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Immigration Policy and the Effect on Missions Worldwide, part 3: The Parallels

Mark 13:10 – And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

There isn’t a lot of data when it comes to missionaries from America in the early stages of our country. The majority of Christian missions occurred internally before moving overseas. The majority of “missions” work came from denominations such as Methodists and Baptists scrambling to find enough pastors and leaders to go west. In 1790, there were only 13 states in America. The west was largely unknown.

The primary task was to build a nation while, at the same time, evangelizing the culture. Methodist circuit riders were very successful in this as they could cover large areas quickly and “plant churches” in areas that others couldn’t.

Prior to the Revolutionary War, much of the missionary work had been done by the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. After the war, the Anglican church pulled out of America and we were left to our own leaders. Francis Asbury, for example, was a missionary to America and he traveled and preached across the country until his death in 1816.

What started in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, which would double the size of our country, was the first big move into missions for many evangelical Protestants. For a few hundred years already, Protestants were on mission to the Native Americans.

Many Christians believed they were in the last times after the Revolutionary War. Many believed it was important to convert as many people as possible before the coming of Christ. Missionary work fit well with this new dynamic in the young country.

By 1810, small group of men attending Andover Seminary banded together to follow the path that English Baptists were doing since 1792, evangelizing Asia. Men like Adoniram Judson and Samuel Mills created the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, supported by the Congregationalist denomination. They began raising money and creating resources and, by 1812, Judson and his wife left for India with a few other families. Eventually they reached Burma where they ministered for 38 years. Judson’s group was the first

Throughout the early 1800s, there were only a few hundred American missionaries throughout the world. By the turn of the century, there would still be very few missionaries worldwide. If you totaled all of the missionaries from both Europe and America throughout the 1800s, they would total no more than 15,000 and many of those died within their first 2 years in the field.

The main issue with missions throughout the 1800s was twofold:

  • With much of the young America in need of both evangelizing and social missions, many of the churches focused their missions efforts at home.
  • The War of 1812 caused Americans to lose their international spirit. This time of isolationism would last until just after the Civil War.

In 1800 only 1% of all Protestant Christians lived in Asia, Africa or Central/South America. Today that number totals 67% of all Protestants live there.

But this brings up a very interesting point. With regard to immigration reform, the problems with England caused an isolationist view, not just for missionaries, but for all of America. The isolationist views caused denominations and religious leaders to withhold much of their international missions activity.

The majority of missions happened at home.

But when the century changed from the 1800s to 1900, there was a large missions conference in New York City called the Ecumenical Missionary Conference. Over 162 different mission organizations were represented.  Much of the reason mission organizations became interested in overseas missions again is that after the Civil War, the United States was experiencing a labor shortage and opened up immigration to allow people to come in to offset that shortage. The influx of new cultures into America gave churches a taste of what else was outside of America.

All the major denominations formed their own missionary societies.

But the 1900s would not be without their share of problems, much of it tied to both immigration reform and the American dream. For much of the early 1900s we had significantly restrictive immigration policies against those of Asian descent. This led to many missionary agencies in Asia and eastern countries shutting down.

World War 1 ended in in 1918 and a few short years afterward America realized that we needed to protect our borders.

While American Protestants worked their way into Central and South America at the turn of the 20th century, the majority of cultural understanding didn’t start until soon after the signing of Bracero Agreement in 1942.

With many of the special allowances for Mexico and other countries, especially those from Europe, Asian countries started to remove American missionaries. Many missionaries in the 1950s were removed from China. This was partially due to Marxist ideology taking hold in China at the time, but the lack of deference for Asian, and primarily Chinese, immigrants led to China closing much of their opportunities for American missionaries during the 50s.

Another interesting parallel happened in the late 1960s. We passed preference system which replaced the quota system in 1965. Over the next few years, there would be an increase in missionary attacks and countries, like Guinea, for example, who would close their borders to all missionaries. Thousands of churches internationally would be destroyed. Coincidentally, the preference system that America adopted to help with immigration would prefer European countries and skilled workers but place a cap on the countries those countries that eventually expelled missionaries or started persecuting them.

Then in 1980, the Refugee Act opened up emergency immigration relief to those who were persecuted and then in 1986, the Simpson-Mazolli Act gave amnesty to over 2.7 million illegal immigrants. Also at the same time, there was a significant increase in the number of missions organizations throughout America. There were also some very large conferences on missions throughout the world. As a matter of fact, Time Magazine ran a cover article on missionaries in 1982.

These are just a few of the parallels that can be derived from the information. Honestly, I wish I had taken much more time in the research of this.

I wish I had taken this beyond just parallels.

There is no research out there at all about this topic. And it is something that perplexes me. With all of the missions organizations out there who make their livelihoods from ensuring the safety and growth of their missional communities, why would there not be any research done about this topic?

In all honesty, the research would be somewhat easy, although very time-consuming:

  • Contact every missions organization in the world (and there are thousands) and get their missionary information since their inception. Find out how many missionaries they had each year since they started, find out their low and high points on their organizational life cycle, and incorporate the number of missionaries that were commissioned and the number of churches that were planted versus the number of missionaries that either died or came out of the field as well as the number of churches that were closed/destroyed.
  • Consolidate the information from those organizations on a chart by year.
  • Overlay the highlights in American immigration reform.
  • That alone would be enough to give better data than simple parallels.
  • If you want to take it further, then reach out to the State Department for their take on the question.
  • Then reach out to countries that have traditionally been for and been against having missionaries in their countries. Speak to someone at the leadership level in those countries and get whatever information possible. This could be done through a simple questionnaire that would be standard for all countries contacted.
  • Plot their information on the combined yearly missionary chart to get key points along the timeline.

While that would get us enough for a published book on the topic, it would definitely not be enough to provide scientific evidence.

I would love to speak further with missions experts about this topic. I am sure that there is something there, I just can’t officially put my finger on it. If anyone would like to work together on a project like this, please reach out to me at coffeeguy777@hotmail.com.

Isaiah 6:8 – And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Immigration Policy and the Effect on Missionaries Worldwide, part 2: Mission Statistics

Mark 16:15 – And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

Last week I reviewed a little bit about what I learned about immigration reform in America since 1790.  I received a few questions as to my post last week. The first had to do with sources. I used quite a bit, but the majority of my sources came from both www.uscis.gov (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and Pew Research, a nonpartisan fact tank.

Also, I want to suggest to people to take my post last week as a beginning to the conversation. There is no lack of controversy when you begin discussing immigration reform. Some people will agree completely with what I say about it and others won’t. But rather than turning my blog into a potential “fake news” site, I would rather you use it to begin the conversation and to spark a desire to research about the issues yourself rather than taking what people say without doing the research.

That said, I want to take this week and discuss the world as seen by a missionary sending organization.  I am going to be talking about several different Christian-specific principles, so if you have questions about it, again, please do the research and don’t just potentially quote me out of context.

I am pulling this information from several different missions organizations and societies. When dealing with such large numbers in the billions, do not get bogged down in arguing a few thousand people one way or the other. the majority of my world statistic numbers will be coming from 2014 government data.

To start, there are almost 7.2 billion people on the earth today with a median age of just under 30 and a life expectancy of about 68 years. The countries which have the highest population are (in order):

  • China – 1.3 billion
  • India – 1.2 billion
  • USA – 318 million
  • Indonesia – 253 million
  • Brazil – 202 million
  • Pakistan – 196 million
  • Nigeria – 177 million
  • Bangladesh – 166 million
  • Russia – 142 million
  • Japan – 127 million

Out of all of the people in the world, they are broken into 16,761 distinct people groups. A people group is defined as an ethnolinguistic group with a common self-identity that is shared by the members. The organization, The Joshua Project, analyzes all of these people groups and determines how “reached” they are by Christianity.

The first group is the unreached peoples. Those are communities that have less than 2% as evangelical Christian. Of the 16,761 people groups throughout the world, 7,050 of those are unreached! That accounts for over 2.9 BILLION people, or 42% of the world’s population.

The next group is the unevangelized. These are groups that have higher than 2% evangelical Christan but still have very high numbers of unsaved. There are 2,854 unevangelized people groups in the world. That accounts for almost 17%, or 900 million people.

Before I go any further, I need to define what evangelical Christian means. In America, the term “evangelical” holds a very negative connotation as that group of Christians have associated themselves deeply with a singular political party. For terms of this post, an evangelical Christian is a person who believes Jesus is the sole path to salvation, has a personal faith in Him, recognizes the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and is committed to Biblical preaching and evangelism as the way to bring others to faith in Christ.

That brings us to the 10/40 window. Most of the unreached people groups in the world are inside the 10/40 window. It stands for the degrees of latitude, between 10 degrees north to 40 degrees north of the equator. 60% of the unreached groups live in the 10/40 window and over half of the world’s population as a whole are in that window as well.

Of those unreached people groups, the majority of them are Muslim, followed by the majority religions inside China, and then Hindi. Islam has 3,431 of the world’s people groups and 2,854 are unreached. China, one of the fastest growing Christian churches in the world, has 519 of the world’s people groups and 428 are still unreached.

As for the Christians in the world, over 95% of all Christians work within the Christian world. The total number of Christians worldwide is about 2.2 billion with 550 million evangelical. It is pretty amazing to know that evangelical Christians have grown from 3 million in AD 1500 to 550 million today. There are 900 churches for every unreached group and 78,000 Christians for every unreached group.

It is estimated that there are 6,909 languages worldwide. The largest is Mandarin Chinese at 12.44%. This is followed by Spanish at 4.85% and English at 4.83%. Over 4,400 languages in the world do not have a readable version of Scripture available to them. Right now there are over 1,600 languages that have been started for Bible translation, which leaves the rest still needing someone to begin the project.

Reaching the world can be as easy as reaching those international students who have come to America. Right now, there are an estimated 886,052 international students in the United States. 62% of them are from the 10/40 window. 80% of those students will return to their countries never being invited to the home of an American citizen. That is a huge opportunity for Christians here in America!

Over 40% of the world’s 220 Heads of State once studied in America. Only 10% of all international students, which includes those Heads of State, were invited to a ministry by a Christian.

The top countries that have students over here in America are China, India, South Korea, Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Vietnam, Mexico and Turkey. Many of those countries have high amounts of unreached people groups.

Now let’s shift gears a little. Let’s look at the money. The total annual income of all church members worldwide is $42 trillion, with $7 trillion coming from evangelical Christians. The interesting thing is that Christians worldwide give about $700 billion to Christian causes.

But get this….

That $700 billion includes purchasing presents for Christmas!

If we factor out Christmas spending, only a mere $45 billion is given to missions. That is 6.4%.That is equal to the amount America spends on dieting programs and, until recently, less than Americans spend on Halloween costumes.

The majority of the money given goes to tithing and pastoral ministries. Only about $450 million went to reaching the unreached people groups. Sadly, this means that for every $100,000 that Christians make, only $1 goes toward reaching the unreached people groups around the world.

Some thoughts about this, but if Christians used only .003% of their income to plant churches in each of the areas that have unreached people groups, then we would reach all groups around the world.  And if every Christian gave 10% of their income to missions, we could easily support 2 MILLION new missionaries!

So how many missionaries are actually out there?

There are only 400,000 Christian missionaries in the world today. Only 13,300 are in areas with unreached people groups. Over 75% of those missionaries are in areas that are already reached. Some more interesting statistics about this:

  • 1 missionary for every 60,000 tribal/animist people
  • 1 missionary for every 179,000 Hindu people
  • 1 missionary for every 405,000 Muslim
  • 1 missionary for every 260,000 Buddhists

This means that you are more likely to be in a plane crash than being one of the few missionaries that go to unreached areas.

Moving into next week, I want to begin looking at missionaries over the ages. Since there is little to no research done on the effect of immigration reform on missionaries worldwide, I will need to make some assumptions until professional research can be done.

So next week, we will start at 1790 and begin working toward the present day.

Psalm 96:3 – Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Immigration Policy and the Effect on Missionaries Worldwide: Part 1, Policy

Leviticus 19:33-34 – “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

This post will kick off a series of posts about immigration reform and the affect it has on missionaries since the founding of our country. This first one is going to be a little tough to digest. It was for me. This is going to lay out the actual immigration policies since 1790.

Almost 52 years ago the United States enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act which replaced the previous immigration program that we had which favored Europeans. The policy put in place 52 years ago opened visas to people from other countries and gave increased priority to people with relatives who are American citizens.

Prior to that, over 65% of the visas allowed in America were given to only 3 countries: Ireland, Germany, and the UK. Today, only 10% of the visas approved come from those 3 countries and the majority of them come from countries in Asia or Latin America.

All the way back to 1790 we have documentation of immigration policies. The Naturalization Policy of 1790 excluded anyone who was non-white from being a naturalized citizen. In order to be naturalized, you must have 2 years of residency, “good moral character,” and be a “free white person.” In 1795 it was extended to 5 years of residency, in 1798 it was extended to 14 years. BY 1802 it dropped back down to 5 years.

In 1798, the president was given the ability to deport or imprison anyone who was deemed dangerous to the United States. It was the first act to authorize deportation of immigrants.  Another 1798 policy, which is still alive today in modified form, was the Alien Enemies Act. It allows the deportation of men (aged 14 and older) from a hostile country during times of war. This was used widely during World War II and, even though modified, currently permits the president to detain, relocate, or deport aliens during war times.

Fast forward to 1864. An Immigration Department is formed under the Secretary of State and the “Act to Encourage Immigration” was enacted. Because of the labor shortages after the Civil War, this act allowed for the government to create contracts with other countries to provide immigrant labor.

By 1870, naturalization was given to those of African nativity or descent. By this time, our immigrant population was at its highest since the inception of the country at 14.4%.

In 1875, the country released its first restrictive immigration legislation with the Page Law, also known as the Asian Exclusion Act.  This prohibited the immigration of criminals into the country and also made it a felony to contract with forced Asian laborers.  By 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese laborers from immigrating for the next 10 years and authorized deportation of unauthorized Chinese immigrants. Anyone of Chinese descent who immigrated prior to 1880 was given amnesty, but could not naturalize. By 1892 the amount of time Chinese could not immigrate to the USA was increased to 20 years and they must show documentation and proof of identity.

The 1891 Immigration Act was pretty large. It increased the list of people banned from immigrating to include polygamists and those with a contagious disease. It also permitted deportation of ANY unauthorized immigrants and it made it a federal misdemeanor to illegally immigrate.

1903 brought about a policy that barred people from immigrating because of their political beliefs. This act prevented anarchists, beggars, and importers of prostitutes from immigrating to the country.

By 1916 we start seeing more exclusions. Almost every Asian country was now excluded from being able to immigrate to the United States and any immigrant over the age of 16 must be able to demonstrate basic reading ability.

In 1921 the Emergency Quota Act was passed. It created numerical quotas for immigration based on nationality. Quotas were to be 3% of the foreign born population of that nationality in the 1910 census. Asian countries were still barred from immigrating. Also, the total amount of people allowed to immigrate to America was capped at 350,000.

1924 saw the creation of U.S. Border Patrol. Also in 1924, the immigration cap was decreased from 350,000 to 165,000. The quotas were also changed. The quota change favored countries that had a longer immigration record with the United States than those with shorter. It also denied entry to the United States of anyone who was ineligible to become a citizen. This meant that only whites and people of African descent were allowed entry.

In 1942 the Bracero Agreement allowed temporary visas to Mexican nationals for the purpose of working in the agricultural fields. This agreement stayed in effect until 1962.

In 1943, the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed and they were added to the quotas. Also with this, Chinese people were able to naturalize in the United States.

In 1952, the McCarren-Walter Act formally removed race as an exclusion for immigration and naturalization. Also under this law, political views, ideology, mental health, and other criteria were used a basis for exclusion and deportation. It also created priority immigration status for those who were skilled workers and those who were immigrating to reunite with their families.

In 1953, the Refugee Relief Act authorized special visas for 200,000 refugees and allowed these immigrants to become permanent residents.

President Kennedy, in 1961, provided medical care, financial aid, assistance with resettlement, and child welfare services for Cuban refugees. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 assisted individuals in the Western Hemisphere fleeing from “persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, or political opinion.”

In 1965, the antiquated quota system was removed and replaced with a preference system that included standards such as family reunification and skilled immigrants. The visa cap was also removed for the Western Hemisphere and the Eastern Hemisphere was given a 120,000 cap on visas.

President Ford, in 1975, approved the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act. This gave 130,000 Vietnamese funds for relocation and resettlement. This was due to the the fact that South Vietnam would fall to the communist north.

Then in 1976, the visa caps went back into play when Mexico was given a cap of 20,000 visas annually and the entire world was given 290,000. Prior to this, Mexican immigration was at its highest.

The Refugee Act of 1980 adopted the UN’s definition of refugee admission standards. It also included deportation relief and admission based on region or nationality. This means it paved the way for emergency immigration relief for the persecuted and unprotected around the world. A short time later in 1986, the Simpson-Mazzoli Act gave permanent residency to illegal immigrants who lived in the US and worked certain agricultural jobs. This provided amnesty to over 2.7 million illegals. Reagan added to that the minor children and spouses of those who became legal under the 1986 law.

In 1990 the cap was briefly increased to 700,000 and then reduced to 675,000 on the number of visas granted. Of that, 480,000 must be family-sponsored visas, 140,000 are employment visas, and 55,000 are what are known as “diversity immigrant” visas. These are for people who come from countries with low immigration to America.

1996 brought about more protections. President Clinton approved the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. This increased enforcement at the borders and allowed the building of fences and walls at the highest points of entry in the United States. It tightened workforce enforcement, removing criminal and deportable aliens from the country. It also increased the restrictions on aid that immigrants can receive, especially illegal immigrants.

By 2002 we digitized the admissions and removal of immigrants and the visa program. Also, in the wake of 9/11, the Homeland Security Act transfers almost all of the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) to DHS (Department of Homeland Security).

In 2006, Bush 43 got the Secure Fence Act passed. Due to the failure of immigration reform, the law mandates a 700-mile double-layered fence to be constructed on America’s southwest border. It also beefed up staffing of border security there as well.

In 2012, President Obama, through executive action, signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act. This law affected illegal immigrants between the ages of 15-30 who were brought to America illegally as children to apply for temporary deportation relief and a 2-year work visa. Over 750,000 people applied for that relief.

In 2014, a second executive order allowed illegal immigrant parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years and have children during that time who are U.S. citizens to apply for deportation relief and a 3-year work visa.

This year, so far, President Trump put through executive action to change immigration policies. These policies will affect 4 distinct groups of people:

  • Criminals who are immigrants. Trump has promised that he will remove 2-3 million criminal immigrants. He has taken a broad stroke on the definition of “criminal” as most partisan and non-partisan groups place that number significantly lower at under 1 million.
  • Immigrants who arrived as children. Over 750,000 qualified for the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) act. While Trump pledged to remove DACA, he has since softened his stance saying that he is willing to work with those who qualified for it. If it was rescinded, those people would face unemployment, the inability to attend college, and possible deportation. There is currently legislation in the Senate that would provide this group “provisional protected presence” but no path to citizenship.
  • Immigrant parents of American citizens. About 4 million people qualified for the 2014 Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program. Again, Trump wanted to immediately rescind both DAPA and DACA, and he may still do so. But they will likely be a low enforcement priority.
  • Workers and recent arrivals. While they may remain low on the immigration totem pole, if Trump decides to follow Bush 43’s lead, there could be an increase in workplace raids. Many recent arrivals were already targeted for prioritized deportation under Obama, such as children from Central America fleeing violence. Trump has considered maintaining their deportation priority.

Trump also recently put a temporary ban on entrance from 7 Muslim-majority nations and an indefinite ban on entrance from Syria. So far this has led to only 109 people being detained nationally. according to his numbers. According to the lawsuit put forward by the states, that number is over 100,000. This isn’t new. Obama did a very similar action in his second term. Unfortunately, whether it is 100,000, 109, or even 1, with a president as polarizing as Trump, the media will be in a firestorm, which will embolden other countries to stand up to Americans.

Beginning next week, I want to look at the potential effect of Americans abroad, especially missionaries, when countries lash out against America for current legislation.

Exodus 22:21 – “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

The Attributes of God, Part 2

Last week I looked at those attributes of God that are not transferable to humanity. They are qualities that make up the essence of God. He alone can claim them.

This week I would like to look at those attributes that caused God to proclaim in Genesis that are made in His image.

Genesis 1:27 – So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

I am sure I will leave out some qualities. There really are too many to count. But I want to touch upon those qualities that God has provided us. Now keep in mind that just because we have a quality that God has it does not mean that we use it properly. More often than not we muddy God’s image in the way we behave and act out.

These are also attributes that we need learn to imitate God if we expect to be called a Christian.

Genesis 1:3 – And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

The first of these qualities is the ability to communicate. We know that God spoke, and speaks. Genesis 1:3 is a great example of that. God’s communication is filled with both truth and power. Unfortunately, as humans our communications is often filled with half-truths, lies, and weak statements. We spend our time getting into Facebook arguments, listening blindly to people with agendas, and hurting those we love most with our words.  Christians should learn to speak with truth in love and to command the power that God gave us. In Genesis God tells us that we will rule over everything. Rulers don’t speak with wimpy mumbling. Rulers command respect and their words are filled with truth and power.

1 John 4:8 – Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Psalm 11:5 – The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion.

Next, God both loves and hates.

Whoa Fred! God is love! How can He hate?

Well, our human definitions of love and hate just are not big enough to encompass those qualities in God. We know God is and shows love. He did that through Jesus Christ. We are able to express love as well, even though it is tainted by sin. No matter how deeply you love your spouse or child it will never be as deep as God loves His children.

Now what about hate? When we think of hate, we usually think of someone who is filled with ignorance about a situation or person. For example, there may be a person at work that completely gets under your skin. You cannot stand working with them. They might be abrasive toward you or demeaning toward you. If you were to come up to me and say that you hate that person, I would ask you if you have considered what they might be going through. Perhaps you remind them of someone who hurt them deeply. Maybe something you did or said inadvertently upset that person and they can’t get over it. But God is not like that. In last week’s post we discussed how God is omnipresent and omniscient. This means he sees all and knows all that people are going through. He looks directly to the heart of a person. At the risk of sounding reformed in my theology here, I want you to imagine Hitler. During his time of killing the Jewish people and waging a war that killed many more, I am going to go out on a limb and say that during that time God hated Hitler. Now let’s look at something that most likely didn’t happen, but if Hitler stopped killing, repented of his ways as best he could, and completely turned around, working for the ways of God and justice, then God’s heart would change toward him because Christ’s blood would have covered him. God loves His children. He hates those who crave violence and destroy justice.

Isaiah 30:18 – Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

Another couple of attributes of God is both justice and mercy. We share in those with God. God provides us mercy. He has done everything to allow us the opportunity to get out of what we rightfully deserve. We do exhibit mercy to people. At my church we have a program called Overcomer’s Outreach. Many of the people in there deserve a lot of bad things. Most have had several bad things happen to them already, but they have stopped short of killing themselves or others. Our church steps in to prevent them from hurting themselves further. Even though they don’t deserve it, and sometimes don’t even want it, we help them to get out of their messes. But humanity is imperfect. We don’t always show mercy perfectly as Christ has.

God always does what is perfectly right according to the law. That is called justice. While we have the ability to be lawful, we are imperfect in our execution of justice. This is seen in how we create laws in our country. Recently our country elected a new president. This president is doing what is right in his eyes. Unfortunately that has upset quite a few people who don’t see justice the same way he does and we have seen rallies and demonstrations because of it. This is an example of our imperfect view of justice.

1 John 3:20 – If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

James 3:17 – But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

The next set of attributes of God that is also available to us is wisdom and knowledge. God knows all. He is omniscient. We have knowledge, but only in part. To go along with that, we are able to show wisdom, which is the proper use of knowledge.  Wisdom is used properly when it is used in light of Scripture. God has perfect wisdom and is able to determine the best course of action for accomplishing His decisions.

Acts 26:25 – “I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied. “What I am saying is true and reasonable.

To go along with wisdom and knowledge, God is also rational and He gives us the ability to be rational as well. Everything God possesses in His wisdom and knowledge comprises His perfect thought. We have the ability to be rational, but our decisions are not always right. Since we don’t have perfect knowledge and are affected by sin, we cannot have perfect rationality.

Titus 1:2 – in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,

Truth is where words or actions reflect what is actual, and it is a quality possessed by God. We can be truthful, but we are never perfectly truthful. We exaggerate or tell small lies so that people don’t get hurt by our words.

Psalm 31:19 – How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.

The final attribute of God that is communicable is goodness. Being good can only be understood with relationship to God and His character. Humanity is able to be good with one another, but our standards of goodness are very subjective. No one sees everything the same way when it comes to goodness. true goodness can only be understood in relation to God and Scripture.

Now I am sure I missed a lot of qualities. All of Galatians 5 comes to mind. But Galatians 5 can be described through one or more of the above attributes.

Attributes of God, Part 1

God has several attributes that the Bible provides us. These attributes are broken into two different categories: those we can also possess and those we cannot. These are called the “communicable” and “incommunicable” attributes of God.

In this post I am going to focus on the incommunicable, those qualities that we cannot ever hope to share with him. He alone holds these qualities.

The first of these is His holiness. God is perfect in His character. He is completely without sin, without flaw. He alone holds the definitions of mercy, justice, love, and goodness. We, on the other hand, are flawed. We sin. We distort the definitions of love, mercy, and others to suit our own needs.

Isaiah 6:3 – And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Next, God is infinite. God cannot be measured. There is nothing that can restrict how infinite He is or can be. Humanity is finite. We have only a limited scope of what we can do or become. We can never attain infinite attributes in a finite creature.

Psalm 90:2 – Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Some other attributes are that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. Big words. But they basically mean that God all powerful, in all places and dimensions simultaneously, and all knowing. Humans are none of those.

Psalm 33:9 – For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

Jeremiah 23:24 – Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.

1 John 3:20 – If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

God does not change. The essence of God has been, and will always be, the same. Humans are fickle. We change our minds more than we change our underwear. Just look at humanity today. We have drifted so far from traditions of old, some for good reason and others for not. But it goes to show that we are constantly second-guessing ourselves and thinking there is a better way. God’s way is perfect. There is no reason to change. Scholars call this attribute of God “immutability.”

Hebrews 13:8 – Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

God is both self-existent and self-sufficient. God is the uncaused cause. He is infinite and has always existed. Along those same lines, God requires nothing outside Himself to exist. God does not need us in order to exist. He created us because of love. Humans were both created and require outside forces beyond our control for maintained existence.

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Psalm 102:25-27 – In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.

God is sovereign. God answers to no one and has the right to do with His creation as He pleases. While humanity likes to put ourselves on top of the throne of God, including many in Christian circles, we are clearly not the top of the heap. God has created us, not the other way around.

Isaiah 46:10 – I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

God is spirit. He has no human form. I understand this can be very confusing, especially when we think in terms of the Trinity. But God exists without form. This is also going to be important as we look at next week’s post about the communicable attributes of God. We are not talking about being made in God’s physical image, but His spiritual image.

John 4:24 – God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

God is not dependent on space or time. God transcends space and time. This is the relationship between God’s total essence and His creation. This also means that God is not affected by space or time. Humanity is affected by it. The physical laws of the universe do not apply to God, but they sure do apply to us. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to transcend space or time. I don’t care how much Star Trek tries to make you think you can, it simply is not possible.

Psalm 139:7-10 – Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Finally, God is unique. There is no one else like God. God is completely “other.” Humanity, while craving to be unique, always follows the crowd. Just look at the popular causes for today. Some are completely inane and stupid, yet we follow them. How much of social media is filled with people who think they are being different than the other person but who are simply following lock step with the crowd?

Isaiah 44:6-7 – “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come— yes, let them foretell what will come.

So these qualities that I have discussed here are what make up God. These are attributes that He cannot and does not share with others as it would dilute his essence of God. Next week, I will begin to discuss those attributes that we share with God, the communicable attributes.

The Nature of Jesus

The first part understanding what Christianity is about understanding the nature of Jesus. The term Christian means someone who follows Christ. The word “Christ” means the “anointed One.” So a Christian follows the Anointed One.  Jesus is that Anointed One.

A quick understanding of the Christian faith is that there is only one God who created everything. God then created man in His image (the character of God).  The singular God is triune in nature: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus the Christ is the second person of the Trinity.

Christianity is also the only faith in the world that says salvation is comes only through faith in the work of Christ on the cross. We can do nothing to earn salvation. It is a gift of grace and grace alone.

Once we have that faith in Christ we become born again, also known as “saved.”  This means that the Holy Spirit takes up residence inside us and that person becomes a new creation. We begin to experience a true, living relationship with God.

So now that we have a very quick understanding of Christianity, let’s take a look at each of the members of the Trinity, beginning with Jesus the Christ.

Jesus has two natures: human and divine. The first key point to understanding what Christianity is about understanding what it means for Jesus to be both human and divine. In Latin this is called the Commumicatio Idiomatum – the communication of properties. Basically, this is the teaching about both the divine and the human natures belonging to one person, Jesus the Christ.

There are many pseudo-Christian and heretical Christian organizations that fall on either side of the spectrum but don’t believe Jesus is both human and divine. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, give attention only to the humanity of Jesus, not His divinity. On the other end are the Christian Science groups that show Christ’s divinity only and ignore His humanity.

John 17:5 – And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

But Jesus can claim the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), He can claim He descended from heaven (John 3:13), and He can claim omniscience (Matthew 28:20). It is only Jesus that can claim this. No one else.

Matthew 28:20 – and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Jesus is the only one who has two natures. This explains why He would grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) and yet know all (John 21:17).

Luke 2:52 – And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

John 21:17 – The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

The Bible is about God as seen through Jesus.

John 5:39 – You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me,

The prophets prophesied about Him. The Father bore witness of Him. The Holy Spirit bore witness of Him. The works Jesus did bore witness of Him. The multitudes bore witness of Him. And Jesus even bore witness of Himself.

And this man then went straight to heaven to be our mediator.

1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,

To show both His divinity and humanity, I want to show you some scriptural references.

  • Jesus is worshiped as God, yet worshiped the Father.

Matthew 2:2 – and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

John 17:1 – After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.

  • Jesus is called God and is called man.

John 20:28 – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 15:39 – And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died,[a] he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

  • Jesus is sinless and yet He was tempted.

1 Peter 2:22 – “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

Matthew 4:1 – Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

  • Jesus gives eternal life and Jesus died.

John 10:28 – I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • He is fully divine and yet He has a body of flesh and bones.

Colossians 2:9 – For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

Luke 24:39 – Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

It is Scriptures like this that lead people to say that the Bible is filled with contradiction. But there is one other verse I would like to bring up here:

1 Corinthians 2:14 – The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

No matter what, until we step out in faith, the dual nature of Christ is going to look like foolishness. Even as a Christian who has been saved for a long time now I still struggle with it from time to time. It is not an easy thing to understand, and we may never understand it in full while here on earth. But that doesn’t mean we discount it at all. This is where faith steps in.

Without the eyes of faith, we will never be able to comprehend how God, the Creator of everything, came to earth as a little child, humbly born in a stable, and died a sinner’s death in order to be the final sacrifice for sin.

Next week I will begin looking at the nature of God as a whole. As man we are made in that image. And if we are to understand what Christianity is about, then we need to understand that nature that God has created us as.

What is Christianity About?

A few weeks ago I posted on my Facebook a simple question: What is Christianity about?

I received a decent amount of responses ranging from the obvious like love, service and sanctification to obeying God and living life according to Scripture. I also received some more detailed responses such as letting Christ live through our thoughts and actions or extending grace and not condemning a brother/sister in Christ as we learn to live out the Word of God. Then there were the verses that were posted in response to the question such as Mark 16:15-18 or Philippians 1:21.

Philippians 1:21 – For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.

Those are all great responses.

But almost every single one of them was different from what another Christian brother or sister posted.

And does giving a short answer really encapsulate the spectrum of Christianity or give Christ the respect He is due?

One of the people who answered me told me that my question was a nebulous, and I wholeheartedly agree.

But the point I want to make is just that.

The Christian life is so much more than a short description . Unfortunately, many Christian organizations only focus on one piece of the Christian walk and ignore the others. Some will celebrate one aspect over the others, which leads to a dangerous potential for heresy to enter the church. Other times, individual Christians are to blame when we hear a Sunday sermon preached then make that sermon or its topic the most important part of our lives.

There are major denominations of Christianity and major Christian websites, teachers, preachers, and others who refuse to touch this subject because of its immensity. I went to many of the commentaries I use regularly and very few of them explain truly what Christianity is about. Many of the authors I read don’t detail the answer to this question.

I remember a song a long time ago when I was growing up that had the line, “I know everything Your bride is against but I don’t know what she’s about.”

And that is true of the church today. When the world thinks of the church, they think of everything we are against. I used to ask people outright to come to church with me every week. Without fail, whenever I asked someone to come with me to church they would ask me where my church stands on issues like gay marriage, gun control, democrats/liberals, abortion, sex, and the list goes on. I realized that in simply asking that question outright, I was creating an environment that was hostile. If I answered in a way that they disagreed, then I could potentially lose a friend, or even more importantly, a chance to continually disciple that person over the long term. Now I don’t invite people to church as much anymore until I have had a chance to disciple them or teach them about the church, what we stand for, and who Christ is.

Jesus never called us to make church attenders or even converts. He called us to make disciples.

What I hope to accomplish over the next few weeks is to look at what makes a Christian a Christian. What is it that Christians should unify under and proclaim. I hope to make a pretty exhaustive list, but I am sure that I will miss some point about Christian life.

Life is complicated.

It can’t be summed up in a few short words.

When people write their biographies or autobiographies we find that they sometimes publish multiple different biographies about themselves because they cannot explain their life so simply in one book.

John 17:21 – May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

The purpose of this series is to give Christians of every denomination something to unify under. God calls believers to unity (John 17:21). Without unity we run the risk of losing our testimony as a church. The churches in the book of Revelation weren’t called out for their great acts (except for 2 of the 7). They were called out because their testimony was either weakened or removed by their lack of unity to Scripture.

So, is Christianity about love?

Of course.

Is Christianity about justice?

Yep.

Is Christianity about a lot of other things?

Most definitely.

It is about emulating Christ. And if we are going to emulate Christ, then we are going to have to understand the nature of God. And once we understand the nature of God, then we need to put on OUR new nature. It is about becoming that new nature. Leaving behind the old, sinful nature.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

So, the long answer to the question of what is Christianity about is that you will have to follow along each week until we’ve exhausted as many of the components of the nature of God.

That makes the short answer to “What is Christianity about?” to mean that we to learn to emulate Christ, both human and divine. And I will plan on doing that over the next few weeks, months, years…whatever it takes.

I hope you will follow along on this path I am about to go down.

A Year to Remember

Because if we forget it then we will be forced to repeat it.

Psalm 43:3 – Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

This year I was planning on taking a hiatus from the blogging world to plant a church. Well, that didn’t go as planned.

So I am back.

And, as I do every year, I like to give you an idea of just where this blog has been and where it is going.

So I took 9 months off from blogging. It was glorious, lol. I did all those bucket list items like climbing Mt. Everest, surfing Mavericks, and base jumping Shanghai Tower. But that gets bored pretty quick.

Actually, I did none of those things except in my dreams.

If you read last week’s post, you will find that 2016 has been a tough year for me. I had intended to be in full-time ministry by now and only using my business to supplement income but that didn’t happen so I needed to go back into what I know best, regional retail management, and put the ministry on hold. I also had health issues that kept me from surfing Mavs.

But this year has also seen some amazing things happen. Even though my ministry life has seen more frustrations than in year’s past, my faith has grown much deeper.

Mimi and I also, I believe, grew much closer than we ever have been. And that has also happened with the overall family.

As for the blog, I went away in January and returned at the end of September. This, of course, affected the overall numbers of people coming to the blog. For the year, I only reached about 1500 people, very low versus years past, but still pretty decent.

As for posts, I touched upon the churches in the book of Revelation, spoke about superheroes, and posted a few times about missions and our journey to Peru this year.

Psalm 19:8 – the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

As I move into 2017 with this blog, this will be the 5th year for this site. In year’s past I have averaged about 11,000 visitors a year to the site and it is pushed out to almost 3,000 weekly. Unfortunately, the way WordPress works, I am unable to see people who come to my site from places like LinkedIn or use the “reader” function. Looking at my LinkedIn numbers, I am averaging about 150 per week clicking the link to my blog, so I am pretty sure I can add those to the mix. That alone adds almost another 8,000 viewers per year. So I am going to go out on a limb and say that this blog averages about 20,000 views per year in a full year.

This site has been shared 271 times this year. That’s pretty exciting because I am not sure what that means, lol. It doesn’t mean it is being shared on Facebook or Twitter from those apps directly, but I guess it is someone clicking the share button on my site and then posting to their Facebook or Twitter.

My most popular posts this year weren’t actually written this year. Spiritual Farting had the most (written in 2013) followed by Predestination and Election 1 & 2 (written in 2012). Mostly people are finding those through web searches. I think I must be the only person writing about spiritual farting, or at least it is a very small number of us.

This year my blog reached 58 countries. Much less than prior years, but again, I was dark for almost 10 months. The USA was the top viewer of my site followed by India, Canada, and Australia. But this blog has reached people in countries like Lithuania, Zambia, Malta, Bahrain, and Cyprus along with many others.

Here is what I have planned for 2017: more of the same.

As of now I plan to be posting at least once a week. I also plan on getting back into the Church Central blogging world as well by spring.

My first few posts of the year are going to be tough ones. A few days ago I posted on my Facebook a question to my friends: “What is Christianity about?”

Pretty big question, eh?

But I plan on doing a series at the beginning of the year about what Christianity is, what it isn’t, and why it matters. That should take up a few weeks, or maybe months lol.

As with all my posts, I am always looking for God to share those glimpses of grace that He has given me. And every time, even when the post is tough to understand or even shares the brokenness of myself, my family, or mankind as a whole, God provides me a lens into His kingdom to see a small part of it.

So I look forward to 2017 and sharing thoughts, proverbs, psalms, and theology with you all. Thanks for spending the past few years with me on this journey. I hope you will continue to join me on it.

Psalm 119:105 – Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path

Broken

Unless you live a life of perpetual confusion here in America, you know that this upcoming weekend is Christmas. Christmas is a time that many people spend with family and friends. We eat good food (and sometimes bad food that we say is good because of traditions), share gifts, and sing Christmas carols. But this time of year is hard for a lot of people. Because of broken relationships, broken families, or simply broken lives, many are relegated to loneliness, heartbreak, anger, and sadness.

And for me, I have felt very broken this year.

I am not writing this to get the collective pity party “awwww” from my readers. I have a point to all of this. I promise.

This year my business hit a speed bump. That is what I am calling it because speed bumps simply cause us to slow down, not stop. But because of the speed bump, I have had to take a second full-time job. This second job requires a lot of travel, where my business was working out of my home.

Also this year I have had a lot of health problems, almost all of them resulting from blown discs in my lower back. I had surgery in May and just had surgery this week again, resulting in a Christmas that will have me dressed in sweat pants and comfortable clothing, perfect for those big Christmas dinners.

My life isn’t broken, looking at the tough lives of so many other people out there. But it is broken.

And so is yours.

It wasn’t until I was talking to some of the leaders at church that I realized that I was prideful and foolish. When I had surgery back in May I kept much of it to myself. I believed I was the typical guy, can just rebound and I’d be fine. I didn’t need anyone.

But I was wrong.

As I stand before you, I see who I am: a man who needs to confess his pride and foolishness.
Against you only I have sinned,
I’ve done what’s evil in your sight and my heart is crumbling.

  • Altar Boys, “Broken”

This time around I spoke to as many elders and pastors as I could. The result is different. Friends showed up at the hospital to go through this with me. The elders/pastors laid hands on me and prayed. Several people reached out to me afterward to make sure I was ok.

Even though my body is still broken (but healing), being able to go through this with an army behind me that was placed there by God was much more comforting. Sometimes God chooses to reach down and heal us outright. Before you think I am off my rocker, I have seen it first-hand. I’ve seen people healed as we followed Biblical guidelines for healing. Sometimes we need to go through our pain as a consequence of our actions. For me, this second surgery this year is because I didn’t listen to the doctor. Less than a week after surgery in May I was out cutting the grass, building a shed, and hanging a tile splash guard in the kitchen. I wasn’t exactly resting like my doctor told me to do.

Won’t you hear my cry, God?
See this state I’m in,
I know my transgressions are before me, my righteousness is rags,
And my sacrifice to you is this broken heart,
It’s all that I have, it’s all I can give, and it won’t go very far

  • Altar Boys “Broken”

People, have you made some bad choices?

We all have.

And now, I am specifically speaking to Christians. Have you felt that you have let God down? That your righteousness is in rags? That you can’t go another day in this life without a physical intervention from God?

Then Christmas is for you.

Christmas is the perfect definition of grace. God sent His Son to live a sinless life and take the judgment we deserve for our sin. You don’t have to be good before coming to Christ.

Let me repeat that.

You DON’T have to be good before coming to Christ.

Christ did not come to make bad people good.

You are much more important to God than simply making you good.

Christ came to make dead people live.

And I’m broken, broken,
To see myself as I really am: a weak, broken man,
And I’m broken, broken,
Please heal this broken heart today,
Don’t turn it away, no, ‘cause it’s broken.

  • Altar Boys “Broken”

The good comes later. Even if you are already a Christian and have slipped, stumbled, or fallen away. God STILL loves you. Last week’s post on Laodicea proves that!

So just like the doctor takes me in my broken state to help put me back together again, God will take you in your dead state to bring you back to life again. And after you come back to life, you will naturally find your heart changing. You will see your life moving from bad to good. Not because you feel you have to, but because the love you have for God is so immense that you just want to be the best you can be for Him.

It like falling in love with someone. You find yourself doing the things they want because you love them so much.

So remember, when God changes you from dead to alive, you will begin to move from bad to good. And in changing and moving, you will find your brokenness going away.

Churches of Revelation: Part 8 – Laodicea

This city was founded by Antiochus who named it for his wife, Laodike. The city was populated with Jews and Syrians through transplanting from Babylonia. The city did not become wealthy until the Roman empire in 190 BC. The main product from this city was black wool of the sheep. It was of the finest quality in the region. They were also well known for a special powder that would be put on peoples’ eyes for healing purposes. This will be revisited when we look at Revelation 3:18 later.

In 60 AD, the city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake. Because of their wealth, they told the Romans that they did not need any of their money and the wealthy citizens rebuilt the city on their own. This, too, will be revisited when we look at Revelation 3:17 later.

While there is not much known, Colossians 1:7 gives us a couple of hints as to who planted this church. It seems as if Epaphras was the primary church planter with help from Timothy and Mark.

This is the final letter to the churches of Revelation and it is a church that literally makes Jesus sick. This church, if we really look at the churches that are upsetting to Christ, would be the worst of the worst of the book of Revelation.

By the time Revelation was written, the churches listed in this book would have been about 30 years old. I find it amazing that after 30 years, many of these churches stayed small. Today we consider growth of a church the primary litmus test for a successful church. But Revelation proves that Jesus doesn’t see it that way.

Laodicea was clearly the church with the biggest issue. Many of the commentaries I have read about this church call it the “unsaved church.”  That would mean this is a church filled with unbelievers. This is the only church out of the seven that Jesus says nothing good about anyone in the church. Even Sardis, the church we looked at a few weeks ago, even though it was a dead church, still had a remnant of believers in it. There was no remnant in Laodicea.

And what is even worse is that this church is proud.

They are proud of their unbelief.

So Jesus begins this letter to them the way He has in all the others, by introducing Himself. Beginning in verse 14, Jesus explains a few things about His nature. He starts by calling Himself “the Amen.” What does that mean?

Isaiah 65:16 – Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the one true God; whoever takes an oath in the land will swear by the one true God. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.

In Isaiah 65:16, we read that God is the God of Amen. We say “amen” at the end of prayers. We sing “amen” in our songs. We yell “amen” when the pastor says something that agrees with our beliefs on Sunday morning. But what does “amen” truly mean?

“Amen” is an affirmation. The word is used in Scripture to show a statement to be true. Very similar in the New Testament, we read the word, “verily.” “Verily” is used at the beginning of a statement to affirm its truth.

Calling Jesus the “Amen” is saying that He is unchangeable, fixed, and true. he not only affirms God’s promises, but He affirms His covenants.

2 Corinthians 1:20 – For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

2 Corinthians explains to us that Jesus validates God’s promises. Jesus is God’s “Amen.”

Next, Jesus is the “faithful and true witness.” Not only does Jesus validate the promises and covenants of God, but whatever He says is true. Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He is truth. His testimony bears to the character of God. Jesus is a faithful witness.

Third, He identifies Himself as the “Beginning of the creation of God.” While the translation is a little hard to verify, when we look at the surrounding words and go through Scripture systematically, we find that Jesus is the “image of the invisible God.”

Colossians 1:15 – The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

This means that Jesus is the head of all creation. If we go further in Colossians, we find that Jesus is the creator of all in the heavens and on earth.  Christ is everything God is. He is Creator. He is the Author of life. And according to our verse in Revelation 3:14, He is the source of ALL creation.

This letter follows closely with the book of Colossians. The first chapter of Colossians speaks about the centrality of Christ. Why match up with the book of Colossians in explaining this deity of Christ?

Well, Laodicea is a short few miles from Colossae. There were 3 cities grouped in that area: Laodicea, Colossae, and Hieropolis. In the book of Colossians, Paul was writing to a church that was outwardly denying the deity of Christ. This Christological heresy had attacked the deity of Christ. And it was not only in Colossae, but also Laodicea.

Colossians 4:16 – After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

What was going on in Colossae was also happening in Laodicea. They didn’t believe Jesus was the Alpha and the Omega.  To be the Alpha meant that He is the Creator. To be the Omega meant that He is Completion. Jesus is the uncreated source of creation! But Laodicea didn’t believe that. And we have Jesus, who created all and is faithful and true witness to the Word of God and the One in whom all is brought to completion telling this church His identity.

Jesus was, for lack of a better term, offended by the lack of belief and the heresy coming from this church. They did not believe in Christ as deity. So this one verse has Christ explaining His deity to this church. And as the letter continues, having an incorrect view of Christ has significant and horrible spiritual effects.

So here we are in Laodicea, the most eastern city of the 7 in Revelation, and 45 miles from the closest Revelation church, Philadelphia. It is sister to Hieropolis, 6 miles away, and Colossae, 10 miles away. It is located in the Lycus River Valley. This area was one of the top trade routes because people didn’t travel in the mountains to do trade, they traveled in the valleys to make travel faster. And Laodicea was an intersection city. It had both an east/west and a north/south route going through it. Antiochus II founded the city in the 3rd century BC and named it for his wife. Soon after dedicating a city to her, he divorced her.

This city had a very large Jewish population, almost 4,000 males based on temple tax records. In the Talmud, the ancient Jewish commentary on the Old Testament laws, there is a line in there that explains that these Jews in Laodicea were filled with pagan views and merely cultural Jews, not practicing ones.

Some other interesting points about this city is that it had an underground aqueduct. Because the population was growing so quickly here, the streams nearby could not keep up with the water needs of the community so they built the aqueduct. They put it underground so enemies could not access it. The water was collected in a central water tower and then distributed across the city through a series of pipes.

The other interesting note about this city is its wealth. It was a banking center and so wealthy that when the earthquake hit in 60 AD and leveled the town, the people of Laodicea rebuilt the city without any help from Rome. This was a source of pride for the townspeople of Laodicea. Tacitus, a Roman historian, wrote, “Laodicea rose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources with no help from us.”

Colossians 1:7-8 – just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

This is a wealthy and self-sufficient city and that attitude found its way into the church along with the Christological heresy that plagued Colossae. So soon after Epaphras founded the church, the church was filled with heresy and unbelief. It is unlikely that Paul ever went to Laodicea, but he knew some of the believers there based on how he speaks in the book of Colossians. This is a church that had spiritual life but was soon corrupted. Sardis was dead, but there were still believers there. Thyatira was compromising and idolatrous, but there was still a group of believers there. Laodicea has none of that. Jesus gives no commendation to this church.

In verse 15 Jesus tells this church, “I know your deeds.” There is no commendation after it. Only rebuke. Jesus says that this church is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm. And this church makes Him so sick He is going to vomit them out! VOMIT! That is a pretty strong statement to a church!

The interesting thing about the words Jesus uses here are vast. You have Hieropolis, which is known for the healing and restorative powers of the hot springs. You have Colossae which is a very cold church. And, in the middle, you have Laodicea. The aqueducts that they built brought significantly impure water into the city that was merely tepid. It wasn’t hot enough to relax. It wasn’t cool enough to quench your thirst. It was dirty and made people sick to their stomachs. It caused people to get nauseous and vomit.

Throughout the churches in Revelation, we had churches which made him angry and churches which disappointed Him but this church made Him sick!

By verse 17, Jesus is not only calling this church sickening, but also deceived.

Revelation 3:17 – 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.

Laodicea was a wealthy city. It was famous for banking. It was famous for its wool industry. It had wealth beyond measure. And this church was caught up in that, believing they needed nothing which meant they also believed they needed nothing from God.

This is the worst place for a church to be in. They know about Christ and they create a false Christ. They know about God and they create a false God. And not only have they done that, but they are confident in their view that they created.

Unfortunately this church is like many churches, denominations, and seminaries today. They are rich in wealth. They are rich in knowledge. They don’t understand that their condition is that of Laodicea’s.

God calls those churches “miserable, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” There is nothing saving about those words. There is no hope of salvation for them. If we were to look at groups or demographics, these would be the unsaved in a church. They think they are being Christian by playing church when all they are doing is sickening Christ.

Unfortunately, there are many churches and denominations today that fit this description. And those churches are usually the most proud churches. They are proud of the political stances they have taken while ignoring the deity of Christ. They are proud of the humanist stances they have taken or the bridges they have created with the world in general when God says they are to be pitied. They have no clue what their true condition is.

Revelation 3:18-20 – I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

This is where Jesus takes the industries that are prevalent throughout Laodicea and uses them to explain what they need to do to begin to change. The city was known for banking, then begin buying gold from Jesus. The city was known for wool, then begin clothing yourself in the garments of righteousness. The city was known for its hospitals, then begin placing God’s ointment, or Scripture, on your eyes so that you can see again.

Jesus is extending grace to the hypocrite!

Isaiah 55:1 – “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

In Isaiah we learn that we are to come without money. What should it profit a man if he gains the world and loses his soul? All the spiritual blessings come from God and God alone. Want to be spiritually rich? Go to Jesus. Want to be clothed in righteousness? Go to Jesus. Want to see the world how God sees it? Go to Jesus.

1 Peter 1:7 – These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

True faith is more precious than gold.

After telling them to be rich in the Spirit, he tells them to be clothed in white. The word for “white” here is “leukos.” This is a dazzling or brilliant white like staring into a light bulb. This is the same robe of righteousness that is written about is Isaiah 61:10.

And then He calls them to see with the eyes of God.

This is 3-fold salvation. The gold that makes us spiritually rich after being tested by fire, the robes that cover our sinfulness with the righteousness of God, and the eye salve that lets us see how God sees.

Revelation 3:19 – Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.

In verse 19 Jesus says something very interesting. Many people think that Jesus is talking to believer in the church here. But I don’t believe He is. Jesus also comes to rebuke unbelievers. In John 16 we learn that He convicts the world through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 23 we learn that Jesus loves the world and reproves and disciplines it. 2 Timothy 2:25 is used with regard to unbelievers.

God loves unbelievers.

We would not have salvation if it weren’t for His love of the unbeliever.

God is showing His tender side in this letter. Jesus is showing them love. Not the agape love that describes relationship with the love, but phileo love which is simply a divine affection.

He is calling this church to repent.

This leads to one of the most misunderstood verses in all the Bible, Revelation 3:20.

Revelation 3:20 – Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus is showing His compassion and mercy.

Many Christians use this verse to say that Jesus is standing at the door of our heart and knocking. But that is not it at all.

Jesus is standing at the door of this church. The church that refuses to accept the TRUE Christ in. And Jesus is knocking. If they open the door to the church and let Him in, then He will enter. If not, well, salvation has passed.

In the other problematic churches in Revelation Jesus was still in the church, in the lives of the believers still present. In Laodicea He stands outside and is knocking to get in. In compassion Jesus is knocking. He is shut out of a church that bears His name!

How many dead churches do we see that have the mane of Christ in their title? The knocking is Jesus trying to get one believer into that church. That’s all it takes is one. If just one person let’s Christ into that church, then He will go in and dine with them.

Revelation 3:21 – 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.

The promise if they choose to allow Jesus in is, I believe, one of the greatest of the seven churches. He will give them the opportunity to be seated on His throne.

This is the message to the apostate church. This is the message to those who hold knowledge higher than Christ. This is the message to those who deny Christ and the Bible. This is the message not for the true church, but the one who doesn’t believe in the deity of Christ.

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