Monday, December 11, 2017

Mon.’s Devo - The Churches of Thyatira and Sardis

Read: Amos 4:1-6:14; Revelation 2:18-3:6; Psalm 130:1-8; Proverbs 29:21-22
Amos was speaking to a calloused people who had no compassion for the poor and no respect for God. When they were in need, they didn’t turn to the Lord, and when they were rich they didn’t give him credit for their blessings. Their religious acts were not impressing God because he knew their hearts. God was going to stir up another nation against them.
The fourth church of Revelation was Thyatira which means “the odor of affliction”. It was to be known as the Pagan Church and represented the time of 606- the time of the Great Tribulation. It was condemned for tolerating the misdeeds of Jezebel. Jezebel means “unchaste”. During this time Boniface became the first Pope. They started kissing his feet, worshipping images and relics, using “holy water”, canonizing dead saints, fasting on Fridays and during Lent, praying prayer beads, the sale of indulgences, and many other rituals. The most defiling thing they did was to forbid the people to have a Bible making it impossible for the people to oppose what they were doing because there was no standard except what they said. This became a time known as The Dark Ages and it continues until today.
The fifth church was The Church of Sardis which started in 1520 and will continue till the Tribulation. It is called The Dead Church.
Sardis was the capital of Lydia and was destroyed by an earthquake. It means “escaping ones or those who come out”. These are the Reformers that started with Martin Luther. They opposed “works” as the means of salvation and preached salvation by faith. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the church stating the error of their teaching and the truth of the Bible. He was charged with heresy but his teaching spread throughout the world. Other Reformers like Calvin, and Knox
continued his work teaching the Bible and awakening the people to truth. They did come out of the Roman Catholic Church and its organized religion, but then went on to build their own organized religions according to which Reformer they sided with. So now we have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.
Man will never get it right when they try to control and organize the things of God. He never wanted to rule from a box or a building. His kingdom is not one of walls and borders, it fills the earth…every bit of space. We carry the church within us although I love to go to my church and fellowship with my faith family. Sunday worship cannot be contained to a day; it is every day. We take the presence of God everywhere we go. We bring the church to the lost every place we go.
Lord, awaken us to be the church, not just attend one.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sun.’s Devo - The Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum

Read: Amos 1:1-3:15; Revelation 2:1-17; Psalm 129:1-8; Proverbs 29:19-20
Amos was both a shepherd and a prophet who lived during the reigns of Uzziah, and Jeroboam. He spoke against he sins of Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Moab, Judah, and Israel. God was about to punish each of these nations for their idolatry and sin. Amos makes a profound statement that surely the Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. That is so true which is why we have Revelation. It is God revealing Jesus and his plan for the church age.
Revelation is a call to the Gentile Church to become the bride. Everyone of the churches that John mentions were Gentile churches. He started with Ephesus which stands for the first church age. It started at Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus death on the cross and lasted about 70 years. Everything that started in the early church continues throughout history and grows. The righteous shine brighter and the evil become more corrupt until the end when God will judge it all.
It is impossible for me to explain all of this in my blog but I will give you the skinny of it.
Ephesus was the Apostolic Age. Ephesus was the largest and finest of the churches of the time. It was begun by Paul who was also the messenger of the age. The world was in turmoil as the Roman Empire was gaining more and more power. Christians were being persecuted and the temple dishonored but they came out stronger. The Nicolaitans completely separated their spiritual nature from their physical nature giving themselves license to sin. Jerusalem fell and most of the Sanhedrin was killed during the war which led to the split between the Jews and the Christians.
The next church age was Smyrna which was known as the Persecuted Church. The established church was becoming religious with all kinds of laws and rituals. Church leaders fell into a hierarchy with popes, archbishops, bishops and presbyters. This is when they started having liturgies, prayers, hymns, baptism. teaching of the Eucharitst, and offerings. Jerusalem had fallen and the Christians and the Jews split into synagogues and churches. Pagan practices seeped into the church and persecution swept the church until 260 when Christianity became popular in Rome again. In 284, Diocletian became emperor and wanted the people to worship him as a god. This caused another sweep of persecution through the church causing the church to grow.
Diocletian became emperor in 284, with about 5 million Christians in his empire. At first he tolerated them but eventually, he chose Jupiter to be Rome’s god and ordered a violent attack on the church. he had their sacred writings burned and many killed.
The third church was Pergamum, the Indulged Church. They represent the time of 312-606. Pergamum was the capital of Asia and completely given over to Greek gods, especially Bacchus, the god of revelry and Asclepius, the god of healing. Constantine became ruler and ordered Christianity to be the religion because of a vision he had seen of a cross in the sky and heard the words, “In this name, conquer.” Even though he was attracted to Christianity, he did not really understand what it was and watered down the meaning of the truth till it looked like Babylonian mysticism. This is when the rosary, celibacy of the priests and nuns, prayers for the dead, making the sign of the cross, worship of saints and angels, mass, worship of Mary, priestly dress, extreme unction, the doctrine of purgatory, services in Latin and prayers to Mary were introduced. Where the church at Ephesus rejected the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, the church of Pergamum accepted it. The lay people were given no voice in church affairs but were expected to blindly agree. God called them to repent.
To those who overcame, God promised to give him hidden manna and a white stone. That is the same revelation and assurance he gives us.
Lord, help us to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to us.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Sat.’s Devo - Know the Times You are Living In

Read: Joel 1:1-3:21; Revelation 1:1-20; Psalm 128:1-6; Proverbs 29:18
Joel gives us a picture of the end judgement on the earth. God urges the people to repent because God is so merciful and always giving his people a way out of judgment if they would only choose it. Judgement is imminent but his promise is that he would pour his Spirit out on his sons and daughters. He fulfilled this the first time on Pentecost but he will do it again.
Revelation is the revelation of who Christ is and it gives the history of the New Testament and of what was to happen soon. God used the churches that had been established to be pictures of the progression of the church to come. John received this vision on a the day of Atonement which was the “Lord’s day”. He was to write what he heard on a scroll and send it to the seven churches so they could repent and grow.
John heard a voice and when he turned to look, he saw Jesus, the Living One who was dead but came alive and holds the keys to death and Hades. Hades is the place of the dead or the grave which we call hell. John saw seven stars and seven lamp stands. The stars are the messengers or prophets of the different ages and the lamps were the churches themselves.
Our Psalm gives us our blessing - it comes to those who fear the Lord. Those who fear the Lord will be blessed in every area of their lives. Our Proverbs tells us what happens when there is no “now” revelation or understanding of the days they are living in; these people have no restraint. But, the people who obey the Lord will be blessed.
We are living in the time of great revelation and truth being exposed - both good and bad. We are in the beginning of the kingdom age where we are learning to walk as Jesus walked on the earth. We are learning our identity in Christ and are getting God’s perspective on life which takes a renewing of our minds. We are embarking on the greatest time for the history of the church.
Lord, help us to know the times we are living in and walk in your Spirit.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Fri.’s Devo - Judgment by Fire

Read: Hosea 10:1-14:9; Jude 1:1-25; Psalm 127:1-5; Proverbs 29:15-17
Hosea gave Israel a picture of their history as a nation. They had grown and prospered. Instead of letting God be their king they had rejected him and made idols out of wood and altars out of mortar. He called Ephraim and Judah back to the Lord so that God could bless them. But, they chose to do evil and believe a lie. They trusted in their own strength and the strength of their army which could not save them.
God had called his children out of Egypt with Moses but the more he called them, the more they ran the opposite direction.
God didn’t want to have to treat them like Admah or Zeboim who were two of the five cities destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah. In other words, God did not want to have to judge them and destroy them too. In all their sins, God would rather have compassion. Ephraim had made alliances with Assyria and Egypt, wooing God’s enemies.
God understands man’s struggles with Him as long as man learns the truth and humbles himself before God. Jacob struggled for things that were not lawfully his, like the birthright and the blessing. He got both when he cried out to the Lord, after struggling with the angel all night.
God had led Israel by Moses out of Egypt but they worshiped Baal and the golden calves. When they asked for a king, he gave them one which he had to take away because of his disobedience. Israel and Ephraim stored up their sin until now and God was ready to repay. They will lose it all but one day return to Him and be restored.
Jude is one of the most interesting books in the Bible to me. It gives us a glimpse into the angels who rebelled against God in Genesis 6 and are now being held in chains awaiting judgment. They committed sexual perversion having sex with human women and having offspring with them. God compared their sin to Sodom and Gomorrah’s sin. Both caused the Lord to judge them and destroy them from the face of the earth. They are a picture of the final judgement which will be by fire also.
Jude gives us a picture of false prophets who prophecy their words without any fear of God. They do it for money and man’s worship. Deepest darkness has been received for them. Even Enoch warned of these deceivers. The answer to how to avoid being deceived by them is to build yourself up by praying in the Holy Spirit. God is able to keep us from falling and present us faultless before God.
Lord, help us to be busy building a temple in our hearts for the Holy Spirit to dwell.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Thurs.’s Devo - Walk in Love 12-7-17

Read: Hosea 6:1-9:17; 3 John 1:1-14; Psalm 126:1-6:Proverbs 29:12-14
These words of Hosea came at the end of their punishment and Hosea was pleading that Israel acknowledge finally, that her punishment was for her sin. God wanted to now have mercy and restoration, but was not able to because of their continued sin. It was not ritual acts that God was after, but love and obedience.
In 6:8, Gilead is mentioned as being a city polluted with blood. Gilead was a city of refuge where men ran for safety. But in 2 Kings 15:25, Pekah conspired against Pekahiah and killed him and took his place as ruler. Also, the priest would kill people coming to the city before they got there further obstructing justice and God’s commands.
Samaria was Israel’s capital. Four kings were murdered and usurped. The sins of Samaria and Ephraim where the priests were were keeping their nation from being restored by God. They had not repented and returned to the Lord after all they gone through.
Hosea rebuked them for their calf. According to JFB, Jeroboam, during his sojourn in Egypt, had seen Apis worshipped at Memphis, and Mnevis at Heliopolis, in the form of an ox; this, and the temple cherubim, gave him the inspiration for the calves set up at Dan and Beth-el. All Israel was to worship these calves which were an abomination to God.
So, instead of God being able to forgive and restore, He would have to send judgment. It is God’s nature to forgive and have mercy but he will judge when pushed to the limit.
John was having to do some correcting himself. There was a man who was head of an ultra-Pauline party that was anti-Jewish named Diotrephes. He was self-centered and wanted the attention John was getting to he stirred up the people against John who only taught about love. John had tried to unify the Jewish and Gentile believers with love. He admonished them to imitate God’s goodness and not man’s sins.
Lord, restore us by your unfailing love.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wed.’s Devo - Love and Obey

Read: Hosea 4:1-5:15; 2 John 1:1-13; salm 125:1-5; Proverbs 29:9-11
Israel was in a bad state. There was no faith, no love and no acknowledgement of God in the land. There was only lawlessness, adultery and bloodshed. The land mourned and the animals and fish were dying. The spiritual leaders were just as sinful as the people. The people were being destroyed because they had no knowledge. Their priests were not teaching them God’s laws so there was no foundation. God was going to punish the priests, first, for all their sins. Because they chose to reject God, everything in their lives would be cursed and not prosper. God was holding the priests responsible for the people’s sins. The way the priests lived kept the people from returning to the Lord. They had a spirit of prostitution in their heart and did not acknowledge the Lord. God held Israel’s ignorance against them.
In John’s second letter continues to tell us to love one another. Love is who God is and what Jesus came to show us through his life and his death. If we don’t walk in love then the love of Jesus is not in us.
Lord, may we walk in knowledge of your Word and in love for you and others.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Tues.’s Devo - Hosea

Read: Hosea 1:1-3:5; 1 John 5:1-21; Psalm 124:1-8; Proverbs 29:5-8
Hosea will stretch your religiosity. It seems so offensive that God would tell a prophet to marry a harlot who has children born out of her sin as a sign to Israel. But, that is exactly what God told Hosea to do. He specifically chose Gomer whose name means “completion”. Israel had come to the end of their sin and was about to be judged for her adultery against God. Homer was the descendent of Japheth who had been one of Noah’s three sons. They came from the time of God’s greatest judgement on the earth and now Israel had come full circle and would be judged again.
Hosea and Gomer had three children. The first was a son that was named Jezebel for the Valley of Jezreel. Jehu had massacred the kings sons there and God was going to judge him for that. Next they had a daughter and God told them to name her Lo-Ruhamah which means “not pitied” because God would no longer show love to the house of Israel. He told them to name their third son Lo-ammi which mens “not my people” because God was no longer their God and they were no longer his people. God is so loving that he would not stay angry with them forever. One day, he would draw them back and call them his people and He would be their God. God showed this through Hosea’s life. His wife had returned to harlotry but God told Hosea to go get her back and love her again. Hosea had to buy her back just like Jesus bought us back from the devil with the price of his blood. He told Gomer that she could not go back to prostitution but he wanted her to be his wife. That is what God says to us. We are the bride of Christ and we can not return to our other lovers, we have been bought by Jesus.
First John continues his sermon on love. Because of God’s great love, we can ask anything in his name and he will hear us. We also know that Jesus keeps us from the harm of the devil because we are children of the living God.
Lord, thank you for your great love. Help us to walk in your will.