by Meagan Davis
In the book of Ruth again today and see Elimelech and Naomi. They left the house of bread to sojourn in Moab, “my washpot”. (Psalms 60:8) In the process of time Elimelech died and also their two sons. Naomi is left with her two daughters-in-law and decides to go back home. Ruth proved her love for Naomi. “And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16-17) “So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, Is this Naomi? And she said unto them, Call me not Naomi, call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the LORD hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:19-21) How many of us have gone out full and come back empty? How many people have lost a spouse or children and have been left alone? I would dare say that many mothers have experienced what is called the “empty nest” syndrone when their children leave home. The little book of Ruth does have a happy ending. Naomi went back to the house of bread and found that she was not alone.
One recent Sunday, a young boy arrived to his Sunday school class late. His teacher knew that the boy was usually very prompt and asked him if anything was wrong. The boy replied no, that he was going to go fishing, but that his dad told him that he needed to go to church instead. The teacher was very impressed and asked the boy if his father had explained to him why it was more important to go to church rather than to go fishing. To which the boy replied, “Yes, ma’am, he did. My dad said that he didn’t have enough bait for both of us.”
There were two church-going women gossiping in front of the store when a dusty old cowboy rode up. He tied up his horse the kissed it right on the lips. Repulsed, one of the women asked, “That’s disgusting, why did you do THAT?” To which the cowboy replied, “I’ve got chapped lips.” Confused, the women continued, “Does that make them feel better?” “No, but it stops me from licking them!”
A man is visiting a foreign country but does not speak the language that they speak there. He decides to go to a church service, but the priest is speaking the native language, so the American man just does whatever the man in front of him does. When the man in front of him stands, so does the American man. When the man in front of him sits, so does the American man. At one point, the priest says something, and the man in front of him stood. So the American man stood too. Everyone in the church gasped, so the American man hurriedly sat back down.
Later, the American man figured out that the priest was congratulating a birth. When he had asked for the father to stand, and both men stood up, it had caused some confusion!
THE RICH LITTLE POOR CHURCH Revelation 2:8-11
The city of Smyrna, was located some 35 miles north of Ephesus. It was a prosperous city with a population of over 100,000 in John’s day. That location has been inhabited for over 3,000 years and no one knows for sure who founded Smyrna or when it was founded. The city was destroyed by a massive earthquake a few years before the birth of Jesus, but the city was rebuilt and thrived. It possessed a safe harbor, where ships from all over the world came to buy and sell goods. It was called “The Crown City” because it was surrounded by hills that resembled a crown. It was also called “The Flower Of Asia.” When the city chose a motto to be imprinted on their coinage, they chose the phrase “First in Asia in Size and Beauty.”
Several characteristics made the city of special in its day. First, it was famous for the production of myrrh. This substance came from a shrub-like tree that produced a bitter gum. When the leaves of this tree were crushed, they exuded a very fragrant odor. Myrrh was used as a fragrance by the living and an embalming agent for the dead. Myrrh was mentioned in association with the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, Matt. 2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39. The word myrrh means “bitter” and it came to be associated with suffering and death.
Among the other factors that made the city of Smyrna special include the fact that it was a planned city. Most cities of that day just sprang up without design. Smyrna and its streets were planned down to the last detail. It was a very religious city with many temples dedicated to the pantheon of gods and goddesses they worshipped. In fact, there was a street that was paved with gold that ran from the temple of Zeus to the temple of Cybele. While pagan religions dominated the life of Smyrna, there was also a thriving Jewish community there.
Smyrna was a free city. They governed themselves, but were intensely loyal to Rome. In this beautiful, wealthy pagan city, existed a struggling Christian community. The church in Smyrna was undergoing intense and withering persecution. The Lord Jesus comes to them with a word of comfort for their dark days. He tells them that even though they appear to be so weak and so poor, they are, in fact, rich beyond imagination.
Prophetically, this church pictures the terrible persecution inflicted upon believers by the Roman emperors between the years of 100 AD and 312 AD. Practically and personally, there is a word here for everyone who has ever or will ever suffer for Jesus’ sake. Let’s look at our Lord’s words to this struggling little congregation to find the encouragement we need to be able to stand when everyone else is against us.
I. v. 9b-10a SMYRNA WAS A CRUSHED CHURCH
It is easy to see that this church was going through intense problems because of their testimony for the Lord Jesus. They were letting their light shine in a dark world and they were being persecuted for it.
A. They Faced Persecution – Tribulation – The word means “pressure”. It was used in that day to refer to crushing an object under the weight of very heavy stones. The word “tribulation” comes from the Latin word “tribulum”. It refers to the stone wheels that were used to crush wheat to separate the kernel from the shell. This church was paying the price for their allegiance to Jesus. The pressure was on and they were suffering.
This persecution did not come from the pagans in Smyrna alone. Verse 9 tells us that they were also suffering at the hands of the Jews. The Jews in Smyrna joined hands with the idolaters in that city to defeat and destroy the Christians by whatever means necessary. Jesus calls them “the synagogue of Satan” and accuses them of blaspheme (slander) against these believers. Why did the people of Smyrna hate the believers so? There are several reasons.
1. The Jews and the pagans accused the Christians of cannibalism. Christians kept communion and part of that observance was eating the bread and drinking from the cup. These represented the broken body and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus, 1 Cor. 11:24-26.
2. The Christians were hated because their beliefs and practices often split families. This was what Jesus said would happen, Matt. 10:34-36. Thus, Christians were accused of being anti-family.
3. Christians were accused of being atheists because they did not worship the many gods of the pagans and because they used no statues and icons in their own worship. So, any natural disasters other calamities were blamed on the Christians for incurring the wrath of the gods.
4. Christians were accused of being political enemies of Rome because they refused to say, “Caesar is Lord!” Every Roman citizen was required to do this every year. To fail to do so brought severe punishment and even death.
B. They Faced Poverty – poverty – This word speaks of being “absolutely destitute”. These poor people had nothing of this world’s goods because of their relationship with the Lord Jesus. They were denied jobs and promotions because of their testimony. These people had nothing in a city that possessed everything. Imagine how Satan must have mocked these people. As they passed the ornate temples and walked down that golden street, surely he said, “Serving Jesus has cost you everything!” Can you hear him whisper to them, “Look at you! You are nothing and you have nothing. Give up on Jesus. You are starving! Deny Him and prosper!”
C. They Faced Prison – In verse 10, Jesus tells them that there is more trouble ahead! They will face more persecution. The “ten days” mentioned here might refer to the ten persecutions the Christians suffered under the Romans. Or, it might simply mean that they their persecution will be sever, but brief. Either way, they are informed that more pain and suffering is coming their way.
I. Smyrna Was A Crushed Church
II. v. 9a SMYRNA WAS A CONSISTENT CHURCH
Even tough they were paying a harsh price for their faithful love and service to the Lord Jesus, these people did not back up from their profession. They stayed the course and demonstrated a faithful testimony for the glory of God. Remember that Smyrna was famous for myrrh. It was only when the leaves of the tree were crushed that their fragrance was released. These people were being crushed under the terrible and terrifying pressure of persecution and they were releasing the fragrance of love and faithful to Jesus into the atmosphere of Smyrna.
A. They Had A Positive Testimony – Jesus sent seven letters to seven different churches. Five of the seven churches received words of rebuke and correction. Only this church and the church at Philadelphia received no corrective words. The Lord had been observing their walk and He was pleased. They were consistent!
B. They Had A Powerful Testimony – Jesus says to them “I know thy works” – The word “works” refers to that “business which occupies a person’s life.” In spite of all the darkness around them, these people continued to be a light for Jesus in the midst of an ever darkening world. They were not intimidated by their enemies; they were not frightened by the hatred of their opponents. They proved they were genuine and that their faith was real by the way they carried themselves in that society. Their testimony was powerful because they stayed the course and stuck to the task for the glory of God! They were a consistent church!
Regardless of what comes our way, we should ask the Lord to help us be consistent and faithful to Him. When we think of all that He has done for us, He deserves at least that much from us!
I. Smyrna Was A Crushed Church
II. Smyrna Was A Consistent Church
III. v. 8-11 SMYRNA WAS A COMFORTED CHURCH
Jesus comes to this persecuted church and gives them a message of comfort they desperately needed to hear.
A. v. 9a They Had The Interest Of Heaven – Jesus says “I know thy works” – The Lord of Glory has taken a personal interest in the church in Smyrna. The word “know” means “to know by experience.” Jesus is saying, “I know you folks are having it tough; but you need to know that I am in this with you. I experience everything they do to you. When they do it to you, they do it to me!” He is telling them that what they are going through is bigger than they are. He is telling them that Satan is using the evil people of Smyrna to attack Jesus through His church. He just wants them to know that they are not alone in their struggle.
I am glad that our Lord is with us every step of the way, Heb. 13:5. When we are attacked, He knows all about it because it touches Him too, Heb. 4:15. Thank God, He can help us weather the storms and endure the pain. He is always there to help His suffering saints, Heb. 2:18; John 14:16-18.
B. v. 8 They Had The Involvement Of Heaven – When Jesus comes to this church, He comes as “the first and the last”. He comes as He “which was dead, and is alive”.
If you will remember from chapter one, the title “first and last” identifies Jesus as the “I AM”. It labels Him as the One Who is in control of all things. The people in the church in Smyrna might have thought things were out of control, but they were in the hand of the Lord. Jesus is still Sovereign! Let the devil do whatever he pleases, he controls nothing! God is the One Who calls all the shots and lets Satan have what liberty he exercises against the people of God. He is a chained lion and that is all, 1 Pet. 5:8.
The statement “which was dead, and is alive” identifies Jesus as the One Who has been there. He is telling these saints that He knows what they are facing because He has already faced it. The people hated Him. They persecuted Him. They crucified Him. They poured out all their wrath, hatred and anger upon Him; and He prevailed! Since He is the One Who has been through the trials and conquered them all, He is able to help His people when they face the fires of persecution and hatred, Heb. 2:18; John 10:29; 2 Tim. 1:12.
None of us know what we will be called on the face before we leave this world behind. But, we have the blessed assurance that no matter what comes our way, our Lord has already been there. He has already secured the victory for us and He will meet us there when we arrive at that place. We are “more than conquerors through Him that loved us”, Rom. 8:37. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place”, 2 Cor. 2:14. Glory to God, I can face anything if I know He will be with me! “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
C. v. 9b They Had Their Investment In Heaven – Jesus says, “I know…thy poverty”. They were poor beyond belief, but then He adds this statement, “but thou art rich”. They may have lacked this world’s goods, but their faith and the faithful display of their testimony had purchased them treasures in Heaven. They were poor here, but they were rich over there! The world may have taken everything they had down here, but they had treasures on the other side that were safe from the hands of any enemy, Ill. Matt. 6:19-21. These people had nothing, yet they possessed everything, 2 Cor. 6:10.p
D. v. 10b-11 They Had Their Inheritance In Heaven – Their faith had purchased for them more than just a testimony here. Their faith had purchased eternal life for them in Heaven. Jesus is telling them that while they may lose it all down here, they might even lose their lives, but they will live forever over there. They may endure Hell on earth for a while, but there will be no Hell for them in eternity. He is telling them that they can’t die but once!
He promises them “a crown of life”. That word for crown refers to the “stephanos” or the laurel crown that was given to victors in the ancient Greek games. You see, this church looked like a bunch of losers to the world around them. In reality, they were mighty victors, waging spiritual warfare in the name of Jesus Christ! The day would come when they and their faith would be vindicated!
The lost man will die twice. He will live without God in this world and he will die. After death, he will go to Hell. Then he will stand before the Lord at the Great White Throne judgment and he will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire for all eternity, Rev. 20:11-15. That is the second death. The saints of God need never fear that happening to them. They have passed from death unto life, John 5:24. Their faith has bought them eternal life and they will be crowned with victory and glory when they arrive home. Thank God, there is far more waiting on us there than we will ever have down here!
by Karen Icenhour
Nothing Too Strong For Him
There’s nothing too strong for His mighty hand to hold,
No situation is beyond His power or control;
He holds all things in the palm of His hand,
Giving us strength when we’re too weak to stand!
There’s nothing too hard for His finger to touch,
No circumstance He is unable to clutch;
Things may be hard for our mind to understand,
But nothing surprises the voice of His command!
There’s nothing too vile His love cannot replace,
No problem on which He can’t pour out grace;
He’s willing to bless us in so very many ways,
And worthy of glory, admiration, & praise!
There’s nothing too evil for His blood to forgive,
No sin His grace can’t cover as we live;
He gave His life to erase all vile acts of sin,
Thank God, there is nothing too strong for Him!
The princes of Babylon could find no fault in Daniel so they had King Darius to sign a decree, which said that no one could ask a petition, or pray to anyone except the king for thirty days. Our verse begins, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed…” Daniel knew about the law. He also knew that according to the law of the Medes and Persians, it could not be changed. The next part of the verse says, “…he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem…” In Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the temple, he prayed, “That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.” (I Kings 8:29 & 30) Solomon continued and asked God to have compassion and forgive His people if they sinned and were carried away captives, and repented, and prayed toward their land. Daniel knew the scriptures and he prayed with his windows open, toward Jerusalem. “…he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God…” I know that we can pray in any position, but when we kneel or bow before God, we are humbling ourselves to Him. Now, the last portion of our verse, “…as he did aforetime.” Daniel had a habit of praying. He didn’t just start praying when he was commanded not to pray. And he didn’t stop praying, or even try to hide his prayers.
We know the rest of the story. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions and the angel of God shut the lions’ mouths. The angel of God went into the den of lions with Daniel just as the angel of the Lord had gone into the fiery furnace with Daniel’s three friends. Daniel’s friends were told to do something they shouldn’t do, and they obeyed God and didn’t bow to the image. Daniel was told not to do something he should do, but he continued to pray to his God. Those around you may try to get you to do things you shouldn’t do, but keep following the Lord. If they don’t succeed at that, they may try to keep you from doing the things you should.
But again, keep following the Lord. We may feel proud of ourselves for not falling into the temptation to try drugs and alcohol, or shoplifting, or cursing. But are we totally following God’s Word in prayer, and Bible study, and worship?
by Meagan Davis
Everything. Sometimes it’s hard to narrow it down to just one thing that I’m thankful for. So, I decided to go with a little more general of a list this week. Here are 3 things that we should always remember to thank God for:
Four high school boys afflicted with spring fever skipped morning classes. After lunch they reported to the teacher that they had a flat tire. Much to their relief she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a test today so take seats apart from one another and take out a piece of paper.” Still smiling, she waited for them to sit down. Then she said: “First Question: Which tire was flat?”
A man walks into a lawyer’s office and asks, “How much do you charge?”
The lawyer says, “$500 for three questions.”
“Wow, that’s pretty expensive, isn’t it?” the man asks.
“Yes,” says the lawyer. “Now, what’s your third question?”
BETWEEN THE LINES
A missionary, in Africa, was out taking a walk in the jungle. Suddenly, he heard a noise from the brush in front of him. It was a lion. He started to back up and heard a noise from behind. Sure enough, it was another lion. He looked to his left and then to his right. You guessed it, lions were on both sides. It looked grim, so the missionary sat down where he was and started to read his Bible. Shortly after he started reading, the lions jumped the missionary and ate him.
Moral of the story: Never read between the lions.
LOVE OR DUTY? Revelation 2:1-7
We have before us is the first of seven letters written to seven different churches that existed in Asia Minor in the First Century, these letters could be considered from three different perspectives.
In verse 2, Jesus uses three words to describe the business of this church. The word “works” refers to their “accomplishments”. This was a church that had been used of the Lord to do great things in the community. The word “labor” literally refers to “a beating”. It speaks of “intense work involving toil and pain”. The word “patience” reminds us that they carried out their works for the Lord in the midst of great “persecution”. The city around them hated them and the message they preached. This was a working church.
Verses 2-3 and verse 6 also tell us that this church was doctrinally pure. They stood for the truth and against evil. They publicly exposed false prophets. They were what we would call “an old-fashioned, fundamental” church. They were not allowing the world to influence their worship or their walk. Anyone looking in from the outside would have concluded that they were a rock solid congregation. Anyone attending their services would have been in awe of their work and their calendar of activities.
While those around them were looking at them, Someone far more important had His eye on this church. The Lord Jesus Christ was walking in their midst, verse 1, but they were unaware of His presence. While they had much to commend them, there were problems in the church of Ephesus.
The Lord knew what the people around them did not know. The Lord knew what the church itself did not know. The Lord knew that this church was just going through the motions of serving Him. He knew that they did not love Him like they had once loved Him.
If this church had been honest about their condition, their favorite hymn would have been “Oh, How I Loved Jesus!” I want to consider the Lord’s letter to this ancient congregation. What He said to them then is relevant to us today. As it was in Ephesus, many in our day are merely going through the motions. Many simply do not love Jesus like they once did, and it shows.
I. v. 4 THE LORD’S CASE AGAINST THIS CHURCH
After commending them for their works, Jesus condemns them for their lack of love for Him. He tells them that there is a real problem in their hearts. Let’s notice the nature of this problem.
A. It Is A Personal Problem – “I have somewhat against thee…” The Ephesians probably thought their biggest problems were the pagans around them and the persecution they faced. Jesus tells them that the biggest problem they faced was a personal problem with the Lord Himself.
This reminds us that the Lord cares about His people. If He did not have His eye on them, He would have been unaware of their problem. In verse 1, we are told that He “walks” among them. In verse 2 He tells them “I know…”
He knows us too! He knows us far better than we know ourselves. No one in the church of Ephesus would have guessed that there was a problem between them and Jesus, but there was!
Most of us would look at ourselves and think that we are all right. The problem with our way of gauging our own state of rightness is to compare ourselves with others. Of course, we never compare ourselves with anyone who lives holier than we do; we always compare ourselves with those who live less holy than we do. God’s standard of holiness is a bit higher than that. His standard of righteousness is Christ Himself.
We think our biggest problems are society and government. The truth is, our biggest problem in the modern church is that, like Ephesus, we have offended a holy God! He has a problem with us because we are not where He wants us to be spiritually!
B. It Is A Passion Problem – Jesus tells them exactly what they have done to offend Him. He tells them “thou hast left thy first love”. Jesus tells them that they just don’t love Him like they used to. While all the words in that phrase scream for our attention, there are two that demand special notice. They are the words “left” and “first”. The word “left” is an expressive word that means “to sent away”. It was used of a husband divorcing his wife. It also means “to expire; to let alone; to omit; to forsake; to abandon; to leave on place to go to another; to disregard.” Jesus is talking to a people who have walked away from their love for Him. They have abandoned His love. They have forsaken His love. They have disregarded His love, they have symbolically sent the Lord way.
The word “first” means “first in rank or importance”. They still love their church. They still love their doctrines. They still love their activities. They still love their busy schedules. They still love all they do. They just don’t love Jesus more than the other things.
When we do not love Jesus as we should, we are in violation of the greatest commandment – Matt. 22:37-38.
II. v. 5a THE LORD’S CALL TO THIS CHURCH
After addressing their problem, Jesus gives them a plan of action. He tells them how they can go about rekindling the flames of passion for Him that once burned so brightly.
A. He Calls On Them To Remember – They are commanded to “Remember from whence thou art fallen”. The Lord’s command is for them to look back. They needed to remember a time when their love for Him was powerful, all-consuming and the most important thing in their lives. They were to remember those early days of salvation when the love of God for them was overwhelming. They were to remember how it felt to be saved and to know that all their sins had been forgiven. They were to remember what it felt like to know that they were no longer dead in sin, but had been made alive in Jesus. They were to remember the excitement that every new revelation from the Word of God brought to their hearts. I say to you that we need to remember! We need to remember that moment when sin rolled away and Jesus moved in. we need to remember those early days of excitement and joy. We need to recapture the excitement of that early love we felt for Jesus when He first saved us from His sins.
B. He Calls On Them To Repent – Once they remembered what He had done for them, they would see how far they had fallen. When they remembered they would recognize their sins. The word “repent” refers to “a change of mind that leads to a change of action.” When they saw the depths of their sin, they were to turn from it and fall in love with Jesus again.
The greatest need of the modern church is for us to fall in love with Jesus once again. Before we can do this, we are going to have to recognize that our lack of love for Him is a sin! We are going to have the understand that all the things we have allowed to come between us and Him are idols. Our fun, our family, our work, even our church work can come between us and loving Jesus.
The modern church doesn’t really need a revival. The modern church doesn’t need more money, more recognition in society, or more presence in the community. The modern church simply needs to fall in love with Jesus once more. When we repent of our sin and turn from a lack of love, He will fill us with His presence, His wonder and His power.
C. He Calls On Them To Repeat – He calls on them to “do the first works”. That world “first” is the same as the word “first” in verse 4. It speaks of that which is “first in rank and importance”. In other words, Jesus calls them to return to the things that are most important.
What is most important when it comes to our relationship with Him? The Lord’s call here is for the Ephesian believers to return to the simple fundamentals of the faith.
III. v. 5b THE LORD’S CHALLENGE TO THIS CHURCH
Because the Lord loves His church, He lets them know that their lack of love for Him holds serious consequences down the road. If they stayed the course and refused to repent, they faced certain judgment. The Lord describes this judgment in this verse.
A. They Are Challenged Concerning Abrupt Judgment – The Lord says that He will come “quickly”. The word means “without delay”. The Lord is telling this church when judgment comes, it will be swift and sure.
We can be sure that the Lord will not tolerate deadness and a lack of love among His people for an extended period of time. Sin will be judged! Of that we can be sure!
B. They Are Challenged Concerning Appalling Judgment – He tells them that He will “remove thy candlestick out of his place”. This means that they will cease to exist as a congregation. Jesus is telling the church at Ephesus that their lack of love is so serious that it threatens the very existence of their church.
This prophecy was literally fulfilled in Ephesus. From what I can read, there is nothing where this great city once stood, but a pile of rubble. There is no Christian church there. The land is inhabited by Muslin nomads. There is not Christian witness. There is no light of the Gospel. All of that is the result of a church that failed to stay in love with Jesus.
C. They Are Challenged Concerning Avoidable Judgment – I don’t want Jesus to take away our candlestick, but He will if our light ceases to shine. The Ephesians are told that they can avoid their fate, if they will repent of their sins. The modern church is dying. She is dying because she doesn’t love Jesus like she used to. The only remedy is repentance and restoration.
Victory Baptist Church 20 March 2019 victorypalmetto.com