We all know the story of Paul and how as an upright Jew, he followed the law and outlandishly persecuted the church. It’s easy to look at him and pass either a quick judgment of “Paul, how could you do such a thing”, or take a big sigh of relief that he “finally saw the light”. If you read his epistles you will come to find that he is pleading with the different churches to not follow in his former footsteps. He speaks to the Corinthians of not succumbing to the sinful practices that were infiltrating Corinth. He speaks to the Galatians, calling them foolish, and he is amazed how quickly they are going back to their old habits of worldliness, urging them to walk by the Spirit and bear one another’s burdens. He speaks to the Ephesians, praying for God to give them wisdom and a spirit of revelation in the knowledge of him (Ephesians 1:17); and again in Philippians, Colossians, and 1st and 2nd Thessalonians he continues to emphasize a newness in Christ, and as imitators of Christ how we are to live and love not only one another but the world. Have you ever stopped to think why it is that the Church today is in such turmoil? Yes, there are lots of awesome things God is working out through his church, but we have a very long way to go. It starts very simply with us. How we treat each other inside our own church walls speaks volumes. It reveals our hearts. What are we saying when we open our mouths? Are we brining glory to God with our words, or are we smearing his face in the mud. It’s like a smear campaign if you think about it. Whenever we say a hurtful thing about another, about a ministry, about a group of people, we are persecuting the church; and worse yet, we are doing it to those who we come together with every week and claim the name of Christ with. Brother’s and Sister’s let me just say this; none of us arrive, we all fall short, and are only held up by the grace of God that he bestows on each of us every day. I know we are all hurt and broken and need restoration; which is found in Christ Alone. We must constantly re-evaluate our lives and make sure our time with God, to know him more, to hunger for him more, comes first. I’d like to encourage you to take some time and read some if not all, of Paul’s epistles, and when you do, ask God to speak to you, to point things out that you need to know and learn. Seek illumination and transformation from his Word, not just information; Information is useless unless it changes us. Also, pray for your church and the global church daily. Your pastor’s need your prayers, your volunteers and staff does also. We are His body, we are to be a spotless bride; and even though we will never be perfect till we get the other side, there is so much love that we can learn and give to others. Seek out the wisdom that is in The Word; seek holiness and purity of heart; for this is what God desires of each one of us. May that be our prayer today and every day. Father, I ask that you point out and convict each one of us when we persecute your church by the way we live, by the words we speak, by anything that does not please you. Teach us your ways, illuminate your word, and grow us in Christ likeness. Lord, we surrender every area of our live to you today, we ask you to do a transforming work in our hearts; revive our hearts and set us on fire for your purposes. May we be changed, and may that change flow out of us so others will see you for who you are, and not for what we make you so many times. We ask forgiveness, we seek repentance, and a changed heart. Thank you for loving us and never leaving us or forsaking us. We pray all of this in your Holy Name Jesus, Amen.