another. Christianity is a family affair—a community of believers who stay tightly knitted together for the sole purpose of encouraging each other to remain obedient and reconciled to God.
Sisters, it is unfathomable for you to hurt and I walk away. It is shameful to see my sister in need of a babysitter so she can go back to work, but I sit back, quietly hoping she doesn’t approach me and ask for help. It is heart-wrenching to hear you gossip about someone merely because you’ve mistaken your blessings with that of financial status. (Matter of fact, because of your financial status, the burden is really on you to follow in line with God’s commands.) Possessing a different gift or being in a higher financial bracket shouldn’t make you prideful, selfish, stubborn, and conceited. By placing others beneath you, you will only instigate envy and jealousy, gossip and quarrels. Don’t cause God’s anger to burn against you, sisters.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
You are my sister. And I am yours. Will you not stop and help me up? Will you walk over me and not look back?
In closing, remember to think about the sister who needs help. Please repeat these words in your heart as you read and declare this prayer:
Oh, merciful Father, whether I am loved by others or not, I declare before you Lord, that:
I am born into a family … a spiritual family of God. I’ve been grafted in … adopted … and made heirs to God’s kingdom. I am no longer willing to allow my sister to sit underneath my elaborate table to eat crumbs. I refuse to whisper words of deceit, be divisive, sow seeds of hate. I will encourage her, put wine and oil on her wounds, speak up and protect her in the face of slander. I will fight for her, carry her so she, too, will be able to taste the first fruits of our Father.
With all my heart, I will plead and pray for her continued obedience. I will reach out my hand and I will not turn my back on her. I will open the scriptures, teach her, correct her, refuse to uphold her wrong. I will not allow her to emphasize her shortcomings, but to speak truth into her until she sees the beauty of God’s creation.
My sister is part of a family … a spiritual family of God. She’s been grafted in … adopted … and God has made her an heir to his kingdom. Together, she and I will stand before God Almighty and reign forever with him.
THEREFORE, Satan, you are no longer welcomed here.
Please, oh God, keep him far from me.
For we are all a part of a spiritual family, closely knitted together, tethered to the heart of God. With my hand in yours … With your hand in mine … we will not falter … My sister will not fail, because
I AM MY SISTER’S KEEPER!
Amen! And Amen!
CALL YOUR SISTER OR BROTHER. Share the Word of our Father over a cup of coffee, or a cup of tea. Bless someone’s life today. Then sit back and wait upon the Lord.
Donna B. Comeaux
September 11, 2020
In Step With God
A Study of Psalm 119
No one can say who wrote this Psalm, but many think David is the author. For the purpose of our lesson, it doesn’t matter who we attribute this Psalm. We know all scripture is inspired by the Word/Hand/Breath of God.
This is the longest chapter in the Word. I have never studied it, so we will be examining it verse-by-verse for the first time together. I am no Bible scholar. I don’t come close. I will use many commentaries to help with this study.
Let’s not waste any more time and dive right in.
Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.
Blessed – means – Those whose course of life is directed and governed by a single-hearted devotion to Jehovah, and integrity in dealing with their fellow men are made perfect and upright and are happy and confident children of God. Happiness is a result of your obedience and pursuit of God.
Blameless: How in the world can you and I become blameless? If you take a close look at this passage, you will see the answer. Those who walk according to the law of the Lord will find happiness.
Too often we look for happiness in things and in people. But if you’ll notice, the pursuit of happiness is an ongoing dilemma. Our desire for it can have us tied in knots, neglecting our children, cheating on our spouse, guzzling down liquor, in a fretful hurry in anticipation of things falling apart around us, staying up late at night drowned in nightmarish scenarios that never come true, caught up in lies, or working for another hour and thereby neglecting loved ones and more important tasks.
The happiness God offers us is filled with peace. He doesn’t give you a list of earthly things to chase. When conducting your life in a godly manner, you’re not left out of breath, tired, and fretful.
To know this, you must follow his commands and you must spend time in his Word.
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-29)
“… to whom He has said: “This is the place of rest, let the weary rest; this is the place of repose.” But they would not listen. (Isaiah 28:12 – God’s Judgment on Ephraim)
- Reflect and share experiences where you have taken matters into your own hands and made a mess of things.
- What have you learned?
- Have you repeated this mistake?
- What will it take to get you to remain obedient?
- How can we encourage you?
Donna B. Comeaux
August 4, 2020