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Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (1) "Does your Church have an Angel?" (Revelation 2:1)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (2) "Loving Jesus in Ephesus" (Revelation 2:1)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (3) ???Christ in and over his Church?? (Revelation 2:1)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (4) ???I Know Your Works!?? (Revelation 2:2a)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (5) When God Crowns His Own Grace (Rev. 2:2a)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (6) The Limits of Love (Revelation 2:2,6)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (7) For His Name??s Sake (Revelation 2:3)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (8) When Doctrine Isn??t Enough (Revelation 2:4-5)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (9) Feasting on the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:7)Read More

Meditations on The Seven Letters of Revelation (10) Seeing the ???So That?? in Suffering (Revelation 2:8-9)Read More

Suffering comes in many forms and in varying degrees, as the Christians in Smyrna would no doubt testify. But regardless of how it manifests itself, suffering tends to evoke one of two reactions in the soul of the Christian: dependency or disillusionment. One example of the former is found in the apostle Paul’s reaction to a life-threatening incident that brought him to the brink of despair. Rather than yielding to disillusionment with God he was driven to depende...Read More

As I sit writing this meditation, I need only turn my head slightly to the left and gaze out the window of my hotel room for a stunning view of the Washington Monument in our nation’s capital. Two days earlier, on my way from the airport to the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, I was deeply moved by the site of the Lincoln Memorial, and later that night by the stunning profile of the Capitol building. People react differently when visiting Was...Read More

To whom do you look for strength when life is on the verge of imploding and there seems to be no avenue of escape? In what do you place your trust? On what beliefs have you staked your future? How do you persevere? Unless you’ve experienced an incredibly insulated life, these are questions that cannot be avoided. They were certainly questions racing through the minds of the believers in Smyrna. Their past had been painful and their immediate future didn’t lo...Read More

What I Deserve vs. What I Get The timing of this meditation is significant. I’m writing it on the day before Thanksgiving, 2006. Like most of you, I’ll soon be seated with my family around a table laden with more food than many people will see in a month. Thousands will die today of starvation. Tens of thousands will scrounge for a few kernels of corn or a handful of grain. No, I’m not trying to rob you of joy at this time of year. In fact, I’m ...Read More

By God’s providential design, my wife and I live in Kansas City, Missouri, known as “The City of Fountains.” Before this, we lived in Chicago, “The Windy City” (well, to be more accurate, we lived in Winfield, a suburb of Chicago). Paris, France, is called “The City of Lights” and New York is often described as “The City that Never Sleeps”. We have friends who live in Las Vegas, infamously (but justifiably) referred t...Read More

The letter to the church at Pergamum consists of “the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Rev. 2:12; more literally, “these things says the one who has the sharp two-edged sword”). When we hear or read of someone who has a “sharp two-edged sword” we typically envision it in his hand, to be wielded either in defense against an on-coming attack or used offensively to slay his enemies. But in the case of Jesus, the sword pro...Read More

There was in the church at Pergamum a strange and unacceptable paradox, an inconsistency that Jesus simply will not tolerate, then or now. Let’s not forget where they lived. Whereas it is true that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b), Pergamum was especially vulnerable to Satan’s influence. In some sense, as previously noted, this was his city. Pergamum was the center of his authority, the place of his throne, the f...Read More

Although grace is surely amazing, it is also subject to distortion, especially by those who use it to excuse loose and licentious behavior (see Galatians 5:13; Jude 4). The justification comes in a variety of forms. For example: “If all my sins have been forgiven, they are now of little consequence.” Or again: “If I can’t be saved by works, I need not be concerned with their absence in my life.” Still others say: “If Jesus has set...Read More

I suggested in the previous meditation that purity often comes with a hefty price tag. It may cost us “good feelings” and appear to be less than “loving” when we insist on repentance and moral rectitude. There’s no way around the fact that “peace” and “harmony” may suffer when we are committed to living out the ethical implications of the gospel of grace. But, as I said, it’s a price we must be willing to pay. ...Read More

The “white stone” in Revelation 2:17, given to those who “conquer” or “overcome,” has been subjected to as many differing interpretations as have the “two witnesses” of Revelation 11. That doesn’t mean we are hopeless in our efforts to understand what Jesus meant, but it does suggest that we should be cautious and avoid dogmatism, regardless of whichever view we ultimately embrace. Some argue that the white stone sig...Read More

Consider this challenge that I regularly put to myself and now put to you. Recall to mind the early days of your Christian life, perhaps the first year or so after your conversion. Do you remember the zeal for God and fascination with all things biblical you felt in the wake of saving grace? Think back on your evangelistic zeal and the courage you displayed in sharing your faith with unsaved family members and friends. Think back on the time and energy expended in servic...Read More

How tragic, after reading of the splendid qualities in Thyatira, to discover that moral compromise was present in the church. “I have this against you,” said Jesus, “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” (Revelation 2:20). John Stott put it bluntly: “In that fair field a poisonous weed was being allowed ...Read More

I’m constantly stunned by the gracious and longsuffering character of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to his words in the letter to the church at Thyatira: “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” (Revelation 2:21-23a).  What a...Read More

Our Lord clearly states that the casting of Jezebel on a sickbed and the infliction of her children with great tribulation, to the point of physical death itself, will be an unmistakable sign to all that nothing escapes his gaze or slips in beneath the radar, so to speak. But how does Christ’s judgment against the unrepentant reveal to all Christians everywhere that he has exhaustive and altogether accurate knowledge of the hearts and minds of everyone? Look again...Read More

How is it that this woman called “Jezebel” came to exert such incredible power over the lives of Christians in Thyatira? What accounts for the authority she possessed to convince the followers of Jesus to abandon their commitment to ethical purity and engage in sexual immorality and other forms of compromise with the surrounding culture?   There’s no indication that she held an ecclesiastical office. She wasn’t an Elder or Pastor or Apostle...Read More

Much of the Church today is suffering from an advanced case of what I call spiritual osteoporosis. It’s not widespread throughout the “body” of Christ, but is concentrated along the spine. What I have in mind is the Church’s loss of its theological backbone! We see this in any number of ways. For example, some have begun to fudge on the ethical status of homosexuality. Fearful of being labeled “homophobic,” they’ve adopted a &ld...Read More

I know that’s a provocative question, perhaps even incendiary to some of you! But let’s look closely at the promised reward in this letter to the church in Thyatira: “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 ...Read More

One of the more important lessons I’ve learned through the years, especially when it comes to church life, is that seeing isn’t always believing. I don’t want to sound cynical or pessimistic, but you shouldn’t always trust your eyes. What I’m trying to say is that I’m not as impressed as I used to be when I hear of a church with a surging membership, multi-million dollar budget, expansive facilities, and a reputation for programs, mini...Read More

If the surrounding culture declares that we are alive but Jesus says we are dead (Rev. 3:1), something’s seriously wrong with our standard of success. Our discernment is seriously flawed. Worse still is when we ourselves think we’re alive but in fact are dead. All too often, the criteria by which we judge success and the criteria employed by God are vastly at odds. What constitutes good, effective, Christ-exalting ministry is one thing to the world, even the ...Read More

Let’s get right to the point. This letter to the church in Sardis ought to alert us to the fact that a church can be confident of its place in the community, increasing in membership, energetic in its religious activities, liquid in its financial assets, fervent in its outreach to the broader culture, and yet dead! I fear it is precisely those reading this who say, in response, “Yes, but that’s not us,” who are particularly in jeopardy. It is the...Read More

The last few meditations, I admit, have been somewhat negative in that I have portrayed the plight of the church (both in the first century and in our day) in pessimistic terms. I’m not apologizing for that, in view of the fact that we have explicit biblical warrant from the text in Revelation 2-3. But it would be a mistake to throw in the towel when it comes to the local church or to conclude that it is irredeemable or that its influence is so minimal as to justi...Read More

The promise to those who conquer continues in Revelation 3:5, a passage that has stirred considerable discussion and controversy. “The one who conquers,” said Jesus, “will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Some are frightened by this or filled with anxiety t...Read More

I’m amazed at how seemingly little things in life can have such a massive impact on other people. Take, for example, when someone remembers your name. Perhaps it’s a person you admire greatly, whom you’ve only met once before, but they instantly smile when they see your face and say, “Hey, Mike, how are you? It’s good to see you again.” You feel affirmed and honored that someone who is well-known and successful actually knows who you a...Read More

One could make a strong case that the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia are the most important of the seven, for in neither of them do we find a single word of complaint. They both receive unqualified praise and approval. These, then, are truly churches of which Christ heartily approves. What makes this all the more remarkable is the statement by Jesus in Revelation 3:8 that the church in Philadelphia has “but little power” (ESV). This isn’t a rebuke....Read More

I’ve mentioned before that one of my spiritual mentors was often heard to say, “Whatever God requires he provides; whomever God chooses, he changes; and whatever God starts, he finishes.” I’d like to add a fourth: “Whatever God promises, he fulfills.” That’s incredibly reassuring, especially for those who struggle with doubt and uncertainty and the fear that one day, notwithstanding the promises in his Word, God will pull the ru...Read More

Whatever God promises, God fulfills. This marvelous truth puts legs beneath our Lord’s declaration that the door he has opened for us no one can shut (v. 8). But there’s yet more in his promise to the faithful in Philadelphia and therefore more in his promise to you and me:   “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and ...Read More

If you’ve ever wondered whether it mattered much to Jesus that you’ve kept the faith and maintained your commitment to him, this promise to the church of Philadelphia should put your fears to rest.   Sadly, today, more attention is given to sensational claims of supernatural exploits than to the routine faithfulness of the average Christian. Simple virtues like integrity, endurance in the face of pain and disappointment, persistence in one’s stru...Read More

The Bible has a remarkable capacity to challenge and overcome our misperceptions about who we are. When we are inclined to think of ourselves as orphans, the biblical text declares that we are the adopted children of God. If we are wracked with guilt, the inspired word reminds us that we are forgiven. The feeling of being stained and soiled by sin is overcome with the realization that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ and clothed in his righteousness. It’s mu...Read More

As mentioned in the previous meditation, Christians often struggle with a sense of identity. They fail to grasp who they are by virtue not merely of creation but especially regeneration and redemption. A failure to embrace our new identity and the privileges and responsibilities that come with it can be devastating. Virtually every assault and accusation of Satan is grounded in his effort to convince us we are not who God, in fact, declares we are. If the enemy can persu...Read More

I’ve lived in eight cities, for each of which I’m profoundly grateful. I was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma, from which we moved when I was ten to settle in Midland, Texas. I attended high school in Duncan, Oklahoma, and went to college in Norman. My wife and I lived in Dallas, Texas, for twelve years, and then moved back to Oklahoma, this time to Ardmore, in 1985. Since then we’ve lived in Kansas City, Chicago, and now again in Kansas City. As I said, I&rs...Read More

“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.”   We all sing it, but do we believe it? Admittedly, it’s not easy to bank everything on Christ alone. Our souls long for rest in something immovable. Our minds cry out for certainty in a...Read More

I doubt if anyone reading this meditation has been exempt from betrayal, of one sort or another. One of life’s most painful and disillusioning experiences is putting your confidence in someone who in turn lets you down. Perhaps you’ve shared something and made it perfectly clear that no one else is to know, only to have it become common knowledge by the end of the day. Or you trusted a life-long friend to honor their commitment to you only to discover that wh...Read More

“Sam, are you playing theological tricks on us with that title? Come on. Does it really matter?” Well, let me put it this way: the difference between Jesus as “the eternal Son of God” and Jesus as “Son of the eternal God” is the difference between heaven and hell! Does that answer your question?   Let me illustrate with the story of two individuals who knew well the difference between these two ways of describing Jesus Christ (a...Read More

I doubt one could find words any more confusing and controversial than those uttered by Jesus in Revelation 3:15-16 to the church at Laodicea. Christians have expressed either befuddlement or revulsion, and sometimes both, at what our Lord says to this wayward congregation. Look at it again:   “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out o...Read More

On July 8, 1731, twenty-seven-year-old Jonathan Edwards preached in Boston, Massachusetts, what would become the first of his sermons to be published. Entitled, God Glorified in Man’s Dependence, it was based on 1 Corinthians 1:29-31, a passage in which Paul was concerned that “no human being might boast in the presence of God. He,” wrote Paul, “is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctifi...Read More

If Jesus is in fact “the Amen, the faithful and true witness,” wisdom would demand that we heed his counsel. If he can be counted on not only to confirm God’s purposes (“Amen”) but to speak truth without equivocation (“the faithful and true witness”), we ignore him to our peril. To casually dismiss his evaluation of the state of our souls or turn a deaf ear to his advice on how we might find healing and hope is more than morally ...Read More

Revelation 3:19 is nothing short of shocking. Earlier in v. 16 Jesus expressed disgust towards those in Laodicea, declaring that he is on the verge of vomiting them out of his mouth. Yet now, in v. 19, he affirms his love for them! May I boldly suggest that it is precisely because he loves his people that he refuses to tolerate their lukewarm indifference toward spiritual matters? In other words, the harsh words in this letter, the firm discipline evoked by their backsli...Read More

The foundation for a relationship of passion is a heart of purity. Sin kills intimacy. It comes as no surprise, then, that perhaps the greatest obstacle to a vibrant and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ is the failure or refusal to repent. This accounts for our Lord’s pointed plea to the Laodiceans: “Be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19)!   What, exactly, did Jesus have in mind when he called the Laodiceans (and us) to a zealous, immediate, u...Read More

Next to John 3:16, this is perhaps the most famous evangelistic passage in the New Testament. The question is, Should it be? To this lukewarm and backslidden church, Jesus issues this stunning invitation:   “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).   As noted, most people simply assume this is an evangelistic appeal to non-Christ...Read More

“The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” No matter how many times I read this promise, I struggle to believe it. That’s not because I doubt its inspiration or accuracy. Jesus meant what he said and I embrace it. But to think of myself enthroned with Christ is simply more than I can fa...Read More