Theology

Watch for pitfalls

Jesus had high praise for the church at Pergamos, but unlike their counterparts in Smyrna, there was an issue. Pergamos had those that held to the doctrine of Balaam. What does that mean?

To understand that, we need to go back and read the story of Balaam from Numbers. Balaam was willing to work with Balak to sabotage or pronounce a curse on Israel, that is, until God told him to only speak the words the Spirit gave Him. Upon heeding those instructions, Balaam proclaimed a blessing on Israel.

What happened next, however, is kind of subtle. With Balaam’s direction, the people of Israel began to worship idols and commit sexual immorality. The result was God’s punishment upon the people.

It is easy to get distracted from our relationship and faith in God by enticing sins and temptations which present themselves. Such was the case at Pergamos. They were faithful to the Lord and endured affliction, but at the same time, they had fallen into temptation.

You can be a faithful Christian, and have issues. You can believe in the Lord and be saved, and yet, struggle with sin. The Lord takes issue with that, therefore when we identify that sin, we should repent of that sin and get it out of our lives.

Or as Hebrews 12:1 says, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Jesus knows your pain

In his letter to the church at Smyrna, Jesus said, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)”

Smyrna was in a difficult situation. They were being persecuted, they were facing hardships, and they were poor. Jesus said He knew this. Jesus knowledge of the plight of the Smyrnan church went beyond an awareness of their suffering, He understood it, because He experienced it during His earthly ministry.

Jesus gave them hope. He told them that their suffering would not be long, and that it would be rewarded.

For us, the Lord not only knows what we are going through, but He experienced it Himself. Therefore, He is sympathetic (Hebrews 4:15). He will hear your prayer and respond.

In the meantime, the trials and tribulations through which you suffer are not pointless. God uses them to transform you, and He will reward you. Keep looking up, and have faith in the Lord.

When the church forgets its first love…

In Revelation 2-3, Jesus dictates letters to the seven churches of Asia. These are actual letters written to actual churches who were dealing with actual issues. Our Lord’s words are not to be taken as allegory, but rather teaching in response to certain situations that had arisen in His churches. We are to take the lessons He taught them, and apply them to our lives.

In the first letter, addressed to the church at Ephesus, Jesus praises their ministry and faithfulness, but He takes issue with one thing… they lost their first love. This problem is so serious, it threatened the very existence of that church. So, what was the first love they left? That question has fueled much debate. In this video lesson, we decode the letter to the Ephesians and learn what the spurned first love was.

Where is Jesus?

In Revelation 1, John is in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day (Sunday), worshiping in spite of the fact that he is confined to a prison island. As he worships, he hears the voice of the Lord behind him.

When he turns to see the Lord, he describes an indescribable sight of the Lord Jesus in His glorified form, standing among seven golden lamp-stands, and holding seven stars His right hand. Jesus tells John that the seven stars are the seven angels to the churches of Asia, and the seven candlesticks, or lamp-stands, are the seven churches.

“Angels” is translated from the Greek word, “angeloss,” which was a word that simply denoted a messenger. The seven angels (messengers) of the churches were those responsible for delivering God’s message to the churches, namely, the pastors.

It is significant that Jesus held them in His right hand, as He holds all of us in His hands who are His people, and who carry His message forth to the world.

It is also significant that Jesus was standing among the seven candlesticks.

The message to John was bright, if not clear. “John, though you are on this island, I am still holding you in my hand. And though the churches be in disarray and persecuted, I am still among them.”

No matter how bad things get, remember that the Lord still loves us, still holds us, and is still with us.

 

Stuck? Praise the Lord!

The Apostle John did everything right. He loved Jesus, he preached the Gospel, he ministered to thousands, and spend his entire life dedicated to the Lord.

Yet, he found himself imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos “For the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” meaning he was actually imprisoned for doing what is right.

Yet, when we first see John in the book of Revelation, he is in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, meaning that we can be joyful, hopeful, and have faith in any circumstance, and circumstances don’t affect our worship. Check out the above-posted video for part-two of our YouTube series from the book of Revelation.

Every Step Toward God’s Kingdom

No doubt, Patmos was a horrible place. A wretched, rocky prison island, upon which the Apostle John found himself as a result of a sentence handed down by a Roman judge for the crime of preaching the Gospel.

John was the disciple whom Jesus loved, the disciple who was closest to Jesus, who spent his life preaching the Gospel of Jesus. Yet, he found himself upon this wretched island, persecuted and forsaken.

Yet, on the Lord’s day, John was in the Spirit, and worshiping. It was at that moment that the Lord appeared to John… an overwhelming, yet welcome sight. The Lord’s appearance set off a divine Revelation to John that, despite the troubling things shown in the future, left John feeling at peace and thankful, resulting in the final words of the book, “Even So, Come, Lord Jesus.”

Oh, to be able to look through the pain of today toward the glory of God. Welcome, to our new YouTube series.

Hope (Daniel 9:24)

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Daniel was a man who had done everything right, yet, time after time, adversity and tribulation troubled him. Captured from his homeland of Israel during his younger years, he was one of several elite captives taken from Israel and enslaved in Babylon.

Though Daniel’s assignment wasn’t the worst, he worked personally for the Babylonian king, he still faced troubles, from impure foods being offered, to being thrown in the lions’ den, to seeing his friends thrown in the fiery furnace. (Daniel and his friends were delivered from all of those, by the way).

By the time we get to Daniel 9, the Babylonian empire has been conquered by the Medo-Persian empire, and Daniel is now working for another king. Having lived through the entire Babylonian captivity, Daniel now sees the light at the end of the tunnel,  and the captivity is coming to a close.

Daniel sees God’s deliverance coming, and it is at this time that God begins to show Daniel how He will redeem His people and restore the nation of Israel. In Daniel 9:24, the Lord gives us his plan:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

God would redeem His people, and restore His nation, by ending man’s rebellion, cleansing man from sin, and establishing His Kingdom on earth. Listen to Pastor Leland Acker discuss this message of hope below:

The End Is Not Yet (So, Don’t Panic) Matthew 24

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As more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed across the US (we have a local case here in Brown County, Texas), more people are asking the question, “Is this a sign of the end times?” Yes, and no.

In the days leading up to the return of Christ, Matthew 24:7 says “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” Verse 8 goes on to say, “All these are the beginning of sorrows.”

“Sorrows” in scripture is often a euphemism for child birth. If you’ve ever had a baby, or if your wife or anyone close to you has had a baby, you know how this works. An expectant mother has a contraction. She doesn’t panic and run to the hospital, rather, she waits for the next contraction. There it is.

At first, the contractions are mild, and far apart (2 or more hours), but as time progresses, the contractions grow closer together, and become more severe. Ultimately, they become just a few minutes apart. Mom delivers the baby, and the joy of that newborn erases any memory of the pains of childbirth. (Or, so I’m told).

The end times, and the return of Christ works the same way.

The signs given in Matthew 24:1-8 are birth pangs, contractions, “The beginning of sorrows.” These signs repeat themselves with greater frequency and intensity until the Tribulation starts, ends, and Christ returns.

These signs both get our attention, and move the world closer to a place where the final events of this age can happen. It is all in God’s plan, and He is still in control of all things.

That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 24:6, “See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

As the news continues to fill up with stories of COVID-19, outbreaks, and instability, remember the words of Christ. See that ye be not troubled, these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Watch, and pray. And use common sense.

Have You Met Grace?

Grace

Amazing Grace. Grace Greater Than Our Sin.

We are saved by grace through faith. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

Grace.

This word is spoken often in Christian circles, and is a key component of salvation. It’s the subject of hundreds of Christian hymns and praise songs.

But what does it mean?

If your only exposure to the word “grace” is from watching television, then no doubt you probably think it has something to do with the way Sasha Cohen provides a visual interpretation of the music she skates to during the world figure skating championships.

Or, if you were a Seinfeld fan, you probably remember that Elaine was denied a job because she lacked the “grace” of her predecessor, who happened to be Jackie Onassis.

Such is life, and such is the progression of languages. A word that meant one thing years ago no longer has the same meaning at all.

When the scripture was written, grace was more of an attitude than an action. It was a motivational factor, not the factor itself.

Grace, in Biblical terms, is defined as an “unmerited favor,” or an “unconditional love.”

Those who grant grace to others bestow upon them a love, a gift, or a pardon that is not deserved based on the actions or merits of the recipient. In terms of Biblical grace, the One who was the greatest benefactor is God.

God’s grace toward mankind, and toward us individually, is an undeserved love and an unmerited favor. We sinned against Him. We rebel against Him. We try to redefine language in the Bible to suit our tastes.

We’re selfish. We take advantage of others. We sin. From God, we deserve nothing but punishment and accountability.

Yet, God in His grace forbears. He allows us to continue, utilizing the effects of our wrong choices to teach us and correct us. He then forgives, redeems, and blesses. That’s grace.

Ultimately, the grace of God was expressed in that He sent Jesus Christ into the world to redeem us from sin by dying on the cross. That grace is expanded through His forgiveness of our sins and His willingness to give us time to learn and repent. To top it off, He blesses us as well.

We access God’s grace through our faith, our trust that He will forgive us based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Upon accessing God’s grace, we learn just how much we have been forgiven, and thus learn to forgive ourselves, and others.

The attitude the Christian should take toward others is the attitude God takes toward them. Our desire is to see them redeemed and restored, not condemned and destroyed.

Those who have come to an understanding of God’s grace in their lives understand this concept. Those who have not walk in anger. For those, we forbear as God does, and we pray for their understanding and we minister to them, too.

Have you comprehended the grace of God?

  • Do you know and understand that God loves you?
  • Do you know that forgiveness of sin is available through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ?
  • Do you forgive others?
  • Have your forgiven yourself?

May God bless you as you learn more of His love and grace.