September 24 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Laodicea

Read Revelation 3:14-22

I love the letters that God wrote to the churches that we have documented in Revelation. However, the letter He wrote the church in Laodicea is the most troubling for me.

All the letters to the other churches contain something positive about how the church is doing. I don’t find any of that in the letter to Laodicea, the only positive I see is what God is willing to do if the people will turn back to Him.

So, what is it that displeases God?

They are “neither hot nor cold”.

On the surface it sounds like they aren’t “too bad”. It seems they are content to live in comfort with no passion for God, no desire to grow. I can imagine them saying, “I’m not too bad – it’s not like I ever killed someone. I’m certainly better than some people.”

God is clearly appalled by their behavior.

I’ve seen a translation of verse 17 that says “I’m going to vomit you out of my mouth.”

That’s a nasty picture!

I believe that God is very serious about the fact that He is looking for people who will passionately serve, worship and follow Him. Also, He wants us to serve others, in His name, with all of our heart.

The church of Laodicea reminds me a lot of much of the church in North America. I challenge us to take a hard look at ourselves and say, “am I cold, am I hot or am I lukewarm?”

Please ask God to show you how He sees you.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

Don’t settle for comfortable and content, we only have a short time on this earth to make an eternal difference in the life of others!

Later in this letter, God gives an invitation:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

How are we going to answer?

Let’s love God with all of our hearts, soul, strength and mind and love our neighbors as we love ourselves!

Mike Molter

September 23 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Philadelphia

Read Revelation 3:7-13

Perseverance and obedience aren’t flashy. The person with spectacular gifts and abilities and the single event that caused jaws to drop seem more appealing. Still, these are qualities that are heralded by Jesus in His description of the church in Philadelphia.

Rather than negative traits or actions that needed to cease, Jesus applauded positive responses of the church that were to continue. When it came to perseverance, they were committed to “endure patiently” (3:10). You know, anyone can withstand opposition for a moment. What if the opposition continues? Will you remain faithful? Anyone can force a one-time godly response when things get tough. What if the “tough” never stops? Will you persevere? Yeah, perseverance is under-appreciated because we are taught to lash out. We are trained to respond in the flesh rather than persevere in the Spirit (Gal. 5:19-23).

Obedience was another response affirmed by Jesus. He acknowledged that they had “kept my word” (3:8) and “kept my command” (3:10). I am sure it wasn’t easy. In fact, there were apparently individuals close by who claimed faith but were, in reality, liars (3:9). Genuine faith is more than a claim. It is demonstrated and even confirmed by obedience (Jn. 14:21). Unfortunately, most of us as believers know more truth than we are living out. Is there one of those areas that comes to mind for you? What step could you take to begin to obey in that area?

Let’s face it…no church is perfect. The church in Philadelphia was no exception. But unlike many of the other seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, Jesus gave no negative descriptors. In fact, He extended to them some amazing realities.

  • To them, Jesus had opened a door that could not be shut (3:7). This door certainly included their access to the Father through Jesus (Jn. 10:9; 14:6) or it could also be an open door of ministry opportunity (Col. 4:2-4).
  • To them, Jesus promised exclusion from testing…the testing of the tribulation (3:10; chs. 5-19).

While perseverance and obedience may not be flashy, they do merit blessings and reward.

Steve Kern

September 22 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Sardis

Read Revelation 3:1-6

Alive Church

That was the name that some people might have ascribed to the church in the ancient city of Sardis located in present day Turkey. These people were doing things! God was at work in them. Sardis was congregation with spiritual vitality. At least that was their reputation.

But the interesting thing about a reputation is that it is often rooted in the past and based on appearance. The trouble with a reputation rooted in the past is that it may no longer be accurate in the present. And the problem with a reputation based on appearance is that it may not be a good representation of reality.

How about your reputation? Do others have a realistic perspective of you? Are the opinions of others congruent with the perspective of God?

Back in first-century Sardis…Regardless of the reason, the Lord Jesus pointed to a discrepancy between their reputation and reality. Yes, there were a few exceptions (v. 4), but the majority of them exhibited little signs of spiritual life (v. 1).

While we aren’t given great detail on what this spiritual lifelessness looked like, we are told what was required to experience spiritual revitalization. Whether you would consider your walk with Christ to be described by lethargy or vitality, here are some good principles.

  1. Wake up! (v. 2…and dare I add “and smell the coffee”?) There is sometimes the need to come out of the state of slumber and candidly recognize our true state. How would Jesus describe your walk with Him?
  2. Remember! (v. 3) If you have walked with Jesus for any time at all, there are certainly a few things you have learned along the way. There are principles that you have been taught in sermons or read in the Scriptures. These principles fit into two broad categories of love for God and love for others.
  3. Keep it! (v. 3) The Lord doesn’t just give us truths as information. These truths serve the purpose of transformation. His word invites an obedient response.
  4. Repent! (v. 3) Those areas of discrepancy between God’s plan and your reality are more than just areas needing improvement. They are areas requiring repentance. Humbly go to the Lord and acknowledge that discrepancy and ask for His forgiveness.

Your response to these four principles can breathe vitality into spiritual lethargy. They can help you eliminate the discrepancy between appearance and reality.

Steve Kern

September 21 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Thyatira

Read Revelation 2:18-29

How often do you find yourself excusing sin as “not that big of a deal”? How often do you find yourself comparing your sin to others as “at least I’m not doing that!”

As a society, it seems apparent that we are transitioning to becoming post-Christian. We seemingly don’t care about what makes God happy but only what provides us the most immediate satisfaction.

Right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right! No matter what, we must never tolerate immorality and sin.

In Thyatira, God is calling out their toleration of immorality, specifically, by someone who claims to be a prophet. God is about as clear as you can be by saying that believers should have no part in the prophet or they will face immediate and harsh consequences.

Do we really believe God does not have eyes to see and ears to hear? There is great danger in this path of toleration of sin!

Are you tolerating any kind of sin in your life or with those around you? How can you lovingly but truthfully call the sin out and strive for reconciliation with God? In what way can you be praying for our world to turn back to Christ? Instead of getting bogged down with the state of our society, are YOU living a life glorifying to God?

If we continue to tolerate sin and immorality, it will only get worse. We need to speak out. We need to make our presence known. Let’s dance on God’s great dance floor! We need to get out of the fetal position because this is a war. A war for our souls and the hearts of the unbelieving.

Let’s all commit to living a pure and God-honoring lifestyle. One that shows people the God that we serve and the hope that is available to those who believe!

Tom Weckesser

September 20 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Pergamum

Read Revelation 2:12-17

As we enter into one of the harder books to plainly understand in the Bible, one sentence can sum up what the Lord has given John to write and warn this church:

“Do not compromise the principles I have laid out before you.”

When I read the verses and warnings above, I can’t help but think of the very difference between believers in Jesus and followers of Jesus and the compromising of principles that is laid out before us. 

I never understood this until I surrendered my life to Jesus and became a follower of His. My entire life, I believed in Jesus and I knew the principles that were laid out before me to follow but I chose not to, instead choosing to live life my way. I chose to spend my time, treasures and talents the way I thought they should be spent. I never gave a second thought to what made the Lord smile or what was honoring and pleasing to Him. Therefore, there was no fruit flowing from my spiritual life into my earthly life. 

Then, I surrendered my life. I became a follower of Jesus. My principles and what I stood for changed as my life changed; and as my life changed, the fruit of my life began to prosper. 

Here is John, writing a warning to the Church of Pergamum, trying to get them to understand the difference between what pleases the Lord and what doesn’t. 

Revelation is considered prophecy. How I look at prophecy is instruction and warning given at one time for also another time. I believe the Lord’s principle in showing us this prophecy of what is to come is teaching us to remember to reevaluate our lives. To understand that, when you are a follower of Jesus, the principles that you live by are changed and new life and a new way begins. This new life and new way honors the Lord. 

Maybe there are areas of your life that need to transfer from the principles of your own thinking and into the God perspective and His principles. Do you see fruit flowing from your walk with the Lord?

There are so many issues in our world with so many opinions attached to them. Who are you listening to when deciding where you stand? Are you standing with the words and teachings of those around you, or are you listening to God’s word and basing your life on that truth, trusting that God is in control? 

Let’s reevaluate and look at where our principles lay and change where we need to, based on what God is telling us honors Him.

Kelly Lawson

September 19 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Smyrna

Read Revelation 2:8-11

I don’t know about any of you but I am fairly afraid of conflict. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve taught myself, over the years, to shut down when opposed or because I just hate not being in good standing with other people.

The church in Smyrna was going through some pretty intense opposition. In fact, they were one of only a couple of churches throughout these letters that don’t include a “now, this I have against you” clause. These few sentences from God were intended to encourage them to keep the faith!

I think it’s important to note that God sees their earthly poverty and afflictions but says that they are, in fact, rich.

How could that be?

The Bible speaks several times to eternal rewards that we will receive if we face persecution on this earth. God is telling the church in Smyrna to, essentially, not fear death because there is a reward they will receive in Heaven.

Now, praise the Lord, that, as of now, we don’t experience persecution to the point of death in the United States. However, around the world, it’s a different story. In the time these letters were written, that was a different story. John is writing this revelation account from exile!

“Persecution” can come in all shapes and sizes. It could look like the loss of a friend because they oppose the gospel you preach. It could look like missing out on a job opportunity because you are outspoken about your faith. The Bible is very clear that we shouldn’t shy away from sharing the hope that we have. Peter, in fact, tells us that we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have. Whatever happens next is in God’s hands.

In the gospel of Luke (chapter 10), Jesus is sending out 72 people to do ministry in the surrounding areas. As He is training them to go out, He instructs them on how to handle conflict and opposition because of their message by providing some perspective:

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.”

This is the perspective that we must adopt, that they aren’t rejecting us, they’re rejecting the message and Him who is the origin of the message.

As we live our lives as holy, we mustn’t fear opposition. As God encouraged the church in Smyrna, He knows our struggles and promises ultimate deliverance!

As you take the words above to heart, would you say that you are bold in your faith? Do you shy away from sharing the hope that you have in Jesus for fear of rejection? Do you take that rejection personally? In what way are you going to strive to see the different perspective of Luke 10 and boldly share the gospel with those around you? Lastly, how can you communicate the gospel in love?

Keep the faith!

Jake Lawson

September 18 – Letters to the 7 Churches – Ephesus

Read Revelation 2:1-7

I can still take you right to the spot where it happened. I can tell just about every detail of when I completely lost the desire to play basketball.

“You have one half to prove to me that you have what it takes to play college basketball, because right now, I don’t think you do.”

Any passion that I had held onto for dear life was sucked out of me so much so that I haven’t even played a competitive game of pick up in 10 years.

There was nothing left.

When you lose the passion, the heart, the “why” behind something, the consequences are detrimental.

For the next week, we are going to be in Revelation 2 and 3, reading the letters that God gave to 7 prominent churches of the time. There is so much more in these letters that we won’t be able to touch on this week but we are going to learn from the strengths and weaknesses of these churches and apply both to our lives today.

The first letter is to the church in Ephesus.

Now the Ephesians were doing a lot of things right. When people were coming and claiming to be apostles, they were testing their word to make sure they were accurate. They were not tolerating heretical teaching and people.

They were checking a lot of boxes.

However, there was something that God had “against them”:

“You have left your first love”

There are a couple of different interpretations of what “first love” could mean. Many agree that it means either a diminished love for God or one another.

But I thought the Ephesians were all doing good things?

If you forget or shy away from the “why” and the true passion for what it is you’re doing, are you actually doing any good? Are you actually making an eternal impact?

How often do you find yourself going through the motions in your faith? Do you find yourself forgetting or shying away from the true passion of experiencing life through Jesus?

Although there was a big “forsaken love” issue in the Ephesian church, God gave them hope.

“Therefore, remember from where you have fallen and repent and do the deeds you did at first.”

Will you take a moment to take an honest inventory of your life and see if you have “left your first love”?

In what way have you lost the passion in your faith? How have you lost your love for others?

If you’re not ALL IN with God and others, your impact will quickly diminish.

As John goes on to describe, there is hope for deliverance if we return to our ways of old.

Take a moment to ensure that you are ALL IN with your love for God and others. If you’re not, in what ways are you going to commit to getting back on track?

Jake Lawson

August 28 – Heaven FAQ’s – Will Heaven be boring?

Read Revelation 22:1-25

Are you like me?  Do you read things in the Bible and wonder what is __ (fill in the blank) really like?  Through the Scriptures, God reveals Himself to man and we are told everything we need to know but just not EVERYTHING.  I remember when I was a young boy always asking my mother, “How has God always existed?”.  Or, “What do angels look like?”  Or, “What is Heaven like?  What will we do there?  Will it be boring?”

Well, we do know that God created mankind in His likeness to worship Him and to honor Him.  And the Word does indeed tell us that we will worship the Lord with all of the saints.  Can you imagine being part of a gathering of all the saints who have gone before you and worshiping alongside them?  Jonathan Edwards said “to go to Heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here”.

I can’t tell you if you will get to go fishing with your uncle in Heaven, or play 18 holes with Arnold Palmer at the real Amen Corner.  But I can tell you this: you will be in the presence of Jesus!

As believers, it is our goal and the prize that we long for to see our risen Lord and Savior face to face and to bow down before Him in heaven.  Just pause for a moment and try to envision that! To see the wounds from the nails and the scars from the beating He bore for my sins! Wow!

Let me ask you this.  If you got to Heaven and all that was there was Jesus, would you still want to go?  I can’t tell you if there will be Hobby Lobby in heaven to decorate your heavenly apartment.  Or will it be a home I don’t know?  I can’t answer for you if the Bethlehem Braves will be facing the Jerusalem Giants in a heavenly game of baseball.  But I do know that Jesus is there!

My Lord and Savior is there and He is all I desire.

Scripture also tells us that Heaven is the dwelling place of God. His throne is there, the angels are there, and the Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven. Philippians 3:20 says very plainly that “our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s why Jesus told the thief on the Cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

We will be able to freely worship the Lord and celebrate His great victory over sin.  There will be nothing to distract our worship.  You will be able to give all of your attention to the Lord and serve Him without tiring.

Being in the presence of Jesus, with all who have gone before us, and fellowshipping and worshiping without fear or exhaustion sounds pretty amazing to me.  I think the one thing we never will need to worry about is being bored.

Nate Mills

August 27 – Heaven FAQ’s – New Heaven and New Earth

Read Revelation 22:1-21

Have you noticed the dewdrops sparkling on the grass each morning as the hot summer mornings turn cooler? I notice them out my kitchen window as I make my hot cup of coffee and watch the sunrise. It’s a sure telltale sign that the end of summer is here. I look forward to the cool evenings and campfires after the long hot days of summer (I love those too!). This season is one of my favorite times of year. I love the crisp cool air, football games, the Wayne County Fair and getting my favorite sweatshirts out of storage. I long for each season change and this one is no different.

Do you have things that you crave? Maybe it’s not the expectation of the fall or the things that come with it…but what about full days spent with family and close friends? Or Friday night movie nights with buttery popcorn on the couch? Maybe you’re the person that craves a wild adventure, always making plans to go, do and see? We all have things that we crave.

Revelation 22 is an incredible chapter describing something worth longing for…the New Heavens and New Earth, where the Lord restores the earth as He promised. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the earth became cursed and throughout Scripture, we are reminded that God intends to renew all things and will create a New Heaven and a New Earth (Matt 19:28, Isaiah 65:17). This chapter in Revelation is describing the future home of the believer in this New Heaven and New Earth. A brand new universe that God promises to remake after the final judgment, where there is no more sin.

John describes the crystal clear River of Life flowing from the Throne of God, The Tree of Life finally restored for man to return to and enjoy, and the trees bearing fruit every month, a beautifully restored world. I’m reminded that in this final New Heaven and New Earth, this future home for the believer, we won’t be craving and desiring the things of this earth anymore, but rather living fully satisfied in the presence of our Creator, who is making all things new.

The New Heaven and New Earth is coming, which means the final judgment is also coming. It is not wrong to crave the restoration of all things, but we must remember that God is at work right now, even in our broken world. And we have limited time to share the hope we’ve found in Christ with others so they too can experience the beauty of an eternity spent with God.

I’m reminded of Paul speaking about heaven in Philippians 1. He had just described to the church in Philippi that for him “to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” but then proceeds to tell them, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:23-24).  Have you ever longed for heaven like Paul does here? Do you crave heaven like you crave the things of this world?

Life on earth is full of disappointments and heartache, and God will restore it one day after the final judgement. Until then, we must leverage our life for the sake of others hearing and receiving the hope and power found in Christ alone, so that they too can one day enjoy the New Heaven and New Earth. Who are you sharing Jesus with today so that they have the chance to spend eternity in this glorious place?

 Rachel Snyder

August 26 – Heaven FAQ’s – Who else will be in Heaven?

Read Revelation 4:1-5:14

The book of Revelation describes how Jesus appeared to John on the island of Patmos, it outlines letters to seven first-century churches, and it describes events yet to come.

Much like the future rapture experience of followers of Jesus, John was called to heaven in chapter 4. His description of what he experienced offers us insight into the nature of heaven. Today’s reading, particularly, gives us a better grasp of who we can expect to find there. So, who else will be in heaven?

First and foremost, John points to God (5:1-3)! He is described here as sovereign ruler seated on a throne. His glory is displayed in terms of precious stones and a rainbow. He is the one who will be worshiped eternally by redeemed humans and angels!

Next, John describes 24 elders (4:4, 5, 10, 11; 5:8-10). Many believe these elders to be illustrative of the 12 tribes of Israel from the Old Testament and the 12 apostles from the New Testament. These leaders will have prominent positions in heaven. But, ultimately, they will worship the Father and the Son!

John also mentions four living creatures (4:6-8; 5:8-11). These are likely unique angelic beings whose role it is to endlessly extol the holiness of God. They too will worship Father and Son!

But among those highly esteemed and redeemed men and women, and including these angelic beings, no one is worthy to open an important scroll. Thankfully, Jesus is also in Heaven (5:5-7)! Through Him, Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled and sacrifice was made for the redemption of humankind. He is worthy of worship!

Once Jesus took the scroll, the elders and creatures broke into a song that points to people from every tribe and language and people and nation (5:9, 10). The result of believers’ Spirit-empowered response to the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations will be evidenced in eternity as individuals from all over the world join in worship of the Lamb (7:9, 10).

Finally, John describes innumerable angels (5:11, 12). They number “thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” (5:11). They, too will join in worship of the Lamb!

So, if you are a Christ-follower, you will not be alone in heaven! Righteous angelic beings will be there. Others from the nations will join you. But other people will only come by invitation. Boldly and compassionately invite others to join you so that, collectively, you can adore the crucified Christ!

Steve Kern