~~Alexander Hamilton to John Laurens, August 15, 1782
For those of you who may have taken the time (about 30 minutes) to watch the video I posted a while back ago, you may remember that I pointed out that one of the speakers heard from was Paris Reidhead, who in his younger years, served as a missionary to the African nation of Sudan, in the early half of the 20th century. The selection in the video (which is called "The Revival Hymn") was from his most famous sermon "Ten Shekels and a Shirt," preached in the mid-1960s at Bethany Fellowship Summer Conference. He himself described how he was led to preach what he preached:
I remember praying, "This morning I am utterly cast upon You because I am not really prepared." In my heart I seemed to hear His response, "Well is that so bad, already" (being from New York City it was given in a idiom I would understand.)I would encourage you to listen to the full audio of this sermon, or to read the text. He preached it forty years ago, but it is still all too relevant today. God is speaking to the Church of Christ in America today -- by and large, it is the message that He gave to the Church in Laodicea -- and His message hasn't changed.
I delivered the message and gave an invitation. Shortly the altar across the front of the auditorium was filled with broken people seeking God.
The summer conference was soon over and I returned to New York City and the ministry there.
About ten years later, one of the Bethany Fellowship staff was in Washington, D.C., where we had moved and from where we still minister. His word was, "Paris, I want to tell you that God has repeatedly used your messages, but the exact message itself was preached only that once.
A week or two later Harry Conn from Rockford, Illinois was in Washington. He invited me to have dinner with him. In the course of the meal he said, "I buy that message of yours 'Ten Shekels and a Shirt' by the dozen to give people. God is really using it in lives." My response was that if you have a copy, I would like to have it sent to me so that I can find out what it is I have said. In a few days the cassette arrived.
Since I don't have a tape player in my office, I put the tape into the Sony dictating machine on my desk and listened through the little playback on the hand-held microphone. The element of distance in terms of time, and the distorted sound through the miniature speaker, let me listen to the message with no real awareness of who was speaking. From time to time I felt like exclaiming, "That's right! I wish I had said that!"
Then it dawned on me that it was my voice, but God was speaking through me. I realized that on a Tuesday morning during a summer conference, God had been able to get His message across because of my utter and complete helplessness. Here it is, just as the Lord gave it.
Paris Reidhead (How Ten Shekels and a Shirt Came to Be)
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,The history of Laodicea sheds considerable light on this passage. It was one of the most wealthy and prosperous cities in the Lycus Valley of Asia Minor (Turkey). The prosperous trades of banking, textile manufactures, and eye salve had made the city dwellers feel secure in their wealth and prosperity. The Church in Laodicea had also settled into the apethy of momentary material security, as this letter to the church indicates. How notable it is, that of the seven churches whom Jesus addressed in this first portion of Revelation, Laodicea receives no praise from Christ in any way. They had become so secure in their wealth, and so distracted by pleasure, that Christ no longer meant anything to them, other than as a religious appendage to their lives.
"These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:
'I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' -- and you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and while garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock.If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.
To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
While not all churches in America fall under this description, many American "Christians" do. It is the only thing that can account for the fact that 86% of the American population professes Christianity (only an 13% difference from the profession of the American population in 1776) but our country has become a byword among other nations for its flagrant immorality.
Now don't get me wrong. Material prosperity is not evil. The tendency of human nature to worship blessings and not the Giver is where the sin lies. However, we Christians have no excuse. First of all, as Christians, we are supposed to be saved from our sinful nature, by the blood of Jesus, and by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Second of all, we have all of human history behind us to give us repeated warning of the dangers of such complacency. But we have ignored the Holy Spirit and history in our churches for so long.
Perhaps it is not too late, but God must refine us like silver.
(See my next post for Scriptures which apply).