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What the world needs…now!

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Are you really enjoying life?  …or are you lost in a virtual world?

I spoke with a newcomer to Canada recently, a well-educated young man from Africa, who we can refer to as Zee in this article. Zee told me how much he enjoys his new country, but he also quickly added how he sometimes feels isolated, and has experienced a few difficulties meeting new people and socializing. Growing up, he explained how he used to connect with people at church. Nowadays, few people he knows seem to have time for God or church, and Zee admitted finding this situation discouraging, alongside a growing sense of social indifference he feels has become epidemic in society today. Even in coffee shops it seems, many people appear content to sit alone on laptops or texting.

Driving taxi for a living, Zee commented how passengers will rarely speak with him, even about mundane topics like the weather, and he suggested that in Europe and a few countries he has visited, people appeared to be more open and friendly. Rethinking this, he admitted that maybe things were the same everywhere.  “What’s going on? It’s so sad, ” he said as we sped past a young woman standing and texting at a bus stop.  Zee asked, “Do you think she’d respond if someone actually stopped and said ‘hi!’? Would she remember how to talk instead of text? Would she be interested in going out and having fun?”  Good questions, I thought as we got to the crux of Zee’s concerns, and he shared with me how tough he found it most days to connect with people in a world which seems increasingly detached and reclusive on many levels.

“Everyone’s so silent today,” Zee added with more than a hint of despair.  Reluctantly, I had to agree. Examining today’s sophisticated global environment where every possible tool and means of communications is at our disposal, how can it be that instead of bringing people together,  our communications ‘know how’ seems to have led us further apart? People seem more suspicious and isolated than at any time in human history.

Zee spoke too about his having friends who would rather sit home ‘gaming’ with the latest multi-million$ release, than going out and sharing a few laughs. This led us to a discussion on a whole new level…what would happen if all that money was redirected to help the poor nations of the world or to bring people together?

OMG. Is this where the virtual world has led us!? Unable to communicate. Trapped in a virtual existence.  As Zee said, “It’s so sad.” The virtual world is and always will be…virtual…and unreal.  Psychologists today suggest that our virtual and techno-surrealisim has not only made many of us less physically active, it’s led to us becoming more out of touch with life in general.

So, when’s the last time you enjoyed a great laugh or carried on intelligent, meaningful verbal communications with someone…whether a friend, or someone new? The good news out of all this? I got to meet Zee, we had a great discussion, and even a good laugh.

Friends, we can’t text or Facebook or even blog our way out of this virtual mess. What the world needs now…is to get out and enjoy life again…for real.

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Power to Be All You Can Be

Have you discovered the POWER to be ALL you can be? You can! In case you didn’t realize it, life’s a journey, and on this journey, God’s just getting started with each of us. That’s because with Him, every single day is a totally NEW day! Praise God!

Today, I am sharing an article from the ministries of Pastor Francis Frangipane. Pastor Frangipane has supported and helped Christians be all that they can be through his remarkable training program: ‘In Christ’s Image’. The program has impacted hundreds and thousands of believers, empowering them to be all they can be…and  probably more than they ever imagined.  Catch Pastor Frangipane’ latest article, To Attain the Fullness of Christ…and consider taking the training program offered by this wonderful ministry.

“Encourage one another as long as it is called ‘Today”…” Hebrews 3:13


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4 Spiritual Laws

Know the 4 Spiritual Laws

Do you know where you will go beyond this life?…

The above question is the most serious question you will ever answer. It is a spiritual question.

A tragic accident occurs somewhere in the world every minute. In my city, a young woman of 19 years of age died this week on her way to a job interview. She was in a big hurry to get to a job interview and passed cars on an icy bridge going too fast, hit the guardrail, and her vehicle plunged off the bridge to the river ice below.  She was announced D.O.A. at hospital. The young woman’s mother was planning to arrive the very next day from a distant city to visit her daughter to celebrate her birthday and other successes in the young woman’s life. Instead, the mother tragically ended up arriving for a funeral. I didn’t know this young woman…but it is my earnest prayer that someone she knew asked her the above question and that she knew the answer.

Know the 4 Spiritual Laws

Special thanks to Joel C. Rosenberg whose article I received in a timely manner about the loss of someone in his life, which inspired me to share this article and permanent 4 Spiritual Laws tab on Lightwriters. Visit Joel’s blog at: flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com


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The 7 Churches Mystery – Letter No. 7

THE LAODICEA LETTER

A whirlwind week...I’m not sure how we covered so much ground, but we raced ahead of gathering storms. Here we are at the end of our ‘mini-tour’ and visit to seven ancient church sites in Asia Minor. Our primary quest and purpose was to unravel mysteries and meanings found in 7 letters written to the 7 churches of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. Along the way we ran into some challenging spiritual issues facing the Early Church. The 7 letters revealed to John of Patmos in a vision also introduced us to Jesus in a remarkable way. We hear vivid descriptions and some new names for Jesus: Ruler of All that is, was and ever more shall be; The Holder of the keys of Hell and Death; …One who is the First and Last,and whose eyes penetrated like flames of fire; …One who is Holy and True and has the Keys of David; The Faithful and True Witness; the One Who Stands Firm…  We also learn Jesus has a deep concern for His church which stirs our hearts like the Apostle Paul to press on…”… towards the high calling in Christ Jesus…

And now…we stand at the gates of the city of Laodicea and at the doors of the Laodicea Church (Revelation 3: 14-22) and hear Jesus’ warning cry: I KNOW YOU WELL. YOU ARE NEITHER HOT NOR COLD! HOW I WISH YOU WERE ONE OR THE OTHER, BUT SINCE YOU ARE MERELY LUKEWARM…I WILL SPEW YOU OUT…

How could things have come to this? To our dismay, we learn that the well-heeled and self-satisfied believers of the Laodicean Church seem to be kicking up their heels more than serving or loving God! This church has all the appearances of being a great place to be…if you want to join ‘a club’ (?!). But wait, does this mean this church actually believes it doesn’t really ‘need’ God because it has ‘everything’ …without Him? What’s going on? This church’s smugness and apathy is perhaps explained by the fact that the Laodicean Church in its day was surrounded by great affluence. They had it all, money and achievements, yet Jesus looks beyond appearances and delivers this church a grave report card: “…you aren’t what you think. You’re poor, blind and naked…Take my advice…and spiritual direction…” Jesus tells the Laodicean Church that He is ‘standing at the door…and knocking…’ (this may remind us of a story Jesus told during His earthly ministry about the Kingdom of heaven being like people invited to a wedding feast…but some ended up not prepared to meet the Bridegroom at the door…) (Matthew 25: 1-13).

Personal Deduction & Study

Read through Revelation 3: 14-22 once again. The Laodicea Church isn’t listening or looking for advice. They exude a tacit indifference to God. Do you see any parallels to this church and attitudes in the church today? Do you believe church is just a place to hang out and feel or look good? What is Jesus looking for in a church and in the lives of those who truly believe in His Word and desire to follow Him?

Clue Collection:

Collect your final #7 of 7 clues here and receive more of your amazing inheritance from God.

Thank you for being part of the Seven Churches Mystery exploration of 7 amazing Bible letters to 7 churches.  I trust this study inspired you to journey on further in faith, to continue to explore God’s Word, and to keep trusting in  Jesus.

“I am with you always…even to the end of the age…” Matthew 28: 16-18

Review other Churches:  Letter No. 1   Letter No. 2  Letters No. 3&4   Letter No. 5  Letter No. 6

© 2011 S. Michaels


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The 7 Churches Mystery – Letter No. 6

THE PHILADELPHIA LETTER

Time melts like molten gold on the Aegean Sea where we first met a few days ago with John of Patmos with plans to visit seven churches of Asia Minor, and to explore seven letters which John was invited in a vision to deliver to them. These Turkish churches appeared to John in his dream like ‘seven candlesticks’.(See Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3).  The vision of the churches as ‘candlesticks’ may remind us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:14-16, where he spoke of people being ‘lights’ in the world.  We launched our mission with much excitement, starting out at Ephesus along the sea, then moving north to Smyrna and Pergamon, and then heading southeast and inland to Thyatira and Sardis. However, along the way, our pilgrimage has somehow left us with mixed feelings.

At first, we were encouraged by the large and active church at Ephesus, but we soon felt sad that in spite of their many good efforts, this  church had lost its love for God. Next, we met the suffering Smyrna Church, a church facing serious hardship and poverty. Our hearts broke to hear about their situation, but we were soon comforted by their stalwart faith and courage,  endurance and love. Next we stopped at three impressive churches, Pergamon, Thyatira and Sardis, who seemed to have it all together…at first…But we got a rude awakening. We found out about compromises of faith, including sex sin and immorality and were appalled to realize how blind these churches were to their spiritual condition. And now, our expedition moves on…to the ancient city of Philadelphia, ‘The City of Brotherly Love’, so named by Eumenes II, a king of Pergamon, in honour of his brother and successor, Attalus II. As we read this letter to Philadelphia we breathe a sigh of relief to hear the love and commendation of the Lord for this group of believers:

I KNOW YOU WELL. YOU AREN’T STRONG. BUT YOU HAVE TRIED TO OBEY ME AND HAVE NOT DENIED MY NAME…THEREFORE, I WILL OPEN A DOOR FOR YOU WHICH NO ONE CAN SHUT…

While it seems from our review of this letter that the Philadelphia Christians knew and experienced persecution (including from some who claimed to be ‘believers’ but were not), we also realize ‘it’s okay’. Amazingly and incredibly we can see that NOTHING seems to be able to shake this church’s  faith.  Jesus commends the Philadelphia Church for holding on to what is good, (even though they are not ‘strong’, and it seems incredible that they are able to hold on!) And Jesus also promises to protect and rescue this church from a time of ‘Great Tribulation’ “…which will come upon the whole world to test everyone alive.” These strangely prophetic words seem to imply that a terrible time of unprecedented global turmoil or a ‘time of the end’ will one day arrive. This is the second reference about an ‘end time’ in John’s vision, for the angel had spoken earlier, “Write down everything you see and hear…for the time is near when these things will all come true…” (Revelation 1:3).

Personal Deduction & Study

Read through this letter in Revelation 3: 7-14. Although this church isn’t strong, what has led Jesus to commend this group of believers so highly? What do you think is ‘the secret’ to this church’s faith that has helped them to ‘hold on’ to faith in spite of lacking personal strength? What ‘door’ do you think God will open for this church which no one can shut?

Clue Collection:

Collect #6 of 7 clues here, and discover more of  your heavenly riches and inheritance. (Hint: This part of your inheritance may remind you of John 14:2: In my Father’s house are many mansions…)

(Next up…our final letter – No. 7 The Laodicea Letter)

Review previous Churches:  Letter No. 1   Letter No. 2  Letters No. 3&4   Letter No. 5 

© 2011 S. Michaels


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The 7 Churches Mystery – Letter No. 5

THE SARDIS LETTER

It has been a rough and tumble trek into the heart of Asia Minor where we have come across the sites of old churches mentioned in the Bible’s book of Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3.  We have pored over ancient letters written to these churches, as revealed to John of Patmos in a vision. We have discovered spiritual challenges facing these churches, but also hopeful signs of faith in the churches at Ephesus and Smyrna. Then we ran into trouble at the churches in  Pergamon and Thyatira. Their faith was being compromised and imperiled by an open tolerance and acceptance of pagan culture and immorality. But there’s no time to lose. Like John of Patmos as he rapidly scribbled these letters to 7 churches, we know we must travel swiftly ahead…We get the feeling that somehow…time is running out.

Our fifth church is tucked away in a fortress city,  one of the most important cities of Asia Minor – Sardis. Sardis was considered impregnable to its enemies due to its mountainous terrain, yet the city’s history revealed a series of rulers, attackers and conquerors moving in — like Alexander the Great. Sardis eventually met its demise, but during its heydey, the city boasted wealth and resources galore — gold, fruit, and endless goods stocked up for strategic trade along the ancient Silk Road. But like Pergamon and Thyatira, Sardis finds itself enmeshed in pagan rituals. Sexual immorality abounds. Goddess worship (Artemis and the Anatolian earth goddess, Cybele) were ‘all the rage’ and everyone was going ‘gaga’ over idols,  (hey, that sounds a little like certain ‘role models’ we go wild over today, doesn’t it?). Well, one thing for certain, out of deep love and concern,  Jesus issues the Sardis Church a grave warning for their future: (Revelation 3: 1- 6):

I KNOW OF YOUR REPUTATION AS AN ‘ALIVE’ AND ACTIVE CHURCH…BUT YOU ARE DEAD!

Imagine John’s struggle to get these dire words down as he responded to careful instructions being revealed to him by…One who looked like Jesus; One who walks amongst the churches and holds their leaders in His right hand; One who is the First and the Last; One who wields a sharp and double-bladed sword (God’s Word); One who died and came back to life; One to whom belongs the seven-fold Spirit of God and the seven stars (the leaders of the 7 churches)… The warning continues: WAKE UP, NOW! STRENGTHEN WHAT LITTLE REMAINS! EVEN WHAT’S LEFT IS AT THE POINT OF DEATH! YOUR DEEDS ARE FAR FROM RIGHT IN GOD’S SIGHT! GO BACK…TO WHAT YOU BELIEVED AT FIRST! How could this be happening to a ‘church’!? The Sardis Church is getting a double warning and Jesus adds solemnly that He knows of only a few believers remaining in this church who are living right with God.  As for the others? Well, let’s just say, picture a big eraser and names being rubbed out of God’s Book of Life…(help!)

Personal Deduction & Study

Read through these letters again in Revelation 3: 1-6. What do you think landed the Sardis Church in such a serious mess? Do you think this church’s ‘great’ reputation was genuine or did it only come about as a result of compromising with popular culture? Is there a point when compromise gets so bad it’s impossible to turn back? Is it possible to forfeit true faith and risk losing a ‘name place’ in God’s Book of Life? (heavy!)

Clue Collection:

Collect #5 of 7 clues here. The joyful inheritance offered to the faithful in the Sardis Church is also being offered to you. What is it?

p.s. “The kingdom of heaven is like a field…” Matthew 13:44

(Next up…No. 6 The Philadelphia Letter)

Review previous Churches:  Letter No. 1   Letter No. 2  Letters No. 3&4  

© 2011 S. Michaels


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The 7 Churches Mystery – Letters No. 3 & 4

THE PERGAMON & THYATIRA LETTERS

Walls appear to be closing in as we wander further into the labyrinth of the mystery of the 7 churches of Revelation and pore over ancient letters. (Revelation Chapter 2 & 3). These 7 cryptic letters were written to 7 churches, and are infused with rich and unusual imagery. The letters beg the question…Why have 7 churches been singled out to hear from God in a vision given to John of Patmos? After reading the first two letters, we think we have a few answers. We will now read two more letters written to churches in the ancient cities of Pergamon (or Pergamum), and Thyatira. Who knows? Perhaps these letters will deepen our understanding of some of the mysteries of God which we are beginning to realize is part of this journey. Each of these letters was wondrously and strangely revealed to John in a vision. The One bringing the vision was mysterious in appearance… “…looking like Jesus, He called Himself ‘The Son of Man’, and was wearing a long robe, with a gold band encircled around his chest…and His face shone like the power of the sun with unclouded brilliance…” In this profound setting, John trembled in fear, yet he began to record the letters, and was no doubt uplifted by positive words from Jesus as he began. But suddenly the mood has changed. Ominous warnings begin to unfold in Revelation Chapter 2: 12-29 , warnings which were not so evident in the two earlier letters to churches in Ephesus and Smyrna.

To the Pergamon Church, Jesus declares: I AM FULLY AWARE THAT YOU LIVE IN THE CITY WHERE SATAN’S THRONE IS…YET YOU HAVE REMAINED LOYAL TO ME AND REFUSED TO DENY MY NAME…HOWEVER, I HAVE  A FEW THINGS AGAINST YOU…(Wait a minute..if this church is loyal, what’s gone wrong?)

And to the Thyatira Church: I AM AWARE OF ALL YOUR GOOD DEEDS, YOUR KINDNESS TO THE POOR, YOUR LOVE AND FAITH AND PATIENCE…YOUR CONSTANT IMPROVEMENT IN ALL OF THESE THINGS, BUT I HAVE SOMETHING AGAINST YOU…(No! Wait… I was certain this church was on the right track…)

Pergamon…was the site of the martyrdom of the first bishop of the church, Antipas in 92 AD. The city of Thyatira…(today known as Akhisar) was a famous ancient centre for trade. Both sites were ‘home’ to early Christian churches. These churches seemed to endure and keep a strong faith up to a point. But we learn that the culture around them was like a raging storm of idolatry and greed, and the Pergamon and Thyatira churches were not unlike ships at sea, tossed about and rapidly heading for a treacherous coastline. These churches were being lulled into a perilous trap. They were being led astray by a ‘spirit’ of Balaam, (an Old Testament figure who practised divination or witchcraft and promoted sexual immorality)…and by a ‘spirit’ of Jezebel, the ultimate self-serving, ‘Bible bad girl’ who lured Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry. In the letters to the 7 churches, Jesus knows the danger the Pergamon and Thyatira churches are facing. He throws out an urgent spiritual lifeline, a plea —Change your mind and attitude…now!

Personal Deduction & Study

Read through these letters again in Revelation 2: 12-29. Why was it so important for these two churches to change their mind and attitude and to repent? What difference does repentance make in a believer’s life? What might have taken place if these churches refused to repent? Is there a similar challenge facing Christ- followers today?

Clue Collection:

Collect #3 and #4 of 7 clues here. The same inheritance offered to the Pergamon and Thyatira churches can also belong to you.

“Store up treasues in heaven…” Matthew 6:20

(Coming next: No. 5 The Sardis Letter)

Review previous Churches:  Letter No. 1   Letter No. 2  

© 2011 S. Michaels