Have you ever considered a vacation in Smyrna? You might find out something about your worth. You probably would not choose that destination, it does not sound like a great place. From a resident’s point of view it is a place of affliction and poverty. Some of the people there make false claims about themselves concerning their righteousness, but the Spirit says that they are a synagogue of Satan. Oh, that was not a compliment. The encouragement from the Spirit seems to be,
‘Oh, by the way, you will suffer and be put in prison (as a test), you will be persecuted (for a limited time) even to the point of death, but don’t worry about it. Just stay faithful and you will get some kind of authority/reward/crown and the second death will not hurt you at all.’
However, the Spirit calls the church in Smyrna “Rich.” Would you like to go to this rich place? The unfortunate truth is that most of us live there at least from time to time. Some of us in the church, the ones who have it “all figured out” but not really, live very close to the synagogue of Satan. Some might even be Deacons in that synagogue. I take no pleasure in saying that, but it might be true. Others of us live in the shadow of that synagogue and are under its persecution.
So what is the Spirit saying to the church in Smyrna and what is the Spirit saying to the church at large? I think the message is about worth. For example, don’t measure your worth by your circumstance. The Smyrna church was in horrible poverty and yet they were rich in the things of God. They were rich in mercy. They had not set themselves up as the authorities that rule everything. They did not have to make a judgement on everyone. They understood and practiced humility and meekness. This may be why the church gets the crown of life. The crown of life might signify authority, wealth and health.
Another thing that the Spirit might be saying to the church may be a warning against the façade. God desires to drive falseness from our soul. He calls this falseness a synagogue of Satan. It seems like there is a clear choice to be made. Join the synagogue of Satan with all of its accusations, and self-important righteousness, which is a mean spirited righteousness that is evil in every aspect, or practice humility and submit yourself to God to join His way. The former is easier and seems successful and the latter seems lowly, but maybe it is the other way around. Maybe the Spirit is saying that things are not always the way they seem in our limited perspectives. Maybe the Spirit is saying hang on…the rescuer is coming, hang on…
What do you think the Spirit is saying to the churches? See you next in Pergamum.
20160515 Bulletin PDF
20160515 Handout PDF
Reminder: All items to be donated for the garage sale can be brought to the Ebenezer Center beginning Sunday!
Would you like to be victorious? You might ask, “In what?” or “What will it cost me?” They are good questions, but I’m talking about gaining victory in a humility driven sagacious life for the Lord. Oh, I didn’t know what sagacious meant either. A little Google help – “having or showing keen mental discernment and good judgement; shrewd, wise, clever, intelligent, knowledgeable, sensible, sage, canny, perceptive, astute, prudent, thoughtful, insightful…” This kind of life is referred to in some circles as a fully developed follower of Christ. So, would you like that kind of victory?
Well, the rewards are many: You get to eat from the tree of life in God’s paradise; you will not be hurt by the second death; you will be well fed and get a new name from God that speaks of your victorious character; you will rule over the nations with God’s authority; you will be dressed in purity and spoken highly of by Jesus to His Father and to the angels; you will be a support in God’s house and have God’s graffiti written all over you; you will be able to sit with Jesus on His throne. That is pretty good stuff. That is the stuff of the destination, but what about the journey? How do you get there from here?
Do you know what the Spirit is saying to the churches? Do you have spiritual ears? The journey is opened up for us in the second and third chapters of Revelation, the last book in the bible. You need to know that the journey is full of detours, U-turns, rough trails and dangerous places. There seems to be construction everywhere and it seems to be that the route is intentionally in that condition to strengthen our resolve and our focus. So what is the Spirit saying to the churches?
Our first discovery along the route is that Jesus knows how hard the journey is. He says that He knows our hard work, but that seems to be the first chance to get off the road. The hard work gives us opportunity to change our focus. We start on the journey as a response to God’s love that He shows us and we have a desire to share that love with others, but we sometimes get stuck in the roughness of the journey. It is possible in this place to get so bogged down that we begin a new journey of bitterness. It threatens to replace the journey of origin. The bitterness trail is off the intended journey; it is a path of its own. It can make us forget why we started on the trip in the first place. It is a downward plunge; a dangerous road. It is a road that pits us against one another in some kind of a comparative competition to the death. The Spirit is saying WRONG ROAD! Remember the love that you started with? Do you remember the source of that love? Change direction! Get back on the journey that you were on and remember the attractional love that you desired to be filled with and to share. The Spirit is saying not to get so burdened by the work that you lose the sweetness of the connections with God and with one another. That is what the Spirit was saying to the church in Ephesus. It also might be one of the things that the Spirit is saying to our churches. What is the Spirit telling you – if you have ears – listen to the Spirit speak. Rev. 2:1-7 What do you think…until next time in Smyrna,
I’ve been observing and somewhat quiet lately. Well I’m about to break the silence. It seems we get confused about family life. My thoughts on this are simple. Family life is more than just family time. It’s about relationships. Better yet it’s about building relationships.
I recently watched Courageous again. It reminded me about how important it is to be a Godly father. We all have been impacted by our relationships to our parents. Let’s start there. I think all of our relationships are impacted by our relationships at home. If we have good ones there than we have good relationships outside home. Think about it this way. How we treat our kids is the way they treat others. How’s your relationships at home?
Family is what we call those we attend the gatherings with. Church family for us old guys. The two keys for a successful church are what are our relationships like with our “Church family?” Are we developing Godly relationships with them? Are we loving them as Christ loves them? Are we being selfless, non-judgmental, non-condemning and Christ like towards our brothers and sisters in Christ? After all they are family aren’t they? Second when it comes to serving are we doing that with a selfless attitude? In other words are we desiring what God desires or what we desire? When it comes to serving others we need to first serve God and do so with a selfless God focused attitude. This type of attitude will impact others greatly. How’s your relationships in the church body?
We are claiming to be “One in Heart and One in Mission”. How’s that going? Is the mission of Christ in our minds in every relationship? At work? At home? At the church gatherings? With our Pastor? Every relationship is affected by our attitude. Let’s treat everyone as though it’s an integral part of our Family Life.
Until the next time, your Family Life Pastor signing off.
Have you ever deeply contemplated the things that you do every day? Probably you have not – nor should you have to think deeply about everyday things. We have a lot more important things to focus on. I mean we don’t generally deeply contemplate how we brush our teeth – we just do it. But if you were to waste the time to give it some thought you would probably notice that you brush your teeth pretty much the same way each time. If you were to teach someone how to brush their teeth you would probably teach them to do it the same way that you brush yours – without any thought of a better way. I’m not just talking about the up and down or the circular or back and forth motions, but what side do you start out on? It turns out that most people start out on the opposite side from their dominate hand. If you are right handed you will start out on the left side of your mouth – it is easier and more natural that way. But if you differ it does not matter; just brush your teeth. The things that we do without thinking become our perspective.
A perspective is a view and a view can take us off course. For example, last night we almost ran into the ditch. I was driving home from Grand Rapids in the snow storm. The roads were slick, slush threw the car to and fro, visibility minimal – I was on M-6. I was following tracks from other cars because that was all I could see. That was my perspective, my view, my focus. I sure was surprised when the stoplight came into view. I was no longer on M-6. My perspective was fixed on trying to stay on the road, the tracks that I was focused on helped me to stay on the road, but my course was changed because of my perspective. My perspective, my focus kept me safe, but did not get me where I wanted to go.
The bigger mission of this church is not to merge two churches together. Our bigger mission is to make disciples of Jesus. The vision of this church is to effectively engage with people in the towns around us so that we add value to those people and those towns. That is called outreach. As we engage and add value we have the privilege of making relationships. These relationships come with conversations about the things that are important to the people or groups that we are serving. Our hope is that the Holy Spirit will break into these relationships to draw folks to Christ based on the value that we, His witnesses, have added to their lives. We don’t force it; we wait for it. That is our strategy.
We dare not lose the perspective of the mission and following the barely visible tracks of coming together as one church. If that is our focused perspective it will only lead to a light blinking in the darkness startling us. If our perspective is focused and our energy is spent trying to bring us together, we will never come together as one church – that vision is much too small, off course. Our mission and vision need to be the impetus to bring us together. Our energy, our synergy, will explode with saving unifying power if we keep the perspective of the mission and vision of the church. We need to expend our energy on that mission. We need to love, to learn and to live the way of Jesus in order to attract others and absorb truth and apply His grace in our target communities. May it become as natural as brushing our teeth.
Peace in the process – strength in the mission – stand firm…talk to you next week.