Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

Greetings to the Seven Churches (part 8)

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.‘” Revelation 3:14

Laodicea, although on the banks of the river Lycus, it appears either the river ran underground or wasn’t always a steady flow as Laodicea is known for having an aqueduct system. The aqueduct brought water from a hot spring about five miles away and so it is believed that by the time the water reached the city itself, it was lukewarm or tepid. Laodicea isn’t just known for its appearance here in Revelation but is also mentioned in Paul’s writings to the Colossians. Which Colossea wasn’t too far away from Laodicea.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ” Revelation 3:15-16

There are two popular interpretations of this verse above. One is that being hot or cold, or on fire for the Lord, zealous even, was far greater than being lukewarm and that God would rather one not even say they believe but be cold entirely than to say they believe but do so in a lukewarm manner. The second idea of popular interpretation is using the concept of the aqueduct. Hot water is useful, it is suitable for sanitizing, cooking, even drinking; as is cold water good for many things, especially for being satisfying on a hot day. So whether one was cold or hot, neither better than the other but rather equally useful is better than being tepid or lukewarm. Have you ever been hot and go to get a drink of cold water only to find out it’s tepid and you spit it out? That is what is being described here, the lukewarm will be spit out of the mouth of God.

What brings one to the point of being lukewarm in faith? Is it contentment, and not the contentment Paul refers to when saying, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances.” (Philippians 4:11) But perhaps an overestimation of one’s well being? Here in Revelation 3:17, John will address the why or how the lukewarmness has taken hold.

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Revelation 3:17

Does this at all sound like the western church of today? We are content in our riches! We have broadway stage productions every Sunday in countless churches across the country to appeal to the desire of man. Smile and seek wealth and prosperity because that is God’s desire for you, is being preached by more and more “pastor’s.” When in reality we need to see that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked . . . We need a Saviour. We need to realize that it is far more critical that we spread the gospel than build a new center. That our riches are not in earthly possesions but in heavenly treasure. Here are the words the Lord advises us here to do:

“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:18-19

Again, let me remind us that this is being written to the church. This should both be alarming and comforting. If you find yourself in a state in which you have grown content in your riches, there is hope, and there is life, and there is grace if we respond.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:20-22

This verse has some folks all wound up because it is used in evangelical messages where the Gospel is being presented to non-believers. i don’t really see a problem. Yes, in its context, it is written to the church. Yes, there are many verses that are taken out of context that cause overall harm to the Gospel. However, this is not one of those times. We know that; “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son . . .” John 3:16. We also know that God desires “all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:19. This verse conveys that message that behold He stands at the door and knocks, and if anyone opens that door, He will come into them. Besides we also understand that many are the hearers at a revival or evangelistic crusade and therefore to some in the church these words are fitting.

Do you need to open the door to Jesus again, do you need that fresh start? He desires to take a meal with you to feed and nourish your soul, mind, and body. He wants a relationship with you. Won’t you open the door for Jesus today?

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the seven Churches (Part 7)

Greetings to the seven Churches (Part 7)

The Church in Philadelphia, this is by far, to me anyway, the most interesting of the Church letters found in Revelation. It begins like all the rest:

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.'” Revelation 3:7

The open door refers to the idea of opportunity to present the Gospel. Jesus here is saying He is the one who opens doors. He follows that up here in the next verse:

 “I know you’re works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Revelation 3:8

This idea of an open door was based on their faithfulness in trying times. They remained faithful which means that those around who witnessed this church saw them faithful. When people see us, the church, faithful, it gives us an open door to present the gospel. We may feel small, poor, insignificant, or powerless, but we have the Spirit of God who “opens doors” and those doors can not be “shut” by man nor demonic presence. We need to rest in that and understand that our faithfulness can and will move mountains and the door for us to present the Gospel is opened!

“Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance…” Revelation 3:9-10a

This appears to imply that during the writing of this letter the church in Philadelphia was being persecuted more by these false Jews than of pagans. However, we do know that during this time Rome was harassing the church and therefore pagans were still a negative influence. But here we read that these like Paul in Acts will come to the truth and it will be because of the faithfulness of these in Philadelphia. He reminds them of their patient endurance before making a statement that absolutely intrigues me.

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar…”

This wording of being kept from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, has both a historic value and a prophetic one. The faithfulness of this church is the key to their patient endurance. Now the phase “keep you from” is very interesting. The debate has been either this is the raptured church or this is the church who successfully remains through the great tribulation. In order to render this passage correctly we need to look at the Greek. The work “from” in the Greek in this instance is not “apo” which means “away from” but rather “ek,” which means “out of” and described as “keeping one’s head above water.” Therefore, is the promise that they will be spared the burden of the great tribulation because of their location, their heads above water? Or as in English when we sometimes use words to make a point does this still mean that although many will suffer the tribulation, even remnants of the other churches in Revelation, this church in Philadelphia, will be taken out of harms way?

i don’t know, however, either way if their is a church that i want to be associated with it is this church in Philadelphia! i want to be faithful, even when i feel powerless, or small, or even insignificant. i want that assurance, the knowledge that the door is open before me and my presentation of the Gospel will be received because of my steadfastness in the truth has made my witness effectual. Now, hear this, the closing thought to the this letter to Philadelphia.

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:12-13

“I will make him a pillar in the temple . . .” a permanent structure in the temple. No longer one who wanders in and out but rather an integral part of the temple. We will be marked with the name of God, we will be branded with the name of our hometown and we will know the True God in the most true way, knowing His most intimate name. How awesome does that sound! Let us strive to be the church of Philadelphia!

You are loved,

cj

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 6)

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 6)

Sardis

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of Him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent…” Revelation 3:1-3 (3 in part) ESV

Wow, wow, wow, here is for the first time zero atta-boys but a firm rebuke and call to repentance right out to the gate. Sardis was the capital city of the Lydian Empire. They had great halls and buildings and temples. In fact, one of the seven largest Greek temples founds it home in this metropolis, the one to Artemis, goddess of the hunt, the moon, and fertility. As a capital city and one of such great stature and prominence, it is easy to see how the church may have gotten a bit off track. It is easy to see actually, and there are, as i read them, many similarities between this ancient Greek capital and my own home country, the whole thing. Not only that but as i read this i wonder, “how many in the western church would fall into this description, ‘You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.'”

i see so many, what appears to be, great full of life churches; i have been a part of a few. One i would say, without a doubt, was alive! The other appeared alive to many but as i sat in the inner circle we were far from thriving, in fact, we were on death row. We, collectively, needed to repent. Instead, as the warning continues to the Sardis church, so was the fate of this “church” it imploded. It has yet to recover. We also see so many Mega or large churches that seem alive fall in the blink of an eye, as another Sardis church crumbles. Let us look at the remainder of this letter to Sardis in Revelation 3.

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'” Revelation 3:3-6

There is a remnant, there is always a remnant! If you feel stuck in a church and in your spirit, you know that it is all a show, that although the “church” appears alive, you know it is not, here is what you need to do. First, pray! Pray for wisdom and discernment on when and how to bring up your concerns with the pastor or ministry leader. If they will listen, great! If not, find a few others who share your concern. Again, pray for wisdom and discernment. Then collectively approach your pastor or ministry leader. If they will listen, great! If not, shake the dust from your feet and leave. Go and find a church that is truly alive and seeking the will of the Lord daily. Be the remnant. Be the unsoiled. Be the conquerer.

You are loved,

cj

Greeting to the Seven Churches (part 4)

Greeting to the Seven Churches (part 4)

Not long ago, there was an advertising agency that came up with a catchphrase that has become so popular that it is now often changed to suit other things. It was an ingenious slogan; “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!” Even when it’s changed to some other town or place, everyone knows the original phrase and place, sin-city, Las Vegas. It is a dreadful place, really. i have son’s who live in Vegas, and so as i visit them, i am reminded how depraved the place really is. How incredibly full of sin and sexual filth. To the Church in Pergamum, the Angel was told this by the one with the two-edged sword, Jesus himself.

I know that you live in the city where that great throne of Satan is located, and yet you have remained loyal to me. And you refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you by Satan’s followers.” Revelation 2:13 NLT

It is clear that there is a Church, a remnant of believers, in this sin, awful place referred too in this verse.  However, as with most of these letters to the seven churches, there is a warning.

And yet I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you who are like Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to worship idols by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin.” Revelation 2:14 NLT

Balak was King of Moab and tried very hard to get Balaam to curse Israel. Fortunately, God had other plans. In fact, some of the Jewish prayers said to this day, even one that includes a prophetic word of the coming Messiah, are taken from the blessings that came from Balaam even though Balak’s desire was for a curse. Even still, there is obviously some harm that came as the Lord speaks of it here in Revelation. Beware! That the devil will use anything to cause you to stumble. We must remain diligent in our efforts to follow after Jesus with all that we have!

In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Revelation 2:15-16 NLT

Here are the Nicolaitans again, remember from a few weeks ago? Here we get another glimpse into what they were teaching, idol worship, and sexual sins. There is a growing tolerance within the Christian community for idols and sexual sins. We gloss over them with the word “grace” be mindful, sin is still sin, and there will be judgment as written here in Revelation! Repent, return to the Lord!

Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious, I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 NLT

There is victory only in Jesus, and although love covers a multitude of sins, it is clear that obedience to the Word of God in relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, will we be victorious! 

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

Christian (part three)

Christian (part three)

The topic of Christianianity is a BIG one. There is no way around it actually in our society, as it is in nearly every facet of life. Today, we will focus on the politics of being a Christian. It is pushed by both major political parties, some would say, “exploited” for political gain, touching on the surface, our need to be compassionate. It’s a double-edged sword if you will because politics are ugly and yet i do believe we have a civic duty to participate in it. But we can not separate the two. i know the constitution makes a distinction of separation between Church and State. However, that separation is intended to protect the Church from the government not the government from the Church.

If you are a politically active Christian you must do so from a perspective of the values found in the passages of Scripture in which we hold so dear. To separate your beliefs in some attempt to appease a group of people is not within the guidelines of being Christian. Nor can we separate it out from our lives in any aspect. To do so would be a denial of our values, our faith, our Christ. So far in our previous two weeks of looking at this topic, we covered Romans 12:9-10 which state:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Our next verse, 11, states:

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Think of those in past times who basically risked everything in order to remain faithful to God. Namely, in this case, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, these guys put God above politics in everything they did that’s why they were hated by the others and set up. Even to the point of not denying their God for any reason even their very lives. We should be so bold! “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord!”

So, what are we to do when the climate is so split, compassion over what? When sizing up candidates does one issue rule over another? Where is grace or mercy when it comes to pass indiscretions? How about moral failings? Or the candidates stated belief versus their present actions? There is so much to consider how does one possibly vote at all? i for a very long time was registered, independent. i didn’t want the label of a political party, in fact, i still don’t but when we moved i somehow selected an affiliation and just haven’t gone to fix it. In my heart of hearts, i remain an objective independent voter. Who Votes his beliefs over politics, over issues, over a person. As a Christian, i take into consideration my own grace, mercy, love and the charge to love others, in making my decisions on casting a vote for someone or some issue.

May we take into account such things always and in everything that we do, not just politics, but also, work, friendships, relationships, even when we are alone.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:9-13

You are loved,

cj