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My New Book on Prayer Released!

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book:  IGNITING AN IMPASSIONED PRAYER LIFE – How to Develop the Energized, Extended, and Sustainable Life of Prayer You’ve Always Wanted. Do you wish you were more motivated to pray? Is your prayer life sporadic and...

What is the best way to pray?

Prayer, like most spiritual practices, is subject to a spectrum of opinion and conviction as to how it is best practiced. Prayer in a word, means different things to different people. Typically we associate prayer with some form of communication and personal encounter with God....

Leadership Principles and Prayer

When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD… Numbers 11:2 (NIV) Why is prayer often the great omission when it comes to discussion of spiritual leadership? In my humble estimation the topic of leadership is the most frequent focus of...

Mike Staley

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV 

Since Susan and I both had to go to work we were in a bit of a quandary as to what Mike should do during the day while we were gone. We offered the option of staying at our home but he declined. He said that he would prefer to ride downtown with us and hang out at the Minneapolis Public Library. It was a familiar haunt for him where he and other homeless people often took refuge during the winter months. The library was near where Susan worked so we agreed to drop him off there. We insisted however that he plan on meeting up with us outside Susan’s place of work at the end of the day. We assured him that we wanted him to come home with us again and spend the night. It seemed strange to leave him at the library and raised concerns about whether we would ever see him again.

To my relief, when I arrived where Susan worked that evening, Mike was waiting outside on the sidewalk. It was a welcome sight and his congenial countenance presented a stark contrast from our meeting the night before. He reported what a good day it had been. He was reveling in how different the world around him now appeared in the light of his life changing encounter with Jesus. Amazingly he had not felt any temptation to return to his old lifestyle. He even had some opportunities to share his new found faith with a couple of old library cronies.

Over the rest of the work week we maintained this same arrangement with Mike. In the evenings we began to discuss some of the challenges he was facing in putting his life back together and forging a new future. Our first order of business was to do some clothes shopping with him. The scrawny little guy definitely needed some duds that fit. It proved to be a fun outing for all of us. Mike as always was very appreciative. On the weekend we took him to our church, introduced him to some of our friends, and shared a bit of his story. Mike loved the worship experience but did not enjoy being in the testimonial limelight. We could tell his shyness and self-effacing nature coupled with the fact he was self-conscious about not having any teeth made him feel very uncomfortable. The fact that he needed dentures now became the next big hurdle.

We were enjoying having Mike live with us. We knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that God had sovereignly sent him to us and were gripped by His love growing in our hearts for Mike. With each passing day we were feeling more and more like his stay with us, rather than just a few days, could extend to weeks. There was much to be done in Mike’s restoration process and he would need a support network to accomplish it. Without any further thought about it, trusting God who got us into this, we let him know our commitment to providing a home for him for as long as he needed it.

Over the next few weeks many of Susan’s family who lived in the Twin Cities had an opportunity to get to know Mike and take a genuine interest in him. One of the people whose Mike’s toothless plight tugged upon the heartstrings was Susan’s Aunt Betty. “Oh Mike!” I can still hear her exclaim. “We’ve got to get you some teeth!” It just so happened that Betty knew the dean of the dental school at the University of Minnesota. With that strategic contact Betty went to bat for Mike. In short order as his passionate advocate with the dean, she secured a commitment from the dental school to provide Mike a free set of dentures. Everything about the whole process had the mark of God’s miraculous provision and it was a huge answer to prayer for all of us. Having teeth really changes and improves a person’s looks. Mike was no exception. It gave him a newfound confidence in himself, and most importantly in God.

Mike felt indebted to the Harvest Field Mission where the love of Jesus, expressed through the couple who ran it, had paved the way for his salvation. Early on in his stay with us he asked us to take him there so that he could tell them what God had done in his life. His gratitude was genuine and he wanted to thank them in person. When we visited the Harvest Field on a Friday night during their regular weekly service and meal we were deeply moved. The proprietors, George and Patty Bruin, were marvelous people, with hearts for the Lord and the lost, as big as all outdoors. They were just thrilled to see Mike and hear about his miraculous redemption experience. His testimony greatly bolstered their faith and he became a kind of first-fruits poster child for their ministry. George had a weekly radio program on a small local Christian station and inteviewed Mike and me on the air several times.

Through Mike, Susan and I became fast friends with the Bruins. For several years I had a standing invitation to preach once a month at the Mission to the captive audience waiting for a meal. It was my very first preaching assignment as a young Christian and God used it to teach me many lessons about ministering His Word. It was a learning environment where throughout my message I got unfiltered feedback from the people off the street, who weren’t there for a sermon. Plus, when I went over my allotted time by even a minute, as most preachers are want to do, I heard about it immediately because people and their stomachs started growling.

Several months passed with Mike becoming more established in his walk with the Lord and in his sobriety. With the spring weather he began to take some steps to find employment. It was a discouraging process for him with no meaningful work history or skill, and no transportation. We did the best we could to help him. Ultimately it was family and friends who were able to find Mike a string of odd job opportunities to begin to put money in his pocket.

As summer began, with some savings set aside and a growing sense of independence, Mike finally felt he was ready to face his biggest challenge yet. It was the unresolved issue in his life that had plagued him since becoming a Christian. We had been talking about it for some time and praying for God’s direction. It was clear. Mike now wanted to get in touch with his family. When we took him downtown to the bus depot where he bought a round trip ticket to his small hometown in Iowa we were all on edge with trepidation. What would he discover as he now sought to reconnect with his wife and children? They had not seen or heard from him in seven years. How would they respond to the changes in his life and overtures at reconciliation? One thing we knew, he was prepared in his heart, no matter what he found, to trust God to see him through it.

When Mike returned we were sad, but not really surprised, to hear that his wife had chosen to get on with her life without him in his extended absence. She had divorced him and remarried. The children, shielded by her from their estranged father, would at least for the time being remain that way. By God’s grace, Mike took it in stride. He had bravely faced his regrets and fears. He had expressed repentant apologies for his wayward abandonment of his family. He had done what he could. So now he was enabled to move on with his life, holding his head high while still hoping that the day would come when he could be reconciled to his children.

By midsummer, with the help of Aunt Betty who was still advocating for him, Mike landed a job as a hired hand on a farm west of the Twin Cities. His journey with us, which had begun five months earlier, was finally at an end. It was God’s timing for him and for us to bid a fond farewell. Five is a number of completion and a number that represents grace. I can honestly say, that for the three of us it had been a grace-filled ride. Susan was now seven months pregnant with our first child and new horizons awaited us. Mike, now firmly rooted in the Lord, was ready to explore new horizons himself and launch out on his own. We kept in sporadic touch with Mike for several years. The last we heard of him was from a family member who had run into him downtown. She reported that Mike looked good, seemed to be happy, and was living in an apartment in Minneapolis.

When I think of Mike, the passage cited above from Colossians 2:6-7 comes to mind. In retrospect it was one of the greatest privileges in my life to see this guy who came in from the cold, “receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live [his life] in Him, rooted and build up in Him, strengthened in the faith . . . and overflowing with thankfulness.” That pretty well sums up the Mike we knew and his remarkable testimony. Undoubtedly he is now enjoying eternity’s rewards but I look forward to meeting up with him again. Only this time, I’ll get to see him dancing on streets of gold. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please click on this link TomStuart.org to go to my website and blog.

 

The Guy Who Came In From the Cold – Part 2

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 1 Corinthians 5:17 ESV 

I’ll never forget that ride home. Mike was in an ecstatic mood. Seated in the middle of the back seat he was leaning forward over our seats with his arms extended behind each of our shoulders and talking excitedly. His pungent odor, more than being an irritant, was the sweet smelling savor of redemption. Between exclamations of praise he began to share with us in dramatic fashion the startling circumstances leading up to our “chance” meeting, moments earlier on the street. We learned that the night before, while he lay shivering covered only with cardboard against the freezing temperatures and seemingly at the end of his rope, he had cried out to God. Pleading for a miraculous breakthrough in his life he gave God a twenty-four hour ultimatum. If by days end, he vowed, his lot in life did not change, he would put an end to it. Our encounter was indeed the unmistakable answer to his prayer of desperation.

In retrospect, I stand amazed at the love of God in how He can take us from loathing someone to loving them and from avoiding them to inviting them to be our guest. At the time I was inwardly ashamed at how wrong I had been about this nameless person I now knew as Mike, and embarrassed at how precariously close I came to walking away from being part of a miracle. What a vast difference there is between our mere human perspective and judgment of people, based solely on external appearances, and God’s perspective and judgment based on what He sees in a person’s heart. In my mere human judgment I saw a drunk guy wasting his life, a harassing inconvenient nuisance, and someone to be avoided. In God’s judgment He saw a prodigal son whom He loved, a suffering soul crying out for help, and someone He came to rescue.

Susan and I lived in a small two bedroom house. As soon we arrived home we determined the first order of business was to get Mike cleaned up, both for his sake and ours. I led Mike upstairs to our only bathroom and invited him to take a bath. Instructing him set his grungy clothes outside the door, I promised him that I would provide him with some of mine. He was six inches shorter than me and at least 30 pounds lighter, but I assured him we would make something work. He seemed fine with all of that, but sheepishly had but one request. Would I mind going out and buying him some cigarettes? He explained that as he was sobering up he was beginning to feel a deep craving for a “smoke.” Susan and I were both non-smokers and hated cigarette smoke. However, I decided it was the least I could do for him, but with this caveat, he would have to do his smoking outside the house. He said that sounded fair and closed the bathroom door.

Within moments he discreetly deposited his clothes as I had instructed. I collected the filthy pile and holding them at arm’s length marched them out to the alley and deposited them in our garbage bin. Back in the house, I explained to Susan who was making supper that I was going to walk up the block to the nearby convenience store to buy Mike some cigarettes. It was the one and only time in my entire life that I have ever made such a purchase.

When Mike came downstairs from his bath he was beaming from ear to ear. Wearing a pair of my jeans with rolled up cuffs and shirt with rolled up sleeves, he looked as fresh and clean as the driven snow. After Mike’s brief stint outside for his “smoke” Susan called us for dinner. As we sat around the kitchen table, he began to divulge more of his story between gulping down bites of a delicious home-cooked meal. We learned to our surprise that he was only 37 years old, which belied his dishwater gray hair and toothless gums. He had a wife and three children living in Iowa from whom he was estranged and had not seen in seven years. Most of that time he had been riding the rails back and forth across the country living in hobo villages, frequenting soup kitchens, and mooching off people to fuel his alcohol and nicotine addictions.

He shared that in recent months he had been exposed to the preaching of the Gospel at the Harvest Field Mission located on skid-row on the edge of downtown Minneapolis. Those wanting a free meal were invited into the little store-front mission several nights a week, but required to first sit through a worship and preaching service before being served. It had become a regular pit stop for Mike as a respite from the cold and place to get some nourishment. He had been there enough times to hear the message of hope through faith in Jesus and the promise of salvation. It had prepared his heart for our street encounter and serves as a poignant illustration of the truth that some plant, some water, and some reap, but it is God who causes the growth and deserves all the glory (1 Corinthians 3:5-8).

That night Mike had a couple of more smokes interspersed in the midst of our conversation and eventually asked if he could turn in early. We both felt a remarkable peace about him staying with us, convinced that his conversion experience was genuine, and bid him a good night. When we finally went to bed, we were puzzling what tomorrow would bring and what God had in mind for Mike, and for us, going forward.

The next morning I was up early as was my custom, for my devotional time of prayer and bible study. Passing by the closed door of Mike’s bedroom I surmised he was still sleeping and quietly made my way down stairs. I had been immersed in my time with the Lord for about an hour, specifically praying for Mike, when I heard rustling on the steps and soon he came sauntering into the dining room. He was carrying the pack of cigarettes that I bought him. After we exchanged a cordial greeting, Mike surprised me by casually throwing the pack onto the middle of the table. “I don’t need these any longer” he explained. “I’ve been a smoker most of my life, but this morning when I woke up, I realized I no longer have any desire for a smoke. In fact, even the thought of makes me sick.” And with that simple act Mike sealed the Lord’s deliverance from a lifelong bondage to nicotine. As a “new creation in Christ” Mike was literally experiencing, right before our very eyes, “the old” in his life “pass[ing] away.” What we wondered, would it mean for Mike and for us to “behold the new” that was yet to come (1 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)? 

Stay tuned for Part 3 in my next blog post.

Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Please click on this link TomStuart.org to go to my website and blog.

If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? James 2:16 NIV 

It had been a frustrating day for me. Several attempts at sharing my faith as a grad student and employee at the University of Minnesota had fallen flat. My evangelistic zeal as a recent Christian convert was flagging and in my discouragement I removed the button I always wore identifying myself as a believer. Later that cold February afternoon, as was my custom, I drove for home through downtown Minneapolis to pick up my wife Susan from her place of employment. As I was approaching her building and looking for some on-street parking I saw a shabbily dressed man standing on the corner causing a scene and harassing people who walked by him. Just down the block I found a parking space. As I exited the car and headed for the parking meter I looked back down the sidewalk and to my alarm, saw the man walking my way. I could see he was obviously drunk or on drugs, and from his disheveled appearance and erratic behavior I determined he was someone I did not want to have anything to do with.

To avoid him I quickly turned to put money in the parking meter so I could be on my way. But no sooner had I finished plugging the meter and turned to go, he was right up next to me. He was middle aged, with a scraggly beard, unkempt hair, and wearing an old dirty ankle-length winter coat. He appeared to me to be homeless. The stench of alcohol mixed with B.O. almost overwhelmed me and I drew back. Simultaneously he moved closer with an outstretched hand and as he spoke I realized he was toothless. “Can you spare me a dime?” he gummed.

Forming a quick judgment in light of his appearance and request – I thought to myself, “Yeh, so you can buy more booze and continue to harass more people for money? No way!” But then, rationalizing more for my benefit than for his, I acquiesced, reaching for my billfold to give him a couple of bucks – just to get rid of him. Although I resented what felt like a hold up, I did it to free myself from the discomfort he was causing me.

Just then he said something else. Something so out of the realm of the way I had sized him up, that it jarred me out of my judgmental, self-protective, self-centered mindset. As I reached for my wallet the man said – “What I really need is the Lord.” Stunned, I paused. Did I really just hear what I thought I heard? “What?” I asked. “I really need the Lord,” he replied.

In that moment everything changed. I saw him and my entire encounter with him differently. Instantly my irritation vanished, my revulsion of him vanished, and my judgmental attitude toward him vanished. Instead, I now felt compassion welling up within me for him, God’s compassion. Here was a man desperately looking for God, not a handout. A man looking for peace, not a fight. A man needing grace, not judgment.

With my heart warming to God’s love for the guy . . . I said to him, “I am a Christian, if you really mean what you just said, I can pray for you right now.” He said “I do, I want the Lord in my life.” “OK” I said. “Then I’ll lead you in a prayer…the important thing is that you fully agree with the words you repeat after me.” He said “I will, I want the Lord in my life.” So right there on the sidewalk in downtown Minneapolis, I put my arm around the guy and led him in a sinner’s prayer. He started to weep as we prayed, and his earnestness and sincerity brought tears to my eyes too.

But it was what he did after we finished praying that capped off an unbelievable turn of events. I could never have imagined it ten minutes earlier. Immediately after we finished praying he threw his arms up in the air and started dancing on the sidewalk. Shouting “Praise God! Praise God! Praise God!” His joy was so spontaneous and infectious I could not help but join in on the celebration. It was just then, as the two of us were rejoicing together there by the curb, that my wife came out of her building and approached us with a bewildered look of surprise.

After some mutual introductions and providing a brief explanation of what had just happened, I turned to our newfound brother in Christ, whom we discovered went by the name of Mike. “Mike” I said, wanting to establish some kind of follow-up to his salvation, “tell me a little bit about yourself.” In short order, I learned that he was indeed homeless, and had been sleeping in an abandoned house in North Minneapolis. He was from out of town and all alone, and been fending for himself in Minneapolis for several months.

Susan and I looked at each other. Here we were in the middle of winter, standing out on a freezing street under a darkening sky with a guy who literally had no place to go to get warm and have a meal. How could we in good conscience leave him there, out in cold, after what we had just witnessed God do in his life? In that awkward moment, as we were hemming and hawing, searching for the courage to give the right response, a familiar verse from the Epistle of James came to mind. “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it” (James 2:16 NIV)? That settled it. I broke the silence and we took the plunge, inviting Mike to come home with us for the evening.

To be continued in my next blog post.

Your comments and feedback are always welcome.

 

November 30th, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Communication, Relationships

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1 NIV 

Years ago I experienced the stark reality that when I find myself pointing a finger of judgment at someone I need to beware that three fingers are pointing back at me. It forever etched in my memory a foundational precaution in forming opinions and judgments about others.

As a new believer in my mid-twenties I was working in an office environment where one of my fellow employees was a very sharp dresser. He was the cool dude of the office, knew it, and projected an air of superiority. Over the course of time his arrogance began to grate on me. One morning as I passed by his desk where he was standing, I noticed to my delight that he had missed a belt loop. Those were the days of the wide belt and tucked shirt, so it was an error glaringly visible to all. As I was inwardly gloating over his unwitting faux pas, the Holy Spirit pushed the pause button on my little celebration and interjected this thought – “Why don’t you check your own belt loop.” ….. At that, I quickly felt around my waist and to my chagrin I discovered I had missed a belt loop too! Need I say more? God certainly is not without a sense of humor when gently correcting us and teaching us life lessons.

It was a lesson that has stuck with me to this day. More often than I would like to acknowledge, when I am in the process of judging another, I hear the Holy Spirit cautioning me “Check your own belt loop.” In other words, check your own heart and behavior before you’re so quick to judge. That is what the three fingers pointing back at us whisper whenever we are tempted to point the finger of judgment at others. It is invariably enlightening, sometimes embarrassing, but always humbling at what we discover about ourselves. The very things we deem as offensive behavior in others may in fact be the same things we ourselves are doing. This is what Paul meant when he wrote “At whatever point” we find ourselves judging another, we are “condemning” ourselves, because we “who pass judgment are doing the same things” (Romans 2:1 NIV).

One of the most riveting, powerful stories in the Gospels is the incident when the religious leaders brought a woman before Jesus who had been caught in adultery. Citing the Law of Moses which commands the stoning of such a woman, they were trying to trap Him into saying something that would give them grounds to accuse Him of negating the Law. Jesus response turned the tables on their judgmental finger pointing and forced them to come to grips with the three fingers pointing back at them. His initial reaction was one of caution. Before saying anything He paused, “bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.” As they continued to question Him He finally “straightened up and said to them “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he stooped to write on the ground a second time and as He did “those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there” (John 8:6-9 NIV).

There are three valuable lessons which can be gleaned from this story which I am titling the “TLC Approach to Judging Another.”

T – Take a Time Out – Before rushing to judgment it is always wise to pause as Jesus did when he bent down to write on the ground. No doubt Jesus was taking time to see and hear what the Father was saying to Him. The advice given by James in his epistle is critically apropos when it comes to judging. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV). In other words, before you say it, pray it!

 L – Look Inside at Your Own Life – Make it a priority before judging another, to first ask the Holy Spirit, in response to the three fingers pointing back at you, to examine your own life for sin and shortcomings. A great prayer to pray is “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).
There is a temptation to justify ourselves by either comparing our sin to the sins of others or by thinking our good deeds outweigh our sinful deeds. We dare not fall into the trap of thinking “At least I’m not as bad as so and so . . . or . . . at least I am not doing that!” When we do, we are no different than the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable who did exactly that when he exalted himself in comparison to the lowly tax collector. Jesus however, lauded the penitent tax collector because of the way in which he was humbling himself. Looking inside is an act of humility that acknowledges our own sinful behavior and the commensurate need we all have for God’s mercy

One good little self-test you can easily do for a judgmental attitude is to gauge your reaction to the abhorrent driving behavior of others while you are on the road behind the wheel of your own vehicle. It is worth taking a time out to do an honest review of your own past driving habits to see if you can identify having done the very same thing that irritates you about that driver with whom you are upset. Gulp.

C – Correct Your Course of Action – Discovering the appropriate response to the questionable behavior of another begins by asking for God’s help in seeing people from His point of view. God sees a person’s heart and warns about judging someone merely from outward appearances (1 Samuel 16:7). Seeking to walk a mile in the shoes of another before rendering a judgment is also the better part of wisdom. A universal judging precaution is the Golden Rule – “do unto to others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12 KJV).

Different situations require their own unique responses and dictate a course of action that is Bible based and Spirit led. Sometimes the best response is simply to forgive and walk away. This is clearly a case of love covering a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). In other situations our responsibility before God may be to remove the speck we perceive in our brother’s eye, but first we must remove the mote from our own (Matthew 8:1-5). In dealing with those who are not believers, Paul’s advice to the believer is not to bother judging someone by Christian standards who not yet Christian. ”What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13 NIV).

For more on this topic you can view a message entitled “The Finger Pointing Tension which I gave recently at Bridgewood Community Church in Blaine, MN.

Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Link to the TomStuart.org Website & Blog

June 21st, 2017 · by Tom Stuart · Church History, Overcoming, Relationship with God

Jesus’ Letter to Laodicea

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write…  Revelation 3:14-22 NIV 

Laodicea was the seventh and last of the seven churches in the book of Revelation to whom the Apostle John wrote letters. The quite extensive, excavated ruins of Laodicea are located near the village of Eskihisar, Turkey. Strategically situated on seven hills it was founded in 261 BC in the geographical area known as Phrygia by a Greek king, Antiochus II. It was named after his wife Laodice. Remnants of the city include an amphitheater, smaller theatre called an odeon, and the largest stadium in Asia Minor seating 25,000 people. Known as the “Gateway to Phrygia” it was one of Asia Minor’s most flourishing cities primarily because of its trade route location on what was known as the Royal Road which ran from the Susa, the capital of Persia, all the way to Sardis. It was a main banking center for the area, had a medical school, and was a center for the worship of the pagan deity Zeus. It had textile factories supplying the Greco-Roman world with sleeved tunics and hooded cloaks made from the fine black wool supplied by sheep in the area. The city was so wealthy, that when it was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 60 AD, it declined Roman assistance opting to rebuild at its own expense, the only city in Asia to do so.

In the 1st Century AD when the letter was written, Laodicea had a population of 100,000 with a large community of Jews. Both gentile and Jewish converts from this city formed what might be considered a hub for Christianity, located just six miles west of Hierapolis and ten miles northwest of Colossae. The apostle Paul makes mention of Laodicea four times in his letter to the Colossians. From his references we gather his “great concern” for the saints there and an understanding that he knows a number of them personally (2:1). We also know that a colleague of Paul’s named Epaphras, actively ministered there as well as in Colossae and Hierapolis. Some scholars conjecture that Epaphras may have founded the church in Laodicea (4:13). There was obviously a mutual interchange of fellowship and encouragement between the believers in the three cities as Paul urged that his letter to the Colossians “be read in the church of the Laodiceans” (4:15-16).

Now, while keeping this important background information on Laodicea in mind, here is an overview of the letter from the Book of Revelation with some explanatory comments (3:14-22 NIV). It follows the pattern and order used in all seven of the letters as outlined in the introductory blog post on the Letters to the Seven Churches.

1. Revelation of Jesus– “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation” (v. 14). This revelation of Jesus is taken from John’s description in chapter one where Jesus is described as “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth” (v. 5). This is a fitting final revelation of Jesus to be cited in the letters and specifically for the believers in Laodicea. It underscores the importance and truthfulness of all that is being revealed as coming from the most convincing witness possible, Jesus Himself. It declares that in the midst of all the worldly temptations, deceptions, and persecutions, Jesus rules overall and is the one to whom we must look for salvation and victory.

2. Commendation– Unlike any of the other churches, there is no commendation given by Jesus to the Laodiceans. This is obviously concerning as it would appear with nothing to be commended, that the church was in a dire condition with regard to its spiritual health. It is as if Laodicea was the “black sheep” of the seven churches, which is an appropriate designation given its renown for its black wool textile industry.

3. Corrective Rebuke – “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (vs. 15-17). Here we see the seriousness of the church’s condition clearly revealed. In Heaven’s eyes Laodicea is “lukewarm” in its devotion to Jesus and “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” What a stinging indictment from Jesus. The tragedy of this church is their own self-deception. Thinking they are “rich” and “do not need a thing” they have fallen prey to the delusion of self-sufficiency and self-accomplishment in the pursuit of this world’s riches, while forsaking what it means to be rich toward God. The worldly Laodicean pride in its economic and cultural achievements obviously infiltrated the church creating complacent, spiritually lukewarm believers.

The use of a water temperature metaphor to describe different types of Christians as either lukewarm, hot, or cold, is one people in Laodicean could readily understand. Situated as a city between the hot thermal pools of Hierapolis to the west and the cool mountain streams of Mount Cadmus to the east, residents knew full well the repugnance of lukewarm water in comparison. By the time their water from the Baspinar Spring located 5 miles to the south traveling by aqueduct and clay pipes finally reached them, the hot water of Hierapolis or the cold water of Cadmus would readily be preferred.

4. Predictive Warning or Counsel““I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent” (vs. 18-19). Here we have the remedy for being “poor, blind, and naked (v. 17). It is instructive to see how Jesus again uses contrasting analogies, this time with natural gold and clothing versus spiritual gold and clothing. Again, Laodiceans would be very familiar with the high value placed on this world’s riches represented by gold and the expensive clothing it could buy, especially the luxuriant black woolen tunics and cloaks manufactured locally. But Jesus pointedly takes what his listeners understand in the natural and challenges them to see it from a spiritual perspective. That which is most to be valued are the true riches of a purity of heart and character represented by the “gold refined by fire” – the remedy for being “poor” – and the “white clothes” of His righteous garments of salvation – His remedy for being “naked.”

The misplaced values of the church in Laodicea clearly indicates how spiritually blind they were. Ironically the city boasted of a medical clinic that specialized in healing eye problems. In fact one of the treatments prescribed for healing was the use of a locally produced salve made from powder produced in nearby Phrygia. Well, lo and behold, Jesus announces here that He has an even more powerful salve, to heal spiritual blindness. As with the gold and clothes, one need only come to Jesus to receive it.

5. Overcomer’s Promise“To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (vs. 21-22. Similar to the overcomer’s promise to the church in Thyatira, here again we see the reward of spiritual authority to those who respond to Jesus’ counsel. The prerequisites spelled out in this letter, for access into God’s presence and a sharing in His rule and reign, are in accord with many other scriptures in which purity of heart, a renewed mind, and righteousness by faith are emphasized. The enduring history of the church in Laodicea indicates many responded to the rebuke and challenge of this letter by repenting and opening the door of their lives afresh to Jesus. For this, as with all seven of the churches, we can praise God for the faithful cloud of witnesses in Asia Minor who took the rebukes of Jesus seriously and chose to be overcomers.

Be sure to check out the four minute video posted above which was filmed at the Laodicea ruins for a first-hand look at this historic city. 

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