Pergamos: Scary Church! (Third of the Churches of Asia Minor)

(ninth article in our series on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos, write:  ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know your works….'”  (Revelation 2:12ff).

The cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos were called “royal cities,” and they competed with each other. Ephesus was the great political center, Smyrna the great commercial center, and Pergamos the great religious center.

David Jeremiah calls Pergamos “the inner city church.”  Other names by which this church is called include “Adulterous Church” and “the Compromising Church.”  I call it “The Scary Church.”  Belonging to this church is a risky proposition!

Pergamos was famous for its library, second-largest in the ancient world, behind only the one in Alexandria, Egypt.  Said to contain 200,000 rolls of parchment.  And none of them on microfilm!

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Smyrna: Second of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor

(eighth article in our series on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna, write:  ‘These things says the First and the Last, who was dead and came to life:  I know your works….'”  (Revelation 2:8ff)

Suppose a friend of yours was in the cross hairs for a massive hurricane or killer tornado, one bearing down on him with a fury.  You would do all you could to alert him and to help him get out of danger. Likewise, our Lord sees that the believers in Smyrna are about to receive a great persecution.  His letter is to warn them to “buckle up,” to get ready.  There’s no escaping it, so all they can do is get prepared and keep their eyes on the Lord.

This is the shortest of the seven letters, only four verses.

The City–

Population was 200,000.  It was a seaport on the Aegean Sea.  Smyrna boasted the largest theater in Asia.  The old city was destroyed by the Persians and rebuilt by Alexander the Great.  The city experienced an earthquake in AD 178 (which is long after the period we’re dealing with).  The Greek poet Homer was borne here.

This is the only city of the seven still functioning, with the other six being archaeological ruins.  Turks call it Izmir.  It’s said to be a beautiful place.

The name Smyrna means “myrrh,” a perfume for the dead.

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Ephesus: The church that forgot to love!

(seventh article of our series on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“To the angel of the church at Ephesus, write: These things says he who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: ‘I know your works….'” (Revelation 2:1ff.) 

The first of the seven churches of Asia Minor is Ephesus.  Its letter is found in Revelation 2:1-7.

Blessed are you among churches, Ephesus. 

You were begun, it would appear, by the highly esteemed husband-wife team of Aquila and Priscilla.  On his way home from the Second Missionary Journey, the Apostle Paul left Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus but did not stay himself.

Ephesus had the ministry of the gifted Apollos, who would have been a media darling in our modern age from all evidence.  (Move over, Joel Osteen!)

Paul spent three years ministering in Ephesus.  (Acts 19 mentioned 2 years and 3 months, but in Acts 20, Paul tells the Ephesian leaders he spent three years there.)  This was the longest time he gave to any one congregation.

Then, Ephesus was pastored by Timothy and later by the Apostle John.  They had had the best.

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The Lord takes His churches to the woodshed

(Fourth in a series on the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.  Revelation 1-3)

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.  For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6).

The Lord Jesus was unhappy with His churches.  Five of the seven congregations scattered across Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) were already getting off-track and needed some swift attention.  The two exceptions were Smyrna and Philadelphia.  But the other five churches received stern rebukes.

To all the seven churches of Asia Minor, the Lord gave four things (with slight variations for Smyrna and Philadelphia):

HIS ANALYSIS.  This is His report card.  His “state of the state” message.

HIS WARNINGS.  Repent or else.

HIS INSTRUCTIONS.  Remedial actions the Lord would like to see.

HIS PROMISES.  To Him who overcomes, blessings await.  Each church gets its own promise.

These four blessings–for they were that–were not given to the unbelieving world, not to pagan religions, and not to political powers.  They were gifts from Heaven to seven congregations for whom the Lord Jesus had great expectations and important roles to play.

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Crisis Management: How to keep our people during a crisis

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matthew 10:16).

We can’t say the Lord didn’t warn us. Although, clearly, some did not get the word.

In Matthew 10:16-42 our Lord is preparing His people for their future ministry with its pressures, persecutions, betrayals, and conflicts.  He tells us how things will be, what to expect, and what actions we should take when bad things occur.  To our shame, our people are rarely taught this, and thus are blindsided when turmoil erupts in a congregation.

And so, when the enemy attacks the church, God’s people panic and flee like chickens in the barnyard when a hostile dog arrives.

We all pay a big price for our failure to prepare the people.

It’s a familiar story, one which I heard again today.  When the pastor resigned suddenly due to his own foolish behavior, many in the congregation panicked and went into a tailspin.  The leadership wants to carry on the program, but people are leaving the church in droves.  What to do? Can anything be done at this late hour to keep members from jumping ship?

The best time to act is two years ago. (“Oh, thanks a lot, wise one.  You’re a big help!”)

Seriously.

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How to blend in at the new church

USA Today’s travel reporter, Christopher Elliott writes on how tourists can blend in while on vacation.  They want to do this for safety’s sake.  “This summer, four visitors cycling in Tajikistan were targeted and killed by terrorists.  The U.S. State Department is continuously warning Americans about travel abroad, sometimes advising them to stay away from touristy areas.”

So how does one go about not looking like a tourist, Elliott wonders.  “It’s a combination of wearing the right clothes, visiting the right places, and behaving in an un-touristy way, say experts.”

Nothing identifies you more as an American visitor than wearing white Nikes, they say.  Elliott writes, “Sometimes blending in means staying away from clothes marketed to travelers.” That means not wearing zip-off pants (whatever that is) and breathable mesh shorts.  “Cameras are also a dead giveaway.  As is walking around with a map in your hands.

I would add to that list: Saying y’all a lot, wearing a cowboy hat and western boots, and asking the policeman to direct you to the nearest McDonald’s.

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Make things easier for us to come to your church!

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

I walked up to the front of the church where I was to guest-preach in a half hour and tugged on the door.  It was locked.

After walking around to the back and entering, I asked an usher about that.  “No one comes in through that door,” he said.  I answered, “They certainly don’t.  You’ve got it locked.”

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Put yourself in the pastor’s place; what would you do?

I want to say a word about the pastor’s difficult situation. The hope is someone may decide to cut him a little slack when he does something you disagree with or does not come through the way you were counting on.  

You have no idea what tough calls pastors have to make.

As an example, take the Judge Brett Kavanaugh situation. This controversial appointment for the Supreme Court is sucking all the air out of newsrooms these days and dividing the nation. Few people are neutral.

Recognizing that this piece will still be on our website long after this crisis has been resolved and fades into history, I need to give a little background.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by President Trump to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.  Kavanaugh is a staunch conservative, we’re told, and his rulings over the years on the bench seem to bear that out.  He appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, endured a few days of their grilling, and seemed to be set for confirmation, albeit from a nearly evenly divided Senate.  Then, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a university professor, came forward saying that when she was 15 and Kavanaugh two years older, he sexually assaulted her at a party when he was drunk. He denied the charge.

So, on Thursday, September 27, 2018, Ford and Kavanaugh each appeared before the Judiciary Committee to answer questions.  She was “100 percent sure” that Kavanaugh was her attacker.  He was just as adamant that he was not.

And that’s where the matter stands as I write.  The American people seem torn as to who is telling the truth and what it means.

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A word to those who have been “hurt by the church”

And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6). 

Wounded in the house of “those who love me” is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew there, according the footnote in my Bible.

It’s called friendly fire in military lingo.

Recently, after our article “Why professing Christians never attend church,” the responses poured in, positive and negative.  The latest note, however, prompts what follows.

A reader wrote, “What about those who have been hurt by the church?  Your article doesn’t address that (as a reason for believers dropping out of church).”

He listed several instances of people wounded by the church….

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How to measure the effectiveness of your ministry

“Blessed is he who endures.” — James 1:12

Often, at the start of the first service for a protracted meeting –revival, prayer conference, deacons retreat, Bible study, whatever–I’ll say, “Now, everyone wonders at the end of a meeting, what was accomplished. Did we get our money’s worth?

“It’s a good question.  And I want you to know that there’s a way to tell.”

“I want to tell you how to measure the effectiveness of this meeting.  There are several principles. Some of you may want to write this down.”

“First principle: Wait a hundred years…..  And I don’t know what the other principles are.”

It’s a light-hearted way to make a valid point.  Please read on.

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