Friday, 31 July 2009
As usual for this series of devotional thoughts I purposely am avoiding controversy and focusing on principle and devotional truths. The passage here applies to those whom most of call the ‘tribulation saints,’ but the principal here is consistent throughout the Bible.
Death can be a scary thought, mostly because it is the great unknown. I am not one of those guys who is looking forward to dying. I am enjoying this life, generally at least. I like my family, my church, and my friends. I am loving being a Grampy. Despite its challenges I even love this ministry.
I have to admit though that the idea of this ‘rest from the labour’ can be appealing sometimes. Mentioned here by John for the tribulation saints and in Hebrews for all believers there is a final rest coming for all of us. When that day comes we can cease from all the struggles and squabbles and trials and fears and battles with the flesh and battles with others and ups and downs and fears and defeats and so on and so on and so on.
So yes, in some ways I do long for the day of rest. Let me not forget though that my works are important, for just like these saints mentioned here my works will follow me. I don’t understand ho wit all works out, but when the day of rest gets here I want to be able to know that my works have been worked for the One who died for me instead of me.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
When you read the accounts of judgement in Revelation it is a scary thought. The whole earth is literally coming apart. Billions are dying, the ecology is breaking down, and mankind are just getting worse and worse. Those things can certainly bring about thoughts of fear and dread.
The angel with the gospel redirects our focus – ‘Fear God and give glory to Him.’ It seems to me like the angel is saying, ‘You think this is bad? Don’t worry about all this, instead you need to fear God because His justice is about to really be poured out. The only solution is not to worry about all this mess, but just turn to God and glorify Him.’
Man’s tendency is to look at the symptoms instead of the cause. We tend to think that a plaster and a tablet will sort out almost any problem. We don’t really want to get to the root of the problem.
The same thing is true when it comes to spiritual matters. When circumstances get bad we seem to want to fix the circumstances instead of the problem. Instead of this the angel tells us that we should be focused on making things right with God, getting to the root of the problem.
More often than not we have to the problems that we have because we forget to fear God and then glorify and worship Him.
We may not face any less challenges and trials if we learned to fear God and give Him glory in every situation, but our perspective on them would change dramatically.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
There is not much that lasts forever. Lives come and go. Buildings eventually crumble into decay and ruin. Kingdoms rise to power, have their glory, and they are gone. Money is fleeting. Possessions are all burned up. None of these things last forever.
The angel here is carrying one thing that is everlasting and it is intended for every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. It is the unchanging everlasting good news. Despite the sin and wickedness being described and judged the gospel is still there and apparently still being offered to the whole world.
The gospel is everlasting. Everything else is we have is transitory. The gospel is eternal. All of out stuff is going to be gone.
Why then do we give so little time to the everlasting and so much time to the temporary?
I think the answer is pretty simple. We are selfish. We would rather feed the temporary physical stuff that we can see than the permanent stuff we cannot see because those temporary things give immediate gratification.
Our eyes are stuck on the temporary seen things instead of the eternal unseen. Our focus must be on the eternal things including the everlasting gospel instead of the transitory stuff that will be gone so soon.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. – Revelation 12v10-11
I am just old enough that I remember the 60s very well. Living in Alabama during that time I am very familiar with the Civil Rights movement of that time. Part of that memory is the haunting refrain of the tune ‘We Shall Overcome.’ This song became the theme for not only the Civil Rights Movement, but for many of the movements of the 60s.
Not a lot of people know it, but though the tune for this song came from a Civil War song the words were taken from a hymn called ‘I’ll Overcome Someday,’ written by Charles Tindley in 1901. Bear with me as I post the hymn here, taken from cyberhymnal.org.
This world is one great battlefield; With forces all arrayed, If in my heart I do not yield I’ll overcome some day.
Both seen and unseen powers join To drive my soul astray, But with His Word a sword of mine, I’ll overcome some day.
A thousand snares are set for me, And mountains in my way, If Jesus will my leader be, I’ll overcome some day.
I fail so often when I try My Saviour to obey; It pains my heart and then I cry, Lord, make me strong some day.Lord, make me strong some day.
My mind is not to do the wrong, But walk the narrow way; I’m praying as I journey on, To overcome some day.
Though many a time no signs appear, Of answer when I pray; My Jesus says I need not fear, He’ll make it plain some day.I’ll be like Him some day.
This is a beautiful hymn that I have never actually heard. I came across it only when I thought of the title of today’s entry and looked into it a bit. This song however speaks so clearly of the passage.
For a long, long time the saints have had to deal with the Great Accuser who accuses us before the Father. The day is coming when he will be cast down. It is this occasion which allows us to see the testimony of the brethren who have:
Overcome by the blood of the Lamb
Overcome by their testimony
Did not love their lives, even to the point of death
One day we will truly overcome all that we face today. One day the blood of the Lamb will empower us to overcome all that we are facing today. It will all be defeated. Not only the Accuser, but the battles, the mountains, the snare, and powers will be once and for all defeated. The Power of the Christ will defeat all other powers.
We shall indeed overcome.
Monday, 27 July 2009
God is just, always and forever. Here we find the elders in heaven praising God and giving thanks that God will always reward His servants and that He will destroy those who destroy the earth.
First of all we see the justice that will prevail on those who have ‘destroyed the earth.’ I realise of course that sin is the ultimate destroyer. It is man’s sin that has lead to the spiritual and physical destruction of the earth. Those who have sinned thusly are going to face God’s own destruction in time.
As I read this I had to pause in wonder at those Christians who mock and scorn attempts to be wise in how they use God’s creation. There are some who intentionally will do nothing to care for the earth because they consider that something that the ‘liberals’ do. Maybe that viewpoint should be reconsidered.
The encouraging thing for us however is the promise that in the midst of all the wrath and judgement we can be assured that God will reward His servants. In the short term our rewards may be few if any. In fact, it may seem like instead of rewards we have to settle for discouragements and despair, and trials and tribulations.
But our rewards are coming. At the end of the race the trophy will be ours. Lets just keep our eyes on the goal and keep the day of reward in view.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
When we read Revelation sometimes the scene switches back and forth from earth to heaven and back again. On earth the wrath of God is being poured out. His perfect justice is being carried out on a world which has long rejected Him. There is a scene where His two witnesses are executed, then raised from the dead three and half days later. Without getting into an eschatological debate this is somehow a monumental turning point and he scene switches back to heaven.
‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord,’ we read. At his trial Jesus told Pilate, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ Though God had ordained governments, it is obvious even from a cursory study of history that sinful leaders do not always reflect His leadership. Sin has reigned. The prince of the power of the air had had His way. Wickedness has seemingly been in control.
Everything changes here. Suddenly Jesus’ kingdom does become of ‘this world.’ The world’s kingdoms are going to become His. In a way that I admit I don’t fully understand He has always been in control, but one day the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man are going to become one.
It is all a little confusing to me. However, there is one thing I can be assured of.. One day Jesus is going to reign literally, ultimately, and supremely. One day all of this is going to be over and we will sit at the feet of King Jesus, who will reign forever and ever.
Saturday, 25 July 2009
This passage has intrigued me since I first came across it many years ago. I read about all of these judgements and death and destruction and then I read how the people who were left alive ‘did not repent’ because they wanted to continue on with their sin. The treasured their own sin more than their lives.
I thought, ‘How can they do that? Why don’t they learn their lesson and repent? Is their sin so important to them that they will risk their lives to continue in it?’ That kind of mindset just did not make any sense to me. What a bunch of idiots they are!
But then I started thinking about it - which is a very dangerous thing for me to do. I starting thinking about myself primarily, but I suspect that I am not the only one in this situation. How much do I/we treasure our own sin? Rather than truly repenting, which is a total change of act and heart, how often do we tuck that little sin away in a corner some place so that we can run back to it every so often? True repentance means that we ‘lay aside every sin that so easily besets us.’ We know our sin displeases God. We know that it endangers that walk of fellowship with our Saviour. We know that when we do so we mock his death on the cross and yet we still go back to it. It indicates that we love our sin more than we love Him.
If we are not willing to truly repent, are we really much better than the folks in this passage?
Friday, 24 July 2009
I have learned through the years to be very careful about making promises. I tried to never promise things to my children because we never knew what was going to happen that would keep that promise from being fulfilled.
I have also learned not to expect much of other people’s promises. For all their good hearts and intentions and despite their best motives fulfilling promises is hard to do.
There is only one set of promises that I know I can trust. What God promises will happen. Full stop. His promises are true, He cannot lie.
There is great joy and comfort in what we read here. The saints from every corner of the earth of the earth are rejoicing in what God has done and what He will do. They are singing of praise and glory and honour and blessing and thanksgiving being given to God. They have truly learned worship.
Then we read this marvellous promise – ‘The Lamb will shepherd them, lead them to living fountains of water, and wipe away all tears from their eyes.’
The Lord is my shepherd, that is true today and He does guide and lead us through this life. But the day will come when He will shepherd us away from all this to the refreshing fountains of water that never run dry. With these saints every tear will be wiped away. All of the sorrows and pain of this current life will be over.
The Shepherding Lamb will lead. What a day that will be!
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Sometimes we think we have it bad as believers today. The world has gone upside down. It seems like wickedness is rampant and that evil is not dealt with. It seems like the evil go unpunished. It seems like evil is winning. Every day the news of violence and perversion seems to dominate the news. Sometimes we are tempted to ask, ‘Lord, how long can this go on?’
It is only going to get worse. Our brothers and sisters in this passage are going to be in the middle of a great tribulation. ‘All hell’ is literally about to break loose on the earth. As bad as evil is to day, it will then be unrestrained. In their misery they cry out, ‘How long, O Lord, holy and true, until you judge?’
The truth is that we don’t know how long it will be, but one day justice will be served. God’s right and His righteousness will prevail. One day we will live and reign in Him. Sin will be totally vanquished. Truth and peace will win out.
Longfellow’s poem that we sing as,:’I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ ends with these powerful words:
And in despair I bowed my head“There is no peace on earth,” I said,“For hate is strong and mocks the songOf peace on earth, good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;The wrong shall fail, the right prevailWith peace on earth, good will to men.”
How long till we hear those bells? Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
I love a lot about the ministry where God has placed us. One of the things I love the most is the diversity of the people we are privileged to serve alongside. At the moment we have people from Ireland, the US, the Philippines, South Africa, Nigeria, Iceland, and New Zealand attending our church. We have had Brazilians, Rhodesians, Germans, British, Koreans, Polish, and many others worship with us in the past. I have also had the opportunity to minister in a church in Hungary at a missions conference.
This has allowed us to get just a glimpse of the truth in the Throne Room Chorus mentioned in this verse – ‘Every tribe and tongue and people and nation.’ One of the things I like is finding the diversity in unity that we find amongst believers. Last night I was given a ‘dress shirt’ from Nigeria which I plan on wearing when I preach Sunday. I often wear a Filipino dress shirt as well. If we are not careful we can get the impression that the body of Christ is all about a bunch of white people with the guys in coats and ties and the women in Sunday dresses.
There is so much more to the body of the redeemed than that. This body meets in fancy church buildings, private homes, hired halls, thatched buildings, in the open, and stuffed in a squalid rooms hidden from authorities. We sing very proper high church hymns, gospel songs, modern songs, and even songs that resemble tribal chants to the glory of our redeemer. We are every skin colour under the sun. We speak hundreds of different languages. We worship in a formal and an informal manner. Some of us strand straight and tall and would not think of moving a muscle. Others raise their hands and clap in praise. And yes, anathema to many, some even dance in praise to our Redeemer.
Our skin colour, way of dress, style of music, and forms of church service differ. Our languages are myriad. Our customs and practice are not the same. Why is that?
God has redeemed people of every tribe and tongue and people and nation by the blood of Christ.
Praise Him for the redeemed. Maybe we should start practising for the eternity we are going to share together instead of squabbling over our differences.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." – Revelation 5v9-10
What qualifies the One who is worthy? The One who is worthy is the One who was slain. The One who redeemed us by His blood. The One who redeemed us from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. The One who made us kings and priests to God. The One who will allow us to reign on earth.
Yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of the first lunar landing. Many, including me, consider that one of the greatest human achievements of all time. With less commuting power than a modern mobile phone men were transported safely from the earth to the moon and back home again. At least as amazing was two flights later when a broken spacecraft was somehow able to bring three men back to earth who should have died in space.
I like the space programme and I like history so I find it easy to get caught up in the emotion of this kind of hype and heap praise on what really was quite an achievement. There is nothing really wrong with that, as long as I keep my focus and my balance and remember the only One who is well and truly worth my praise.
The One who could open the great scroll is the only One who deserves my unreserved praise. In the midst of all kinds of excitement and great achievements let us not forget the Lamb of God, the truly Worthy One.
Monday, 20 July 2009
In God’s hand there is a scroll. That scroll is sealed with seven seals and the angel calls out for one who is worthy to reveal the things of God. In the first response no one is found, in heaven or earth, who is worthy to open this scroll.
There are more things to mention here, but I want to pause just for a moment on the idea that no one is worthy.
There is an old Christianese saying that ‘The ground is level at the foot of the cross.’ That truth is backed up by this passage. No one in heaven or on earth is worthy on their own to access the things of God. Everyone is the same.
This is a reminder of the grace of God. No matter what our status in life, our family, our background, our religious heritage, or our bank statement no one is worthy to have any access to the things of God.
Yet One is worthy. More later.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Frances Havergal wrote these amazing words at the very beginning of the hymn ‘Take My Life and Let it Be.’
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Here is Revelation we have a picture of true ceaseless praise. Gathered around the throne of the Lamb of God are four living creatures and twenty four elders. All day and all night the four creatures say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come.’ Whenever they say that, which is always, the twenty four elders say, ‘You are worthy O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power; For You created all things, And by Your will the exist and were created.’
I can’t even imagine the joy of hearing this ceaseless praise. It will be a constant reminder of the One who died for us. What a joy that will be.
My problem is that I can see all of this heavenly and spiritual stuff, but it can be tough to live it in my life say after day. Sadly, my life is not always lived in ceaseless praise to the Lamb of God. Sometimes the carks and cares and concerns and cankers of this world get in the way of ceaseless praise. When I allow that to happen my life is miserable because I am more concerned about me that about the Lamb.
O that the moments and the days of my life we totally consecrated to His ceaseless praise. O that my hands, my feet, my voice, my lips, my silver and gold, my intellect, my will, my heart, my love and all of me be dedicated only to life of His praise!
Saturday, 18 July 2009
I love sharing meals with friends whether it as our house or theirs or at a restaurant. It is such a nice way to fellowship. A couple of days ago some dear friends came over and brought dinner here. The food was great; there is no doubt about that. Even better was the amazing fellowship. We sat and talked and laughed and shared about all kinds of things, some everyday and mundane and some of them spiritual. It was just a really good time.
How rude it would have been if during that dinner I had just got up and left the room to do something else. That would have shown total disregard for my friends. It would have indicated to them that they really were not important.
As Christians we have the wonderful promise assurance that when we got saved Jesus came in to our lives. This particular verse personalises it and makes it even more precious when we read of His promise to dine with us.
It is tragic how often we - no let me be more specific here. It is sad how often I simply get up from the spiritual table of fellowship with Him and walk off on my own to do my own thing. In a sense I just get up from the table and disappear.
How rude is that? How can I do that? When I do that kind of thing I am showing Jesus the same kind of contempt that I would show a friend if I got up from the table and left them sitting there. It shows that my own personal thoughts and desires are more important than our fellowship.
Think about that for a second. Jesus, who gave everything for me is sitting at my table and I get up and leave Him. How can I treat the One who died for me that way? I have the opportunity to eat with the Designer, Creator, and Sustainer of the universe. I have the chance to dine with my Saviour, and yet I choose to ignore Him.
It doesn’t get much worse that that.
Friday, 17 July 2009
I love our grand children. With Matt and Michelle being down and minding AJ while Holly has been back and forth to the hospital with Hud we have had three of the four of them around for about two weeks now. They are children. That means they are young, immature, noisy, fun-loving, cantankerous, a little cheeky, and even bold every now and then.
Sometimes Grammy and Grampy have to scold the little ones, even 13 month old AJ. It would be easy to say, ‘Aw, I love them too much to scold them. After all, they are only little kids.’
I contend that the opposite is true. I contend that a failure to rebuke and chasten is actually a sign of a lack of love. If we did not chasten our grandkids it would prove that we really do not care about their future. In fact, I think it is proof that we really do not love them.
Jesus said that He rebukes and chastens every one that He loves. His chastening is evidence of His love. Morgann, Maddie, AJ, and now Hudson are indeed only children. They don’t know any better. If their parents did not rebuke and chasten then they are leaving them to suffer the fruits of their own foolish decisions. They would be left to ‘learn the hard way.’
We are just like those four precious children. We don’t know any better. We don’t always know the consequences of our decisions. Jesus could very well just let us suffer the consequences of our decisions and choices. Sometimes, because of our stubbornness and stupidity we do have to learn that way. But He loves us so much that He perfectly rebukes and chastens us to help us avoid those sometimes tragic consequences.
True love always includes correction. Praise God for a Saviour who loves us enough to correct us.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
How many churches mentioned in the New Testament are known for their material wealth? As far as I can tell the church at Laodicea is the only one. They said of themselves, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.’
I am going to address this issue today, not from one who knows everything, but from my own experience. Though I now serve in a small church that meets in a hired community centre and have seen a few churches in Europe my main experience is in American churches. I am sure that my characterisation of churches is not exclusive to America, but that is what I know. I also am not making charges or accusations, just some observations.
I have been in a lot of churches that obviously have plenty of money. Everything is first class, top of the line, no expense spared, high quality, really good stuff. From the beautiful chandeliers to the expensive wood work to the gold plated bathroom fixtures to the unique artwork to the opulent staff offices these churches exude wealth and success. People can now spend their whole lives at church getting a workout in the sports centre, shopping in the expansive bookstore, and stopping for a latte at the café. Millions of dollars worth of family cars fill the car parks. Though they would not admit it, they really don’t need anything. They are self-sustaining and self-governing. They have ‘made it.’
I have to wonder about the words that Jesus says to the only wealthy church mentioned in scriptures. To that church He said, ‘…and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.’
It just seems to me that something is not right here. All over the world there are churches and Christians that struggle to make ends meet. They meet in wretched conditions. While their brothers and sisters in Christ sit down for a cappuccino at the church coffee shop they think about how they are going to pay the rent for the hall they hire for church. Even worse, some of them are concerned about how they are going to feed their families dinner tonight.
Why does this inequity exists? While some churches are installing light fixtures worth half a million dollars other can’t afford the light bulbs for their meeting room. Is this right?
Is it just barely possible that the churches that think they have so much are the poor ones and the churches that have nothing are the rich ones?
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
I don’t drink it much any more, but when I lived in Alabama there was nothing like a huge glass of iced sweet tea on a hot summer day. I remember working in 100 degree heat (Fahrenheit of course J ) with sweat gushing from every pore in my body. The day wore on and finally I would come home from work, walk in the door, and get my favourite glass, fill it with ice, pour in the tea, and gulp it straight down. Cool, refreshing, marvellous!
Now that I live in Ireland I still love tea. There is nothing like a hot cuppa anytime of the year, especially on a cold, wet, windy winter (or summer) day. The tea steams and you warn your hands around the cup. Hot, comforting, marvellous
Ice cold tea is refreshing. A hot cuppa is comforting. But what about lukewarm sweet tea? Or, even worse, tepid hot tea? Every so often I forget that I have a cup of tea by my side. I finally grab it and take a big gulp. YUCK! All I want to do is find a place to spit it out! GROSS!!!
With that little bit of background we get a picture of what Jesus us saying here. The church was not cool and refreshing and it was not hot in its service. It was tepid, cool, nasty, yucky, and sickening. Lukewarm - what a rotten place to be.
Just like that nasty cup of tea that makes me want to spew it out this church made Jesus sick. Sadly, lukewarmness is the natural state. Ice tea tends to get warm, the ice melts and it gets diluted. A hot cuppa cools off, the milk forms a nasty film on the surface, and it just gets gross.
Isn’t is sad when a church or a Christian gets lukewarm? Worse than sad – it is sickening.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
The church at Philadelphia did not really have it any better than any of the other churches. It was tough being a church in those days. No one accepted them and many openly opposed them. The government persecuted them. They didn’t have much, but they had what counted.
This church had a little strength, but it was enough. That little strength gave them the ability to do two mighty things; they kept God’s word and they did not deny His name despite all that was going on around them.
It doesn’t take much to stay faithful. He doesn’t take much to do right. God uses the weak things of this world to defeat the mighty things.
We have accepted the line that we need to fight God’s battles with earthly weapons of money and resources. In reality we don’t need much material might to do what really counts, do we?
How are we all doing when it comes to keeping His word and not denying His name? Do we keep His word when we depend on our strength and wisdom? Do we not deny His name when we think we can use our political might to make sure everything is going ‘our way’ in our society?
When we stay true to Christ and His word we can be assured that He sets before us an open door that no man can shut. We don’t have that promise when we kick the door open in our own strength.
Monday, 13 July 2009
The Sardis church had made a name for herself. She had quite a reputation. Everyone talked about how strong she was. She had a reputation for being alive and vibrant. It sounds something like certain aspects of the church, especially in the west, today. For the last 20-30 years the church in America and other parts of the west has had a good name for herself. She too has been alive and vibrant. She has hobnobbed with presidents and prime ministers.
All the while something has been happening on the inside. No matter how alive she has seemed, like the church at Sardis she too has been dying on the inside. The church has become so much like the world that it is hard to see how she is different.
The answer to the problem? Be watchful and strengthen the little that is left, those things that are about to die. The works of the church might seem great to the outside, but they are lacking before God.
It has seemed that the church truly thrives when she is not popular. Persecution and opposition make us truly strong and alive. We all fear that kind of opposition. It has been nice to be favoured by the world, but have we gained that while losing favour with God?
Sunday, 12 July 2009
There were some issues at Thyatira. Though the church is commended for some good things they has a allowed a dreadful false teacher to creep in. Jesus here calls her ‘Jezebel.’ Her teaching was that it was acceptable to practice sexual immorality and to seat foods that had been sacrificed to idols. The Thyatirans had allowed her to carry on with the false teaching. Jesus words for her and her followers were very clear – they would be judged severely if they did not repent.
A few folks however remained faithful. They held on and would not accept her teachings. To them Jesus simply said ‘hold fast until I get there.’
At first those do not appear to be very encouraging words. ‘I know its tough, but you need to hold on till I get there.’ That means that those who live in the midst of error have quite a job to do. It would be a lot easier if Jesus would just wipe out the false teachers. That is not how He made us though. People have a free will. We are free to make choices. He never promised to provide a way out of all this stuff. Sometimes He just wants us to hold on.
We have all been there. We have all had times when all we can do is to hold on by our fingertips and wait it out. The wonderful truth is that we don’t have to do that by ourselves. Jesus is our strength and our power. He is right here by our sides holding us up as we ‘hold fast’ to the truth.
In the midst of this wicked and perverse generation we too must ‘hold fast’ till He comes again.
Saturday, 11 July 2009
A different kind of thought this morning. When I was in seminary many moons ago I took a course on Revelation. As a part of that course we had to study the difficult phrase of the book. One of those sections was this verse.
I still am not sure what the hidden manna, the white stone, or the new name are. I suspect that I am not going to know until I get to heaven. These are all given to the ‘overcomers.’ The overcomers of course are those who have overcome sin and the world through the power of Christ. All those who are not overcomers in Christ will fall by the wayside before we ever get there.
I am intrigued by the ‘new name’ aspect of this verse. I still don’t know what it is, but find it kind of special that Christ has a new name for me waiting in heaven. I really like my name. ‘Roger’ has a great history and a great meaning. It means ‘a mighty spearman’ and its usage is ancient.
As much as I like that name I am looking forward to the new name that Jesus has for me. Part of the fun of this is in the mystery. It gives us something else will look forward to. Others may still call me ‘Roger’ in heaven, but Jesus has a name for me that only He and I will know!
Friday, 10 July 2009
The other night I was talking with some friends about the way things are in the world today. The economic situation is scary. The political situation is scary. The social situation is scary. And even worse for us, the situation for Christians is not looking great either. Our rights and liberties and freedom to proclaim God’s word are under threat. Simply preaching God’s word may soon see us charged with things like, ‘inciting hatred.’
One of my friends asked me – ‘So what are we going to do?’ I told her that we can be glad that we are God’s children in the midst of all of this.
The church at Smyrna was in a similar situation. Jesus tells them here that some of them are about to go to jail. He told them that they were about to face real trials and tribulations. And He told them what to do.
‘Don’t be afraid of the things you are about to suffer,’ Jesus said, but – ‘be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.’
What do we do in scary times? We be faithful and look to the end. When the end finally comes there will be no poverty, no suffering, no imprisonment, no testings, and no tribulation. There will only be eternity with Christ and the reward of a crown of life.
It may get tough folks – by God’s grace may we stay faithful.
Thursday, 9 July 2009
The next church on the list is the church at Smyrna. I am not sure, but I think this is the only church of which Christ has nothing negative to say. John sends this message from Jesus – ‘I know how hard you have worked. I know that you are suffering. I know that you are dreadfully poor. But you are not really poor, in fact you are rich.’
Rich poverty is one of those great oxymorons of the scriptures. How can those who know very well that they are poor be called rich? How can people who are just barely struggling along trying to make ends means have any idea that they are the truly wealthy ones.
We are going to see in the next few days a church that is the opposite, who thought they were rich but had nothing. It is clear that the Bible does not tie material wealth to true riches. It is of course possible to be rich in both ways, but it rarely happens. You can’t serve both God and money. It is difficult for a rich man to enter heaven because his wealth is so hard to give up.
Even the world recognises to some extent that wealth is not tied to possessions. We would agree that true wealth is measured by family, friends, and contentment. God’s children would go a step further and say that true wealth is a right relationship with God because family and friends are going to pass away one day, but our relationship to God is for eternity.
Poor, but rich. I have a feeling that is a concept that we are going to need in the years to come.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
It is interesting to note that a church like Ephesus, who stood so firmly for the truth, would have to be told that they have fallen. Even as he closes the section to the church John once again praises them for their stand against the Nicolaitan cult who held to teachings that John hated.
But they had fallen away from their first love. It looks like a love for Christ had been replaced with a love for their strong stand against error. So what is a church like this to do?
The danger was that they would lose their power to be a light in a dark world. They would lose their testimony and their witness because Christ would remove His light from them.
We all know of churches that once stood for truth, loved people, and had a tremendous impact on their communities. They shone forth as a testimony. The church was marked by God centred excitement and they were reaching people around them. But something happened. It seems like the fire has gone out. They are still there, but all the power is gone.
Could it be that they, like Ephesus, forgot their first love and never went back?
“Remember where you were,’ John writes, ‘repent and do those love motivated works that once marked you.’
I suspect that this is a lesson that individuals can apply as well as churches. Don’t stop standing for truth, but let’s look back and make sure that we are also not forgetting our ‘first love.’
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
For all the good that the church at Ephesus did they had a problem. The timelessness of scripture is revealed in that their problem is one that persists to this very day.
No one could call this church weak, insipid, or lazy. No one could possibly say that they were not doing their part. They stood firm. They worked hard. They did not compromise the truth. They did not quit. They patiently endured.
On the other hand something major was missing. They had ‘left their first love’ in doing all of these great works. I am not sure how they did that or what that involved, but here is my take.
When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth about his ministry and the struggles he and his team were suffering he wrote about what motivated them. ‘The love of Christ constrains us’ he wrote. It was this love that motivated them to keep on going no matter what they faced. They were not motivated by a desire for success or popularity. They were not motivated by prestige or power. They were stirred, compelled, pushed, motivated, and constrained by the love of Christ.
I know from personal experience how easy it is to let something other than the love of Christ motivate me. My motivation can easily switch from the love of Christ to a desire to look good to my supporting churches. I can be motivated by my own desire to succeed. I can be driven by fears of what others might say or think.
When that happens I have left my first love. My first love should be Christ and His love for me and my love for Him should be my motivation. It all starts with ‘we love Him because He first loved us,’ and moves on from there.
What happens when we leave of first love? Sadly it is something that happens to me far too often. We get put out or upset when our schedule or routine is disrupted. Our hearts are turned away from love to frustration even anger when we have to do a little extra. We do it, but it is not out of a heart of love.
Leaving our first love is a dangerous thing, as we will see here in this passage.
Monday, 6 July 2009
The first church that we get to meet of the seven Jesus writes to is the church at Ephesus. I am not going to enter the fray about whether or not this were ‘just’ seven local churches of the time, symbolic of seven church ages, or some kind of mixture of the two. I am just going to see what Jesus said to these churches and apply lessons from those churches to us today.
As a general rule each church is praised for something and corrected for something. The things that Ephesus did right were good things. They worked hard and laboured well, they were patient, they dealt with false teachers, they persevered, their work was in His name, and they did not become weary of the work.
What more could you ask from a church - hard working, diligent, patient, fighting false doctrine and staying at the stuff? It sounds like a great place to be. In a lot of ways it was. If we saw this church today most of us on the conservative side of evangelicalism would be impressed and encouraged.
At the same time, this kind of focus has a danger. It can lead to an imbalance and a weakness if not kept under control. More about that tomorrow.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Can you imagine what it must have been like when John saw Jesus? Remember, he was a man like us, despite all that he had been through. The last time he saw Jesus he still looked like a man and was ascending into heaven. Now He looked like this:
Clothed with a garment down to the feet
Girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow
His eyes like a flame of fire
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace
His voice as the sound of many waters
He had in His right hand seven stars
Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword
His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
Jesus’ glory and majesty were obvious. When John saw it he did what I think we all would do. He fell on His face in fear. “Who wouldn’t?’ we might ask, “If they saw Jesus like that?”
We may not see Jesus face to face like John did, but we claim to know Him and we claim that we have a close relationship with Him. If we truly had the faith that we sometime claim to have this is how we would see Jesus whether we see Him face to face or spiritually. Jesus’ holiness should move us the same way.
But look how Jesus responded to the fear. It is amazing to note that in this instant He showed both His holiness and Hs love. Out of those burning eyes he looked down at John with words of compassion – ‘Don’t be afraid.’
Sometimes our English language can be a little cloudy, but this statement really does make sense. Jesus wants us to fear God, without being afraid. We stand in reverence of His awesome power, in that sense we fear Him. But we need to be afraid, because He is our God. He loves us. He is the one Who conquered death. He is alive forever.
The Jesus that John saw is the same Jesus we serve today. If you take the time to study this you see that all the descriptions relate to aspects of His divine nature. Because we are His however we don’t have to be afraid, but can rejoice in the truth that He is on our side and then reverence His holiness.
Saturday, 4 July 2009
One of the hardest things about faith and trusting Christ in every situation is that we can’t possibly understand ‘the way He thinks,’ if you will. We have read that His thoughts are not our thoughts and that His ways are not our ways, but we really still don’t get it because we are only capable of thinking like men (in the traditional usage of the word as meaning, ‘human.’).
The truth is that we are never going to ‘get it’ because we are not Him. There is one major thing that hinders our perception. Everything we think about is bound by time. We see everything from time’s perspective and we can’t see it all. We can’t see the next year, or even the next month, or event he next hour, minute, or second. Almost exactly two weeks ago we thought our new grandson, Hudson, was still seven or so weeks away, and yet, in a matter of a couple of hours he was here. Things change constantly and they constantly catch us off guard.
But Jesus is never caught of guard. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the A-Z. He is the Beginning and the End. He is the One who was and is and is to come. He is the ‘I AM’. He is indeed, the be all and end all.
Our minds think inside the barrier of time. The future ahead of us is full of turns and twists. We don’t know what is around the next bend. But somehow He does. Maybe the old illustration of a canoe on a river is appropriate. We are in the canoe, not able to see what is next. Jesus is like a man on a mountain over seeing the whole river, knows the beginning and the ending. Only thing is that He sees and comprehends it all at once.
So whose vision do we trust? Do we trust our won understanding that can’t even always understand what we do see, or do we trust the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful Alpha and Omega who is the epitome of the Be All and End All?
Friday, 3 July 2009
‘He proved His love when He died on Calvary, proved His love when He died on Calvary, proved His love when He died on Calvary; Oh wonderful love.’
It is amazing how much Bible truth can be packed in to what we call children’s songs. This verse says that He loved us. That by itself would be a great truth, but it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say that He proved that love by washing us from our sins in His own blood. What better what to prove love than to make the ultimate sacrifice? There is no greater love than the love which would compel a man to lay down His own life for His friend.
There is now remission of sin without shedding of blood. Some one had to pay the price. None of us were good enough because our own blood was tinted by our sin. Sinful blood cannot wash away sin. Jesus laid down His life and shed His perfect, spotless, sinless blood for us as the only way that our sins could be washed.
He shed His blood on the cross – indeed He proved His love when He died on Calvary.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
‘He has made us kings and priests’ has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? The second part doesn’t have a real appeal to me, but I could handle the king bit. Kings have it made. They get to tell people what to do and they have to listen and do it. King Roger really sounds good to. I wouldn’t even change my name like some of those guys do.
But, I digress here. We have been honoured by the King of Kings by being made both kings and priests. I indeed am King Roger, but not in the sense of this guy dressed in nice clothes sitting on a throne and narking orders. .
I am a king and a priest to God Himself. Though a king I am under His dominion. The day is coming when we will no longer be subject to all the junk we are subject to now. Now we are ‘subject to the higher powers’ but one day we will reign with the Highest Power as His kingly priests.
We are already kings and priests. Now all we have to do is wait for the crowning day!
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
And so we enter the book of Revelation. In some respects I wish I could skip over this book, first because eschatology is definitely my weak point, and secondly I wonder how we can get any personal gleanings from such a prophetic book.
But then I read this in the introduction – ‘blessed is who reads and hears the word of this prophecy and keeps the things written in it because the time is near.’ That last phrase throws me a bit because this was written over 1900 years ago. I have to take it that those words come from God’s perspective that is outside time so that these events have been near for all believers of all time.
Anyway, there is a blessing for us as we enter this book. We are to read it, and as we read it we are to hear the message contained in it and apply it to our hearts. Not only that but we are to keep its words in our hearts as well.
After all this is God’s word. His word will not comeback void. His word is eternal. Having preserved His word He always has lessons for us.
Read, hear, and keep are good instructions for any portion of Hid word.