Are we His sheep? Do we hear His Voice?

masters voice

“…to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” Ephesians 1:10

If so, do we respond and follow? God calls us to Himself and to love Him and one another with the love of God. God calls us out of our self-love pride that mutes our effectiveness and purpose and changes us so we are effective and purposeful for Him. So, we need to ask ourselves how is my love life? How is our love for our Lord and the response of love we are to have for one another? We are the sheep of the Lord, and He has given us endless love and care. He gives His sheep endless life and abounding fellowship with Him. He gives us His perfection and His protection, gathering us in to the fold of His wings, as a hen calls her chicks. Giving us the confidence and support for us to stay away from the dangers of the world, protecting us from Satan’s grasp while we engage the world for Christ. Christ perseveres in us, modeling to us how to persevere in our walk with Him and our call to one another.

Our shepherd desires for us to be true and faithful because He is that way with us. This is our call to be true and faithful in our love, in our care, in our walk, and in our talk.

So, are we hearing the voice of God?

Are we practicing the centrality and supremacy of Christ? Are we? If not, where is the call? What do we need to do to build His kingdom church? As Christ bore witness to the Father, so we are called to bear the care for one another and bring it back to Him. We cannot be as the so-called “expert of the law” and debate whom our neighbor is, thus excusing us from our responsibility. Nor, can we ignore the sheep in our care, ignoring our Lord’s call. Yet, so many churches do.

Consider this: how we see others, whether it is a spouse, child, friend, boss, or stranger, will be the measure of how we see our Lord and how seriously we take our faith. What if we were measured by how we see others? What if this is how Christ sees us? Not a very pleasant prospect, is it? Fortunately, grace covers us¾His amazing and loving grace for which we could not venture to do anything to earn it, be acceptable, or receive anything eternal except damnation.

We are to forsake our pride, arrogance, and selfish nature and receive our Lord with joy and eagerness so we can help build His church as He has called us to do!

Remember, the doctrine of Scripture and the call of our Lord will cut “against the grain” of our pride and will. We are fallen, but He will lift us up, as our Lord is our shepherd, guiding us His way and showing us the way of the shepherd, the way of love and care.

Too many Christians only see the church as a consumer entity, which becomes “what I can get out of it.”  But, are we reciprocating that care or are we just catering to our clique and ourselves? We cannot expect others do be the “doers” while we sit comfortably in a pew. We cannot even expect a return on our investment (money given to the church) for personal gain of some sort. The consumer church will become the demise of the church before Satan even has a chance at it. We can utterly eliminate ourselves and achieve total annihilation without any external help from below. God calls us out of the “consumer” mentality and into His reality. Ask yourself if you only see the church as what it can do for you or what you can get out of it.

We do need to be in a church that will take care of us. It is our attitude and determination that will set us apart to either be fully used by Christ, or sit in a pew for our selfish gain and receive our judgment later. I know I do not want that to be me; do you?

Summarizing What God Calls Us to Do

 call of Christ

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8

God calls us to distinction and to Himself. There is nothing we could ever do to earn our grace or place in heaven. There is no program, ministry, outreach, or person saved that could ever earn or add one tiny immeasurable amount to His love for us. So, does this mean we sit in our chairs and do nothing? Well, lots of people think so, or at least they act like they think so. Our faith may not have a price tag attached, but there must be a response that shows the fruit of what He has done.

We need to wake up to our call and our responsibility, to give a response and reason for our faith. Yes, we can just sit in a pew and do nothing, receiving our heavenly award in the afterlife to come. But, will we receive a “well done, good and faithful servant,” reasoning for our election, a response of love to His love for us?

Did you know that God calls us to be a lover?

Not like the lovers we see portrayed on TV or in the movies or in romance novels. God calls us to real love that is a response to who He is and what He has done in us. We are based and rooted in Him so we are able to respond to those around us as our Lord has responded to us. So many Christians will see their faith as a self-centered journey that involves them and God alone, even though the Scriptures say otherwise. Our faith may come as an individual choice to receive His election and grace, but we are still in community with one another. It is like going up to a person who was just in an auto accident, and saying, “gee, you are hurt,” and then just walk away. “No need to bother to call for an ambulance.” “They are not my responsibility.” “It is just God and I.”

That individualistic thinking is imaging a God who is different that what is revealed to us in Scripture, and replacing Him with our selfish inclinations and laziness. We are not “Lone Ranger” Christians. We are part of a posse, part of a community all working, learning, and serving the same Lord and God together. Remember, even the Lone Ranger had Tonto, and their focus was to help others. He did not ride alone. Our faith must be in community, as we are the body of Christ, and not parts to ourselves. Are we responding to the privilege we have in Christ by honoring Him? Or, do we try it alone, our rationalizations serving as our “savior?”

There are too many churches that neglect their call, ignore their neighborhood, and burrow themselves away from the call that Christ has given to all of us.

There are even churches who target a specific audience or demographic, that is, only the people with whom they are comfortable, and ignore the call of our Lord to reach all people.

We have to reform, to get beyond ourselves, our prejudices, and our desires so we can go beyond our felt needs and plans and seize the opportunities to be our best for His glory. We have to see the church as what it was designed and destined for, a haven of rest, a place of worship, a place of discipleship, and a place of fellowship, not merely a place of self-interests and misplaced piety.

The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXII

beatitudes-righteousnessRead Revelation 2: 8-11

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2: 11

Ironically, the city of Smyrna was known for their faithfulness to Rome, but its church started to withdraw their faithfulness to our Lord! So, even though the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two fully praised by Christ, they still had to heed to Christ and listen or they too will start to fall like the other five.

Jesus earned the right to be listened to. Not just by being God, Creator; conversely, as this passage reminds us, He lived life in purity and sinlessness for our benefit, to enable us to have eternal life and partake in His fellowship. He knows us more intimately that we can imagine and desires that we be with Him and glorify Him fully. Yet, we tend not to listen to Him in our personal lives and how we lead and mange His Church. Many leaders today tend to fill His call with the void of our stubbornness, recklessness, and selfishness.

Yet, Jesus is there, guiding us with a beacon that says I know your pain, I felt your pain, I have experienced your pain and I feel your pain now, too. He has taken our pain away. The tribulations we face are not the things that can derail us from Him; rather, they can form us more of Him in maturity and character.

He who has an ear. God means what He says (Ezek. 33:30-32; James 1: 21-27; 2 Pet. 1: 3-11)! This also means that God fulfills His promises. Do you take His Word seriously, learning and applying it? If not, why not?

Like the style of an O.T. Prophet and the oracles against the corrupt king and priesthood, issuing the call to repentance. Jesus calls to us “let’s get it right”. Jesus directly challenges these early churches with an application us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying away from His call and precepts, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32; Amos 2-4)!

“Synagogue of Satan,” meaning being an apostate is referring to the local Synagogue and of Jews who were very antagonistic to the Christians as they refused to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and who called the Christians a Synagogue of Satan.

Jesus is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do with the leadership of His Church, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. 7:20; 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 John 4:1).

So what does this come down to?

The perspective in each of these letters is not just about future happenings, the Seven Churches were real, actual churches with tangible problems. Thus, the first four chapters of Revelation is also a practical guidebook on how to run a successful church and how to avoid the potholes that make a bad church. Each of these seven churches had characteristics that are a template to any church you can worship in today. These churches were real “alive” and “dead” churches that yours, in its vision and operation, are a footprint thereof. So, which one is yours? Which one are you called to be among today?

In Christian leadership, we are to hunger for righteousness and seeking the depths of God’s love, the Word and virtue, and in so doing, being committed to continue allowing yourself to grow in maturity, to be transformed, and to be renewed. At the same time, it is not allowing personal circumstances to disrupt your faith (Matt. 5:3-6; Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:8-12; Phil. 2:5-9).


We have to ask ourselves, are we operating to the opposite tune that Jesus commands as this Synagogue and the church of Smyrna were starting to?

When we seek to engage His church on our own, we turn it into a church of evil, as it will be diametrically opposed to Christ, as Satan is opposed to Him. We may not be worshipping Satan, but when we run the church by our ways and agendas, we are, in fact, worshipping Satan, because Christ is not only ignored, He is being opposed! Just as this Smyrna was a church where people’s agendas were in opposition to Christ’s. They had sufferings to overcome and learn from, but most chose to run the course their way and tarnish His Way.

Let us learn, refocus and always and joyfully point ourselves and church to Christ as LORD!

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Is Your Church Healthy?

health church

Luke 10:25-29; John 4:24; 10:25-30; 17:21-23; Acts, chapters 2 and 4; Romans 1:16-17; 12:1-3; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 1; James 4:8-11

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10

A healthy church is one that is poured out to our Lord. It practices the love of our Lord through worship, teaching, learning, loving, caring, praying, and outreach. It is a church that chooses to be a bag of marbles with different colors and sizes and all working together, each marble seizing its call and exercising its gift for the game. But, in our case, it is not a game. Rather, it is a very serious matter that is joyful. Have you ever tried to play marbles with just one? Not much fun, is it? To play your best, you need more than one, each with a purpose and direction. In spite of that, a lot of churches choose to be the lone marble. Such a church really cannot be used to play any marble games, not because there are too few, but because the marbles just do not get along.

Yet, the more marbles you have working together, the better you can play. And the “more” is two or more gathered in His name, people working together for a common purpose with vision and strength, all striving to give God the glory.

A Healthy Church Looks Like This in Practice 

  • A healthy church will worship Christ first and foremost.
  • A healthy church will enable its people to connect with God and then connect with each other and then connect to their community with the cause and the power of Christ.

To accomplish this, a healthy church will equip and encourage its people to grow deeper in their faith and walk with Christ and further help them facilitate their godly impact onto others. In so doing, expand God’s Kingdom by becoming and developing wholeheartedly, fully-engaged followers of Jesus Christ! For this to come about, a healthy church will be biblically oriented, active, and focused on Jesus Christ.

  • A healthy church will know and practice the supremacy and centrality of Christ, so it glorifies, trusts, and worships God wholeheartedly.
  • A healthy church will be passionate for Christ and then for one another.
  • A healthy church will be genuinely learning and growing in Him.
  • A healthy church will encourage one another’s spiritual formation and be able to bring into being and equip disciples with a teachable spirit who know Him and desire to make Him known.
  • A healthy church will connect with others and in so doing develop vital relationships, working and growing in the Fruit of the Spirit. When a healthy church is functioning, it will be better at mobilizing its people by their spiritual gifts.

Our healthy church will be an effective, generous steward of all He gives us individually and collectively.  Then, our healthy church will have a mission and purpose and be engaged in intentional evangelism, missions, outreach, and meeting key community needs, all led and envisioned by called out, effective, empowered servant leaders who are Kingdom oriented. Sounds like a mouthful, but this can be you in your church, leading others!

We have a responsibility to be obedient to His Word and carry out His call. When we do not carry out our call and duty to be in Him and act within His character, it will be costly.

We must ask ourselves what our inactivity will cost us, and to those around us. When we do not accept our responsibility, the cost will build up and may even overwhelm us. Not because God is without compassion and love, but because we refuse His compassion and love, or we refuse to share His compassion and love. The cost we may accrue is the cost of lost opportunities, “what ifs,” and what could have been. The comparison is of a church that is flourishing and being used by God versus the church that is closing its doors after decades of being there (in a physical building form) but not really being there (for the community and use by our God.)

A church can “be there” with facilities, but “not be there” with heartfelt worship and poured out teaching. Or, it can “be there” as a club, but “not be there” as a church. What are you costing God? Is your church a haven of lost opportunities, or a haven of rest? Is your church surrendered to His will and holiness, or to self-seeking motives and desires?

see sick

Churches that are healthy are filled with people who live in the Fruit of the Spirit.

Unhealthy churches tend to have its people self-focused and who only want to be heard; they either do not want to listen to others or have a conceited attitude or see those who are mature as threats.

The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXI

church of Smyrna

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer….” Revelation 2: 9-10


Read Revelation 2: 8-11 

How would you appraise your church from this letter to the church in Smyrna? 

“Smyrna” is a Greek word for myrrh, a bitter herb used both as an anointing oil, and for embalming, and was one of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus as a young child (Ex. 30:23; Esth. 2:12; Psalm 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Matt. 2:11; John 19:39). 

The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two of the seven that were fully praised by Christ. Even though Smyrna was praised, they were treading on dangerous ground. They were starting to be bitter as their name applies. After facing much persecution, they became belligerent against Christ and turned against one another, forsaking their call and duty. They had the opportunity to learn and grow from their situation, but instead, they chose bitterness and strife. They embraced fearfulness instead of faithfulness.

Like the church of Smyrna, we will all face sufferings and trials. It is not the questioning of them to help us cope, but how we learn and deal with them that help shape our spiritual formation.

The trials we face will be used to enrich our own lives and make us a beacon to help others in their trials, too. When we cave in to our fears, we will only be insolvent in real poverty, bankrupted spiritually because of our opposition to Christ as our Lord and Sustainer.

These letters to the seven churches echo the good, the bad, and the ugly in all churches.

Jesus directly challenges them, and us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church! He is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do it, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. 7:20; 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 John 4:1).

“Church” means a body of believers who come together for worship, instructions, and to serve. This does not refer to a building. Many churches have many different types of people, liturgies, and government. Many are not always true Christians or have God’s interests at heart; rather, they are driven by personal agendas or trends that are contrary to the precepts of our Lord. Jesus is attacking our placing personal agendas and power struggles over His lead!

Smyrna, now called Izmir in Turkey, was a beautiful, large, prosperous, and loyal city and the center of the Emperor worship practice. Furthermore, there was a tough, antagonistic Jewish Synagogue there, giving the Christians a squeeze in the middle of persecution and hostility. The city officials were betraying and falsely accusing the Christians. The Jews kicked them out of their fellowship, a scandalous act for a Jew.

This Smyrna church was composed of people who were burnt out and were starting to lose their faithfulness.

Thus, instead of continuing to fight the ravages of persecution with trust and obedience to Christ, they decided to ignore His precepts and do their own thing. Even though they professed to worship and honor Christ, they did not do so fully in their deeds and attitudes (2 Cor. 4:4). They were once a vibrant, healthy church, but were starting to die.

This city of Smyrna was destroyed and laid in ruins, then rebuilt, as in resurrected (800-300 BC). The application is that a dead or dying church with faithful, Christ-empowered people can be turned around and resurrected! John’s disciple, Polycarp, became the Bishop there and did resurrect it until he was martyred 30 or so years later (or at this time, depending how you date Revelation-another proof for a late date for Revelation if he is the “Angel”).

So what does this come down to? 

Your church can remain faithful no matter what, if you are focused on Christ as LORD and not circumstances!

The troubles we face can cause us to fear so we seek to cover them up with our pride and/or bitterness. We try to go it alone when Christ is beckoning us to trust in Him, go His Way, and give our fears to Him. When we refuse to heed His call, it will just be a short time until we are thrown away, given to the devil, since we are working for him anyway. Ironically, our sufferings are far less of a venture and sentence than our poor choices.

When we work our lives and church with our corrupt personal power we are in fact abandoning His power and Fruit. Consider this: when we are independent from Christ in our personal lives and in running our churches, we are forsaking and opposing Him. Thus, it is not that much of a stretch or even a job relocation to be a church of Satan, since we are already such a place. But, when we trust in Him, He will give us the strength to endure.


How can the fact that Jesus knows us more intimately that we can imagine, and desires us to be in Him strengthen your churches collective faithfulness? What can you do to grow your church in this area and to glorify Him more fully?

When we are faithful, we become beacons of hope and encouragement to others, too. We will become lifesavers, thrown to those who are drowning. Christ will use us in the plights of others as hands to grab on to and pull others up when they are sinking. But, if we are not faithful, there is no outstretched hand, only missed opportunities and an infamy to a community, a life wasted, a church of dysfunction, and a crown of shame instead of a crown of life. God asks us to be conquerors and faithful witnesses to whom and what He is! We cannot do that as a church of Satan!



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