This morning, we’re going to be looking at the third letter in our series of these letters Jesus sent, through the Apostle John, to the churches in the book of Revelation.

I’ve had a love for coffee ever since my days in college.  I actually worked for Starbucks while I was in college.  This year, my obsession has grown a little bit.  I’ve crossed over into ‘craft’ coffee now.  Basically, it means I’m a snob, and I’m proud of it.  (One year, I gave up coffee for Lent and I never felt so far away from Jesus in my life!)  I was a few months into my “craft coffee” stage when I noticed my coffee tasted a little bit different from day to day.  What was going on was I didn’t know exactly how many beans to put in my coffee; what the bean-to-water mixture should be.  #thestruggleisreal   I was lamenting this to my wife Kelly and she was looking at me like I’m growing a third eye.  She just Keurigs it and she’s done in one minute.  But for me, this is a whole process.  I’ve had a number of friends tell me I should buy a scale so I can weigh my coffee beans and water, so I can make sure I’ve got the right combination of water and coffee beans.  I hopped on Amazon and two days later my scale was there in the mail.  Every morning I use it, my wife makes fun of me.  But I’ll tell you what, I’ve got the right ratio now of beans to water.

As a follower of Jesus, we live in a world where it can be hard to know how much of the world is infiltrating us and how much of the world we’re infiltrating, can’t it?  It can be hard to know, in a myriad of different thoughts and different ideas, how much of it’s seeping in and how much of it’s being kept out.  Sometimes the Bible is really clear on ‘this is how to live and to follow the way of Jesus,’ but sometimes it’s a little bit murky, isn’t it?  If we try to align ourselves and our lives with the way of Jesus and the heart of Jesus—which is what it means to be a disciple—we can wrestle, even with the Scriptures, with Lord, how much should I reflect my culture?  If our answer is not at all, well, I think we’re being disingenuous.  And I also think we’re being inconsistent in what the Scriptures actually teach.  Let me give you an example:  In Acts 15, they have this thing called the Jerusalem Council.  They decide a number of things that followers of Jesus MUST do and circumcision wasn’t one of them.  All the men that they were writing to did a little jig when they got that letter back.  They also said don’t eat food sacrificed to idols, so the church said great.  Then if you look at 1 Corinthians 8, Paul writes to the church at Corinth and says listen, an idol isn’t anything at all, don’t worry about eating food sacrificed to idols.  If it doesn’t make somebody else stumble, it’s just meat.  Well, how do we do this dance?  What does it look like to, as Jesus said, be in the world but not of the world?  What does it look like to live true to the gospel in a cultural setting that we are genuinely in?  That’s an okay thing.  There’s beautiful things about our culture that as followers of Christ we should look at and go that’s awesome, that’s great, that’s wonderful.  And then there’s things that don’t align with our DNA as followers of Jesus.  {Look up at me for just a second.}  Have you ever wrestled with how do we decide which is which?  Have you ever wrestled with man, is there too much water in this?  Is it a little bit watered down, or am I living true to the way of Jesus?  If you’ve ever struggled with that….and my guess is that if you’re a follower of Christ here today, you’ve struggled with that on some level.  If you’re not a follower of Christ, let me challenge you to try to think through ways that you’ve struggled with the same thing, because we all have a set of ideals.  We have a set of beliefs.  We have a set of standards.  Sometimes those get watered down, whether we follow Jesus or not.  So you can relate to what Jesus writes to the church at Pergamum about.

Revelation 2:12.  We’re going to jump in to this church that maybe had a little bit too much water in their pour-over coffee.  And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:  The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.  Time out.  That’s his intro, and if you’ve been with us over the last few weeks, you know that Jesus customizes his introduction to each church to the setting that their in so that they go, oh, we can relate to this, Jesus.  Keep that in mind.  Pergamum was fifteen miles inland and just north of Ephesus and Smyrna.  Pergamum was known as the capital of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor.  It had been for roughly 400 years.  It was a powerful city.  There was a hill in the back of the city that you could see from almost anywhere in the city.  It was between 800 to 1,000 feet tall.  On the top of that hill, there was an altar to the god Zeus.  You could often see a flame rising as people would put incense into the altar.  They would burn it and bow and worship Zeus, or they would worship Caesar, or they would worship another god named Asclepius, the god of healing.  Pergamum was known as a pluralistic city, many gods.  As were all of these, back in the day.  It was also known for a library that housed roughly 2,000 scrolls.  That was a lot of books back in that day.  Pergamum was a “culturally relevant” city.  It had a 10,000 seat amphitheater, where they would have plays and gather together.  The most impressive temple they had was the temple to Caesar, where people would come and bow, and they would participate in what was called the ‘imperial cult,’ which was the worship of the Roman emperor.  This was very common in Pergamum.  Pergamum, being the capital of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor, had a right that was absent from many of the other cities that we’ve studied thus far.  They were able to exact capital punishment on behalf of the Roman Empire.  No other city in this region could do that.  Often the way that that happened was by way of the sword.

So, you have this city…..this city that’s built on pluralism.  Rome saying, “What’s one more god?  Just worship one more god.”  A city that’s, in many ways, revolving around Caesar worship, has this other god, Asclepius, which was the god of healing.  He was personified by snakes.  In the temple of Pergamum, there would be a number of snakes on the ground.  The way that you were healed by this god was that you would go down and you would lie on the floor of the temple and all of the snakes would slither over you.  So it’s no coincidence that because this god was worshipped in Pergamum, their coin reflected it.  You can still see that crest of the serpent on the Royal Army Medical Corps crest today.  That’s why.

This is Pergamum, so it’s no coincidence that this is the city where capital punishment was allowed on behalf of the Roman Empire.  If you went against Rome, that’s what you got.  And it’s no coincidence that Jesus opens his letter with:  The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.   He goes hey, you want to talk about swords?  You want to talk about power?  You want to talk about empire?  You want to talk about influence?  He says I have power and I have influence, but it’s not the kind of sword that kills.  It’s the kind of sword that pierces to the heart and redeems.  Let’s talk about two kinds of power, Jesus says.  And that’s his intro.  And that’s this church.  Just sort of anecdotally. . . . .because Pergamum had that big hill in the back, it was an easily defensible city.  Back in the days of Alexander and beyond, it was the city that housed 9,000 talents of gold, which is roughly $11.5 billion of gold, today.  It was sort of the Fort Knox of the early world.  That’s who Jesus is writing to.

If you’ve been here over the last few weeks, you’ll remember that typically the way that Jesus writes these letters is by beginning with something really, really good that the church is doing.  He transitions into something that he’s calling them to correct.  He moves on to an instruction he’s giving specifically to the church he’s writing to.  It’s the same pattern he follows here in this passage.  Revelation 2:13 — I know where you dwell,  {Literally, this word ‘dwell’ would mean that you have your permanent home in this place.  You’re not a sojourner, you’re not an alien, you’re not just passing through. This is where you live “permanently.”}  …where Satan’s throne is.  Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.   {Now, look up at me for just a moment.}  Do you think it’s any coincidence that Rome has its seat of power of Asia Minor in Pergamum and Jesus says, “This is where Satan has his throne?”  Not a trick question.  Absolutely NOT a coincidence!  One of the things we do when we read the Scriptures is we typically bring an image and we bring baggage to the text that is often stories we’ve heard.  When I read ‘Satan,’ I imagine a demonic figure with pointy ears and a red pointy tail and has a pitchfork in his hand.  Jesus goes well actually, Satan (or ‘the satan,’ Hasatan) is a lot more like the Roman Empire than he is like a demon with a pitchfork.  Don’t let anybody ever tell you that the Bible doesn’t confront and deal with things like systemic injustice, or racism, or empires that put people down and abuse those who are on the lowest rungs of their society.  Jesus has very, very strong words for this empire, so strong that he says that they’re Satan.  There’s power, there’s this demonic power, behind the rise of this empire and they are just destroying the lives of people.  There’s a spiritual power and authority behind corrupt and abusive empires.  That’s what Jesus says.

Then he says something else that’s fascinating.  You dwell there.  You live in the lion’s den, church of Pergamum.  What I want to read is ‘and I’m coming to get you.’  Help is on the way!  But that’s not what he says.  He says you dwell there and you’ve been faithful.  Good for you.  You’ve been faithful even to the point of death.  Here’s what I want us to just lean into today….it’s a difficult truth in the Scriptures, but this is what Jesus is teaching us.  God designed us to influence the darkness, not to escape the uncomfortable.  God designed us to influence the darkness, to impact evil, not to escape the uncomfortable.  I don’t know about you, but escape sounds a lot better and easier some days.  Is anybody with me?  Like, if we could just pull the rip cord and get out of the furnace, that’s typically the choice that we would make.  I love the way Eugene Peterson, the great pastor and author, puts it:  “The church is designed to be the colony of heaven in the midst of the empire.”  The people of God—surrounded by evil, and pain, and abuse, and coercion, and corruption, and loss.  Think about it.  This is God’s plan from the very beginning.  This is the way he operates all throughout the Scriptures.  That Abram, in Genesis 12—go back and read it this week—is called out of his “world,” to be a voice of hope and blessing back into his world.  But Abraham’s only a blessing if he stands distinct, if he’s different.  He’s not a blessing if he looks exactly like all the people who are worshipping a myriad of different gods and idolatry in his society.  He’s a blessing if he has a voice back in.

God’s design for you and I is that his church would be a redemptive community, standing distinct from but passionate for, his world.  Different, but passionate for.  It’s easy to be different and against, isn’t it?  We’re different and we’re loud and we’ll tell you exactly how we’re different. . . .and how you’re wrong.  Or, it’s easy to be for, right?  To just be a part of, just going along with it, whatever.  More water in that coffee, right?  But to be distinct from, but passionately for, that’s the calling of the church.  I think the Apostle Peter says it really, really well when he says this:   But you are a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)   You’re different so that you can speak back into and be a voice, passionate change, and life, and love, and goodness, and wholeness.  William Barclay, the great commentator, writes this:  “The person who is not prepared to be different ned not start on the Christian way at all.”  Oh man, not a lot of tattoos of that one these days.  That’s something we go, oh man, we know that the Scriptures say that, but that can be hard to live sometimes, can’t it?

Well, it was hard for the church at Pergamum, too.  Verse 14 — But I have a few things against you. . .  {Quick time out.  He says well, you’re standing up to Satan, which seems like quite the accomplishment, but I have a few things against you.  We can survive some of the massive onslaughts of faith, but it’s the little things that start to creep in, isn’t it?  You’ve stood up to Satan, but there’s some other areas that you’re starting to drift.  Just a little bit more water.}  …you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.  So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.  There’s this word play going on between this word ‘Balaam,’ which means ‘to lord over,’ in Hebrew, and ‘the Nicolaitans,’ which means ‘lorded over.’  Most scholars think he’s talking about the same group of people, and he uses this story from the Old Testament about Balaam to illustrate his point.   If you want to read more about Balaam, I’d encourage you to read Number 25-29, but let me give you the CliffNotes version of that story, because it’s really important to the context of what Jesus is writing to the church about.

Balaam was a prophet.  He was a prophet for hire.  Balak was the King of Midian and he hired him to cast a bad curse over the people of God, over the Israelites.  Balaam said to Balak, “I can only prophesy what God said.”  If God gives a blessing, I can give it.  If God gives a curse, I can give it, but I can’t come up with anything on my own.  Balak tells him great, do your work.  Balaam stands up and prophesies this beautiful blessing over the people of Israel.  Balak’s like, hey, I’m paying you to curse these people, not to bless them.  How ’bout we go for round 2?  Balaam says, “Okay, but I can only do what God wants me to do.”  He does the exact same thing again.  Beautiful blessing over the people of God.  Balak’s like, “I want my money back!”  What Balaam says is you’re making this way to difficult.  You don’t need to curse the people of God; get the most beautiful women you have and go have them do a dance in front of the men of Israel, and they will fall in love with them, and they will want to marry them.  Eventually, they will be worshipping your gods.  You’ll win them over through their affection for your women and eventually they’ll be destroyed because of their idolatry.  Balak thinks it’s a good idea and does it.  It worked.  It’s a tale as old as time, though, really.  You look at King Solomon’s trajectory in his life. . . it’s the very thing that gets him off as well.

The Nicolaitans, in this day and time, were sort of a group that was reflective or similar to Balaam.  They had a similar tactic.  Their tactic was hey, Christians, it’s no big deal if you go to the temple and visit a temple prostitute.  It’s no big deal if you bow the knee to Caesar; what’s one god in addition to Yahweh, the True God.  It’s. No. Big. Deal.  They stood up to Satan and they were starting to be destroyed by the Nicolaitans.  The Nicolaitans argued that God’s more concerned about your spiritual life than he is your body.  Do whatever you want with your physical body, as long as worship God.  In the ancient world, it was this heresy, this untruth, called dualism.  Do whatever you want with your body, as long as you continue to worship and your spirit is healthy.  What Christians have believed, and what Christians have ALWAYS believed, is that we are integrated beings.  We are holistic people.  We can’t be completely unhealthy and going against the stream of what our convictions say on a physical level, and healthy spiritually.  That cannot happen.  That cannot be.  Followers of Jesus have a far more complex and connected and unified understanding of what it means to be human.  It ALL matters!  Our bodies matter.  Our sexuality matters.  Our thoughts matter.  Matter matters.  We’ve been accused of being, and I think rightfully so, the most materialistic religion in the world.  We say it matters.  It ALL matters.

If we begin with this. . . . .Jesus calls us to live sometimes in the lion’s den.  He calls us to influence the darkness, not to escape the uncomfortable.  We have to recognize that the next domino to drop is that potential for influence brings opportunity for compromise.  Potential for influence, by definition, because we want to influence the darkness, we want to influence evil, we want to love in the face of people pushing it back against us, has the greatest opportunity for compromise.  Think about it — when you’re in an argument with your spouse. . . . That’s what we call it as followers of Jesus.  It’s not a fight. . . .it’s a disagreement, okay?  In that moment, there’s an opportunity either for influence or for compromise.  Will I continue to love even when it’s difficult?  When you’re faced with an opportunity at work to maybe cut a few corners, get ahead, and everybody else is doing it, you have in that moment the opportunity to either influence people towards integrity, towards good, towards honesty, or to compromise.  The more opportunities we have to influence, the greater the pressure will be to compromise.  Right?  This is what we see happening in this world.

Notice the two things that are compromised:   You’re eating food sacrificed to idols, or you’re going in the way of idolatry, AND you’re practicing sexual immorality.  Now, let’s lay this over the teachings of Jesus.  Jesus taught that there are two greatest commands.  In fact, if you want to keep every other command, just keep these two and by definition, the others will fall underneath it.  Love God and love others.  The interesting part about what happened in the church at Pergamum is their compromise. . . . they’re sort of taking a little bit of water to what God had intended them to live and just saying we’ll just have a little of our culture in here and we’ll just add a little bit of this.  They went contrary to the two greatest commands Jesus had given them.  Love God. . . .and they started to practice idolatry.  Love others. . . .and they started to use other people.  That’s the opposite of love.  It’s not typically adverse hatred, it’s typically I’m going to use you in order to get what I really want.  Which is what sexual immorality is, because God designed us to live lives of love, to live lives of fidelity, to live lives of commitment and covenant.  When we go against that, we go against the very DNA of the way God has designed us to live.

If a person wrongs me, I have the opportunity either for influence or compromise.  Will I forgive in the way of Jesus and stay true and have an integrity of my soul to say this is the way that I want to live, or will I retaliate?  When I get in an argument with my spouse, is it influence or is it compromise?  We could go through a ton of different examples.  I think Jesus is saying that there’s more than one way for Satan to defeat you.   It can either be an overt attack—like a roaring lion looking for someone to destroy.  Or, maybe a little more like a Trojan horse, that just sneaks in and becomes a part of your life and eventually you realize that there’s an enemy in it, and you’ve cozied up to it.  Your convictions, and your ideals, and your beliefs eventually are starting to get pushed more and more and more to the peripheral of who you are.

I was reading about this interesting “study” that was done by the TV show, Candid Camera.  They did this study. . . .this was back a number of decades ago, where they had three actors.  They would wait for somebody to get into an elevator and then they would open it on the next floor.  All three of the actors would get in and face against the back door.  The person was sort of like, “What in the world is going on here?”  The next floor, there was one more person (an actor as well) who would get in and look at the back door also.  Every single person that found themselves in the elevator eventually turned around.

I don’t know about you, but when Jesus talks about freeing our lives from anger, sometimes it’s easier to turn around and go with the flow, isn’t it?  That’s just a part of living.  When Jesus talks about forgiving our enemies, can’t it just be way easier to compromise?  When Jesus talks about a sexual ethic that’s built around fidelity, that’s built around honor, that’s built around covenant, isn’t it easier to just go with the way that it seems like everything else is going?  Isn’t it easier to turn around?  I think the truth of the matter is, friends, that the greatest danger in the Christian life is not that we’d lose our faith, but that we’d synchronize it with everything going on in our culture.  Jesus plus it.  Jesus plus whatever sort of makes me feel good.  If you’re wrestling with that today, let me try to get into the DNA of compromise.  The DNA of how we start to live contrary to our ideals.  No man who cheats on his wife ever thinks, “You know, that’s what I planned when I stood at the altar.”  No one!  No one who gets caught stealing money from their company ever thought that’s where they’d get to or where they’d be.  It always, ALWAYS, carries this burden of I never thought life would be like that.  Maybe, just maybe, God will use this Scripture as a word for you today to say, “You’ve turned around but it’s not too late.”

I saw this “Babylon Bee” article that I thought just beautifully summarized what we’re talking about today.  The “Babylon Bee” is a parody, a satire, a Christian blog.  They wrote:  Man Bravely Abandons Unpopular Christian Belief to Affirm Extremely Popular Belief.  I thought yeah, yeah.  I think in many ways we’re guilty, right?

Here’s how compromise begins:  We minimize.  We go well, it’s really not that big of a deal.  For a follower of Christ it’s like God’s way is one way, but it may not be the only way.  We minimize.  The next thing that happens is we theorize.  Typically it looks like — God’s greatest goal is my ultimate happiness.  Then the equation in our mind is X will make me happy, therefore God must want  for me, therefore I should do it.  Even if I can’t find anything in the Scriptures that would back up my perspective, I’m theorizing.  Here’s another way it sometimes looks — There’s exceptions to every rule. . . .and I’m the exception!  Finally, we rationalize.  Sometimes we even rationalize after the fact.  It’s:  I blew it, so who cares.  No one else in my company does anything ethically anyway, so why should I?  No big deal; it’s just a little glance, it’s just a little click on that website, it’s just a little. . . .no big deal.  Eventually this minimize/theorize/rationalize leads to—this is why Jesus is so passionate about writing to his church going, “You guys, wake up!  You’re letting everything infiltrate and you’re not influencing. Wake up!”  This is Jesus’s heart.  You’re walking down a road that eventually is going to lead to your death.  And I don’t want that for you, he says.  I’ve designed you for better.  I’ve designed you for more.

Then he has this beautiful word.  It may be one of the most beautiful words in all of the Scriptures.  Therefore repent.  (Rev. 2:16)  You’ve turned around.  You’re along with everybody else now, but repent means literally ‘to change your mind,’ or ‘to turn around.’  It’s not too late.  Regardless of how far you’ve walked down that path, it’s not too late.    Therefore repent.  If not, I will come to you soon and war against them {These are the people who are in with the Nicolaitans.} with the sword of my mouth.  I will convict of sin.  I will point towards righteousness.  I will call home. . . .come on, you guys, come on!  Then he gives this great promise.

So that’s the command, right?  We’ve walked through Jesus’s commendation, Jesus’s condemnation, Jesus’s instruction, repent.  Then there’s this promise that comes and oh my goodness, it’s awesome!  He who has an ear, {If you’re here this morning and you’re going maybe that’s me. . . . .maybe there’s like a disproportionate amount of the world and faith in my life.  He’s going okay, okay, great, great, listen up!}  …let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who conquers. . .  Or, to the one who overcomes, or to the one who’s victorious.  Let’s stop there.  In this instance, what does it mean to conquer?  It means to stay true to who you are as a follower of Christ.  It means to stay true to the two greatest commands — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love others as yourself.  To not bow the knee to another god, and to not use people instead of loving people, that’s what it means.  Jesus goes, to the one who turns, to the one who repents, to the one who comes back. . . .and is therefore, because they did that, victorious.  Here’s what he’s saying:  devoted commitment guards against destructive compromise.  The best thing you can do. . . .if you’re going man, I’m worried if I’m walking down that path of adding just a little bit more water into my coffee.  I’m worried about that.  Jesus would say here’s the anecdote, here’s what to do.  You don’t need to dissect every little thing, just bow and worship.  Just come to my throne.  Just submit your life.  Just surrender.  That’s what victory looks like.

I read this story about a 12-year-old girl who was in class, and she was eating chicken nuggets.  This boy looked at her and said, “Hey, give me one of those.”  She said, “No way!”  The boy followed her down to the subway, took a gun out, put it to her head and said, “Give me some of those nuggets.”  She slapped the gun away and said, “Absolutely not!”  I’m like, holy nuggets, Batman, right?  I thought what would it look like to be a follower of Jesus to be THAT convinced of my convictions?  Don’t let a 12-year-old girl and her nuggets outdo you!

As you live the devoted life, here’s what’s going to happen:  …I will give some of the hidden manna.   You could read this as sustenance, as life, as bread, as goodness, as Jesus himself.  So, as you live a devoted life, you are going to be filled up with life abundant, spiritual sustenance, to continue to keep you going along the way.  Jesus said this in John 4:34 — My food {The thing that fills me up.} is to do the will of him who sent me.   Here’s what we see in this passage and others all throughout the Scriptures:  Obedience reveals unseen sustenance. Maybe the reason that you’re struggling in your life with Jesus is because you’re resisting the way of Jesus.  You’re resisting obedience to Him.  You’re saying, just a little more water, that’s fine, no big deal.  Jesus says, oh man, if you just let me, I would fill you up time and time and time again, but I will not fill somebody who’s living contrary to my way.  I can’t do it.  I can’t give you gasoline in your car, if you’re going to drive it off the cliff.  I can’t do it.

Here’s the second thing He says:  …and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.   Back in the first century, they used white stones for a number of things.  One of them was if you were on a jury, you would take a white stone if you wanted to vote for somebody to be innocent.  There would be a jar that you would drop it in and you’d be saying that you were casting your vote for innocence.  The other usage was for an entrance to an Olympic game.  You’d get a white stone as almost a ticket.  See this imagery Jesus is painting?  It’s brilliant.  You’re innocent.  You’re in.

But he also says that there’s a new name written on it.  What’s fascinating about that is these little stones were something the people in the ancient world would carry around in their pocket.  They’d write the name of a god on them.  It was sort of like a charm, a way to say ‘May this god protect me.’  Jesus reverses that a little bit and says instead of writing my name of that stone, I’m going to write YOUR name on that stone as a reminder of who you really are.  Church of Pergamum, quit running contrary to the way of love, to the way of Jesus, to the way of fidelity, to the way of honesty, to the way of integrity.  Quit running against that.  Quit compromising.  Instead, may your fidelity, may your trust in Jesus, expose a new identity.  A new name.  Like Abram becoming Abraham.  Like Jacob becoming Israel.  Like Saul becoming Paul.  This would remind us who we really are.  I don’t know where you’re at with Jesus today, and I don’t know if you’ve been living in this place of adding a little bit more water, but I do know his invitation this morning is come home.  You’ve turned around, come home.  That invitation is always open, if you are still breathing, if you’re still longing. . . . . .come home!  What I’m convinced of today is that in all the things that we’ve said, and in all the ways that we’ve unpacked the Scriptures, the most powerful thing you can take away from this is maybe, just maybe, hearing a whisper of what that name is over your life today.

The name Pergamum means ‘married.’  This new name is this picture of commitment, it’s this picture of covenant.  {Ryan points out the bowls of white pebbles.}  Here’s what your invitation to practice is this week.  I’m going to invite you to come and get a white rock.  During this song, I’m going to ask that you prayerfully consider. . . .you can kneel on the stairs, or at your seat, or you can stand or sit and sing. . . .would you ask that Jesus just speak a word over your soul today?  Of who you really are.  Maybe it’s the word beloved.  Maybe it’s the word pure.  Maybe you’re feeling weak today and his word over you is strong or warrior.  Would you ask, “Jesus, what’s my name?  Help me live with integrity in line with who you say I am.”  We live in the place of influence, friends, all around us, which means that there’s temptation for compromise.  Let’s remind ourselves who God is and who we are, that we might live all the more for him, for our joy and for the glory of his name.  Let’s pray.

Jesus, we want to be the kind of people who live true to who you say we are.  We want to love you and we want to love others; we don’t want to bow to other things and use other people.  Lord, we want to live with integrity, to the deepest parts of our being.  So, Lord, remind us this morning what you say about us and may what you say about us drive how we live in your world.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.