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 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

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 5)

Greetings to the seven Churches (part 5)

Revelation 2:18-28 ESV

18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

Thyatira, an ancient city of Greece, known for its colorful clothing lines. That sounds better than being known for its dyeing facilities. It was a hub of trade and tradesmen of wool-workers, linen-workers, makers of outer garments, dyers, leather-workers, tanners, potters, bakers, slave-dealers, and bronze-smiths. It also had a significant number of Christians. In writing to the seven church, Thyatira makes the list.

19 ‘I know your works, your love and faith, and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first.

Being known for love, faith, service, patient endurance, and work that exceeds their first acts of faith is a great compliment. It would be easy to look and stop there. We have arrived! But, like all of our previous churches, we read a warning.

20 “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. 22 Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,23 and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.”

Jezebel, was it a real woman or a figure of speech? Well, we understand the term Jezebel to mean, from Websters Dictionary: “often not capitalized: an impudent, shameless, or morally unrestrained woman.” We also know Jezebel from the Old Testament: “the Phoenician wife of Ahab who according to the account in I and II Kings pressed the cult of Baal on the Israelite kingdom but was finally killed in accordance with Elijah’s prophecy.” Was this Jezebel in Thyatira a real person or just the idea of a Jezebel spirit among the people? Either way, we see that a sexually immoral and double-mindedness mindset was invading the believers and the Lord sent a word of warning. 

Of all sins, sexual sin is regarded as a “sin against his own body.” As we read in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” It holds a different place, yes, sin is sin, and all sin separates us from God and requires a repentant heart. However, sexual sin is called out here specifically as a sin against our own body and for those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within, “thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

24 “But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. 25 Only hold fast what you have until I come. 26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27 and he will rule[c] them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.28 And I will give him the morning star. 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

We are to flee the devil. If sexual sin is considered here among the deep things of Satan, why would we want any part? If you are breathing, you still have an opportunity to repent! He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

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

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