The Power of your Testimony

As these things happen I was thinking about Revelation 12:11 and I thought I would share.

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.

I understand the people being addressed in this verse are those in Heaven who have been martyred for their faith. I also understand that by and large most of us will not have to die for our faith but the question I was thinking about was “what is the power of our testimony?” According to Revelation 12:11 those who were martyred understood that the blood of the lamb and their testimony had the power to triumph over the devil. You could think that maybe they did not triumph because they died but those who die in Christ are not harmed by the second death so all that was accomplished by the devil was the children of God went home. So what is the power of your testimony?

Well, your testimony in and of Christ is extremely powerful. By confessing Jesus as Lord, you get the Holy Spirit. You also get Christ in you the hope of glory. You also get seated at the right hand of God in Christ. I could go on but those pretty much sum up what you get. To put it another way, you get everything (see Ephesians ch 1). When you accept the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus you become a new creation and old things are gone. There is nothing better than having Jesus. I should know.

The power of your testimony is inherently linked to the power of the Gospel because it is a testimony that the Gospel is true. The power in your testimony comes not from your ability to save yourself but confessing that God saved you. Some might argue that Jesus did not exist, that God is a myth or anything else they want but what is hard to argue is how your life has been changed by the message and power of the Gospel. That is something that cannot be taken away, and you are the only one who has your testimony. You should embrace your testimony and the Gospel because Paul says in Romans 1:16 that it is power.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.

Which brings me to my other point; don’t negate the power of your testimony. Your testimony whatever it might be is how God has worked in your life. If you were a crack addict, a murder, a cheat, a porn star, a self-hating self-abuser, or a faithful child of God who has not wandered far off the path that is your testimony of how God has called or kept you. Don’t think for a second that a testimony that is ripe with love towards God and how you have not ever had to deal with a lot of horrible things is a bad testimony. That is just as wonderful as the story of a drug addict who saw Jesus as they overdosed. It means you listened and obeyed which more people should. My prayer for our youngest child is that she will have that kind of testimony. That she would always walk with Him and not have to come running home to Him. I don’t want her to live the same life I lived before seeing Him as good, great, and loving. So share that testimony of faith.

We each have a story to tell about Jesus. Some are G, PG, R, and some X but that is your story. Share it proudly because it testifies of how good God is that He kept you or saved you from a life of misery. If people cannot accept your testimony about how God saved you after a failed marriage, drug use, self-injury, and attempted suicide then don’t worry about them. They might need to check their testimony.

When I first got saved I couldn’t stop myself from telling people about it. I wanted them to experience the same joy, life, and love I now had. My boss on the construction site used to call me a holy roller. I had no idea what that meant but he knew I loved Jesus, and that I wanted him to love Jesus. He could see the power of the Gospel in my life. I was a mess before Christ. I was on drugs, cutting, and tried to kill myself. My story is a little different than most but that is because it is my story. You have yours and sharing it should be done because you want others to feel the same awesome feeling you have. I’ll end with this thought. Jesus is worth it. Whatever it is…He is worth it.

Just a thought,

Mike

Revelation – Laodicea

The Letter to the Church in Laodicea in a Nutshell:

Jesus the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation tells the church in Laodicea that He knows their works. They are neither hot nor cold and, therefore, useless. They think they are rich but in reality, they are wretched, pitiful, poor, and naked. If they really want to be well off then they should buy the gold He has. He is telling them this because he loves them. They need to repent and He will dine with them. He will give the victor the right to sit down with Him on His throne.

I know I say this each time but it is true there is just so much here. Knowing where to go on this one is a little hard for me because I love to explain the history of things and two parts of this letter have been abused or misused so often. Let’s deal with one real quick. The mentioning of hot, cold and lukewarm is not about being hot for Jesus or cold for Jesus. Instead, it was a reference the Laodiceans would understand. They had their water brought in via aqueducts so by the time it reached them it was not cold which is good for refreshment, or hot which is good for things hot water is good for. However, it was lukewarm which has no value.

What are we supposed to do with this letter? Well, this letter like Sardis does not have an “atta boy” instead, it is a letter of rebuke. Rebuke just means correction or disapproval; Jesus was correcting them because they thought themselves something they were not. The church thought it was all that and a bag of chips because they could afford all that and a bag of chips. They thought because they had money they were doing all right but the truth is they were in bad shape. Jesus does not rebuke them because they had money. He rebukes them because they lacked spiritual truth.

In general, we should not use our physical standing to judge our spiritual health. Just because you have money does not mean you are following God’s will, and just because you are broke does not mean you are being punished. This comes from a misunderstanding of the Deuteronomic formula which is the same problem Job’s friends had. They assumed that because Job suffered he was being punished but we need to get rid of that thinking. Maybe you have money because you are good with money, maybe you are poor because you make bad choices. Maybe society is just trying to keep you down I don’t know and I don’t really care. I want to make sure you are spiritually healthy.

Material possessions are fine. I have some, and I would like more but want I really want is Jesus. I want more Jesus in my life. I know I have access to all of Him but I still want more of Him. The closer I get to Him the more I want. The more I see Him for who He is the more I want. He is Lord, Saviour, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and I want more of Him in my life. Whether I have a lot so I am blessed in the physical and can bless others or am in need I want more Jesus. There is no greater treasure than Him, and that is what He is saying to the church in Laodicea and that is what He is saying to you; “You have stuff that’s fine but you need Me” get that and understand that. I have lived without Him, and I will never go back. Jesus is not a fad or a thing that is in style or out of style. He has been around since the beginning you and is not going anywhere. So get some good water and live a rich, full, and abundant life in Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

Revelation – Philadelphia

The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia in a Nutshell:

Jesus the Holy One who opens that which no one can close says to the church in Philadelphia that He knows their works. He knows that although they have limited strength they have kept His word and He has opened a door for them which no one can close. He knows they kept the command to endure and will He keep them from the hour of testing. He will write on them God’s name, the name of New Jerusalem, and His name.

As always there is a lot here. First off this is not Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. You have probably heard Philadelphia called the city of brotherly love and that is not so much a nickname but the meaning of the name. It is a two-part name that combines philos and adelphos. Philos means love, dearly loved, or friendship while adelphos means a brother or friend. Put them together and you get brotherly love or to love a brother. The church Jesus was speaking to was an ancient city but the meaning of the name is the same. The question we should be asking is what does this have to do with us and with the letter itself, and I think it has a lot to do with us and the letter.

Jesus tells the church that He knows they have little strength but that they have kept His word and not denied His name. So we should ask what was His word? Jesus spoke a lot of words but they usually had something to do with loving your neighbor, loving God, and going out to preach the Gospel. It would seem then that the church of brotherly love was doing just that even though they were weak and tired. They believed the best way to love your brother is to tell them about Jesus. That is a sure sign of love if you ask me.

If we love the world we tell them about Jesus because Jesus is the expression of the Father’s love. Remember John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Hebrews 1:3 helps by telling us that Jesus is the exact representation of His (God) being. So if we claim to love those who do not know Jesus then we tell them about Him because we believe He is love, and He has a better plan for their life then they do.

But what about when you are weak and tired? I know I get weak and tired sometimes. I know sometimes I barely feel like I can push on and just don’t feel like telling people. That happens, and it is not a good time. However, when I get like that I think back to Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. When asked by the disciples if He had already eaten something He told them He had food they did not know about. The food He spoke about was sharing God’s love and goodness with people. I know for me when I get focused on the thing Jesus told me to do I can go and go like the energizer bunny because I have tapped into something real and powerful.

So today I just have a little encouragement for you. If you are tired and feel like you cannot reach anyone just keep pushing. You are touching people and you might not even know it. You are making a difference just don’t give up. Jesus said He would place an open door and no one can close what God opens. If you are tired and don’t know Jesus but want to, then just ask Him to show you who He is. I am confident He will.

Just a thought,

Mike

Revelation – Sardis

The Letter to the Church in Sardis in a Nutshell:

Jesus the one who has the seven spirits and seven stars tells the church in Sardis that while they have a reputation for being alive the truth is they are dead. If they do not strengthen what they do have He will come and remove them. They need to remember what they received, keep it, and repent. He also knows that not everyone in Sardis is like this and the victor will be dressed in white.

The problem I am going to have with this letter is as someone who loves to teach and preach a topic like this one floods the brain with possibilities. However, we are trying to be brief and keep these where we live so… Sardis, by and large, was dead spiritually, but what does that mean? Jesus says, “”Remember…what you have received and heard,” I think we could infer that they were forgetting what they had received and heard. If we go into the history of Sardis a little we see that the area had been conquered twice in the past because the people did not watch out for invaders. If we put these together we get a bigger picture that they got complacent and forgot what happened. Instead of letting the past (both good and bad) give them wisdom they just forgot all about it, and the truth is we can do that too.

It is pretty easy to forget about the past especially in our day. Here is an example I am sure most people can relate too. Have you ever seen something on Facebook and then went to scroll back to it only to not know who posted it? You search and search but you don’t remember enough about it to find it. Or how many times have you looked at your phone to see the time only to realize you didn’t even see the time (you probably did see your notifications though).

What if we go a little deeper. Why did your last relationship fail? Why did your last job not work out? What about that best friend from high school or worst enemy from high school? These things might be long gone for you but the lessons learned can still be used now. What about this, do you remember what it felt like to carry your own guilt and shame before you found out Jesus carried it to the cross for you? All of these things are important and some like the cross are extremely important. If we forget the important things and just become complacent in today then we run the risk of becoming dull and dead.

I have known spiritually dull Christians. Some are very good at pretending to be alive but they are not. They do a good job of looking the part but it is all an act. Jesus sees the heart and He knows what is for show and what is real. He cannot be fooled into thinking you are alive when you are not. Sometimes we have to go back to the basics and that is ok. We have to remember what we have received and heard to make sure we are on the track we should be on. It is easy to get off track but thankfully we serve a gracious and forgiving God who loves to get us back to where we should be. Whenever you get thrown off track just stop and ask God to remind you of what He gave you in the first place.

Just a thought,

Mike

Revelation – Thyatira

The Letter to the Church in Thyatira in a Nutshell

Jesus the one whose eye are like fire and has feet like bronze tells the church in Thyatira that He knows their works. That they have love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. More than that the works they do now are more than when they started. However, they are tolerating or allowing Jezebel to teach their people and she is leading them astray into sexual immorality and idol worship. He is giving her a chance to repent but she will not. He also knows that not all are following her and commends them for this.

There is again a lot going on here. The church in Thyatira is like the reverse of the church in Ephesus. Instead of being tight in theology and lacking in love they are big on love and lacking theology. They are devoted to love and serving those in need. The church is feeding the homeless, giving backpacks to kids for school, teaching skills to the underprivileged, and doing many other acts of love in Jesus name. Not only that they are doing more than they have ever done before. These people understood what it was to love like Jesus. They were committed to the cause of Christ. But there is a problem; they were severely lacking in doctrine.

The church in Thyatira for as good as they were had let in Jezebel and allowed her to lead them astray into sexual immorality and idol worship. If you have read the Bible at all then you might go oh no, and if you haven’t then you might not see the big deal. Jezebel is synonymous with total debauchery, corruption, or depravity. If you call someone a Jezebel then it is a high insult. That is the person the church had let in and was allowing to teach. Jesus said you get the love and that is great but I will not let you go on with this teaching.

We should really look at Thyatira and Ephesus together. We have some churches that are all about truth and some churches that are all about love. Jesus says you need both because I am both. Jesus says in John 8:32 you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. 1 John 4:8 says God is love. Romans 8:29 says we are to be transformed into the image of His (God’s) Son. God is truth, God is love, and God wants us to be like Jesus. That means being truth and love. We cannot be so dogmatic that we place demands on people that God never placed on them, but we cannot let people think it is OK to go on sinning and living like they are not saved. It is a balance just like raising children.

Some say, “people should be allowed to do what they feel is right.” Well no that is not true, and in fact, that is just flat out wrong. If that was the case we would not have laws. Like I said with children it is a balance. My daughter will have a much better relationship with her mother if she is respectful. They will laugh and play and have a grand ole time. However, if she is being disrespectful then they will have conflict so my part of my job is to make sure she is respectful so she can have joy in the relationship. That means boundaries and rules because I love her and want her to enjoy the fullness.

I bet if Ephesus and Thyatira got together they would have a dynamite church but they were too busy thinking their thing was the most important thing. Maybe we should listen to the Spirit and be the most loving caring people out there who are wise enough to know what is true and what is false regardless of personal preference but are careful to love everyone just like Jesus does.

Just a thought,

Mike

Revelation – Smyrna

The Letter to the Church in Smyrna in a Nutshell:

The church in Smyrna was under pressure. Jesus says I know your affliction and poverty yet you are rich. He tells them He is aware people are persecuting them, and that they are going to have more sufferings but to stay faithful. He goes on to say that the victor will never be harmed by the second death.

Jesus had nothing bad to say about the church in Smyrna. They were doing good, and by that, I  mean as my wife would say they were not “doing” but “being.” There was no fault that needed to be brought up. They were tight in theology and love.

There is actually quite a bit that could be discussed in Jesus’s address to the church in Smyrna. We could come at this from a few different angles and if this was a sermon then I probably would but because we are just trying to bring this home to where we live I’ll try my best to stay there.

The church or more specifically the people in the church were being persecuted and attacked for their faith in Jesus. Now this still happens in parts of the world, but I don’t want to talk about persecution except to say remember to pray for and find ways to serve those who are persecuted. There are people all over the world who are run out of their homes, attacked, threatened, and killed because they trust the name of Jesus.

Here is the thing I think we should take away from this letter…Jesus Knows. He calls Himself the first and the last and says that He knows their affliction or trouble. That is something we should take comfort in. Knowing that Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Father and lives to make intercession for us knows what we are going through should help you go through it. Now this is where faith comes in. If He knows why then why doesn’t He change the situation? I can’t answer that because I have no idea. I mean maybe it is something you need to go through to help someone, help yourself, learn something, maybe you never get to know. I am sure that sounds like a copout, but I would be overstretching if I tried to answer why you are going through what you are going through. Part of me wants to be able to tell someone why they are going through what they are going through but honestly there can be so many reasons (including you did it to yourself) but in the end, we live in a fallen world.

What we have to do is go beyond the question of why and just know that He is aware. He is not caught off guard when His people suffer. We could play the comparison game where you tell me what you are going through and then I try and top you and we go back and forth, but that does not actually accomplish anything. Instead, what I can do is tell you that Jesus loves you. He sees your pain, your hurt, and He cares deeply. Think about when Lazarus died. Some say that Jesus wept for Lazarus, but I have always held a different view. I have always thought that Jesus wept not for Lazarus but because of effects of sin. Lazarus was dead because he lived in a fallen world where death happens. Just remember Jesus knows, He not only knows, but He cares. Take a minute and just pray, tell Him why you are hurting. Be honest about it. It is not so He will know, but so you can get it out. You let it out and let Him in. He has made you the victor!

Just a thought,

Mike

Intro and Ephesus

Over the next few posts, I want to look at what is commonly referred to as the Seven Letters to the Churches in the book of Revelation. I want to preface with a few things before we begin.

First, we are not going to look at the prophetic or even the apocalyptic nature of the book of Revelation. We could spend time going into issues of pre, mid, or post tribulation. We could look at the different thoughts on dispensationalism or the dating of the book, but that is not going to be our focus. There is a time and place for that, but it is not here. Instead, we are going to bring these books to where you and I live most of our lives. I asked myself a question as my daughter was asking me questions about Revelation and that was what do I or can I do with these letters? I noticed over and over Jesus saying, “Anyone who has an ear should hear what the Spirit says to the churches” so I thought it best to listen.

Secondly, each church was to read what was said to the other churches. So you could read and say, “Jesus likes what we are doing but thinks we should improve here or there. Oh, look what the brothers and sisters in XXXX are being told. Let’s do or not do that.” We, in the same way, should use the letters as a mirror and be honest about our situation.

Finally, we are not going to look at the book as a whole. I know to some that is near blasphemy but just chill and take a walk with me. I would like us to look at these letters and see what can we do with them and how can we apply what Jesus was saying. I believe that in each address made to the individual church there is something we can learn and apply to our lives. The post will be somewhat terse but for our purposes, I think it will suffice. I believe we can all learn a lot from what the Spirit had/has to say. So this will serve as the introduction and as the saying goes “On with the show!”

The Letter to the Church in Ephesus in a Nutshell:

Jesus tells John to write to the church in Ephesus and tell them He likes that they are strong in their theology. They are doing well to test those who say they are apostles (think important in the church). Jesus likes that they do not tolerate evil and that they hate the practices of the Nicolaitans. However, they have lost their love. For all they have going for them Jesus says He will take away their lampstand because they have lost their love.

We can “do” all the right things but we must do them from a place of love. We cannot grow cold in our devotion to the truth even though it is easy to do. Things like taking care of the sick, poor, impoverished, those in prison, and so on are of extreme importance. We cannot stop caring for those in need. Right now there is a big debate going on about Syrian refugees, and while I am not going to tell you what I think (partly because I am still working through my thoughts) we should take the time to examine what Jesus said about these types of things. It is also the Christmas season so we have people asking for money, toys, and food on nearly every corner. What did Jesus say about that?

The bigger questions do the hurting that exist in the world hurt you, and does the suffering of your brothers and sisters in Christ make you wonder what you should do? I know that not everyone can do everything. Sometimes you are the one in need I get that. But can you do something? Do you have it in you to do something for those who are hurting? Can you give time, money, or prayer?

Galatians 6:9 – So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.

John 13:35 – By this all people will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another.

There are a lot of other Scriptures about this topic, but these two are a good start. Do good, and love. Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbor. Yes be theologically sound (we’ll talk about that in another letter) but don’t forget it is God’s goodness that draws men to repentance. don’t become so hard with the truth that you kill those who need help.To put it another way, don’t Bible thump. It is a fine line that requires much prayer, much studying, and much love.

Remember Jesus loved that the church in Ephesus was tight in their theology, but He said He would shut the church down because they forgot to love.

 

Just a thought,

Mike