“Sweet Tea & Spiritual Truth”

Sweet Tea

Revelation 3:15-16, “15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will[a]spit you out of My mouth. “

Every region of the United States of America has it’s own unique traditional foods and staples. Clam chowder is heavily rooted in the New England states. Pizza and Italian food have huge origins in New York state. There is the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich in Philadelphia. Alaska is know for it’s sweet Alaskan snow crab legs. Go to southern California and the lower West to find more authentic Mexican dishes. With all that said, there is one thing the South stands out with in all of it’s glory – Sweet Tea!

I have lived in the south all of my life, and I must admit that sweet tea is a mark of our household. I can remember as a child going to my grandmother’s house and loving the sweet tea she made. It was so sweet I believe a spoon would stand straight up in the glass. It was great. In all honesty, I don’t drink my sweet tea that sweet, but I still love it, and it brings back great memories of growing up.

Here, in the South, iced tea is huge. It is served in virtually every restaurant and home around. However, as good as sweet tea is, there are many places that serve hot tea too. I know many people who drink hot tea each morning instead of coffee. Others don’t go to bed at night without having their cup of hot tea first. When I am sick with a cold my wife will make me hot tea with honey and lemon, and it is oh so good!

Things brings us to an interesting point about tea. It is really good when it is cold and put on ice. It is really good when it is piping hot and put into cup for sipping on. However, if tea is neither hot, nor cold it is no good to drink. There have been times where I have had a cup of tea on my desk as work. It started out really good with lots of ice, and being very cold. At some point during the afternoon the ice melted and the tea was no longer cold. It was not hot either. It became lukewarm and I had to throw it out. The same has happened to me with hot tea before too. I would take a sip here and there of my hot tea until eventually it cooled off too much. Then it became lukewarm. It was no good. In fact, if I was close to a sink I would spit it out because of it’s taste.

Jesus, is sharing the same principle in His word here in Revelation chapter 3. He tells the church that He knows every deed and work they do. Jesus could see into the hearts of the church and see that they were not hot or cold. Instead, He said they were lukewarm. What does this mean? To put it simply, they were very indifferent about their faith and their relationship to Christ. They were fence-straddlers!

You see, there are three types of people in this world. The first category are a people that declare they are against anything to do with Jesus. These people do not believe in Him, what He says about Himself, or anything in His word. They are simply COLD towards God and the things of God. They stand against Him.

The second category are a people who confess Jesus as Lord, and are on fire for Him. Their lives do not dictate their conviction about Christ; but instead, their conviction about who Jesus is dictates the functioning of their lives. They are simply HOT towards God and the things of God. They stand with Him.

The third category of people are the bench-warmers. They confess Jesus as Lord. They want to know Him, but they don’t want to be too close to Him. These people believe if they get too involved, and too close to Christ, their lifestyles may have to change. This category of people are one’s who want the eternal benefits of Jesus, but have no desire for Him while on this earth.  Simply put, these are the LUKEWARM people Jesus is talking about. Jesus speaks of these lukewarm people like the tea that is neither hot or cold. It’s simply good for nothing.

The Lord is showing them that their indifference makes Him sick. He says that He would rather someone be on fire for Him, or totally against Him than to be indifferent towards Him. At least if one is cold and stands against Him they have made a choice. I really believe it has to do a lot with the damaging testimony that a carnal Christian gives.

A person who confesses Christ to the world, but lives like the world is more damaging to the church than a lost person is. I believe this is why we see such a disdain for lackluster worship, carnal living, and lukewarm believers here in these verses.

The challenge for you and me is this. We should examine ourselves daily to make sure Christ has rule and reign over every part of our being. If not, we are in danger of becoming lukewarm and that can never be good.

Sincerely,

Bro. Bryan

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“Where Do I Go Now?”

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Psalm 119:105, “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. “

About seven or eight years ago my dad and I found ourselves in a real predicament coming out of the woods one night from hunting. We had been hunting on the same land for about twenty years of our lives, but earlier that year the landowner had cut over the land. In turn, this created a total landscape change for the land we had hunted for a huge part of my life. The land I once knew like the back of my hand had totally been changed as far as the landscape went.

Prior to the land being cut-over we had trails that had been there for as long as I could remember. There were trees that served as land markers for property lines, and even where we had hunting stands located. Again, we found out that once a few hundred acres of land have been cut-over, trails have been destroyed, and trees that once served as landmarks are nowhere to be found, it’s like walking onto a foreign piece of land. Everything is different!

I can remember my dad and I riding on the four-wheeler and making our way over to where we were going to hunt that morning. We were late getting onto the land that morning so we had some sunlight to maneuver by. Coming out for lunch was no problem either because we had daylight. After lunch we went back for the evening hunt. The difficult time we had was when we got ready to come out of the woods that night after the sun went down, and night began to fall quickly. It was not long before we were in the middle of a few hundred acres without any daylight to go by. I don’t remember if one could see the moon or not that night. I only remember that we had the four-wheeler lights and one other flashlight. Normally, that would be a lot of light in my own opinion, but it’s really not when your in the middle of unfamiliar territory.

My dad and I had to maneuver our way out of the land. We went up and down hill after hill, slowly having to climb over downed trees and through ditches. It was a very slow and aggravating process. The light we had,  projected just enough that we could see about 10 to 20 feet in front of us. After that it was completely pitch black. We had just enough light to keep us moving forward until we eventually made it out of the woods to our truck. My dad and I were in a difficult situation, but we had just enough light to follow,  that eventually we came through it to a safe and secure place.

As I look at Psalm 119:105 I cannot help but always think of the time my dad and I were lost in those woods that evening. It reminds me of how I feel  so many times in this world. There are times I feel like I am walking in a land that I do not know where I am going because this world stands for so many things that are against God. Sometimes as a Christian I feel like I don’t know where I am. What’s coming next, or what’s around the corner waiting to bring harm, but this verse gives us that gleam of light that we need as we live in this darkened sinful world.

This verse is a reminder that God’s word, and His revelation provide the insight that we need to make it while we are in this land called earth. This is a foreign land to the child of God, because our home is in Heaven. However, while we ( children of God ) are left on this earth this verse shows us that by His word, and His leading, He ( God ) will not let us trip in the darkness that surrounds us each day. This darkness comes to us in many fashions such as; television, media, politics, work, the law, and so on and on…….

We have assurance as God’s children that as we study and install the word of God into our lives He will lead us and guide us all the way. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet”. He shines light for me where I am at. The darkness surrounds me, but His light is right there at my feet helping me to take the first step. “and a light unto my path” is how God illuminates the pathway to His love, grace, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, holiness, safety, security and so on for His children. It is His word that will light my way on this earth until the day I step over into eternity and am home in heaven with my Savior and Lord, Jesus.

I am finding that He gives me the grace to take each day one at time. Where I can only see today, God knows the future. Trust Him to not only lead the way, but to light the path as you follow His leading.

Sincerely,

Bro. Bryan

“Rise’n Shine, Hot Chocolate & The Bozo Show”

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Jeremiah 7:23, “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you. “

             No matter who you are, where you live, or even your personality type it is likely that you have some sort of routine in your life. Certainly, there are people in this world who work hard not to live a routine life, but for the majority of us “routine” is just a part of everyday life.

I can remember my life being very routine, even as a young boy in elementary school. There were a couple of years that a certain routine became the ritual or tradition of every day life for me. I must say I can’t remember what grade I was in at the time, but the rituals of my routine are still clear in my mind.

Most of my years in elementary school we lived within walking distance to the school. In fact, it did not take me long to walk there at all. Each morning I would wake up to my dad saying these words RIGHT in my ear, “RISE AND SHINE!!!” It’s funny to me now, but back then it was not what you wanted to hear at 5:30 in the morning. It wasn’t just the words he said, but how he said them. It would be like a weed-eater getting started. He would start off low in voice, and then it would raise up in higher pitch. He knew it was annoying, but it was his unique and funny way of waking me up.

Once up, I would shower and get dressed for school. Both of my parents worked full time so there usually was not time for us to all sit around the table and have breakfast together. However, my mother would never allow my sister and I to go without breakfast of some sort. My mom, even to this day, comes up with some of the coolest and unique things for kids to eat when nothing else sounds good. I was not a big breakfast eater as a young boy, but she wanted me to have something warm on my stomach before leaving. So every morning  she would make me ( using a chili bowl ) a cup of hot chocolate, but she would always put a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream in it to cool it down. Well, I loved that! I was a kid, and what kid doesn’t like ice cream??

To make a long story short, my routine became the same each day. My dad would wake me up in his unique way. I would get showered and dressed. Then, my mom would have the special breakfast ready as I sat and watched the Bozo Show on TV. When the Bozo Show was over, I knew it was time to head out for school. Routine was before me, with me, and followed me throughout my day.

Not all routine is bad. It works for a lot of families and provides structure that we need to keep us on track through our daily tasks. However, there are times when routine is not healthy. Physically speaking, routine is not healthy when someone starts using drugs, drinking alcohol or even eats fried foods every day. Spiritually speaking, routine is not healthy when it turns into a ritual or tradition.

Our text above in Jeremiah 7 shows us how God feels about empty worship. God is using Jeremiah to communicate His quarrel with the people of Israel over their empty worship. The sacrificial system put in place by God through Moses was still being enforced. The people started off well with their worship and coming to the temple with their burnt offerings and sacrifices. However, somewhere along the way, their work for God became a simple routine in life. Routine turned into a ritual, and ritual simply turned into tradition. The Lord was telling these people the only thing He required of them was their obedience. On the other side of the token He was simply saying the only problem He had with them was their disobedience. If you were to look in Jeremiah 7:21-25 you would see that God told these people that since their worship simply turned into routine and ritual they would have been better off to eat the burnt offering and sacrifices than to bring it to Him anyway. The Lord showed them in verse 23 that He simply wanted their worship through obedience – not by a routine, a ritual, or any tradition that looked spiritual.

Routine in itself is not bad, but when routine turns genuine worship and obedience into ritual and tradition it becomes a vain thing that displeases God. I wonder how many people are sitting in the pews of a church on Sunday morning just because they have always done it? I wonder how many people are actually sitting in church, going to Sunday School, volunteering for ministries, but would rather be on the golf course or on the lake fishing? This is what God is saying to these people – He will be number ONE, or He will not be at all. God is who He is. The question for us my dear friends is this – Is God number one in your life or not?

Sincerely,

Bro. Bryan

“Failures, Foolishness, but Fully Assured”

Mom and Dad

1 John 5:13 “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. “

When was the last time you examined the world around you? I think that it does us well to examine our personal lives and the world around us, and to do it often. After you have taken some time to do that try to think about how many uncertain things there are in this world. Some examples are the weather, Wall Street, career, health, relationships, and so much more. The weather is constantly changing making it difficult for any meteorologist to hold a good score when it comes to predicting weather. We have seen Wall Street go up and down since it’s beginning, and it has definitely been on a roller coaster ride since 2001. Many people who thought they were in a career until retirement have found themselves in the unemployment lines of uncertainty. People that seem to be healthy one day are finding out they are terminally-ill the next. Relationships can take years to build, but just a few seconds of the wrong words can utterly destroy them. The fact is, there are these and so many other uncertainties within our lives and world today that are just a moment in time away from taking place.

The picture above is a recent picture of my mom and dad with their newest grandchild. As I reflect on this verse in 1 John 5:13 I cannot help but think of the relationship I have with my parents. I must admit, there were times in my life that I know my parents had to be on the verge of pulling all of their hair out over ways that I acted, and things that I had done. My dad had to enforce discipline on me many times throughout my years growing up. As a very young child, I have heard the story so many times about me throwing my father’s watch into the burning flames of our fireplace. I remember getting my first full-size bike for Christmas one year. My dad kept hearing a noise outside, and it was me using my mom’s car to come to a complete stop because I couldn’t reach the ground yet. As a teenager, I can remember forgetting about curfew and causing great worry for my parents. Many times, I did the things I was supposed to not do; while other times, I did not do the things I was supposed to do.

Even with all of these things in my life my parents never stopped being my parents. As bad as it got for me in the realm of discipline at times there was never any doubt in my mind that my dad was who my dad was. He was my dad! My mother was my mom! There was never a point in time where I was scared of being cast out of the relationship as son to my mother and father. At no point did I ever have to question their love for me either. In fact, the boundaries they set, and the discipline I inccurred showed me the love they had for me. Even though I didn’t want to admit it at the time I understood that was their protection and love for me. Today, I am very thankful for that to have been in my life.

John’s Gospel was written to move those who read it to faith in Jesus so that they might receive eternal life. Then, we see here in 1 John that this letter was written to affirm those who have already believed that they do possess the wonderful gift of eternal life. In other words, if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, God wants you to know, be confirmed, and live in peace without doubt about that relationship and all of it’s benefits. The Bible says these words here, “that you may know”. In other words, God wants you to be so sure about your relationship with Him so that you may experience to the fullest His benefits and blessings. It’s just like I shared earlier about my relationship to my dad. I don’t have any doubts that my dad is my dad. I have no doubts that Jehovah God is my Heavenly Father. I have no doubts that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit lives within me just like I have no doubts that my dad is my dad.

Remember, the Lord does not want you to live in worry and confusion about your relationship to Him. He wants you to fully know about your relationship with Him if you have truly trusted in what Jesus did for His creation on Calvary’s cross. So the question is this, “ Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?”. If so, are you living like it?

Sincerely,

Bro. Bryan

“Looking Back Reveals So Much”

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Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Happy New Years to everyone who reads this article! We are just a few days into the new year which means we have just passed through my favorite time of year – Christmas. Christmas time is always a very exciting time for me because of the celebration of the birth of Christ. There are some other reasons that I love that time of year too; however, the birth of Jesus is obviously the most important.

A few other reasons I love that time of year are the extra time I get with my family from being off of work, and the time of reflection upon the past year(s) that I have experienced in my lifetime.

I would like to point out that this reflection can be good on one hand, and yet sad on another. On one hand, I enjoy thinking about the years of growing up in my parents household with my sister. I really had a great childhood which has left me with a lot of great memories that I will have until the day I die. As I reflect on those times I realize now just how carefree those times really were. At the time, school felt like such a burden and chores were mundane. Today, I realize how easy I really did have it. The load I carried was really a very lightweight load.

On the other hand, I reflect back on my younger years of life and see something that bothers me. It’s probably the same thing that each generation has looked back on and probably been saddened by at some point too. I am 37 years old, which I know probably seems like a baby to some who are reading this, but as I reflect back on those 37 years I see a great moral decay in our society today verses what it was like when I was a kid.

I see things today that are widely acceptable that were considered shameful when I was a child growing up. Obviously, the span of this topic is wide and there would be no way to mention them all, but a few really stand out to me. First, many times I see an outright disregard for our senior generations. I’ve noticed that in many instances the younger generations could care less about taking care of it’s elders and elderly. This is sad. I watched my parents work hard to take care of my grandparents even when it meant sacrificing time and finances that were needed for many other things. Second, it seems like honesty has simply been thrown into the river, floated downstream in hopes of never being seen again. Third, honesty and integrity are virtues that seemed to be really valued when I was a kid, but are looked on as annoyances in today’s world. This is sad to me. Fourth, sexual sin is acceptable behavior by today’s world standards. When I was growing up people were shocked to hear about fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. Today, it’s just another event that takes place in the lives of families all over this nation. This is extremely sad because our society has taken closet sins, opened the door, and worked hard to make them the norm for today. These sins were still sin when they were in the closet – being in the closet didn’t make them ok to commit. It’s the fact that once they came with shame, humility and the knowledge of wrong-doing, but today people are praised for this behavior, even by politicians. This is sad!

There are certainly so many other areas that I could go into, but for lack of time, these are just four big areas that have saddened me as I reflect on the decay of morality in our country.

With all of that said, I am thankful to our Lord Jesus Christ who never ever changes no matter what is popular, or made acceptable through the media and society who have their own agenda. Hebrews 13:8 talks about Jesus Christ being the same yesterday, today and forever more. Jesus is the same yesterday as He was when the prophets in the Old Testament prophesied about His coming to this earth. Jesus Christ is the same today as He Himself tells us to come and enter into fellowship and relationship with Him that we may have peace for all eternity. Jesus Christ is the same forever meaning He will never change. He is the chief cornerstone, He is the anchor, He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He will always be the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, forever more!

It is on this basis that no matter how bad society gets, no matter how deceptive the media is, no matter morally corrupt this country gets, I can be encouraged and strengthen because Jesus Christ, my King, never ever changes. I can always count on Him to be faithful to His word, to me His child, and to my family whom He guards. It is good to look back on the past. There are so many things that are positive and nice to remember. There are things that can become discouraging and hard to think about in the past. However, I believe the best thing the Christian can do is to keep their eyes on Jesus. If your eyes are on Him, then you can be assured you are looking in the right direction.

Sincerely,

Bro. Bryan