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Spiritual Disciplines

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horses of the apocalypse

With today’s Bible reading, we begin to see the “bad news” as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are sent out to execute God’s judgment. We see the martyrs of the faith as they’re told to wait just a little while longer before God avenges their blood.

Finally, we see natural disasters, the violence of which causes all of the people from kings to slaves to hide in caves, hopelessly begging to be buried in a rock avalanche so they might avoid God’s judgment. It doesn’t help.

Application

Jesus will return. No one knows the day or hour. It could be today. You aren’t promised a single minute.

If you don’t know Jesus, don’t delay. Repent of your sin and turn to Jesus. Trust Him for His sacrifice for your sin. Let The Father apply Jesus’ Death Penalty payment to your desperate, bankrupt account on God’s Righteousness Ledger.

And having done that, turn to God’s Word to get to know Him better. Read it every day. Memorize verses that God leads you to. Study it with other Believers. Worship with other Believers. And tell your lost friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers about the hope you’ve found and the coming judgment of God.

It’s all about a relationship with your Creator. Bask in that relationship and fall in love with Him every day.

Please don’t delay!

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coffee cup

In today’s Bible reading, Jesus warns the Laodicea Church against its lukewarm walk with Jesus. Jesus tells the church that He would rather a church — or an individual, by implication — be either piping hot or stone-cold as opposed to being lukewarm.

One of my favorite scenes in the Christian Movie War Room features Miss Clara serving a cup of coffee to her new friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth has told Miss Clara that her relationship with Jesus is occasional. Comfortable. As she prepares to take a sip from her freshly-served cup, Elizabeth is shocked that the coffee isn’t hot. At all! Miss Clara connects the dots between a lukewarm faith and a lukewarm cup of coffee. God doesn’t want us to have a lukewarm faith any more than anyone wants a cup of lukewarm coffee.

Application

So, how is your walk with Jesus? If you’re reading this devotional, I assume that your spiritual walk isn’t icy cold. But is it as hot as it used to be? Or would you say that your love has grown a little cold? Perhaps it’s neither icy hot, nor piping hot, but instead is a tepid lukewarm.

Jesus is very clear that lukewarm isn’t where He wants you to be in your relationship with Him. (Revelation 3:16)

What are some things you can do to keep your faith hot? Here are a few ideas:

  • Spend some alone-time with God, asking Him to reveal those areas where you have neglected. Expect God to speak! And be ready to take notes and make adjustments to your life.
  • Prayerfully consider my devotional on Revelation 2. Ask God to bring a revival to your heart, to rekindle a neglected love relationship with the lover of your soul.
  • Prayerfully set some goals to read and study your Bible, to memorize Bible verses, to spend time praying, to join with other Believers in worship, to tell other people about Jesus, to give of yourself, etc. (in other words, to practice the Spiritual Disciplines), and then ask another Believer to hold you accountable. There’s no need to overplan to the point of burnout, but oftentimes, having a small plan — and sticking to it — beats having no plan at all.

Don’t put this off! Do it today!

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23–24 (ESV)

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love

Several years ago, Barbara Walters asked Katherine Hepburn, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you like to be?” As you read today’s Bible reading, let me ask, “Which church do you think you are? Which church would you like to be?”

John takes Jesus’ dictation for the letters to the seven churches. One thing to note: none of the churches is perfect. Each church has its good points, but each also lacks in something.

In some ways, I think the church in Ephesus is one of the more chilling judgments. Jesus points out all of the good things that a church should be good at. But then, he points out the most important thing and that’s the one thing He has against them: They have lost their first love. (Revelation 2:4)

Maintaining your first love for Jesus is one of the hardest things to do. It takes a daily commitment. Actually, it takes a moment-by-moment commitment.

Application

Jesus gives the Ephesian church a prescription for its first-love loss: Remember, repent, and re-do. (Revelation 2:5)

Remember how things used to be when you started in your relationship with Christ. Repent and turn back. And go back and do the things you used to do. But note, the doing again isn’t the first thing. It follows remembering and repenting.

Too often we lose focus and think it’s about the “doing”. It’s not. It’s about returning to the relationship.

So where are you in your love relationship with Jesus?

I’m not asking about doing. I’m asking about relationship. Do you enjoy your relationship with Jesus like you used to? Do you love Him like you used to? If not, why not? What are some of the things you did at the beginning of your relationship to help it grow?

Jesus puts a premium on maintaining our love relationship with Him. In our reading today, He says that if we don’t keep it maintained, we will lose our influence in the world. And that’s bad.

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kickboxing

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen Paul and Peter warn against false teachers. In today’s Bible reading, Jude takes his turn. Who was Jude? There are a couple of possibilities. Jude could have been the Apostle Judas who was sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, and Silas in Acts 15:22. Another, and more likely was the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus; he refers to himself as James’ brother in Jude 1.

Like Paul and Peter, Jude is concerned about false teachers who are leading God’s people astray. Jude says, “Dear friends … I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” (Jude 3 CSB)

I think that most Believers in the Twenty-First Century don’t understand the struggles that First Century Christians were forced to deal with. In addition to the Romans and the Judaizers, Believers had rogue believers to deal with. These were people who may have claimed to have come to faith in Christ and departed, turning to false doctrine, or to extra-biblical myths. They were bad news to the young church. Thus, we find several New Testament writers addressing the problems of these false teachers and telling their readers to be on their guard. Jude says that Believers should fight for their faith. And that’s exactly what they had to do.

Application

But fighting for one’s faith isn’t limited to First Century believers. Even now, we must fight for our faith which is constantly under attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Peter says that our faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7) If that is so, it is worth fighting for.

If you’re going to fight for your faith, it’s not only important to know that your faith is worth fighting for, but you have to know your enemy. Again, your faith is under constant assault from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Attacks can — and will — come from all sides. And 1960s comedian Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine was wrong. The devil can’t make you do anything. You will fail the test of faith because you choose to fail the test. That’s why Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) The more you work at it, the better you get!

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promise

In today’s Bible reading, Peter reminds us that God’s promise is sure: Jesus will return. He says that scoffers will come, trying to discourage God’s children by pointing out that Jesus has yet to return. “Where is the promise of His coming He predicted?” (2 Peter 3:4)

There will always be nay-sayers. There will always be scoffers. There will always be haters. But Peter reminds us to be vigilant and to actively wait for Jesus’ return. “Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found without spot or blemish in his sight, at peace.” 2 Peter 3:14 (CSB)

In Peter’s mind, there’s no such thing as expressing a belief in Christ and then living an unchanged life. Coming to faith in Christ will cause life change. Those who repent of their sin and turn to Jesus (in other words, actually becoming a Christian) have a job to do: stay close and stay clean. (2 Peter 3:14)

Application

OK, so how do you stay close and stay clean? Maintain a close relationship with God. And one of the best ways to do this is to practice the Spiritual Disciplines: Bible reading, Bible study, Bible verse memory, prayer, worship, evangelism, fasting, giving thanks, giving, and fellowshiping with other Believers. (These are a few and they are in no particular order)

One great book on the Spiritual Disciplines is Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life. Please take a couple of minutes to listen to John Piper talk about Dave Mathis’ book Habits of Grace. I think it really catches the idea behind practicing the Spiritual Disciplines. Spoiler alert: It isn’t about doing the disciplines. It’s about loving Jesus more.

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1 2 3 9

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