Church: Why Bother? (Revelation 2-3)

  Why bother joining a church filled with sinners who need to repent?   I regularly hear people say, in effect, “Jesus is just alright with me,” to quote the Doobie Brothers. Very few, on the other hand say the same thing about the church. As far as they are concerned, the church is corrupt. “Christ? Yes! Church? No!” They like their Jesus neat.   Now I understand this attitude quite well. In fact, I sympathize with it. Ever since the televangelist scandals of the late 1980s, I have been sensitive to the ways in which church leaders abuse their … Continue reading Church: Why Bother? (Revelation 2-3)

The Fleas Come with the Dog (Revelation 2-3)

  Perhaps you are ready to concede that the modern church is a sinful one in need of correction. But surely the early church was different! Surely the churches of the apostolic age were exemplary congregations, their holiness refined by the fires of martyr-making persecution!   Well, no.   With the exception of Smyrna and Philadelphia, Jesus Christ finds something to correct at each of the churches of Roman Asia: Loveless orthodoxy at Ephesus (2:5), heretical teaching at Pergamum (2:14–15), sexual immorality at Thyatira (2:20–23), hypocrisy at Sardis (3:1), and spiritual apathy at Laodicea (3:15–17).   The pages of the … Continue reading The Fleas Come with the Dog (Revelation 2-3)

“The Joy of Policy Manuals” by David P. Gushee

As a senior pastor, I strive to keep a balance between ministry and maintenance. For example, this afternoon, I visited with a family in my church, one of whose members has cancer. In my book, that’s ministry. Last night, however, the chairman pro tempore of my board and I presented an update on our church’s renovation project in an informal congregational meeting. Buildings, salaries, insurance policies, etc. are maintenance issues. Generally speaking, pastors and parishioners prefer ministry over maintenance. What we often fail to see is that maintenance (the "business" side of church) is absolutely crucial if we are to … Continue reading “The Joy of Policy Manuals” by David P. Gushee

Letters from Jesus (Revelation 2-3)

  In Revelation 1, Jesus Christ appears in glory, standing in the midst of his churches. In Revelation 2–3, he writes letters to those same churches, filled with words of affirmation, correction, and promise.[i] Although originally addressed to churches in first-century Roman Asia, Jesus’ letters speak to issues faced by twenty-first-century American churches as well. Indeed, as John Stott points out, they identify “seven marks of an ideal church,”[ii] which make them perpetually relevant to each church in every age.   Throughout Christian history, pastors have written letters of spiritual direction for entire congregations, as well as for individual seekers, … Continue reading Letters from Jesus (Revelation 2-3)

Jesus Christ, Now! (Revelation 1:17–20)

  Have you ever wondered what Jesus Christ is doing at the present moment? His resurrection and ascension into heaven occurred 2,000 years ago, after all. What is he up to now?   Revelation 1:12–20 answers that question. It describes Jesus Christ in glory, standing in the midst of his churches. We have already seen that verses 12–16 are theology not portraiture, and we must make a similar judgment about verses 17–20, which are figurative rather than literal. You should get comfortable with the figurative language, by the way; the Apocalypse is full of it.   How do we know … Continue reading Jesus Christ, Now! (Revelation 1:17–20)

The God-Man (Revelation 1:12-16)

  Revelation 1:9–11 introduces John’s vision of Jesus Christ by reporting his commission to “write what you see.” Verses 12–20 describe what John actually saw: Jesus Christ in glory (verses 12–16) standing in the midst of his churches (verses 17–20). We should pay close attention to John’s description of Jesus Christ.   ·        General appearance: “one like a son of man” ·        Clothing: “a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” ·        Hair: “white like wool, as white as snow” ·        Eyes: “like a flame of fire” ·        Feet: “like burnished bronze” ·        Voice: “like the roar … Continue reading The God-Man (Revelation 1:12-16)

The Christian Life (Revelation 1:9–11)

  Revelation 1:9–11 introduces a new section of the Apocalypse, a vision of Jesus Christ in glory, dictating letters to John for the seven churches. The vision extends from 1:9 to 3:22. Before we look at Jesus, however, let us look at John, noting these things especially:   ·        Self-description: “your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus” ·        Location: “the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” ·        Situation: “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” ·        Commission: “Write what you … Continue reading The Christian Life (Revelation 1:9–11)

An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 4: Sovereignty (Revelation 1:8)

The word amen is Hebrew for “So be it!” We use it at the end of our prayers as an expression of hope that God will answer our requests. Used at the end of a doxology, however, the word has a different connotation. It is not so much an expression of hope as one of confidence: “It most definitely is!” rather than “So be it!”   The reason for the difference between the amen of hope and the amen of confidence is that in our ignorance, immaturity, and iniquity, we too often ask for things we should not have or … Continue reading An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 4: Sovereignty (Revelation 1:8)

An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 3: Atonement and Advent (Revelation 5b–7)

John follows his statement about revelation (Revelation 1:1–3) and his trinitarian greeting (verses 4–5a) with a doxology to Jesus Christ (verses 5b–7). A doxology is a word (logos) in praise of the glory (doxa) of God, or in this case, of Jesus Christ. There are several doxologies in Revelation (e.g., 4:6b–11, 5:9–13, 7:12, 19:1–2). The sequence of verses 1–7 is instructive. Theology gives rise to doxology, faith to praise. A man or woman who thinks correctly about God but fails to worship him wholeheartedly has not understood him at all.  Why praise Jesus Christ? Two reasons: Atonement and advent.   … Continue reading An Outline of the Christian Faith, Part 3: Atonement and Advent (Revelation 5b–7)