The Anchor of Hope

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6:19–20)

You would think that just dropping the anchor on a boat would be all you would need to do to stop your boat drifting away.  However, in Alaska, the difference between low tide and high tide can be up to 27 ft. Dropping anchor at low tide might cause the rising tide to sink your boat as the rising tide exceeds the length of your anchor chain.  So, some folks have an anchor system where the anchor is attached to a buoy, with a rope attached to the beach.  A boat ties up to the buoy and is safe from changing tides, and from being pushed onto the rocks.

Having faith in Jesus is a sure anchor of our faith.  However, that faith often comes with traditions, dogmas, and beliefs, many of which may not be found in the Bible.  When change comes your way, it can be all the extras that will sink your faith.  The gospel will never change, but our understanding of scripture, God moving in new ways and doing new things is always possible.  Our understanding should be flexible as we grow as a Christian. If your anchor has some flexibility, you will be able to move with the tides.

As Robert Critchley wrote:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus name

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

All other ground is sinking sand

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Sardis, Alive yet Dead

Write this to Sardis, to the Angel of the church. The One holding the Seven Spirits of God in one hand, a firm grip on the Seven Stars with the other, speaks: “I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you’re dead, stone-dead. “Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there’s life in you yet. But I wouldn’t know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God’s work has been completed. Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears—grasp it again and turn back to God. “If you pull the covers back over your head and sleep on, oblivious to God, I’ll return when you least expect it, break into your life like a thief in the night.  “You still have a few followers of Jesus in Sardis who haven’t ruined themselves wallowing in the muck of the world’s ways. They’ll walk with me on parade! They’ve proved their worth! (Rev 3:2-4)

Scottish theologian, John Caird says, “Sardis was a perfect model of inoffensive Christianity.” Their problem was not that they were wicked. Their image said “alive,” but in substance, they were dead. They weren’t passionately conservative, wanting to evangelize, or that they were more liberal, reaching out with a social gospel, they were just nothing.

Yet despite all that, they gave the appearance of being alive.  Perhaps today’s Sardis would have all the multi-media, the lights, and the smoke machine.  A program that geared to the audience, but excluded the Holy Spirit.

The danger for those in Sardis was they might lose everything, even their salvation.

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Thyatira–Under Jezebel’s Power

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

“ ‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Rev 2:18–29)

The infamous Jezabel, a title often used against women in ministry or just strong women in general, and yet, the title has nothing to do with gender. The real-life Jezabel was controlling, manipulation, and used words of witchcraft to put fear into the heart of Elijah.  These attributes have their origin in the spiritual world.

The reality is, I have known male pastors and leaders that have had that same spirit, wanting to control, manipulate and yes preach and speak words that border on witcraft. I even had a pastor put a curse on me because I wasn’t interested in following him.  If that ever happens, break the curse and reverse it in Jesus’ name.  Don’t let anyone control you by manipulating the Word of God for their benefit, or tell you that they have secret mysteries, that’s nothing less than occult.

Only Jesus is Lord!

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The Church on Both Sides of the Fence

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone, a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” (Rev 2:12–17)

The Pergamos church was faithful in many ways and yet there were occasions when some would hand around with the wrong crowd, the liars, deceivers, and the sexually immoral.  They might have thought it was no big deal mixing with these people, it doesn’t affect me, does it? Paul would remind them, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” (Gal 5:9)

Like the saints at Pergamos, we cannot be on both sides of a fence. Either we live for the Lord, or in the world, we need to choose.

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Smyrna–Threough the Fire

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’ (Re 2:8–11)

No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Cor 10:13)

Many translate the Corinthian text as testing and not temptation, which is the correct. Not just any temptation, but ‘superhuman’ kind. The Smyrna church wasn’t being tempted, but they were about to be tested and go through the fire. But as the three Hebrew boys found out when they were about to be thrown into the furnace, God doesn’t put the fire out; God meets them in the fire.

If you find yourself in a trial or tribulation, look for the Lord in the midst of the fire.

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The Ephesian Fellowship

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.

“ ‘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. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Re 2:1–7, ESV)

Roman Ruins in Ephesus

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Eph 5:1–5)

Paul tells the Ephesian church to be imitators of God and to walk in love, just as ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering.’ Talking about Christianity, Gandhi once said, “Don’t talk about it. The rose doesn’t have to propagate its perfume. It just gives it forth, and people are drawn to it. Live it, and people will come to see the source of your power.”

So, what went wrong? The old idiom says, “When you are up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the goal was to drain the swamp.” For the Ephesian church, they were so busy standing against false teachers, and bad doctrine, that they forgot that they were there to be lovers, a fragrant rose, attracting those around. Whatever they had become, it didn’t reflect the Christ who stood in their midst, hence the call to repent and get back to their first love.

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Christ in the Midst

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand, he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Rev 1:12–16).

John, seeing this vision, draws from the ancient texts of Zechariah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah to describe what he was seeing.  In apocalyptic fashion, he describes the revelation of Jesus Christ as one who is in control of the future, the robe, sash, and many waters.  He is also the Ancient of Days, going back into the past, and he is the one in the present.  Here, he is taking care of the Church, with the stars in his hand and the two-edged sword, the Word, in his mouth. Fear not Church, God’s in control!

Knowing this, the seven churches should have placed their confidence in Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the one who was, is, and is to come.  In chapter two, we see the Spirit taking inventory of the seven churches to see where they stand.  Some have the Lord in their midst, others chose to do it their way, and some have fallen into sin.  Where would your church stand?

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Refocus

November 5, 2019

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The seven churches in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, were under the control of the Romans, with Barbarians to the North always threatening to come down and raid their towns and cities. Emperor Nero had just committed suicide in 86 AD, civil war and unrest followed until Domitian became emperor. Though he was a fair emperor, he was known for his persecution of Christians. Many feared that Domitian was a reincarnation of Nero.  It was at this time John wrote his letter to the seven churches to stabilize and get them refocused.

His focus was three-fold:

  1.  Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be the answer to life’s problem and that whatever they were experiencing, the church should look to Jesus.
  2. They needed to realize that they were not of this world, and they were there to usher in God’s kingdom.
  3. As priests, worship was to play a key role. Worship comes out of a grateful heart.

Those three points are still key to us today.

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Revelation of Jesus Christ–Intro

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants– things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,  who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw.  (Rev 1:1-2 NKJ)

What Kind of Book is it?

John the Apostle

The opening verses of Revelation suggest that it’s not just one style but three.

First—Revelation  of Jesus Christ. The word `revelation’ or `apocalypse’ (apokalypsis) suggests that the book belongs to the style of ancient Jewish and Christian literature, which modern scholars call apocalypses.  John used this style of writing to hide what he had to say from the Roman government.

Second, Then he said to me, “These words are faithful and true.” And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place. “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Rev 22:6-7 NKJ)

For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; (Rev 22:18 NKJ)

So prophecy in the New Testament is more a proclamation, and should not be confused with the dispensation of Old Testament prophets. In chapter 22:18, John is so sure that he has a word from God that he didn’t want anyone adding to it or taking away.

Last, it’s a letter. This would have been set to one of the seven churches under John’s care and past on once it had been read in the congregation, often referred to as a circular letter.

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Kýrie, Eléison

Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. (Dan 9:20-21 NKJ)

While speaking and praying, Daniel also confessed his sins and the sins of his people, a practice seen in other scriptures. Traditionally confession includes a cry for the mercy of God. The Greek phrase Kýrie, eléison, Lord, have mercy, was also a common response in prayer in the early days of the church, and in the Byzantine period, Kyrie became a sung chant. Today, confession is still part of the service in Mainline denominations, and in my church.

The biblical roots of this prayer first appear in Psalm 31:9,”Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body!” The prayer is simultaneously a petition and a prayer of acknowledgment of what God has done, doing, and will continue to do, and the result of sin on and in the human body. It is refined in the Parable of The Publican (Luke 18:9-14), “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The lament in prayer appears to be a dying practice for today’s Christian. Have we forgotten that it is humility and not haughtiness that God is looking for? So as we speak the Word, pray and confess our sins, and the sins of our nation, let us ask the Lord, “in Your judgment remember mercy.”

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