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

September 17 – Life Verses – Philippians 2:3b-4

Read Philippians 2:3-4

A couple years ago, Psychological Science published a study suggesting that people are becoming more individualistic.  And that’s not just an American trend, it’s a global trend.  In general, life is becoming more and more about us.

And many of you are thinking, “I didn’t need a scientific study to tell me that!  I see it every day!”

Entitled consumers.  Fascination with celebrity. Infatuation with appearance. Obsession with “likes.”

Yet, somehow, all this entitlement and narcissism and self-centeredness doesn’t sit well with us.  Deep within, we know it’s a problem.  But why?

While it’s totally consistent with our fallen nature, it’s completely contrary to our created design.  And as Christians, it’s inconsistent with our new creation.

The problem with being consumed with ourselves is that we are oblivious to the concerns for others.  We lack empathy.  When I put me first, I put others second.

Paul admonishes us to change our focus.  He said,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Most people don’t get up in the morning and spend energy thinking about how others are doing. Most people are only concerned with their own pursuits. And that’s why many people are unhappy with their lives!

Value others. Pick your head up from your phone and see others and their needs. Change your focus.  Shift your attention away from yourself toward others. Find ways to encourage others and build them up.  In fact, Paul says that saying “no” to self and “yes” to others will bring joy into your life.

Throughout my lifetime I have missed more opportunities than I would care to count because my eyes weren’t open or directed toward the needs and the consideration of others.

Let’s agree to put others first. Let’s agree to look out for the interests of others.  Let’s agree to think of ourselves less and others more.  And let’s spread some joy.

David Lawson

September 16 – Life Verses – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Read 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we

might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

When I think about a “life verse,” what instantly comes to mind for me is 2 Corinthians 5:21. In fact, I would describe 2 Corinthians 5 as my favorite chapter of Scripture, specifically verses 11-21.

I love verse 21 because it succinctly sums up the story of the Gospel: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). When Jesus went to the cross, He took on our sin, and in exchange He gave us His righteousness. What a trade! Our sin was charged against Jesus while His perfection and righteousness was applied to us. This is the beauty of the Gospel: that Jesus took our punishment and offers us not only forgiveness, but a way to be in a relationship with God.

That is why Paul, throughout the rest of chapter 5, encourages and challenges us to be Christ’s ambassadors! If we have been made into a “new creation” and have received this great mercy, how can we keep it to ourselves? Instead, we must realize that we who have been reconciled with God have been assigned what Paul calls the “ministry of reconciliation.” This means, simply, that we all have a job to do: to tell others about the incredible gift that Jesus has given to us, and to invite them to receive that same gift themselves.

I would consider this my life verse because it is my reminder of my duty. I am not here to serve myself. I am who I am because of Christ and Christ alone and because of that truth I have a God-given responsibility to reach others with the same message that reached me. I hope that you would consider the responsibility God has entrusted to you as well. We have been called by God to implore others to come back to Him. I love that truth because it reminds me every day of the reason I am on this earth.

Billy Starkey

September 15 – Life Verses – Isaiah 24:5-6

Read Isaiah 24:5-6

A few years ago, I flew on an airplane for the first time in as long as I could remember. I was with a couple of friends and am certain that, of the three of us, I was the one most fearful of flying. The night before we flew out, my mom sent me a text with the verse Isaiah 26:3-4 which says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.” I memorized Isaiah 26:3-4 and I remember reciting it every time my thoughts would drift towards fear and the unknown. As I fixed my mind on reciting that verse, He gave me real and unexplainable peace as we flew. To this day, reciting these two verses in my mind when I am anxious has been God’s way of helping me navigate many of life’s challenges.

Isaiah 26 is a song of praise to God for deliverance of His people from destruction. To help you understand the context of this song of praise, recorded just two chapters beforehand, Isaiah prophesies about the devastation that is to come on the earth in the last days. This includes the judgment and destruction that will come to those who have deliberately chosen to disobey or reject God by the time of His return (Isaiah 24:5-6). Though this time of judgment will bring great devastation, the Lord is to be praised because of His faithfulness to those who choose to trust and obey Him. Those who choose to trust and obey Him can have true peace of mind. Believers will not experience the punishment that nonbelievers will experience in the last days, and Isaiah is praising God for it in chapter 26.

In a world of people who experience anxious thoughts daily, believers have access to peace that goes beyond understanding through trust in God. When worries creep into our mind, we have the power through Christ to fix our mind on the truth of God’s Word by memorizing and reciting Scripture rather than dwelling on our worries. Our circumstances may not get better, but in the middle of them we can choose to focus on the eternality of God and praise Him like Isaiah did. The road to having peace of mind is found in training our mind to think on the things of God even when our circumstances are devastating.

Sidney Rupp

September 14 – Life Verses – John 10:10

Read John 10:1-21

“Living my best life.” Have you ever heard this phrase from someone? I see it all the time as I peruse Instagram. It’s an expression that Urban Dictionary describes as, “A stupid phrase used to portray a false reality that you can wake up and choose which “life” you want to live.” If only it was that easy. Perhaps we could just say, “Hey Alexa, I want to live my best life today.” And our day would transform before our eyes? That doesn’t sound half bad. I searched for all of the posts on Instagram with this tag, #livingmybestlife, and found a pile of photos and videos of people indulging in things that make them feel “happy.” I saw people posting  their weight-loss transformations, beach vacations, experiences with friends, alcohol, and positive thinking quotes. This is what culture calls, “the best life.”

While I’m not against positivity and doing things that make you happy… is it really the best life? What happens when I wake up and it’s not the best day of my life? When I have to make a dreaded phone call, or worse yet receiving one of those feared phone calls. Life isn’t always waking up and choosing “the best life.” Sometimes… we get stuck in a life that we never dreamed could ever happen to us. We become consumed in deep indescribable realities of grief, disease, divorce, depression, anxiety, addictions, debt, loneliness, and so many other things that creep in when we least expect it.

Yet, when Jesus talks about the best life, the full life, He’s not talking about waking up in the morning and doing all the things that make us happy. He’s talking about choosing to live life His way, for Him and with Him. Even when we find ourselves in the midst of crazy chaos, Jesus offers life with Him. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes to kill, steal and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He’s promising the best life in the midst of the chaos of this world.

John chapter ten is full of language about peace, safety and joy found in Jesus. Jesus came so that we can have life. Realizing that Jesus came to this earth to die so that I can have life is the most sobering reality. The foot of the cross is the most humbling place to be. The place where I realize my sinfulness and embrace his holiness. His death and his resurrection made a way for me to find hope for all of life’s situations. I have found true life in Him. Safe in his pasture. Resting in His presence, even when there are wolves and thieves that are out to destroy me. Protected by Him, my shepherd. I find deep soul satisfaction as I pursue Him every day. You see, my friend, the abundant life has nothing to do with stuff. It has nothing to do with doing things to make you happy. It has nothing to do with waking up and choosing to “live your best life.” It has everything to do with giving up control and finding peace, safety, hope, forgiveness and the best life in Jesus Christ.

I wonder if we should drop the “living my best life” hashtag and lean into the best life that God has for us? There must be a conscious shift from pursuing the earthly things to pursuing the eternal things of God. The abundant life is about the reality that Jesus made a way for us to live life reconciled with Him, the best. Are you living the best life?

Rachel Snyder