It’s not getting any easier to be a believer in this fallen world. There’s a growing instability in almost every area where we’d normally find security. We have plenty of reasons for our hearts to be troubled.
And yet, Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled…” But how? Especially given our current circumstances? The answer is found in His faithfulness—the great and precious promises and prophecies He has given us. The more we look at God’s track record of faithfulness, the more reason we have to hope.
This hope sustains us and allows us to move forward knowing that God hold the future in His hand. We can face the future with confidence and boldness knowing that He is already there.
This past Sunday, we considered the prophecies and the promises God has given us so that our hearts won’t be troubled. Listen to our study from John 14:1-6 and remember His great and precious promises—fulfilled and yet to come to pass.
Brutality, war, destruction, poverty, immorality. The world before Jesus’ birth desperately needed a savior. Some expected a civil savior—a leader who would solve all of their outward issues.
Someone like…Caesar Augustus. Scaling the ladder of power through brutality and force, he exalted himself as the “sacred one” and became a man-made savior. He tried to solve man’s outward problems and bring outward peace. But as amazing as he was, Caesar Augustus was still just a man.
The savior the world needed had to be more than a man. The world needed a different kind of savior. The Messiah--God made man—who left His throne, gave up His power, and descended to be born a helpless baby in the most humble of circumstances.
Jesus did not come to be a civil savior. If our greatest need was administration, God would have sent an administrator. If our greatest need was money, God would have sent a business leader. If our greatest need was medicine, God would have sent a physician. But God knew our greatest need was salvation, forgiveness, and fellowship with Him. So He sent us a Savior, His One and Only Son, to purchase and provide what we needed most—permanent lasting inward peace with God. Because that is our greatest need.
With the angels let us sing
Alleluia to our King!
Christ the Savior is here,
Jesus the Savior is here!
On Christmas Eve, we looked at the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of John and asked some pretty big questions. Questions like…where did God come from? What is God's history? What would God's birth story be?
Listen to our study from John 1 as we carefully considered the genealogy and birth of Jesus.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…”
This past Sunday, we continued our focus on the Christmas story with a closer look at Luke 2. This may be very familiar territory for most of us, but as we work and worship our way verse by verse through this word from God that never changes, we find that—by His Holy Spirit—we will change as we preserve, ponder, and proclaim the most amazing gift of God's grace—His Son. “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” His Son—born of a virgin. Born to live. Born to die. Born to give His life for us so that we could live.
Listen to our study from Luke 2 and discover this indescribable gift of God’s amazing grace!
In the eighth Psalm, David asks two questions of the Lord: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?”
God answers those two important questions in one person with two important names: Jesus and Immanuel.
You see, from before time began…before the foundations of the world were established…before God created the entire universe—He saw you! And His love for you is so immense that He began His grand plan to save you.
This plan put a seemingly impossible amount of intricacy in motion—all for you. It spanned thousands of years and involved dozens of generations. It endured from creation through the fall and the flood. It continued through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It included David and persisted through captivity until the plan was finally fulfilled…by a baby boy born in Bethlehem.
A baby named Jesus. A son called Immanuel. Jesus, which means, “God our salvation”. Immanuel, which means, “God with us.” In His infinite wisdom and out of His everlasting love, God responds to our greatest need with Himself.
Oh, come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Immanuel!
This past Sunday, we pushed pause on our Revelation study and Jesus' second coming to consider His first coming. The Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John have detailed accounts of how Jesus was born. On Sunday, we looked carefully at the account in Matthew and how both Jesus' humanity and deity were featured in the genealogy of Jesus. Next week, we'll consider Luke's account. And on Christmas Eve, we'll look at John's record of Jesus' arrival as Messiah.
Listen to our study of Matthew 1 and marvel at the God who chooses to be with us—and who also is our salvation!
We have a sin nature that craves sin. It makes us think we can enjoy the benefits of sinning without experiencing the consequences of sin. But make no mistake—sin always has consequences. Sure, it might feel like freedom at first…but the hangover from indulging in sin is fierce.
In His wrath, God sometimes releases a person over to unrestrained sin so that they would experience the full consequences of their sin in order to lead them to repentance. But His wrath can also include soul-crushing, life-ending judgment. We see examples of this throughout Scripture when God releases rebellious people over to their sin—and all of sin’s consequences (see Numbers 11).
Here’s the truth…though God’s wrath may seem extreme, it is ultimately what we all deserve. He has every right to pour out His wrath upon all mankind. And yet, in His great mercy, He has provided a way to escape the wrath to come. That’s the whole truth. This truth is about God’s Son, who came to save us by willingly becoming one of us to receive God’s FULL wrath for us—the full judgement that we deserve. As awful as it is going to be during the time of the tribulation, it pales in comparison to the horrors that Jesus endured in order to set us free from sin, death, and the judgement to come.
So if you haven’t already done so…receive Jesus today. Receive Him as Savior and the Lord of your life. God’s Word says if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can do that right now! Ask God for forgiveness. Believe that Jesus died for your sin and that God raised Him to life. Trust Him as your Savior and follow Him as Lord.
Guilty, vile, and helpless, we,
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
Full redemption—can it be?
Hallelujah! what a Savior!
What is wrath? What is the wrath of God? And what does it look like when God pours out His wrath? These were all questions we asked and sought to answer in our study of Revelation 6:1-8 this past Sunday.
Wrath—extreme anger—is something that God uses at times for the purpose of repentance. Sometimes, we can think that God is hindering us from enjoying sin because He is some kind of cosmic control freak. And so we try to shake off His “shackles” in order to enjoy sin unhindered, undiluted, and unrestrained. But sin always takes more than it gives—sin steals, kills, and destroys. In His wrath and in His wisdom, God sometimes simply lets stubborn unrepentant sinners experience sin without hindrance so that they might come to a realization that sin does indeed steal, kill, and destroy.
Contrary to today’s headlines and breaking news, we have never fully seen an unrestrained sin saturated society. But one day, mankind will—the Day of God’s Wrath (also called the Time of Tribulation). On that day, The Restrainer—who is currently holding sin back from fully saturating a society—will be removed and the world will plunge into a rotten awful darkness.
So who is this Restrainer? And what does His removal have to do with the first 4 seals on the scroll in Heaven we first saw last week? Listen to our study of Revelation 6:1-8 and learn about this Restrainer and the results of His removal.
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” For a moment, this question was left unanswered before the throne in Heaven. And in that moment, the lives of billions upon billions of all of the human who ever lived upon the earth were searched—and no one was found to be worthy.
Not even God the Father was worthy. The One seated on the throne with the scroll in His hand wasn’t worthy to open the scroll or to loose the seven seals or to look inside. Why? Because God gave authority over earth to Adam, who forfeited his authority over the earth. So the only one who could complete the redemption of creation was another human—a second Adam.
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?”
JESUS! “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:4) Jesus is worthy! He ALONE is worthy because He bought us back with His own blood after we sold ourselves into slavery to sin. And yet Jesus is not only worthy of all of this—He is also worthy of our worship.
“Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:14)
“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” This is the question that hangs in the air around the throne of Heaven as John continues to describe the scene around the throne in Heaven in Revelation 5.
Worthiness is something we considered last Sunday. At the end of chapter 4, the 24 elders fell down before the throne and said, “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”
The subject of worthiness is still our focus in Revelation 5—but not in relation to the act of creation. We considered it in the form of the question asked above—a question concerning the redemption of creation. So what’s the answer? Listen to our study of Revelation 5 to find out!
In Revelation 4, John describes what he sees in the throne room of heaven. It’s an amazing scene full of unimaginable beauty, marvelous glory…and very interesting creatures. Creatures with multiple faces, six wings, and covered with eyes.
Remember that God is a God of order and intentionality. He deliberately reveals His glory and His love though His word for our benefit. No words in His Word are ever wasted. Everything written has a purpose.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (emphasis added)
You see, this scene with these creatures may seem odd until you realize that the same scene is repeated throughout the Bible. We see it described 6 times in the book of Revelation alone; it’s referenced through the symbolism of the 4 Gospels; described in detail in Ezekiel 1; and hinted at in the way God commanded the tribes of Israel to camp around the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
God isn’t giving us a fanciful tale to impress or confuse us. He is giving us a message—the message that the entire Bible is communicating. 66 books. 1,189 chapters. 31,102 verses. All for you! All for us! All interwoven in an undeniable way to paint a vivid portrait of the central figure of all time—Jesus Christ. Out of His great love for us, He goes to the greatest of lengths to not only deliver His message for mankind but also to authenticate His authorship.
It’s only because of Jesus that we’re able to come to His throne. And our only reasonable response to such glory, majesty, and grace is to worship Him.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This past Sunday, we studied Revelation 4—the beginning of…well…the end (that is, the end of time as we know it on the earth as we know it). If you remember some of our first studies of Revelation, we looked at the outline God gave us for the whole book: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19)
The first section (things which you have seen) described what John had saw from his perspective—his vision and interaction with Jesus in all of His glory (Revelation 1). The second section (the things which are) were the seven letters Jesus wrote to the seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3). The third section (the things which will take place after this) are future events that have yet to occur and are described for us in the remainder of the book of Revelation (chapters 4-22).
Revelation 4 opens this exciting third section with a simple, yet significant saying: “After these things…” But what are these things? And why is this order important in light of eternity? Listen to our study of Revelation 4 to find out!
In this seventh letter, Jesus writes to the church of the Laodiceans. And it’s important to remember that He is the author of these letters. Jesus—“the Amen, the Faithful and True witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” (Revelation 3:14) He is the True Witness. He is the Real Deal.
But those gathered in Laodicea weren’t witnesses for Jesus. They weren’t real in their relationship with Him. In fact, you might say it was audacious for them to be called a church without any true loyalty to Jesus. Sadly, they had compromised their convictions. Even as they gathered in nice buildings and did nice things, the Lord of His church was left on the outside.
How did this happen? A clue might be found in the name of the city—“Lao,” is where we get our word “laity”; and “Dicea,” is where we get our word “decide”. You see, Jesus is displaced from His proper position in His church when the perceived wants of the people determine the direction of a church. What’s the result? A country club full of people who think they they are Christians…but Christ is absent from them.
And yet…in His mercy, Jesus comes to this church. He stands outside the door. He knocks with His nail pierced hands. He speaks to His beloved—the people He bought with His precious blood. And He invites them to dine with Him—to enjoy fellowship with Him, the very thing He saved them for.
Each of these letters has ended with the same phrase: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” As a body of believers, it our desire is for Christ to rule and reign in His church and in our hearts. Have you heard the Spirit speak? Have you heard Jesus knocking? Answer the door. Let Jesus in.
The church of Laodicea thought too highly of themselves. They thought they were rich, but they were really poor. They thought they were covered, but they were really exposed. They thought they could see, but they were really blind. They took pride in who they appeared to be from the outside, but had no presence of Christ within. In fact, Jesus is no where to be found in this church—He’s on the outside, knocking and hoping someone would open the door.
Where did things go wrong for this “church”? How did they end up with Jesus outside? And what can we learn from their example? Listen to our study of Revelation 3:14-22 as Jesus warns us about churches becoming Christian country clubs for nice people.
The church in Philadelphia didn’t hold an honest assessment of who they really were. As they compared themselves with other churches, their strength seemed small and their faith seemed weak. In their flawed self-assessment, they probably felt like failures. And yet, from Jesus’ letter to this church, we see that they did not realize just how successful they truly were—from God’s perspective.
Maybe you can relate to the church of Philadelphia. Maybe you feel too weak or too flawed as you compare yourself to others. But there is a danger in using worldly ways to determine success or failure in your own self-assessment. God’s word tells us that with a little strength, a little faithfulness, and an open door from the Lord, you can be unstoppable!
No matter how weak and silly and feeble you may feel, stay faithful to Jesus. As you walk though the open doors He places before you, trust that He equips those He calls. He is not looking for your ability, but your availability. Remember that He uses those who feel unqualified and overwhelmed…and won’t give up.
The church in Philadelphia probably thought they were the worst, the most foolish, and the most faithless of all the seven churches that Jesus wrote. And yet, they couldn’t be more wrong! Why? Because they were using worldly ways of determining success or failure.
It’s so important to see yourself as God sees you—not as others see you, not even as you see you! The Lord will bring into the light of day all that is presently hidden in darkness, exposing the secret motives of people’s hearts. Then God will give each person a share of His praise (see 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
This church probably didn’t even think that Jesus would write to them. But He did—and they were the only church that Jesus didn’t correct. Though they were feeble, they were faithful. And so Jesus encouraged them through His letter.
We found encouragement in this letter too as we studied it this past Sunday. Listen to our study of Revelation 3:7-13 and learn how only God opens doors that no one can shut.
In the letters to the churches at the beginning of Revelation, the names of each city relates to the content of each letter. Sardis means “escape” or “to escape,” which speaks to the chapter of church history this letter addresses—the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants risked everything to protest the unbiblical practices and doctrines of the prevailing powers in the church of that day. They gained a name that was synonymous with courageous faithfulness and contagious loyalty to Jesus.
But something happened to that Back-to-the-Bible revival. Over the course of time, their faithfulness and loyalty lessened. They had an outward reputation, but no inward reality to match. What began as a movement of the Holy Spirit became a man-made manual, which became a monument, which ended up as a mausoleum—dead.
Could the same be said for our church? Could the same be said of you? How is your walk with Jesus? We must heed the lesson from the church of Sardis—individually and collectively. We must continue walking in the Spirit and resisting the temptation to perfect a genuine movement of the Spirit in our flesh.
If we are not careful, we can be lulled into a self-confidence that causes us to cease being watchful and strengthened through the simplicity of loyalty to Jesus and His word. If we are not watchful, the enemy can sneak right in and attack our intimacy with Jesus on the inside, even as we hold to doctrinal purity on the outside. And if we are not careful, we will find ourselves holding on to dead orthodoxy—simply going through the motions of vain repetition.
Set a watch! Be on guard! And purpose in your heart and mind to strengthen the simplicity of walking with Jesus in the Spirit.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
The church in Sardis had an outward reputation for being alive, but their inward reality was…different. This church was dead. From the outside they seemed alive, but inside, they lacked life.
The seven letters at the beginning of Revelation have multiple layers of meaning. They speak to the actual churches of that day, individual churches of today, a personal application for us, and a correlation with church history. This letter corresponds to the period of church history known as the Protestant Reformation—which had name outwardly, but over time lost their inward reality.
But it didn’t begin this way for the church in Sardis, for the churches that call themselves Protestant, or for the churches and people to whom this applies today. Listen to our study from Sunday as we considered each of these three in our study of Revelation 3:1-6.
Is it possible to do good things outwardly without any recognition of Jesus inwardly? Can a church do marvelous things, but have little loyalty to her King? Can someone excel in love and faithful service and yet compromise God’s Word?
Ask the church at Thyatira.
From the outside, this church had a lot going for it! They were active. They were loving. They were constantly serving. Jesus commends them for these things (in addition to their sterling faith and enduring patience). But their visible activity didn’t match their invisible motives. In the case of the church at Thyatira, looks were incredibly deceiving.
The name of the city clues us into the condition of this particular church. Thyatira means “citadel of garbage.” From the outside, this place looked like a palace, but inside was nothing but filth. How? Why? What could this church have done that would cause Jesus to look at it with anger and severe judgement (Revelation 2:18)? Tolerance. But…can tolerance really be that bad?
Ask the church at Thyatira.
It was this church that tolerated a self-proclaimed prophetess to teach and seduce their own people to commit serious sins. This church allowed a false teacher access to its own members to get them to stumble and fall. And it was this church that received stern words from Jesus to bring them to repentance and to a renewed desire to hold fast to His Word.
Today, we find ourselves in a culture that champions tolerance of immorality as a virtue. Will you permit all sorts of immorality to continue in your heart? Will you remain silent when God’s people are being lead astray? Or will you hold to what the Bible says is true, no matter the cost?
God is calling us to courageous loyalty to Jesus. As you take a stand for what is true…in love…remember the words of Jesus: “But hold fast what you have till I come.” (Revelation 2:15)
What’s in a name? Plenty! Just ask anyone named Ichabod. There was a child in Israel’s history that was given this name. He was born right after the Ark was taken out of Israel by Israel’s enemies (1 Samuel 4:19-22). Which makes sense—Ichabod means “the glory of God has departed.”
This Sunday, we continued our study of the seven letters to seven churches in the book of Revelation. The next two churches were on the verge of being called Ichabod. Thyatira and Sardis were dying and almost dead. Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t rename them Ichabod—His glory hadn’t completely departed. However, He cries out to them to repent and fan into flame the smoldering spark of faith still found in their hearts.
Though it was the smallest of the seven churches, Thyatira received the longest letter—but not for the best of reasons. Listen to our study from Revelation 2: 18-29 as we considered how the letter applied to the church of Thyatira then…and how it applies to us now.
Satan’s strategy to discourage believers from following Jesus often starts with physical persecution—fighting the church physically from without. And we see that throughout church history—especially toward the end of the first century, during the second century, and into the third century.
But sometimes, physical persecution has the opposite effect. Persecution purified, strengthened, and even grew the early church. So Satan switched his strategy. If he couldn’t beat them by beating them physically without…he would corrupt them from within through compromise, cowardice, and diluted doctrine. The church at Pergamos, which means “mixed marriage,” was uniting spiritual authority with idolatry—an unholy infection from within that was sapping the church’s strength.
So what’s the solution? Jesus gives us the answer in His letter to Pergamos. Return to the simplicity, the purity, and the power of God’s Word—as God gave it.
The book of Revelation begins with seven letters to seven churches—letters that are applicable to every church and every individual in every age—but also specific to periods of church history.
The first letter, to Ephesus, speaks of the first century church. Followers of Jesus became so busy working for the King that they had no time to just be with the King—the very thing He saved them for.
The second letter, to Smyrna, speaks of the second chapter of church history. During this time, Satan tried to defeat the church with suffering and persecution.
This past Sunday, we studied the letter to Pergamos, the third age of church history. Suffering and persecution did not destroy the church, but instead helped it grow. In response, Satan switched his strategy and sought to destroy the church from within. For the church at Pergamos, this looked like combining spiritual authority with Roman and pagan idolatry.
Jesus had some straightforward words of correction (as well as some words of commendation) for this church that struggled with Satan’s strategy of corruption through an unholy union. Listen to our study from this past Sunday and learn the lessons, warnings, and applications from this important letter.
The church in the city of Smyrna was afraid. Under the thumb of a cruel and violent emperor, they faced persecution daily. Suffering surrounded them. Tribulation and affliction were the new norms. And the prospects for a peaceful life seemed like a distant hope.
Jesus knew how difficult life was and how difficult life would become for the believers in Smyrna. Which is why He wrote to them to tell them to stop fearing the things they were about to suffer. He wanted this church, struggling to stay loyal to Him, to anticipate difficult days ahead…and to know that through it all, He would be with them.
Suffering—no matter how severe in this life—is only for a finite amount of time. The One who defeated death is aware of all the difficulty, pain, and suffering that you endure. Jesus knows how you’ve been knocked around. Jesus knows what you’ve been through. And like the believers in Smyrna, Jesus knows what you are about to go through…and that He will be with you as you endure it.
Have you ever had a week that was stressful? Or maybe a day that was difficult? Or an hour that overwhelmed you? Life is hard, but God is good. Even through those difficult times, we can know that He is with us. That puts things into perspective.
We gained some of that perspective this past Sunday as we studied Jesus’ letter to the church in Smyrna. Jesus knew of their current affliction and of their coming persecution. His message to this fellowship is one that we can benefit from in our current suffering and suffering to come.
Listen to our study of Revelation 2:8-11 and learn what words of hope and encouragement Jesus gave to the church of this ancient city…and the words of hope and encouragement He speaks to us today.
Jesus had some really good things to say about the Ephesian church. He knew their works, their patient perseverance, and their labor for His name’s sake—without becoming weary. On the outside, this church looked wonderful!
But Jesus sees everything—outside & inside. He not only sees our deeds, but also our desires, our motives, our intents. To Jesus, these things are just as important—if not more important—than the deeds themselves.
Jesus saw that the church in Ephesus had left their first love. Outwardly, they looked very active for the Lord—but inwardly, their motivation had more to do with maintaining appearances than a genuine love for the Lord and others.
Heed the warning from Jesus’ message to the Ephesians: if your service is not first motivated and maintained by love, it profits nothing—no matter how much you get done for the Lord. He does not care how outwardly active you are. He knows your works and He sees what is underneath it all. Thankfully, Jesus gives us the same remedy that He gave the Ephesian church: Remember, repent, and return.
We know the first works of our first love are to talk to God through prayer, to give Him opportunity to talk to us through His Word, and to be part of an open and honest fellowship. Prayer, the Word, and fellowship—it’s the simple recipe for health and maturity for any believer in any situation at any time.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends