Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 3)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 3)

To the Church in Smyrna

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

Jesus declares to the Church in Smyrna that He is aware of their struggles. Poverty, and slander by those according to the synagogue of Satan. This title, given to “those who say that they are Jews and are not . . .” should be to us a warning. You see this was written at a time when the Church was still meeting in the synagogues and Jews were still very much interested in the teachings of Jesus. However, this particular group was not even recognized as Jews for their hearts were far from God. It reminds me of 2 Timothy 3:5; “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” This can very easily apply to many in the Church today. 

This passage as a whole fly’s in the face of those who would preach a prosperity gospel. Clearly, this group is about to suffer some tremendous tribulations. Yet, they are instructed to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Now to us, many followers of the Way are struggling in poverty, although they are rich, rich in perhaps faith, or rich in a way, as to be, not nearly as poverty-stricken as many others around the world. Regardless, it is easy to see that our prosperity will come with the crown of life. The reality of these Churches should reveal that yes some in prosper in ways others don’t. Still, other Churches will be successful while others struggle. For reasons that will be revealed only after this life. We aren’t called to worry about such things, only that we remain faithful with what we are given for as long as we are alive!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the Seven Churches (Part 2)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (Part 2)

Ephesus was considered a great city in its day. The Capital City of the Roman province known as Asia Minor, it was also rich in culture and a center for commerce. Ephesus was also a religious hub including a sect known as Christians or at the time, “followers of the Way.” It just so happens it is our first stop on our tour of the seven Churches written about in Revelation. As i stated last week i believe the Churches written about in Revelation are both, historical, as they were written to, as well as, future, they will be present throughout history and even at the time of Jesus’ return. As you read through these letters, my hope is that you will see yourself and if called to repent, you will do so! If encouraged, you would be so! If challenged, you would live so!

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.” Revelation 2:1

Very clearly from the start, we read that Jesus is an active participant in the churches. He desires to lead, but we must be willing to listen and to follow.

I know your works, your toil, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” Revelation 2:2-3

What high praise! They are diligent in their work, toil, patience, they disdain evil, they test those who teach to ensure they are truly of the Way. In all this, they have not grown weary. Wow, this is definitely all good things! Yet, still, Jesus desires something of them:

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5 (5 in part)

Here we read and learn that the journey that we are on has moments of running hot and cold. Like in our own relationships with others, there are times that we are really connected and times we are aloof. It appears the church in Ephesus was in a period of “going through the motions” they lost the reason and significance of what they were doing! The work was there the passion was not! They became more about the task than about the person of Jesus! At this, they are called to repent! To return to their first love and the love they had at first. Can you remember when you first followed Jesus? The desire to know Him more and more intimately. Your love at first ran HOT! Where are you now? Do you know why you do what you do or do you do because you have simply always done? There is a warning! A call to repentance! So there must be a reason and here it is:

 “If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” Revelation 2:5 (5 in part)

He isn’t just speaking to fill the air with His voice! There is a reason and that reason is holiness! Yes, we are covered in the blood of Jesus and made holy in Him! But that does not give us a license to live outside of holiness. We must rise above, through the power of the Holy Spirit and live as called.

Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:6

The Nicolaitans were apparently a group calling themselves “Christians” or “Followers of the Way” but obviously they were only fooling themselves. Can you think of groups of folks calling themselves Christian today and teaching and doing falsely? We need to be alert and we, like the Lord, must hate their works, for they are doing more harm than good as they lead astray those that are not rooted in Truth!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Revelation 2:7 ESV

Do you have ears? Then hear and listen! Become a conquerer, and on that day Jesus appoints you will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter your rest.” You will enjoy the fruit of your labor from the tree of life in the paradise of God!

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the Seven Churches (Part 1)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (Part 1)

“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write, therefore, the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:17-20

It is understood by most biblical scholars that the references to the seven churches are both referring to churches of John’s day and churches that will be present throughout the ages to the return of Christ. Many, however, believe that each church represents a particular church throughout history. i do not share that belief; instead, i share the previous idea that these churches were present, and are present, and will be present, upon Jesus’ return. In other words, there is a remnant of each of the seven churches today. Therefore, one should ask of themselves, “What church best represents me,” and then heed the warning!

Over the next several weeks, we will be exploring the various letters to the churches found in the book of Revelation chapters two and three. Each week will be dedicated to a particular church. It should be of great importance to us what John has recorded as he received the instruction of Jesus: 

“Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philidelphia and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:11

The message to the churches is beyond essential and even more so as we see the time drawing nearer of our Lord’s return. We are called to “look up” be “watchful” and “stay prepared,” or “vigilant” and yet many of us sleep or are genuinely unprepared for the day of the Lord. So, i say, WAKE UP! For the time is quickly approaching when Jesus will return, and all these things will come to pass, do not be caught outside looking in but heed the warning and be sure that your lamp oil is full!

You are loved,

cj

With Fear and Trembling

With Fear and Trembling

When we are told in Philippians by Paul to “Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling,” doesn’t that fly in the face of “Fear not, for I am with you?” from Isaiah 41? This week i want to explore the thought that Paul raises in Philippians 2:12-13 about working out our own salvation, what does that mean? Well, i can tell you what it doesn’t mean, it doesn’t mean or even imply a works based salvation. It does not intend to put undue hardship on others, or ourselves for that matter . . . It does mean we need to take ownership of our journey. He will not contradict His Word, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, however, my journey of salvation may look very different than yours.

We are told in Proverbs 9 that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This word for fear could be translated, respect. We are to respect the Lord, how does one show respect? By honoring them, listening to them, serving them, and obeying them, to name a few. But what about trembling? Well, it actually means to tremble. Have you ever seen the movie the Wizard of Oz? When Dorthy, Scarecrow, Tinman, and Lion, finally get an audience with the Wizard they enter with fear and trembling. They have a great deal of respect for the Wizard of Oz and how he has presented himself to them. This is an excellent picture of the meaning, “fear and trembling.” Now that you have the picture, God is not the Wizard of Oz; He is the creator of the Universe! Paul is making a distinction here that we often overlook because, well, “grace” and “God is Love.” However, He is still the creator of the Universe, and He is the one who will sit on the Throne during the judgment and separate the sheep from the goats.

So yes, we are to think about our salvation! Are we living as Jesus instructed us? Are we being obedient? The next verse 2:13 says, “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Isn’t that comforting? The creator of the Universe loves us so much, He is at work within us, giving us the ability to do and act in obedience. “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13. It isn’t impossible to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling when we know that the Living God is at work with us! We simply need to be obedient to His leading, and responsive to His prompting to do according to His good and perfect will.

You are loved,

cj

Longingly

Longingly

Yesterday my youngest son came home from being away since Christmas. i was so anxious to see him, i kept watching for him through the window of the doors in the back of the Church as i was in a prayer meeting. i was totally distracted! As we were sitting there the question was asked, “how much does God love you?” As those who shared said many great things i couldn’t help but think that God, loves me even more than i love my son. He waits, longs and looks for me to come through the doors. And, when i do, like i did when my son walked in, He gets up and embraces me.

He being, omnipresent, has this desire for each one of us. He can’t wait to embrace me, you, us, and looks longingly for us to approach Him. Just look at the story of the prodigal son, it is a reflection of God’s relationship with us when we return to right our relationship with Him. The wedding banquet is another image of His desire to be with us. i think about how much i love my children and how every time they come to visit or stay with us how i wait longingly for their arrival. Then i think Jesus, loves me even more than that! How much more does He long for me?! It is incredibly humbling. Here are some Words from Scripture, if you are feeling unloved or lost, or if you just need to be reminded that the Father in Heaven looks longingly for you!

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-31

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God, Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

You are love,

cj

Best by Far Moments

Best by Far Moments

There are several life lessons i have had a chance to bestow upon my 5-month-old grandson. Yes, he is only five months. But still. i have taken the Norwegian name for grandpa, bestefar. my words of wisdom to him are known as “best by far moments with bestefar.” So far he has been told about:

  1. Only always Jesus!
  2. Throwing fits are not appropriate responses to being upset.
  3. Some people are gonna make you mad, you love them anyway.
  4. Work hard at everything you do, even when you think no one is watching, someone is always watching.
  5. Enjoy every moment you can, cry, laugh, listen, be present!
  6. Don’t think that you know everything, someone always knows more, whether they do or not; yet, know your stuff so that you can discern truth from lies and remain teachable.

The starting points for these lessons come from Psalm 1 . . .

“What delight comes to the one who follows God’s ways! He won’t walk in step with the wicked, nor share the sinner’s way, nor be found sitting in the scorner’s seat. His pleasure and passion is remaining true to the Word of ‘I Am,’ meditating day and night in the true revelation of light. He will be standing firm like a flourishing tree planted by God’s design, deeply rooted by the brooks of bliss, bearing fruit in every season of his life. He is never dry, never fainting, ever blessed, ever prosperous. But how different are the wicked. All they are is dust in the wind-driven away do destruction! the wicked will not endure the day of judgment, for God will not defend them. Nothing they do will succeed or endure for long, for they have no part with those who walk in truth. But how different it is for the righteous! The Lord embraces their paths as they move forward while the way of the wicked leads only to doom.”

These lessons are good for all of us and i am still learning to walk in them each day.

You are loved,

cj

In the beginning . . .

In the beginning . . .

“Once upon a time…” Many children’s stories begin this way. Star Wars, begins each of its movies with the tag line, “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…” Every great story has a great catch, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, if it doesn’t grab your attention, it’s hard to follow along much after. The Bible is often referred to as the good book, or the greatest book ever written! i know i am about to play semantics but to be 100% factual the Bible isn’t one book, but a collection of 66 books, written by some 40 different authors, over a thousandish years. Now think about that for a minute. So, the next time someone says the Bible is a boring book, you could start there as you express the idea that maybe they try reading it differently.

Unlike all other books the Bible, a collection of books is alive, it is a living breathing story of an Infinite God, who desires to reclaim His creation that once was good. Restoring that once intimate relationship He shared with those He placed in the garden. It is a dramatic story full of good versus evil. Read to the end we see that good does eventually conquer evil, but for a time it appears as though darkness and evil prevail. It has love letters and poetry, songs and instruction, wisdom and history, and it is chalked full of great mystery. As well as many of our catchphrases or slang terms are actually right from the Books of the Bible; “By the skin of their teeth,” “Jumpin Jehosaphat!” “Doubting Thomas,” “Drop in the bucket,” “A House Divided,” “Scapegoat,” and “To Everything, There is a Season,” just to name a few.

Earlier i mentioned tag lines or opening phases to catch the readers attention. Here are a few of those:

In the beginning God . . .” Genesis 1:1 Eckoed later in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word . . .”

May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.” Song of Solomon 1:2

The Word of the Lord . . .” Many books begin this way.

Explore the living, breathing, Word of God and let it breathe life into you today!

You are Loved,

cj