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Avoiding the Ruts of Christian Tradition (Sabbath Meditations)
Did you know that the space between rails on all railroad beds is exactly 4 feet, 8.5 inches, no more, no less? Why? Because that was the standard distance between the wheels of a Roman war chariot. Sound ludicrous?
It’s true!
Chariot wheels on ancient dirt roads created deep ruts. As Roman chariots gave way to covered wagons, it was necessary that the distance between the wheels remain constant so they could travel smoothly in these ancient ruts. To change the distance between the wheels would make for a very uncomfortable ride, not to mention shorten the life of the wagon itself. Of course, specifications for building wagons were brought with the settlers to the new world of America and when wagon trails gave way to railroads, the traditional distance between ruts became by default the standard distance between the rails. It’s not changed to this day. Why? Because it’s always been done that way.
Besides being humorous, this little known fact points out an interesting truth. We humans love to cling to our traditions. There’s powerful comfort in holding on to things the way they have always been done. Sometimes the traditions we cling to make sense, sometimes they are just plain silly.
It’s not surprising that some traditions that were began in the secular world have, over time, made their way into Christian practice. However, at times the desire to cling to tradition has run contrary to, even usurped, biblical teaching.
Around 155 A.D. Polycarp of Smyrna, a disciple of the Apostle John, went to Rome to deal with various heretics. While there he tried to persuade the bishop of Rome not to switch Passover to Easter Sunday. Irenaeus, a well known church historian of that time, records this:
‘And when the blessed Polycarp was sojourning in Rome in the time of Anicetus, although a slight controversy had arisen among them as to certain other points ... For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp to forego the observance [in his own way], inasmuch as these things had been always observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant; nor, on the other hand, could Polycarp succeed in persuading Anicetus to keep [the observance in his way], for he maintained that he was bound to adhere to the usage of the presbyters who preceded him. And in this state of affairs they held fellowship with each other; and Anicetus conceded to Polycarp in the Church the celebration of the Eucharist, by way of showing him respect.’
(Irenaeus. FRAGMENTS FROM THE LOST WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson.
Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc).

Here were two church leaders at odds with one another. Polycarp, correctly defended the observance of Passover as he had received it from the Apostle John, who in turn received it from the Lord Himself. Anicetus, on the other hand, defended his observance of Easter, citing the tradition of previous church leaders in Rome who had been influenced by pagan worship.
To which one would you give more weight? It’s kind of a no brainer right? Well, apparently the appeal of tradition, despite the absence of biblical sanction, was so strong in the church at Rome that it trumped the practice and teaching of the Lord Himself.
Although, Irenaeus, surely pressured by the Roman church leadership to which he answered, tried his best to put a positive spin on the resolution to this discussion, other writings of Polycarp and his successor, Polycrates, reveal that the issue was far from resolved.
Writing some years later to the Roman Bishop Victor concerning the change of Passover to Easter, Polycrates proclaims, “I, therefore, brethren, who have lived 65 years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than man’.”
(Polycrates. Letter to Victor. As quoted by Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24)
Unfortunately the sentiments of Polycrates were not echoed by the majority in the Christian world. Pagan tradition ultimately won out over biblical teaching. Today, the ruts of pagan tradition in the Church have run deep. Most of Christendom travels mindlessly in the tracks of false tradition, blindly accepting them as God’s divine path.
But pagan religious observances weren’t all that were adopted as tradition by the Church.
In his book, Lost to the West, Lars Brownworth, illustrating the influence of Roman culture on the practice of the Church writes, “Even the ceremonies of the church and the court had begun to mirror each other. Priests and courtiers dressed in luxurious vestments, elaborate processionals and singing choirs heralded the beginning of services, and incense and candles were carried as a sign of honor ... There was a comforting sameness to it all, a familiarity that reassured each celebrant of the divine order.”
Unfortunately, this new focus on the externals of worship, the dress, the pageantry, while appealing to some who wished to assert the primacy of the Roman Church and its bishop among the Christian churches, only served to alienate many of the more ‘peasant’ churches. These poorer congregations neither had the means nor the desire, for that matter, to compete with the opulence of their Roman brethren.
As we know, Jesus had a great deal of criticism for those who would put tradition on an equal footing with His truth. Of these He said, “...you have made the law of God of no effect by your traditions ... in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:6-9)
Of course, compared to the damage done as a result of the adoption of pagan religious traditions into the practice of the church, adopting the pageantry and format of the royal court to the format of services seems rather innocuous. The danger becomes, however, when Christians attempt to attribute divine ordination to these traditions, placing them on a par, or even at odds, with biblical teaching.
I recall years ago, sitting in a congregational meeting, where the suggestion was made that a relatively minor change be made to our traditional format of worship services. There were many expressions of support for the suggestion, that is, until a prominent member of the congregation stood up and stated his opinion that to change the format of services would be contrary to the order God had inspired the previous leadership of the Church to establish. With that, enthusiasm for the change was lost and it was tabled.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:12 Paul exhorts, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
As Christians, individually and collectively as a church, it’s important that we examine whether, in our desire to hold to tradition, we have in any way made void the law of God. And by way of examination, we should ask ourselves, and answer honestly, some basic questions:
• Have I/we given spiritual weight to a tradition or custom of men that can’t be directly justified by scripture? Or, does justification of our tradition require we engage in scriptural gymnastics or make large leaps of logic?
• Do any of our traditions or customs run contrary in their practice to God’s law of love? Are they in any way putting stumbling blocks in front of those whom God may be calling into our fellowship?
• Do I/we draw more comfort from rigid adherence to religious custom rather than responding to God’s instruction to grow in grace and knowledge, despite the uncomfortable places that growth might take me?
In short, is our measurement of truth based less on scriptural proof than on the fact that “we’ve always done it that way” - so therefore it must be true? That might work for turning ancient dirt roads into railroad beds, but it’s a poor way to guide one
s spiritual walk.
When it comes to navigating our walk as Christians, it’s far better to hold fast to what is true than to remain stuck in the ruts of our tradition.

A Consuming Fire (New Church Lady)


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There are wildfires in California again. The Santa Ana winds are helping to intensify and spread these raging wildfires. At the time I began writing this, according to an article at CNN.com, the fires had collectively scorched nearly 200,000 acres over a one-week period and destroyed 792 structures. That is a consuming fire!

What consumes you? If you have a new baby, based on my experience with three children, that new baby consumes your time and energy. He/she must be feed, changed and cared for in so may ways throughout every day.

If you’ve ever built a new home, or remodeled the one you live in, from what I’ve witnessed, it can consume your time and focus for days, weeks or months.

If you have ever provided care-giving for a terminally ill loved one you know just how consuming that can be.

What about God? According to Hebrews 12:29 [NKJV] our God [is] a consuming fire. Deuteronomy 4:24 [NKJV] says, For the LORD your God [is] a consuming fire, a jealous God.

This seems to say to me two things:

It tells me that WE, God’s most precious creation, consume His thoughts and actions. Besides the children created in His image, what could possibly take up His time and resources? I have to believe that maintaining the planets in their orbits takes a much smaller percentage of His focus because the planets pretty much do what they are supposed to do – what He designed them to do – and stay within the confines He set for them centuries ago. He is jealous for the time and attention of His creation – for the children made in His image. He loves us with passion and focus beyond what a new love in my life ever created because His love is so pure and perfect and true.
It tells me that God should consume my heart, mind and time. No, He does not expect me to think of Him alone for 24/7/365. He knows I have to think of my family and my job. He understands that I will read or watch TV or exercise or chat with friends about social issues. But, underscoring it all, there should be a fire for God – for His will, His plan, His law, His love – in everything I do.
The question then becomes “how does this action, goal, project, response, thought, etc. align with a passion for or a burning desire to, align myself to God’s will, His love and His law?” To be “on fire” for God does not only occur if I’m out there doing missionary work and risking my life and limb for it. A fire for truth and obedience can evidence itself by my choosing to put Him first in the morning with daily prayer and Bible study. It becomes apparent if I choose to act ethically even if it means I will lose my job. It is shown when I care for the needy and downtrodden. 

And perhaps the most radical representation of a fire for God comes when I return love, help and peace to someone who has done me harm (or tried to). Only someone who has a passion for our loving God can have the character and spiritual strength to consistently and without fail return love to others, no matter what they dish out toward us. 

My mother used to talk about “lighting a fire under” her children when we were moving slowly to do what we were supposed to be doing. God’s love for me should “light a fire under” me to listen to His voice, to do His will and to show His love – not half-heartedly, like a kid who doesn’t want to do the chore of taking out the trash – but with passion and boldness.

Exodus 24:17 [NKJV] The sight of the glory of the LORD [was] like a consuming fire on the top of the mountain in the eyes of the children of Israel.

The sight of the glory of the LORD, seen in His word and His moving in our lives and His answering of prayer, lights a fire in us. But also, what others can see of the glory of God in me, in us, through our actions and words, should (1) strike a spark of curiosity in the unbelievers around us so that they want to know our God and (2) spark a passion in believers around us to rekindle or rebuild or increase their own fire for God.

Our God is a consuming fire.

One Flock – One Shepherd (Children of God)

God’s people are not only scattered, but they are also often confused, concerned and oftentimes deceived. There is an important question that we should ask: “Is God pleased with the divided nature of His flock – His saints?” The answer is clear from the Holy Scriptures that Jesus Christ desires the unity of His flock.
What we find today is a recalcitrance on the part of all too many ministers who desire to have a following after themselves – rather than have the brethren look to the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:1)
As Jesus completed the earthly ministry that His Father sent Him to accomplish, He prayed over and over for the unity of His flock, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou have sent me.” (John 17:21)
Because of the mishandling of God’s congregations that we have all experienced, we do not always like the way men define the role of the shepherd – and we certainly do not like being compared to “dumb” sheep. So, let’s take a fresh look from a Biblical perspective. We will see that Jesus Christ is our perfect example of both – the Shepherd and the Lamb. And we will see that we are the sheep of His pasture.
Throughout the history of the True Church there have always been abusers of God’s perfect will. Jesus warned us to be on the lookout!
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Paul said: “... after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” (Acts 20:29)
Very soon, Jesus Christ is going to return and vanquish the false Shepherds who will not allow His flock to be joined together in unity. Jesus will do this because He is the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gave His life that we may live.
“I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep ...
I am the Good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10:11,14)
Jesus is the Great Shepherd because He was resurrected from death.
“Now the God of peace, [that is God the Father] that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20)
Jesus is the Chief Shepherd because He was raised to Glory and He will return to establish His Father’s Kingdom.
“When the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fades not away.” (1 Peter 5:4)
When Christ returns, there will be One Flock and One Shepherd (John 10:16).

You Gotta Serve Somebody (Morning Companion)
You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord,
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
    -- Bob Dylan
These lyrics came to mind after a recent Bible study that covered Romans 6, specifically verse 16: “Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (KJV)
Sometimes people think of law as a restriction on freedom, and especially so when speaking of the law of God. But in reality the law of God is all about freedom. James refers to it as such:
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25)
“So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” (James 2:12)
Think of the law as a series of guardrails. Stay within the guardrails, and they will save you a lot of trouble. You might think that plowing your own path based on your own rules will be liberating, but you’ll find out before long that those guardrails are there to protect you. They are instructions telling us how to make life work. The law tells us how to treat one another and how to live in a peaceful and respectful society. Which of these laws are a burden?
1. Put first things first, and God is first.
2. Don’t worship the stuff you make.
3. Watch your language.
4. Take time off.
5.  Respect your elders, especially your parents.
6. Murder is evil.
7. Be faithful to your mate. Honor marriage.
8. Leave other people’s stuff alone. Work for your own stuff.
9. Tell the truth.
10. Don’t be jealous over other people’s good fortune.
If we took these rules and made them the basis of our culture, imagine how much better our world would be. Imagine if we as a society just lived by one of them -- any one of them. We would have a world radically different from the one we have, one with more freedom and security than perhaps we can imagine given the state of the today's world.  Being free from such a law might seem to bring freedom (take whatever you want, sleep with whomever you want, say whatever you want, etc.), but what you’ll really have is a Darwinian world where the strong have the power and wealth and the weak perish. Think North Korea.
We can be servants of God and live in the freedom that his law brings or be servants of sin and experience a culture of death. Which will it be?
You gotta serve somebody.

To the Least of These (Early Christian)

The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40
I was able to facilitate some tangible help for a family of believers recently. I’m not actually doing the helping, but managed to get the right person to the right place to help these good people out. Once all the plans had been made, one of the family members started thanking me profusely. I tried to tell her that this is just what we are supposed to do and my ability to help them is more like a duty. I accepted the gratitude, but then she started to talk about repaying me in the future because nobody had even helped them in the past.
A while later, what she told me rang in my head. This is a family that has been keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days for decades and nobody had helped them before, at least not to this degree and not without wanting something in return. What a travesty.
Unfortunately, it is common thing among the Church of God and Hebrew Roots believers to neglect the ‘love your neighbor
side of our faith. With our incredible devotion to studying out erroneous doctrines of days gone by, attempts to find the perfect calendar, and mission to purge all uncleanness from our lives, it is easy to put the loving side on the back burner. Well, that’s part of the Torah, too.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (YHVH). Leviticus 19:18.
Yes, that’s right. The first time that was said was NOT a mere 2000 years ago by the Messiah. Further evidence is to be found in Isaiah chapter 1:
Your rulers are rebels and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them. Isaiah 1:23
Isaiah chapter 1 has been misused for nearly 2000 years to say that YHVH does not care for the observance of the Moedim. But this is not what the chapter is saying. Those in Israel who were still observing the commanded days were doing it with the wrong heart. They were going through the rituals, but at the same time they were neglecting widows and orphans and surely all other manner of loving their neighbors. While there have been some incredible injustices perpetrated on the assembly in recent decades, only a handful of people would rise to the level that was written about in Isaiah chapter 1.
So the challenge I issue to the reader is this: read Matthew 25: 31-46 and all of Isaiah 1 a few times. These verses should inspire us to look up even more verses that exalt charitable and compassionate behavior. Meditate on this information. Concentrate on it. And act on it. Help out your neighbor. Help people you don’t even know. Be kind to someone who cuts you off in traffic or takes that parking space you had your eye on. Just be nice.

Surely we are all already doing those things, because we have had our hearts softened by the Spirit - but let’s be a light to those around us. Perhaps they will be drawn to that light.

Time Lyin' (Think Red Ink Ministries)
We live in a time when prophecies about the end of the world, the coming of Christ, the coming of the antichrist, the destruction of the planet ... Oh my goodness, I just realized this list will be nearly endless if I don’t just quit now. The fact is that since the Internet, every idiot with a concordance and an over-active imagination can say and publish anything they want to excite and incite what would normally be very intelligent people to believe the most ridiculous things. As a matter fact, I have been fascinated with the fact that it seems to be the intelligentsia that were so taken in by the tomfoolery of blood moons, planet X, solar eclipses, comets ... oh my goodness, I just realized I am involved in another very long list.
I suppose everyone knows that the world did not end when it was expected on September 23, 2017 and every other prophesied time as well.  For those of you who do not watch the news, the world did not end - it didn’t even hiccup.
It is really not my intention to point out all the stupidity of the purveyors of these ridiculous applications of so-called scientific facts, nor is it my intention to lampoon those who believed it. In reality, I feel sorry for both.
Our Lord Jesus went to a lot of trouble to tell us how to handle end-time events. None of which, by the way, involves the following:
●  scouring your Bible
●  matching Scriptures with historical events / dates / times
●  playing with equidistant letter sequences, or 
●  interpreting rare, scientifically predictable events into ‘signs of the heavens’
In reality, our preparation for the end of the age, the end of our lives, and the end of our society as we know it, all culminate in one solid piece of advice.
Horrible events happen to all persons, but there is no need for us to perish by them. Even the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that good and bad things happen to good and bad people. We should not be surprised by this. But as Jesus tried to tell us when he spoke of the Galileans who were slain at the altar, and the persons upon which the tower at Siloam fell, He offered His advice, “Except you change, you will all likewise perish.”
Change what? Well, it’s simple. Change the way you process information. Change the way you trust those who are intent on scaring you, motivating you, merchandising you, and perhaps even using your fear as their entertainment.
Harold Camping was not the last of his kind. The solar eclipse experienced recently was not the last one we will see. The Planet X scare was not the last hoax. So, what do we need to change?
I think a little piece of advice, perhaps some new information, perhaps even old information may be able to settle you, if you are one who believes that God uses rare (but not scientifically inexplicable) portents and signs to try to tell us what Jesus spent his entire ministry stating and restating, ‘The end is near’.
My friend the end is near. Your end is near. The chances are very good, even if the end of the age is 15-20 years away, you will never see it. Wouldn’t it be a shame to find yourself 20 years from now in the same condition you are today, having only added fear and dread and cowardice to your list of characteristics?
So, here's the kicker. If you need to change - do it now!
There is not one bit of difference between the way we should be - the way we should act - where we should spend our money - how we should provide for our family - how we should worship our God - or any other characteristic of Christianity whatsoever - and the way we should live in the severest tribulation.
There is no difference at all in the way we should live if the end of the world is tonight, tomorrow, 20 years from now or 200 years from now - IF you are Christian!
IF you are not a Christian - become one! “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph.4:15)
●  Keep the commandments.
●  Never, ever, violate your conscience.  
●  Take time every day to hear the voice of God (guidance).
We cannot prepare for those days without guidance. Concerning preparation for tribulation the Prophet Amos said, “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.”
In reality, there is no effective preparation, other than the preparation of ourselves. We should pray, we should live, we should minister to our neighbor, and we should worship our God, now as in the day of our end (with a pure heart intent upon being the people He wants us to be). If that is the case, it makes no odds pertaining to tribulation distractions, wicked politicians, planets crashing into the earth, plagues, wars and rumors of wars.
Our mission is still the same, “To simply be God's people full of His spirit and wisdom and knowledge.”
Don't get sidetracked.

Atonement: are you sure what it means? (Guardian Ministries)
Here we are coming to another Day of Atonement! I usually say to Brethren that I hope you have a meaningful Day of Atonement and that it will be spiritually enriching. But I am not always sure what meaning our Brethren will put on this Day - Yom Kippur.
I was in a church that believed that this day was about placing our sins on the head of Satan, so that we and the world could one day obtain complete cleansing of our sins when Satan is finally chained, as he is to be as stated in Revelation 20:1-3.
To get to that erroneous teaching (in my opinion), it was stated that the 2nd goat (the Azazel) pictured Satan. First notice Leviticus 16:8, that these two goats were so identical and without blemish that lots (like the flip of a coin) had to be cast to see which one was to be sacrificed for the Eternal in the Holy Place and which one was the Azazel or the goat that departs. Second, notice Leviticus16:10, that the second goat left alive (the Azazel) was to make atonement or expiation or reconciliation by sending it away into the wilderness.
Does Satan have any part in our reconciliation to God? Is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ not enough to reconcile us to God the Father? Does Paul or any New Testament writer refer to the putting away of Satan as being a part of our atonement? Having a demon or devil as part of the temple sacrifices was forbidden in the law (Leviticus 17:7).
I believe that the two goats really represent ONE sacrifice for sins. All sacrifices for sin were pointing to the great sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. If you read Leviticus 14:1-7, you will see that two birds were used in this sacrifice for leper cleansing. One bird was killed and the other was to be let go free. So it was not unusual to have one sacrifice with two animals.
We read in Isaiah 53:6 that we all have gone astray and committed sins and God laid on Him (the Messiah) the “iniquity of us all.”
After the goat or bird was set free, no one ever sees that live goat or bird again. Fittingly we read in Psalm 103:10-13: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the whole world” (John 1:29). And in 1 John 3:5 we read: “You know that He (Jesus) appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.” No mention here of our sins being laid on the head of Satan.
Hebrews 1:3 tells us that after Jesus Christ accomplished the cleansing or purification of our sins, He sat down at the right hand of God in heaven. Paul here doesn’t say that we have to wait until the beginning of the millennium before our sins are finally cleansed!
Imagine how far away these two concepts are! Some believe that the Azazel is the devil. Others that the Azazel is part of the complete sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sins so that God does not remember them anymore. Read Hebrews 10:14-18 and you will see that Christ by ONE OFFERING has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And that in the New Covenant God remembers our sins NO MORE.
Paul wrote: 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin (sin offering) on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” No mention of Satan being put away for our sins. No mention that Jesus’s sacrifice was not sufficient in and of itself. Because it was sufficient and more than sufficient! Jesus Himself said on the night He gave the disciples the wine, “for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28).
Jesus said that the “Law and the Prophets” spoke about Him. He is the central focus of all sacrifices and the one sacrifice for all time that cleanses us of sins. When Jesus gave Himself as a sacrifice He did it “once for all” and for all time. See Hebrews 7:27-28 and 9:26.
He did not need to have daily sacrifices again after He sacrificed Himself. But after the Day of Atonement, the Levitical priesthood went right back to morning and evening sacrifices!
I hope your Day of Atonement is meaningful to you. And I pray that this Search the Scripture lesson about it will help you appreciate what it took for our Atonement! And Satan has NOTHING to do with it!
With all good wishes in Christ our ONE and ONLY SAVIOR.

Letting it slip ...(New Horizons)
You are handling life differently now compared to your pre-conversion days. Isn’t that what Jesus asks of us? Didn’t you then commit to a whole new way of life? As wrote Peter to the brethren: ‘since you delight in obedience, do not shape your lives by the cravings which used to dominate you in the time of your ignorance, but - in imitation of the holy One who has called you - you also must be holy in all your habits of life’ (I Peter 1:14-15). Or Paul: do not follow the customs of the present age, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your minds’ (Romans 12:2).
That commitment may have been twenty, thirty, even fifty years ago. So - have you let things slip? Do you act differently from that first flush? Does Jesus’s admonition to the Ephesian church apply to you personally?
‘Yet I have this against you - that you no longer love Me as you did at first. Be mindful, therefore, of the height from which you have fallen. Repent at once, and act as you did at first, or else I will surely come and remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent’.
Do other brethren accuse you of being lax, ‘Laodicean’?
At our baptism, then, we are set on a course of behavioural transformation, to develop those divine characteristics exemplified by Jesus in his earthly life. That means a constant, ongoing conquest of our fallen nature: ‘let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us’ (Hebrews 12:1).
We don’t always win! Paul reminds us that all too often failure dogs us:
‘I do not understand what I do; for I don't do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate’ (Romans 7:15).
We don’t, however, throw in the towel, but we pick ourselves up - and learn the lesson: ‘a just one falls seven times and rises up again’ (Proverbs 24:16).
As the apostle continues: ‘What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ! ‘
The guidance God gives us through His Word is timeless - just as potent, as applicable, as effective to our lives as it was to Adam or Noah or Abraham. Our attitude must remain as the Psalmist’s: ‘Your testimonies are wonderful: therefore does my soul keep them. The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple [ordinary folk]. I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for your commandments’ (Psalm 119:129ff).
It’s an attitude of exciting pursuit of personal growth.
In parallel to this vital and essential transformation of our moral behaviour and our outlook on life is how we ‘walk with God’, how when we worship Him.
He reveals Himself as ‘jealous’ and has throughout the Scriptures made clear His pain when His people stray from His clearly-defined path - a path designed for our welfare, for our spiritual safety.