To the Church at ________

What would Jesus have to say to your church if He divinely penned a letter through a prophet today? Would it be mostly positive or negative?

True, there’s something to complain about at every church. Maybe it’s the service — it’s too early or too late. Too modern or too old fashioned.  The chairs are uncomfortable, or you wish you had chairs instead of pews. The lack of emphasis on reaching out specifically to (fill in the blank demographic so you can get a date) has you on the verge of visiting that giant church over the hill. Et cetera. Well, that’s not necessarily what I’m talking about.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus spends two of the earliest chapters addressing local churches by name. By nameThat’s so awesome, right? For the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory, via revelation a venerated leader, to speak specifically to your church and to include that message in His Word? What an honor!

Well, not really, for most of the churches. Although most — not all — received some sort of commendation from Christ, most also received some very searing and pointed words that exposed the sins of the church. And, thereby, the sins of its individual members.

In studying Revelation, my husband and I have been reading a commentary by Warren W. Wiersbe. At one point, the author asks this question:

If there were a section of Revelation 2 written to your church, what would you be praised for? Accused of? Admonished to do?

We loved that question. It was tough, it was applicable, and as soon as we got into a discussion about our church, we immediately began pointing fingers at ourselves. Like I said, there’s something to complain about wherever you go. If those complaints are serious, heart-issue complaints (not merely musical taste or your butt’s comfort), then they’re worth evaluating seriously — Jesus sure did. But then it’s time to realize that you’re part of that church. What did Jesus say to the churches He reprimanded? “Repent.” Confess and change your behavior. Put feet to your own complaints and be part of the solution.

So what about you? What would Jesus say to YOUR church at _____? (Read: What would He say to YOU?)

Check out Revelation 2 and 3 for ideas.

 

 

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The New Mercy Seat

But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
~John 20:11-12

I “discovered” this verse last year around Easter, I think. It may have been the Easter before; I’m not sure. What I do remember is that I had an immediate image in my mind as I read it, and it looked a little like this:

The ark of the covenant.

This is a modern interpretation of what the Ark of the Covenant may have looked like, based on the specifications recorded in the Old Testament. Kept behind two veils in the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle, the Ark contained manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets on which the ten commandments were inscribed by God. The lid, with the two angels facing each other, was called the mercy seat. This is where the blood from the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled, and this is where mercy was conferred upon the people of Israel via God’s very presence in a cloud (see Leviticus 16). The Day of Atonement was (and is) an annual holy day in the Jewish faith, a day of repentance and propitiation for sins.

So what’s the connection? Well, look again at what Mary saw when she looked in the tomb:

…she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.

Maybe it means nothing. The other Gospels don’t give this detail. Matthew and Mark only mention one angel, and while Luke does mention two, they were standing. So, you know. I wouldn’t get into any kind of debate with anyone about this.

Still — what a precious detail it seems to be. That Ark of the Covenant, now long gone, is no longer necessary. The Perfect Sacrifice made atonement once and for all; His blood undoubtedly seeped onto His (temporary) resting place, mirroring the sprinkling of blood of the yearly sacrifice. Then His body is gone, the triumph attained, and two shining angels are left at the head and the foot of where He had been, bringing to life the image of that mercy seat of old. What a beautiful picture of a new mercy seat, a permanent and final one!

So now when I imagine that empty tomb, I always see that beautiful, new mercy seat, and this old hymn bounces around my head:

Up from the grave he arose;
with a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
he arose a victor from the dark domain,
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
~Robert Lowry

 

(I miss the days when I knew with certainty that we’d sing this on Easter morning. It was fun to hear my husband play it on the piano for me this morning! Bom.. bom-bom-bom… BOM-BOM-BOM!!!! Hee hee. I love it!)

Happy, happy Resurrection Sunday, this most holy of holy days!

An Epistle to Christians in America

The below epistle was written at a writer’s workshop in 2009. I had the idea to write a modern-day letter in the style of Paul the Apostle, and that was about the extent of my involvement in this piece. Truly, I felt inspired. When I came to the end, I stared at the computer screen in wonder, because while I did remember typing the whole thing, I didn’t really remember writing it. I sought publication because it was required as part of the workshop, but my query letter was rejected. I’ve been holding on to this epistle since then, letting it wait until a publication clairvoyantly contacted me and requested it, I guess. Yesterday at church, I was inspired to update the ending a bit and post the whole thing here. It does no good sitting in a digital file, but perhaps someone, somewhere, will feel the prodding of the Spirit to share their testimony and give glory to God. Hosanna!

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 Angela, follower of Christ Jesus, to the dear brothers and sisters who are in the United States: Greetings!  Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who, being not fearful of nor threatened by post-modern humans or their words, laws, or nuclear weapons, empowers us with His Spirit and charges us with the privilege of spreading the excellent news of His Resurrection and of the free gift of eternal life!  For it is He who forsook His riches and glory to walk amongst us and to give Himself as the perfect, spotless sacrifice for our sins.  For this and for all His many blessings upon His undeserving creation, be glory and honor unto Him both now and forevermore!  Amen.

Brothers and sisters, what is this I hear of American Christians who, in the name of political correctness, keep their faith unto themselves only?  Should we hide the light of life within our hearts as though it were ours to keep?  May it never be!

Dear ones, be not deceived by the lying statement that it is better to preach the precious Gospel with our lives rather than with our words, which we should supposedly use only when necessary.  For, it was not the respected evangelist St. Francis of Assisi, venerated champion of our cause, who burdened us with such worthless words1!  Rather, his legacy stands as a shining example of the sort of follower our Christ dearly loves, and his very life disproves the wretched advice that so wrongly bears his name!  For it was he who charged all who converted through his leadership “to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in his footsteps2.” Would such an individual then suggest that we abandon exactly what Christ commanded and lived?

Furthermore, I hear reports that some of you have actually built entire philosophies of proselytization upon such a heresy, and that you are, consequently, valuing your own comfort and earthly reputation more highly than the riches you would otherwise accrue in the life to come.  Was it for your silence that Christ Jesus died?  Did our Savior endure grief and sorrow so that you might treasure yourself more highly?  Were His wounds inflicted so that they might be your personal secret?

Now let us discuss, in more human terms, the effectiveness of such a gross distortion of the Great Commission3. While keeping our lips firmly shut and living a respectable life, what service do we do to our religion?  Do we not simply reflect the indulgent, permissive, and so-called politically-correct universalists who permeate our society and stand for nothing?  As we imitate those around us in polite behavior, seeking to avoid offense, we nurture within us the damnable habit of filtering from our speech the Truth, and, in so doing, we hatefully deprive those lost in their sins of the revelatory knowledge of freedom in Christ.  By our silence, we bury in our hearts the sole key to their shackles.

Dear Family, I write not with a spirit of condemnation, but rather out of an unbearable burden to destroy this epidemic of complacency that is so rapidly infecting the Church.  Although it is true that we live in a time of religious spinelessness and moral relativity, we should not allow the cultural majority to hinder us in our obedience to the one true God.  Too often, brothers and sisters, I have heard those who claim to love our Christ cite our country’s policy of religious freedom as a reason to keep silent.  What irony!  This sacred right, along with her glorious twin sister, Freedom of Speech, which was written by God into our earthly government’s Constitution, is the selfsame reason we should find ourselves unable to stop speaking!

But I do not admonish you, beloved, without first closely examining the heart and soul of the very same one who humbly composes this letter.  For she who so boldly proclaims the truth of Christ in black and white also suffers greatly from the cultural climate which gave her birth.  Although we are born into death, we are made alive through Christ, and this rebirth must generate within us a boldness to share what has given us the hope to look toward tomorrow.  For it is to our shame that our brothers and sisters across the globe suffer not from a similar timidity, but rather speak plainly the name of Christ in the face of utter horror.  Expecting torture and death as their only earthly repayment, these true followers proclaim all the more boldly the name of the only hope and salvation the world can ever know.  How much more should we, who stand only to lose a friend or an argument, take advantage of the freedom so lovingly entrusted to us?  For our gracious heavenly Father has seen fit to offer us this great gift; but, my dear ones, with great privilege comes great responsibility.

So it is with sincere humility and with immense fervor that I adjure you, sons and daughters of our great King, to treasure your Savior more highly than your friendships and to value your friends’ eternal future more highly than your own present comfort.  For, when all is laid bare before our final Judge, He will judge us not by the number of friends we have collected, but rather by the number of sheep we have welcomed into the fold.

We must, therefore, look expectantly upward to the one and only source of our courage and comfort as we obediently fulfill the Great Commission, that is, to make disciples of all nations.  For how else can we make disciples, if not with our mouths?

Remember those in chains for the Gospel.  Brother Gao in China, who has suffered greatly for these last eight years, will surely benefit much from our prayers4. Also, remember our sister Asia in Pakistan, as she suffers greatly behind bars for the cause of Christ5. Perhaps, through their wounds and their witness, more precious ones will be brought into the Family.

Grace and peace be with you, dear ones, in the name of our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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  1. Mark Galli, “Speak the Gospel,” Christianity Todayhttp://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html (accessed July 27, 2009).
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, “Saint Francis of Assisi,” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/216793/Saint-Francis-of-Assisi (accessed July 27, 2009).
  3. Matt. 28:16-20.
  4. The Voice of the Martyrs, PrisonerAlert.com, http://prisoneralert.com/ (accessed March 25, 2013).
  5. Ibid.

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©Angela Wade 2009-2013. All rights reserved.

 

Just Because He’s an Older Prophet…

Doesn’t necessarily mean you should just *believe* everything he says. Here’s my entry from my journal today:

1 Kings 13 — God sent an unnamed prophet from Judah to Jeroboam, king of Israel, to warn him that his kingdom will be taken away due to his leading the people into idolatry. The prophet had been instructed not to eat or drink while there, so he refused the king’s offer of hospitality. However, on his return journey, another prophet in Bethel invited him in for a meal. When the original prophet refused, citing God’s command, this second prophet — whom the Bible calls “old” — claimed that an angel had spoken to him and ordered him to provide food and water for the prophet from Judah. That was a lie, but the (presumably younger) prophet believed him and conceded to his request. Of course, he was then reprimanded at dinner by prophetic word — through the lying prophet, no less! — that he would be punished for his disobedience. (Of course, he was then mauled by a lion and left by the side of the road for passersby to gawk at, and then buried far from his family’s grave.)

This is such an interesting story. I wonder about the old prophet in Bethel. Did he receive a word from God to invite the prophet from Judah in, so that God might test him? Then maybe he lied in the way he reported the command from the angel? Or was it completely made up, simply because he — for some reason — desperately wanted to share a meal with the young prophet? Maybe the older one hadn’t heard from God in many years, and, having heard about this young man who was sharing prophecy with royalty, he just wanted to be around him. To hear his story, to reminisce about times when God used to speak to him, too. Maybe he felt lonely and misunderstood, and just desperately craved fellowship.

Well, he seems to have gotten what he (presumably) asked for, because the prophet from Judah accepted the lie, and God even used the old prophet to deliver a message. Maybe it had been years — maybe he had been begging God to return and use him like He had in the past. What a sad answer, though. Well, that’s all speculation, I guess. Maybe he was simply a false prophet. 

The real lesson I see is in the prophet from Judah. Why did he so easily turn back on God’s command? Oh, maybe he resisted for a few minutes, bantering with the other guy — we don’t know. He did acquiesce in the end, though. Maybe it’s because the other prophet was older. The younger listened to the reasoning of the older — “I also am a prophet, like you” — and believed him. We don’t know if the younger consulted God, because it’s not recorded, but he either didn’t, or he did, but didn’t receive an answer.

The fact was that he already had an answer, straight from the mouth of God. You don’t mess with that. I think it was Paul who said that even if an angel tells you something different from what God has already revealed, still don’t listen. The enemy can disguise himself as an angel of light. This prophet from Bethel should not have listened to the older prophet. Cultural norms don’t matter; age doesn’t matter; leadership roles don’t matter. If someone is counseling you to disobey God, don’t listen! Evaluate the counsel you receive, regardless of who gives it, against the revealed truth of God. Never just blindly trust any leader. You’ve a brain, a Bible, and the Holy Spirit. Consult them, too. (Bible and Holy Spirit trump the leader and your brain, obviously.)