August 18, 2018

Today you should read: Revelation 2:18-29

Revelation is a book of awe and wonder.  Much of it we struggle to understand, yet we are intrigued by it – wondering how things will play out in the end times which are soon to come.  This incredible book was written by John – the author of the Gospel of John and 1, 2, 3, John while he was banished to the Greek Island of Patmos.  While he was there, God showed him a vision of heaven, how things would end here on earth, and gave him messages to the churches. So far, we’ve read about the message to the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna (the current city of Izmir, Turkey), and the church in Pergamum (close to Izmir).

Today we read the letter to the church in Thyatira.  Thyatira was located in what is now west Turkey – south of Istanbul and about 50 miles from the Aegean Sea.  The site in now the modern city of Akhisar. Like the other letters to the churches, God has some good things and some bad things to say about this church.

They had demonstrated several incredible characteristics: (v.19)

  • Love
  • Faith
  • Service
  • Patient Endurance
  • Constant Improvement

But God had a complaint against them too.  They had not stood up for truth against Jezebel (the wicked Queen wife of Ahab).  She had called herself a prophet and had led people to commit sexual sin and to eat food from idols.  The church went along with it – afraid to stand up for God’s standard.

We see this throughout history and certainly today.  Believers go along with what is popular and are afraid to stand up for God’s truth in issues like abortion, homosexuality, cohabitation, the integrity of God’s Word, and God’s position on leadership for His church.  There are hot buttons that we are often afraid to touch for fear of hurting friends or being seen as intolerant.

We must stand up for truth.  God has called His people to hold His standard high.  How do we know God’s standard on these and other issues?  God gives them to us in His Word. Let’s not fall into the same trap that the church in Thyatira did.  Let’s be a church and a people that stand for truth while loving people like Jesus did.

  • In what ways have you begun to compromise in order to be liked?
  • How can you lovingly take a stand for truth?

By: Tim Parsons — Lead Pastor


August 17, 2018

Today you should read: Revelation 2:12-17

Pergamum was a major city in the ancient Roman Empire.

“Among its notable features were its beauty and wealth, its library of nearly 200,000 volumes (second only to the library of Alexandria); its famous sculpture; its temples to Dionysus, Athena, Asclepius, and Demeter, along with the three temples to the emperor cult; its great altar to Soter Zeus; and its many palaces. The two main religions seem to have been the worship of Dionysus, the god of the royal kings symbolized by the bull, and Asclepius, the savior god of healing, represented by the snake.” (Ramsay, Seven Churches, 284, quoted in Expositors Bible Commentary)

Our passage today offers a stiff warning against deviation against the purity of God’s Word. As with the other church letters, this one opens with a description of Jesus, “The One who has the sharp two-edged sword.” His sword divides truth from falsehood, righteousness from unrighteousness. In the Roman Empire, Pergamum was one of the few cities allowed to have capitol punishment—executed with a sword. Thus, it is not the sword of Rome that should cause Pergamum to fear, it is Him who, on the day of judgement, will separate the wheat from the chaff.

As we read, Pergamum had true witnesses to the faith, like Antipas. However, many among them had fallen into the pressures of the culture and turned to idolatry. Idolatry in that culture was everywhere. Even the meat purchased at the market had been sacrificed to pagan gods. It’s prevalence led some in the church to buy the lie. Thus, we see the charge in verse 17, “Repent, or else…”

Pergamum was full of idolatry, paganism, and false worship. Faithful Christians in that culture faced hostility on a regular basis. Sound familiar?

How often are you tempted to compromise truth? What consequences might you face for living sold out for Jesus? Temptations and distractions are everywhere for us, but it was the same, if not worse, in Pergamum. Forget what someone might see on TV or with social media, pagan worship was so ingrained in culture it was inescapable. Pergamum was so bad, it’s referred to as Satan’s dwelling place.

Living out your faith is hard. But in this passage Jesus is essentially saying, “I know it’s hard, but that excuse will not fly. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Not an inch!” If that was the expectation for Pergamum, what is the expectation for us. Don’t give up and don’t give in. Not one inch!  

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate

August 16, 2018

Today you should read: Revelation 2:8-11

When I read this passage I keep focusing in on one thing. I could write about the history of Smyrna and talk about the details surrounding that, but I think that the important factor to pull from this is persecution. In America we have a much different view and understanding of what persecution is. Our country is very prosperous, and though there has been a big shift in the view of Christianity, people are not, at this point, being killed for their faith. We can still freely gather together and openly worship Jesus. When we think of persecution in our context, it is usually in the form of losing a job or being made fun of or being called a name. (I am in no way saying that those things are not difficult to deal with, please don’t take this wrong).

In verse 9 when persecution is brought up, it says persecution unto death. When I read that it shakes me. I have had times where I haven’t shared the Gospel because I was afraid of what people would think or say, and yet this is talking about enduring persecution unto death for what we believe. Many of us including myself would quickly jump up and say they would die for the Gospel. But today in reading this passage I stepped back and asked myself, “would you really?” I asked this because if I am willing to let the smallest of things prevent me from standing for Jesus why wouldn’t the big things prevent that as well?

As I asked that I read on. As you continue in this passage we see that the ability and the drive to persevere comes from being grounded in knowing the future. This life is temporary! We literally know the future if we know Jesus. Because of that future we can be an unstoppable force in the present event in the face of the worst persecution. We have to remember that this world is the closest we as believers will ever get to Hell, but for the unbeliever this world is as close as they will get to Heaven. So today will you ask yourself this question: is the Gospel really worth it? Am I living with abandon today because I know what is to come tomorrow?

By: Dakota Gragg — Student Ministry Associate

August 15, 2018

Today you should read: Revelation 2:1-7

Today we begin a section of Revelation where Jesus addresses seven churches. The ESV Study Bible reveals a helpful pattern to understand while reading these “letters” that will be helpful as we unpack each one over the next few days:

  1. The royal author describes himself in terms from chapter 1.
  2. “I know” introduces his diagnosis of the church’s condition, both positive (except for Sardis and Laodicea) and negative (except for Smyrna and Philadelphia).
  3. Comfort and commands flow from the diagnosis.
  4. All of the churches are commanded to hear and heed all of the letters (“what the Spirit says to the churches,” 2:7, etc.).
  5. A blessing is promised to “the one who conquers,” foreshadowing the final visions in chapters 21–22.

Today, we are reading about the church in Ephesus. What does Jesus say about this church?

Positively, Jesus commends them for their endurance and desire for doctrinal truth.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. (ESV)

This church is commended for their desire to know what God’s Word says, and they were not easy to give up. But they had a big problem: they had lost their love.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (ESV)

 What this shows is that you can have the best theology in the world, but if you lack love, it doesn’t matter. The passage doesn’t specify if the church had lost love for God or for people, but it doesn’t matter because they are synonymous with one another—if they don’t love Jesus, they won’t love people; if they don’t love people, it’s because they don’t love Jesus.

As serious as this warning is, there is hope! Jesus tells them they can repent from this sin and return to the love they had at first. But Jesus also warns them: if they fail to repent, he will “remove their lampstand.” This means that their status as a church would be lost.

This passage should serve as a challenging and encouraging warning to us. Challenging in the sense that we must continuously keep the main the main thing, which is our love for Jesus! It is easy to lose focus on Christ and allow worldly things to begin to creep in. But this passage is also encouraging because Jesus reminds us that we have the opportunity to repent and turn back to Him when we stray away.

Can you say that Jesus is your first love? Are other things distracting you from loving Jesus supremely? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice