Last fall, I hosted a retreat at the Elizabeth Lodge for several women fromAutumnRidgeChurchwho are widows. As I work with women who have found themselves with that title, my goal is for them to understand that God will never leave them and he will give them strength for each day.
On the last evening, we watched a movie called “While You Were Sleeping”. In the movie, there was a common theme regarding the young woman’s passport. She had purchased it with dreams of going many places-yet she still didn’t have any stamps in it!
As I fell asleep that night, I thought-that is just like my passport! I bought it when my son was anticipating going toScotlandto play in the European Football League, but he was cut from the team the day before they were leaving! My passport hadn’t even arrived yet and my reason for getting it was gone!
I had a passport, just like she did; and no anticipation of putting any stamps on it. Then I realized that was OK because God had me on an adventure inRochesterwithout needing one!
The next morning, everyone left and before I started cleaning I thought I would check my work emails. Imagine my surprise to find one from Pastor Steer telling us of a trip that the Pastoral Team would take in March toTurkey! It would be an education trip to study the seven churches of Revelation!
We were to let him know if we wanted to go. I think it was the fastest reply I ever made! I knew it was a gift from God that he had prepared me for the night before. No room for fear, or question of how I could possibly afford it-just yes, I want to go! I could hardly believe this example of how God loves to delight us!
When I was in college I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, and one of the pictures in my mind that helped me understand that was the portrait of Revelation 3:20; of Jesus standing at the door knocking-and realizing there wasn’t a doorknob on his side! It was up to me, my ‘free will’ to ask him to be in charge!
As I have been studying this passage for our trip, I am learning that there is so much more behind this image. Just as Jesus wants to be in charge of each one of our lives now, it was He that was speaking to the church atLaodicea: The words of the AMEN, the true and faithful witness, the ruler of God’s creation. He was coming to this church, as he comes to us, and rebuking and disciplining them because of His love for them! He was offering them to sit with Him at His throne if they would repent.
What were they to repent of? To understand that, first we will look at a bit of the history here.Laodiceawas a city in SW Asia Minor on an ancient Highway running fromEphesustoSyria. It was 10 miles west ofColossaeand 6 miles south ofHierapolis-and I will tell you why this even matters in a few minutes!
Laodiceawas well-known in the ancient world for its wealth. The wealth came from the textile industry in the production of black wool and in the banking industry. It was also known for its medical school that invented a spice mixture for the treatment of ears and an ointment for the eyes. The extent of their wealth was known by the fact that even though it sustained a disastrous earthquake in A.D. 60, it was rebuilt without the financial help fromRome! The major weakness was its lack of a water supply. They met this need by bringing in water through a system of stone pipes-another sign ofLaodicea’s wealth and intelligence.
The criticism that Jesus uses is from the daily life of this area. He said thatLaodiceais neither cold (like the cold, pure waters ofColossae) nor hot (like the therapeutichot springsofHierapolis). It is lukewarm and provides neither refreshment for the spiritually weary nor healing for the spiritually sick-yet they were claiming to have acquired both by their own efforts.
In reality, while they may have had material wealth-they were spiritually poor, (even with the banking industry); blind (despite the discoveries of the medical school) and naked-(a reference to the textile industry ofLaodicea). Jesus was telling them that they needed true gold refined by fire, white, not black garments, and ointment that only Jesus could give. A spiritual foundation was needed that would come only from following Christ.
Mike Bickle, a Pastor of a ministry in Kansas City, said that Jesus was offering this prestigious church, this wealthy church, deep fellowship, an eternal position in His Kingdom but the only way they could receive it was to zealously repent of their lukewarmness!
These cities where Christianity started thousands of years ago-this country ofTurkeywith the seven Churches of Revelation-is now 99% Muslim. WHAT HAPPENED?
Rochesteris 155 years old-not even close-I can’t even imagine 500 years, let alone 4000 years of civilization! What are we doing to prevent a similar fall?
We are wealthier than most areas-with the creative hard work ethic of generations of farmers, the brilliance of engineers and scientists at IBM and the Mayo Clinic and hospitals,MedicalSchooland universities. The Christian Heritage of the Fransican Nuns among others, including our own roots of over 155 years.
Just as the invitation is open to us as individuals today, to give our lives to Him; we must recognize the warnings, the discipline that God gives to those He loves, for our community. We must increase in our knowledge of Him, give thanks to Him and glorify His name for all he has given us. 70% ofRochesteris unchurched-we have work to do!
DISCIPLINE: He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. Proverbs 10:17
So…why am I here today and not just coming home fromTurkey?
Proverbs 16:9 says: In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
How do we handle disappointments in our life? We all have them. I told the kids I was house-sitting for my self and sent them all a Post Card from Rochester.
God also has a sense of humor as it was my ears that kept me from continuing on with the team-one ofLaodicea’s Medical School specialties!
Is it God disciplining me? God disciplines those he loves.
I have had wonderful times with the Lord and indeed he is letting me know again the many areas I am undisciplined in. The first thing I thought of was that I never prayed about this trip! I just assumed with the coincidence that it must be what I was to do.
PRIDE? Not many things bring one down as fast as being sick all over the floor of a plane….but good news, bad news…the good news is I was wearing an old shirt that I could throw away in Turkey and replace it with something new. The bad news? I threw it away in the hospital-sending my daughter Kristin to the gift shop to buy me a shirt to wear home, and she insisted she bought me the only one they had. Across the front it says:
“Some day, they will name a lure after me!”
The precious part of this story for me is the care I received on the plane. When they helped me sit up I recognized one of the Drs, but did not see the other until he came to say goodbye to me after we were situated in the airport and he left for his next flight. I didn’t know who he was and wanted to find out his name. As stories started to circulate back at home, I heard it was a friend of one of the families at church that have become very special to me.
My friend called to check and confirmed that he was indeed a friend of her husbands, having been in medical school together. His wife and Jaci are good friends and she told Jaci that he hadn’t wanted to go that day as it was the anniversary of his father’s death one year ago. As soon as I became ill, he knew that he was where he was supposed to be and he actually felt his father’s presence helping him the entire time. He was an amazing help and comfort to me. Even before I could speak, I could hear him talking to me and to the other Doctor and because of that I was never afraid. Indeed God was showing me that many of our Rochester Doctor’s put themselves at risk every day without a second thought. I am so thankful for God having everyone in place that day and for the prayers of my team of Pastors.
I am more determined to pray thankfullyfor our community and that God would continue to teach and train and enlighten each of us in our fields that we might glorify His name. ~Karen Anderle
References used: NIV and The Archeological Bible; Bible Dictionary’s and Commentary’s; The Seven Churches of Revelation Series by Mike Bickle of International House of Prayer.