Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Church @ Philadelphia.

Last week we looked @ the church of Laodicea in
Revelation.  This week we will look @ the church @ Philadelphia.

Firstly a little background because that will help us anchor our thoughts & teaching.  The Church @ Philadelphia was one of the church plantings of Ephesus & as such belonged to that circle of churches originating from Ephesus & following the highway round in a circle.  We have some idea of what was happening here because we have looked @ the church growth in the area from Paul’s writings to Timothy, the overseer of the churches in this area of Asia Minor ~ modern day Turkey. Huge growth, heresy, false teachings, huge decline.

Philadelphia is between Laodicea, the apathetic church, & Sardis, the dead church.  Now each of the 7 churches in this area was a real church but these real churches also represent the Church ages.

Ephesus means the desirable one.  She is accused of losing her first love. The early church was desirable.  It grew beyond all worldly expectation exactly because her witness & walk made her desirable.

Then there was Smyrna, the persecuted church.  Her name means myrrh. Myrrh was obtained by beating & pressing the plant ~ & this was the fate of the church during the 2nd & 3rd centuries. Yet their witness [remember the original Greek can also mean martyr] brought many to saving faith in Christ.

Then along came Constantine who made Christianity the state religion, thus marrying state & church.  Pergamos means married, & the church has had difficulty divorcing from the world ever since.  People are happy to be *Christian* so long as it doesn’t cost them anything, so long as they can have heaven & their sin. It never works but people keep trying.

Thyatira means continual sacrifice.  This is the church that moved from salvation by Grace through the shed blood of Christ to salvation by works.  This was a compromised church seeking to win the Vandals, the Goths, the Huns with tolerance & compromise.  God will not have His people compromised.

Next there is Sardis ~ a church weighed down by ritual & man~made  rules, devoid of the power of the Holy Spirit & keeping the people in bondage through ignorance.  It was, & is, a dead church.

We have looked @ Laodicea, so that leaves Philadelphia. Philadelphia was an inland city beside the Cogamus River in the Kuzucay Valley ~ which probably doesn’t mean much to you. It has volcanic cliffs & being situated on the Anatolian Fault, suffered greatly from earthquakes, but with soil rich enough to grow grapes that produced excellent wine ~ wine good enough for Virgil to praise it.

Philadelphia was a wealthy commercial city serving as a crossover point between the Phrygian territory to the east & the Aegean ports to the west.  This gave them an open doorway for spreading the gospel.
So let us have a look @ what Jesus says to the church @ Philadelphia: Revelation 3:7~13

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.
This is the message from the one who is holy and true,
    the one who has the key of David.
What he opens, no one can close;
    and what he closes, no one can open:
 “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me.  Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.
“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world.  I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.  All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

When you read about these seven churches, what is the thing that strikes you first?  See these were real churches yes, but they are also representative of the church ages & types for all ages & the thing that struck me most ~ & I have read & reread Revelation for decades~ is something that is quite simply horrifying.  The dominant characteristic of the majority of these churches is that they were out of step with God.  Off track.  Out of order. Wow.
As we read these letters we learn it is possible to be a loving church yet have bad doctrine or to have good doctrine but lack love, to be tolerant of sin, to be persecuted for righteousness or be unpersecuted & spiritually dead, for no~one bothers to persecute the dead.

Philadelphia is one of only two churches out of seven that is not faulted in any way. So they have kept their first love, unlike Ephesus. They hold good doctrine, unlike Pergamum.  They are not harbouring false prophets or heretical teaching like Thyatira. They are not spiritually dead like Sardis, nor lukewarm like Laodicea. They are faithful, Holy Spirit empowered, effective & holding to the Truth. To this church Jesus identifies Himself as the Holy One; Yahweh; The Great I AM~ for none is holy but God [1 Samuel 2:2]

He then mentions *the key of David*. David symbolises the Messianic Office & his key is his symbol of authority.  We know Jesus was of David’s house & line so He is, in effect saying, Messianic authority is mine. In John 10:9 Jesus says : I am the door: if any one enter in by me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out and shall find pasture.  
Now there are a lot of ways you can interpret the reference to *pasture*.  It can be the blessings of shalom ~ all the goodness, wealth, freedom from want of God’s Kingdom.  It could be what Jesus meant when He said Come unto me …& I will give you rest for your souls ~ that security & peace that is only found in Christ.  Or it could mean, & I am partial to this one, that we have unlimited access to the Father through Christ the son & no~one can deny us for we have the son’s authority to come & go @ will. This also makes sense in light of the reference to Satan’s Synagogue.
The next thing I would like to draw your attention to is the word Dynamai,  in verse 8, once translated as able & once [in a slightly altered form] as strength.  In both instances we are talking about power.  No~one has the power to close the doors that God opens.  In the same way even though they were a small church [mikros means small in size or quantity] they still operated in God’s power. This must be hugely encouraging for us. God was not interested in their numbers but He did note their obedience, their faithfulness, their loyalty & their perseverance.
You see they had people on their case…John calls them the Synagogue of Satan…  They may have been Jews…  They may have been other Christians but ones adhering to Jewish Law [Romans 2:28/29 says it is the circumcision of the heart that makes one a Jew, not ethnicity or religion or religious practises]…& they were applying pressure to forgo God’s Word & deny Jesus. [V8]  But this little church did not cave.

We know from Revelation & from Church history that heresy & false teaching was spreading out from Ephesus & infecting the other churches but not the church @ Philadelphia!  Because they were obedient to the word they were protected & earned the commendation of the Lord. They persevered in the Truth.

Now Jesus promises this faithful little church something that on the face of it seems a little odd but it would have meant a great deal to the church @ Philadelphia.  Remember Philadelphia was built on the Anatolian Faultline & subject to earthquakes & their aftershocks.  At least one in the 1st century was so devastating that the Emperor provided funds to help rebuild the city.

The strongest & most secure buildings in the city were the temples. They were built to withstand the earthquakes by laying the foundations on a bed of charcoal overlaid with wool fleeces.  This caused the temples to *float* on the soil~ sort of like a raft, each block joined to the next by metal cramps so the whole moved in unity. So Jesus is promising this little church a place of eternal security & safety where nothing could harm them. What’s more, they would never be forced to flee from this safe haven as they fled the city when the earthquakes came.

Pillars were often inscribed ~ as archaeology amply testifies.  The inscriptions might extol a king’s virtues or a commander’s victories ~ or they might simply denote ownership. God’s name would be inclusive of all of these things: His virtues, His victory over satan & the world, His ownership of those who love Him.  When you love & are loved it is a wonderful thing to be claimed by the lover.

He also promises they will be spared from the tribulation to come.  I do not have the time to go through this verse by verse with all the cross~references but I will give you a little Greek because that makes the final meaning very plain.
Verse 10 says *I will protect/keep you from the great time of testing…* tereo* is the verb keep or guard but in this sentence is the little Greek preposition ek.  Ek means out of.  Completely. John does not us en [in] or dia [through].  He uses ek. The faithful, loyal, obedient churches, the faithful, loyal, obedient Christians will be spared the Great Tribulation.

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 2 Timothy 3:16

The church @ Philadelphia teaches us what it is to be a church in whom Christ finds no fault ~ not perfect, because there is no such thing, but obedient, working out their salvation with fear & trembling ~ & loyal.  How God values loyalty!  Churches & people who do not compromise, who do not commit adultery with the world, who are not ashamed of Christ.  May we strive to be a church like Philadelphia!

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Laodicea ~ Ganeida

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

Laodicea.  Last man standing.  The church of the end times. The church that received a scathing condemnation from our Lord.  The church of our times.  And what was Laodicea's great crime?  Lukewarmness.  

We in the west, with centuries of Christianity behind us, are very comfortable with our religion ~ & we don't like to be discomfited but hear what Christ says, "Behold, I stand at the door & knock!"  Spoken, not to unbelievers but to believers, believers who considered themselves spiritually mature, spiritually rich, spiritually wise.

Now it is one thing to know what the bible says.  It is another thing entirely to understand it ~ & it is a third thing altogether to see how the lessons for the Laocidean church apply to us in this present age.  And let's be blunt.  From the Laocidean point of view things looked pretty good.  They belonged to a "rich" church situated in a sophisticated, cosmopolitan city that had benefited from the trade that passed along the 3 major highways. They minted their own coinage, had their own banks.  The city was part of the Roman aqueduct system with schools in medicine & the arts & they had a thriving commerce built around the the exceptionally fine soft black wool for which it was famous throughout the Empire.

Note something else also.  Laodicea does not stand accused of any of the sins of the flesh; not adultery, not fornication, not pornography, not drunkenness nor incest.  They do not stand accused of false doctrine nor of heresy & yet this is the church of whom Christ says he will vomit them out of His mouth!  Because they have no passion.  Because they have no zeal.  Because they have no enthusiasm. This ennui, this smugness  has resulted in something far worse.  This is a church that has forgotten its first responsibility.

 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? ... You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid... Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.[Matt. 5:13 ~ 16]

The Laodicean church is a church that has lost its savour.  Rather than teaching the world to conform to Christ, the church is conforming to the world.    Rather than separating from the world, they embrace it. They are neither out in the world evangelizing, nor are they completely separating from the world.

 The very first thing the church is, if it is anything at all, is a peculiar people set apart for the use & purpose of the Lord God.  That is the meaning of sanctification.  That is why we are told to pursue holiness.  We are vessels of the Living God.  We are temples for the Holy Spirit. We are pilgrims & sojourners.  This is not our home, not our final destination.  We are meant for something else but if we deny our high calling we are fit neither for this world nor for the world to come!  And Christ is very clear; He will spit such a people out of His mouth!  Not if, not maybe; He will do it!

Now this passage of scripture is deep & rich with symbolism so bear with me as we unravel some of the hidden secrets of this passage.

The first thing to deal with is the speaker, whom we know from earlier passages to the other 6 churches is Christ Himself.  Here He identifies Himself as the Amen, the faithful & true, the ruler of God's creation. The Jewish Talmud Shabbat 1196 renders the original meaning of amen as EL MELECK NE'EMAN, an acrostic for God is a trustworthy king.  It refers back to Isaiah 65:16 He who blesses himself shall bless himself in the God of Truth.  Christ presents himself as king & ruler ~ a king & ruler who is not very impressed with His subjects!

You say you are: [referring to spiritual riches]
Christ informs them that they are spiritually blind
.........................wretched [in bondage to sin]
.........................miserable [in need of God's mercy, mercy they will not receive]
.........................Poor [lacking in love & power]
.........................naked [a metaphor for unconfessed, unrepentant sin, usually idolatry ~ in this case the worship of man through science & humanism, as was the Greek way.]

Hear what Christ says!  Buy from me gold...white clothes...salve. Buy!  This is not *cheap grace*.  The Laocideans are told it is going to cost them ~ & cost them dearly!  They are going to have to get serious about their sin.  They are going to have to get out of their comfort zone & get serious with God.

So what exactly is Christ telling them to do?  Firstly the *gold* is the sort mentioned in 2nd Chronicles, the sort Daniel knew, the sort Christ Himself acquired, the gold of humbleness.  Now humbleness is not, biblically speaking, running round like Uriah Heep.    Humbleness is knowing we can do nothing without God & our acknowledgement of that comes in one simple way: prayer!  When we are serious about prayer we combine it with fasting.  Prayer & fasting, that is to humble ourselves.  That is to put aside our everyday selves to focus on God alone. It is sacrificial & it costs the person who practises it something in terms of time & comfort.  It indicates a commitment to their walk with God.  For a rich church like Laodicea giving alms is often a substitute for sacrificial living & requires very little of the person in terms of personal sacrifice. Not good enough!  Nowhere near good enough.  The first commandment is to love God with all we have & are. That means more than giving out of the largess that is ours from God in the first place!

The second thing that needs to be bought is white garments.  Now remember the Laocidean church is a rich church & it is in the heart of *black wool* country ~ a wool renowned throughout the empire for its exceptional softness & fineness.  Many in the Laocidean congregation would have owned garments from this fine black wool.  Bit like owning a designer dress.  They are being asked to exchange their old *designer* life for the new one, one characterised by a life governed by the Spirit, one wherein they exchange sin for righteousness.

There is yet a third thing they need to buy ~ salve for their eyes that they might see.  Laodicea had a school of medicine & produced many salves.  The one mentioned here is kollourion which was shaped like small loaves. Anoint [egkrisai ~ literally *rub in*] your eyes with the bread (of life).  The symbolism is there.  In other words fill your mind with scripture.  Keep it always before your eyes.  Meditate on it.  This is what will work through your whole body to bring sight & healing!

To this last of churches, so self deluded, so blinded they are completely unaware of their true spiritual condition, Christ says, "I stand at the door & knock..." the 2nd verb suggests a continious ongoing action because despite everything this is still a church Christ loves & thus He also disciplines it. It is there in the name.  Laocidea comes from two Greek words that, as so often happens in scripture, can have two meanings: peoples' opinions [ie a church where each one is doing what seems right in their own eyes & not what scripture deems right] & a people judged.  Says it all really.  When the church reaches this level of self delusion Christ will act to cleanse & purify it. The church brings judgement on itself.

It is no easy thing to be a member of  the Laocidean church. It is difficult to survive in a climate of spiritual apathy.  It is hard to retain your zeal & fire for the Lord when no~one else is at all enthusiastic but Christ exhorts us to be zealous & for those who overcome He promises the right to sit with Him on His throne.

 Laodicea was so self deceived they could not see their way, nor their danger.  As the end times church we are warned to read the signs of the times, to repent, to prepare, to be ready.  Christ will come.  He is hurrying to meet the bride prepared for him from before the dawn of time.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

This message was first published on Out of the Silence as Last Man Standing.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The why of our Position ~ Ganeida.

As Australia confronts the Postal Vote on the so called same sex marriage
issue I want to go over some of the reasons why this church has taken the stance it has & stands with other Rhema churches advocating that marriage is meant to be between one man & one woman for life. 

We all know that the rate of divorce in the church is about the same as for outside the church so be aware I am not dealing with the facts but with God’s ideal plan & purpose.  In an ideal world these would be one & the same thing but this is a fallen world full of fallen people, therefore the ideal is just that: an ideal.  Just the same, the ideal is what we should strive for.

I am not going to run through all the verses about homosexuality.  That is a separate issue.  I am dealing with what God has said about marriage.  Besides there are enough people already yelling & screaming about homosexuality.  I don’t believe that is how Jesus approaches the issue either.  Rather He points people to God’s standard of Holiness.

Firstly I believe we need to be very clear about who we are meant to be representing.  There is something ingeniously called *the Social Gospel* which seeks to tie social issues & the gospel together.  I don’t believe it can be done without causing great harm to the cause of Christ. It clouds our thinking when we are not clear because often the cause of Christ & the cause of the world do not, & can not, run in tandem.

We have looked @ 1 Peter 2:9 before: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Holy, hagios, separate from common condition & use; dedicated…pure…righteous… Chosen, eklektos, called out…

A great deal of the Old Testament is about defining the difference between the holy & the profane so that people understood there is a difference & would recognise it when they saw it.  There is a standard God holds too. When He calls us out of darkness He makes us a new creation ~ a creation that is meant to reflect Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, not the world.  Everything that is of the world is now to be rejected. Indeed we are enjoined in Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things

Jesus Himself says: “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.  Matthew 5:13~16

Salt is a preservative.  It was used extensively in the ancient world to stop rot & decay, not just as a flavouring.  If it doesn’t do its job it isn’t good for anything. 
So too are Christians meant to add that tart flavouring to life because salt is not sweet.  When we align ourselves with the world we are not doing the job we are called to do & I want to be very, very clear here: Vilification of anyone is never ok but according to 2 Corinthians 5:20  We are Christ's ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, "Come back to God!"
Part of our ministry of reconciliation is to stand against sin.  It is not love to tell people it is ok to go on sinning, God loves them & accepts them just as they are.  That is hatred. That says we don’t care that they will spend an eternity in hell.  That says, I’m ok, I don’t care about you.
We have spent the last 2 weeks looking @ renewing our minds & so we understand sin begins in the mind & grows to become actions & when those actions lead to rebellion against God, they lead to death.
James 1:14~15 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

As Christ’s ambassadors we represent the Kingdom values rather than the world’s values & we will be hated for it because I can assure you, sinners don’t like being called to account.  They want everyone to tell them their sin is not really sin & it’s perfectly natural & normal to behave as they do.

Nothing operates in a vacuum.  There are consequences to our actions, consequences to our choices. Therefore we need to make wise & Godly choices.

So let’s look @ what the bible actually says about marriage.

As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." Ephesians 5:31 Proskollaō ~ to stick like glue. This is exactly what Jesus says in Matthew 19:5 ~6 Quoting from Genesis 2:24 

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ And he said, 'This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.' Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together."

And we know what God says about all creation as He first made it: It was good, Tov…functioning perfectly in the manner in which it was designed to function.
Likewise Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 …each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband…BECAUSE of the temptation to sexual immorality.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the Lord. Proverbs 18:22

It is disingenuous to claim the scriptures knew nothing of homosexuality, that it was a different world. That is to display an incredible lack of knowledge of the Greco~Roman world. Homosexual *love* was the height of love in Greece.  It was rampant throughout their empire.  In fact, without becoming too graphic, their schools & mentoring program were used to groom young men for older lovers. Rome, as in so much else Grecian, copied their morals & it is not surprising to find many Latin words describing homosexual acts ~ & both Nero & Elagabalus actually married their male lovers.  As Israel was occupied by Rome in Jesus time & the nation as a whole was quite secular, homosexuality was certainly known of & practised but no~where in scripture is marriage ever referred to as anything other than being between a man & a woman.
What’s more the scriptures lay down clear guidelines for the behaviour of men & women within their marriage. 

Ephesians 5:25~33 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, ...

1 Peter 3:7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.

 Hebrews 13 :4 Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

And there is a reason for marriage:
Jeremiah 29:6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease

Malachai 2:13~16

And this second thing you do. You cover the Lord's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favour from your hand. But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Marriage was designed to be a reflection of the covenant relationship between God & His people.  It is described everywhere in scripture as the marriage between a Groom & His Bride ~ male & female. This is partly why divorce is so abhorrent.  It is a cornerstone of the church because where 2 or 3 are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them… so each Christian family becomes a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit ~ a mini church~ & there they partner with God for the raising of *Godly seed.*

As our nations & our world abandons the biblical view of marriage we should not be surprised if more & more they reflect bygone pagan nations but there is a cost, in biblical terms.

Proverbs 14:34 Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
If you want to know what happens when a nation abandons God & follows after their own wisdom just look to the history of Israel.
So you see, none of this is about our *gay* families, our *gay* neighbours, whether this is just or fair in secular terms because we do not belong to this world.  This is about God.  As His ambassadors we are called to represent Him, His concerns, His values, His message ~ & sometimes people aren’t going to like that because it is not what they want to hear.  It is not what they believe. Just the same our allegiance must remain with God.
I am very aware that many Christians have come to a different conclusion but with respect that is not the conclusion I have come to after much research, study & prayer.  It is not a new dilemma. Joshua 24:15

But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD."

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Renewing Your Mind. ~ Ganeida

We are looking at what it means to renew your mind according to Romans 12:2.  We dissected this verse last week but it is not the only scripture that addresses this issue so what I am going to do is list some of the bible instructions God issued regarding the use of our minds & then I am going to look at practical applications.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Colossians 3:2  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Ephesians 4:23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord
Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus

Hebrews 3:1Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, even Jesus

So the scriptures tell us that what we think about is important & we are to control our thoughts because ultimately our lives are governed by our thoughts.  All sin begins as a thought that is allowed to grow.  All confusion begins when we allow satan’s thinking into our minds, instead of God~thoughts because satan is the author of confusion.

James puts it most bluntly when he says: So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. [1:21]

In other words we have the ability to change the pattern of our thinking through scripture. Instead of the filthy, the carnal, the worldly we are to think on whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I think a great many Christians have never considered taking this instruction literally or acting on it but clearly these are not meant to be just pretty uplifting words but words of life that have the power to change us from the inside out.

If everything we are & do begins with our thoughts, then the power to direct our lives in godliness, righteousness, selflessness begins with our thought life.

I will give you an example of how this affects our thinking & impacts on our actions.
On April 12th, 1912, a man called John Harper boarded the Titanic with his 6 yr old daughter to answer an invitation to speak @ the Moody Church in Chicago. 

He was a Scot, a Glaswegian & an evangelist.
When the Titanic began to go down he woke his daughter, wrapped her in a blanket & handed her into lifeboat 11 knowing he would never see her again. Harper then gave his lifejacket to someone else calling out: Women & children & unsaved people into the lifeboats. He prayed for the salvation of the terrified unsaved all around him on the upper deck until the Titanic went down & then he grabbed wreckage & swam from person to person asking: Are you saved? & as succinctly as possible gave them the gospel message before they died.  He was a remarkable man & he fully understood Greater love hath no man

How different to Captain Schettino of the Costa Concordia who, having grounded his vessel, saved himself while leaving many of his passengers to perish.

One thought as God thinks, thinking of others before himself.  The other thought as the world thinks, thinking only of himself.  Which one is worthy of emulating? Which one was more Christlike? Which would you rather be?

Science is finally catching up with the scriptures. Our thoughts are not ethereal.  They are real & they have real consequences. They occupy *mental real estate.* In scientific terms this means that our thoughts give out epi~genetic signals that wire the brain & actually change our DNA. Where the mind goes the brain follows.  What we focus our thoughts on, grows & influences our actions & the changes can be seen in our brains.

This should cause us to pause & carefully consider the sort of thought life we are cultivating for if we are allowing the world to dictate to our thoughts along the lines of: Trump will embroil the whole world in a nuclear disaster; my marriage is a mess; my kids hate me then you are wiring your brain according to worldly wisdom when Jesus very plainly said Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it fear.  John 14:27

If you turn to Ecclesiastes 7:29 Solomon says this:  But I did find this: God created people to be virtuous, but they have each turned to follow their own downward path.

God created you virtuous [Chayil:Strong, powerful, mighty, with abilities, efficient, able, wealthy, & forceful] Some translations use upright [yashar] which is a more correct translation. The implication is the same.  You were created to reflect the image of God, absolutely perfect, but our choices lead us on a downward path.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end

We are designed to be able to access the goodness of God.  If you don’t already then I would encourage you to develop a continual inward dialogue with the Holy Spirit.  He’s your best friend.  He will lead you into all Truth & so no matter what comes at you in the course of a day you can access His wisdom.  Holy Spirit, how should I react to this?  Holy Spirit, What should I say?  Holy Spirit, would this please Jesus? You get the idea.
Now there are several other things I want to briefly discuss & the first involves our coming together as a church.

Hebrews 10:25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.

Now there are some very practical reasons for this instruction but the one I want to focus on is what happens physically when we gather together. Ephesians 4:3 says Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.

I have heard Christians say some pretty bizarre things about unity & I have seen people turn fellowship & unity into a sort of idol.  This is completely unbiblical & not at all what scripture is talking about because this unity is of the Spirit & not something we can create ourselves.

However… we have talked about how what we focus on & think about is what grows in us & it changes our DNA. What we focus on & grow affects our actions, so here is the interesting thing: When we arrive on Sunday morning we each arrive with a week’s worth of baggage & we each arrive as an individual.  Each heart beats separately to its own rhythm.  As we begin to praise & worship & to focus on Christ our physical bodies change until all our hearts begin to beat in sync ~ literally all our hearts beat as one! We become united in Christ!  Not through our own efforts but because the Spirit within us brings us into unity for His sake. This has serious implications for our Love Walk, for our Church unity & for the body of Christ as a whole.
Lastly I would encourage us all to up the anti on our prayer life & here is why: when a Dr Newberg conducted an experiment @ Pennsylvania University on the effects of prayer on the brain he discovered some very interesting things.

When we speak or pray in an ordinary way our frontal lobe fires up & lots of extra activity can be discerned in this area of the brain. More circuits are created & gamma waves increase in prayer.
According to the Gamma brain waves are the fastest brainwave frequency with the smallest amplitude. They are associated with the “feeling of blessings” reported by experienced meditators such as monks and nuns, and with peak concentration and extremely high levels of cognitive functioning.

Neuroscientists believe that gamma waves are able to link information from all parts of the brain.

The bottom line is if you want to be smarter, more peaceful, wiser, calmer & more blessed then increase your prayer life. 

That is wonderful of course but something even more extraordinary happens when we pray in tongues.  When we pray in tongues all that frontal lobe activity shuts down while the areas reflecting self~consciousness are still active. Tongue speakers have been found to be more emotionally stable & more positive than other people. Why?

I would suggest it is because the thought life is more God controlled, more focused on positives & far more likely to bring them into true unity & peace with the people in their lives.  So when God tells us to renew our minds it is not just to help us live moral, upright lives.  That is possible by sheer strength of will for some people.  No.  It is so He can bless us abundantly with all the goodness He desires for us ~ the abundant life Jesus promised. As we renew our minds we enter into a kingdom way of thinking that enables God to work effectively in our lives. 

 For more about the science of renewing your mind see Dr Caroline Leaf: