Second Death

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death.”
Revelation‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As we read earlier in this chapter, John reminds us of the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit. Not just listening but understanding. Sometimes we will hear what someone says to us, but the mental filters that we possess will process what we hear into something with a meaning totally different to what the speaker intended. Misunderstandings can result. A classical example was in 1799, when 1200 Turkish prisoners were shot through a misunderstanding. Napoleon was asked what they should do with the prisoners, but at the end of a coughing fit he uttered the words “Ma sacrée toux,” meaning “My cursed cough”. Unfortunately for the prisoners, Napoleon’s words were heard as “Massacrez tous” meaning “kill them all”. A historical situation that has nothing to do with what Jesus was saying to the churches, but it makes the point. A more humorous example was anecdotally circulating after one of the world wars, when the radio message “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” was heard “Send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance”. But more seriously, we have a duty to carefully listen to what God is saying to us and understanding the meaning behind what He says. And if we’re not sure about anything, we can check the message against God’s Word, the Bible, through prayer, and with other Christians who we trust. Sadly, there have been many who have heard the Word, interpreting it according to their “filters”, but not understanding what it meant spiritually, going off into error as a consequence.

John’s writings continue with the sentence, “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death”. So what is this second death? I thought we could only die once. The phrase “the second death” only occurs in the Book of Revelation. The only explanation must refer to the possibility that after a physical death, there is another potential death awaiting us – the lake of fire. Later on in Revelation we read that all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will end up there. A thought that should strike fear into anyone, I think we all agree. But Jesus made sure that His followers would not be frightened by such an event, because those who are overcomers, the victorious, will be safe. A quote from a book I read recently, “There is a vast difference between the final destination of those who know Christ and those who do not”.

To sum up this verse, the reality for us pilgrims is that as we keep close to our wonderful Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus, we have nothing to fear about what lies beyond the grave. In fact, as we read earlier, there is a crown of life awaiting us. Amazing! Surely worth discomfort today for wonder tomorrow. As is often said today, “No gain without pain”. That principle applies to the spiritual as well as the physical.

Dear Lord, we thank You for Your Word, and the encouragement You provide us for our journey towards Heaven. We need not fear the second death because You are with us. Amen.


“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life.”
Revelation‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Smyrnaean church was really experiencing some hard times. Jesus could see what was coming in their lives and warned them, through John, that the persecution and tribulation would be intense. So intense in fact, that some of those in the Smyrnaean church would face death. Others would be imprisoned. And all because they believed the Truth, God Himself. Of course, all this suffering would strike fear into even the strongest, and most committed, men and women amongst them. So Jesus’ message starts once again with “Don’t be afraid“. Our wonderful Lord fully realised that the intersection between the natural and the spiritual will sometimes induce fear amongst human beings. I’m reminded of the first thing Jesus said to the disciples when He was walking on the sea of Galilee. In Mark 6:50 we read, “They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here! ”. I’m sure the Smyrnaeans were themselves just as terrified, if not more, because some of them would be facing death. But the Lord loved these people and had a message for them that would have strengthened them through their persecution. He told them that it would only be for ten days.

For some, the idea of being tested for our faith is rather daunting. Someone once asked the question, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be sufficient evidence to convict you”? Beyond all reasonable doubt? But why would God allow us to be tested in the first place? Perhaps there are times when we go through the motions of being a Christian, but deep down we have lost our way. Our faith is perhaps weakening, or may even have reduced to a level of non-existence. In the past two years, Christians have been quite severely tested, at least here in the UK. Tested by the Covid lock downs that have shut our churches, and forcing us to depart our comfort zones and grapple with new technology, such as Zoom and YouTube. Removing from us the option of seeing our friends in person, and warming a pew on a Sunday morning. We may not have been through the physical pain and suffering the Smyrnaeans experienced, but the outcome may have been the same. When us Christian pilgrims are faced with the reality that there is a cost to our faith, some will decide that the price is not worth paying. And consequently they will disappear from the spiritual radar and fall away from the faith. In my locality, some Churches of Scotland are having to close because the congregations are no longer numerically viable. One of the reasons is that the numbers of attenders hasn’t recovered to the pre-Covid levels. Thankfully, other churches are thriving, the stronger for the testing experience.

For the faithful perseverers, there is a “crown of life”. It is there stored in a safe place. We each have one lined up for us. Our names are written on them. They are precious and far more valuable than any amount of gold and precious jewels would be. James 1:15 picks up the theme as well, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him“. 

So what does a “crown of life” look like? Here are a few thoughts. The crown imparts life, as we read in our verse today. Also it is a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4), a crown of righteousness, (2 Timothy 4:8). It is imperishable and will never wear out (1 Corinthians 9:25). It is a crown of joy (Philippians 4:1). And it is the prize for staying true to our calling (Philippians 3:14). I can’t wait to get mine, and I know it will be a perfect fit. And there’s one just for you, my reader, today. If …

Dear Lord. We thank You for Your encouragement, always there for the asking when we go through a time of tribulation. I pray for the strength to stand firm in my faith day by day. Amen.


““I know about your suffering and your poverty—but you are rich! I know the blasphemy of those opposing you. They say they are Jews, but they are not, because their synagogue belongs to Satan.
Revelation‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭NLT

How do we reconcile being poor and being rich at the same time? But John was writing about two different domains – the natural and the spiritual. Just from this short verse, we can glean a picture of a church of faithful Christian people who were suffering persecution that was affecting their daily lives. I envisage a shop-keeper, a member of the church, whose business was suffering because people were avoiding him because of his faith. Perhaps there was a labourer who couldn’t find work because he was blacklisted. But I’m sure it wasn’t just their employment that was being affected. A wife and mother abused in the street as she went about her daily business. Low level anti-social behaviour directed at their properties. The children wouldn’t have escaped the persecution either. And, worse, the attacks were making them poor, financially and socially. Sadly, and depressingly, we see the same sort of persecution directed at Christians today in various parts of the world. Even here in the UK we have seen Christian businesses and individuals targeted and persecuted because they refuse to bend the knee to minority groups who are trying to force their ideologies onto the society around them.

But John commended and encouraged them because they were rich. Spiritually rich. Benefitting from Heavenly resources made available to them without limit. The Smyrnaeans knew that through their relationship with God, through their faith, through their perseverance, they were part of something far bigger and better. They knew that there were hassles to overcome before they would find themselves in a place of comfort and safety, where their persecutors would be unable to reach them anymore. 

Through John, Jesus had some stern words for the Smyrnaean persecutors, the Jews from the local synagogue. He called them blasphemers. This is a very serious charge because it involves and implies a disrespectful attitude against God Himself. Here in Western society, we have become desensitised to the use of phrases and language that used the names for God as expletives. I used to work with a lady who was a self-confessed atheist but who frequently used the phrase “Oh my God” in her conversations. One day I pointed out to her that for someone who didn’t believe in God, she called on His name a lot. I never heard her use that expression again. Sadly, though, this phrase has become ubiquitous in our society, a ploy of the enemy to reduce the name of God down to the conversational gutter. Blasphemy. 

Nothing is hidden from Jesus. He knew where the source of the blasphemers was. And He referred to them as “a synagogue [that] belongs to satan”. Strong words indeed. Enough to send a chill of fear down the spines of God-fearing people. That our enemy, the devil, had infiltrated into that very bastion of Jewishness, a synagogue, was a sad reflection on their spiritual state. It would never happen in our churches today. Or would it? In the early days of the Charismatic revival I experienced at first hand the animosity of other church attenders who accused those experiencing and entering into the new move of the Holy Spirit, of demonic activities. Was it blasphemy? I wouldn’t like to judge anyone, but we need to be careful that we don’t associate any move of God with an activity of the devil. Advice obviously not followed by the Jewish synagogue in Smyrna.

So what do us pilgrims make of this verse? It’s a warning that the Christian faith is counter-cultural and at times we will be persecuted for maintaining the purity of the Word and our faith. Jesus warned us that living in the “world”, the atheistic societies in which we live, will not be easy for God-followers. So, forewarned, we keep our eyes fixed on our Heavenly goal, just over the horizon, but coming closer every day. Each day, we try and bring something of Heaven into our lives and the lives of those around us. We are “salt and light” in our families and communities, standing in the gap, revealing God to a God-less world. And in the process, being aware that although we may end up in suffering and poverty, we are rich in Him who loves us.

Dear Father, thank You for being with us in our every day lives. Encouraging us. Blessing us. Equipping us. Loving us. Leading us. Enriching us. We praise and thank You today. Amen. 

The Once Dead

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. This is the message from the One who is the First and the Last, who was dead but is now alive”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Having finished relaying Jesus’ message to the Ephesian church, the Apostle John now writes to the church located at another town, Smyrna, which was a port on the coast of what is now Western Turkey. It was a city, just across the sea from the Island of Patmos, where John was exiled. Today, the ruins are being researched – the ancient Smyrna is no more. Again, we don’t know what happened to the church there, but at the time John wrote his Revelation we can assume that it was a thriving fellowship of early Christians.

Again, John is addressing the “angel of the church”. Presumably a leader, or the leadership at the church. Perhaps even the very culture, or soul, of this fellowship of believers. And John once again emphasises that the message is coming from Jesus Himself, “the First and the Last”. Just to emphasise the credentials of our Lord, he finishes with “who was dead but is now alive”. 

These last 7 words are earth-shattering in their portent. Not only did the Creator of the universe, our Father God, send His Son, Jesus, to this sad and sorry planet, but He did it to fulfil a plan that would involve His painful death on a Roman cross. A plan that would in some inexplicable way enable mankind at long last to approach their Heavenly Father without all the carry-on of animal sacrifices and priestly rituals. A plan that would enable mankind to receive forgiveness for their sins directly, and to receive the righteousness that God Himself had. No wonder that there was darkness in the land while Jesus was dying. No wonder the temple curtain was torn in two. And we read that when Jesus died, significant physical events, earthquakes, rocks splitting and tombs opening up, all took place. I’m sure the whole of Heaven was looking on, wondering and sad. And the devil was having a party, sincerely believing that he had engineered the destruction of God’s Son. 

But the last word in this verse changed everything. On the third day after His death, the One who was dead, laid cold and still, in a tomb, suddenly came alive. In Matthew we read that there was another earthquake, and an angel appeared, rolling away the stone. The battle-hardened Roman guards shook with fear and fainted. And the angel uttered those words that have echoed and reverberated through the years and centuries ever since, “He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead” (Matthew 28:6). How can we ever imagine the impact that that had throughout the Heavens. The party is still going on in Heaven, because the One “who was dead … is now alive”. The devil defeated. And a way planned out for us pilgrims to join our elder brother Jesus when we cross the Great Divide. What else can we do, like John, than fall to our knees with grateful praise and worship.

Dear Lord. We are deeply grateful for all You have done. Words cannot express how we feel. One day we will have the opportunity to praise and worship You forever. Amen.

Tree of Life

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:7 NLT

Jesus continued to remind us, through John, that we are in a battle, through which we must emerge “victorious“. If we don’t then we are going to miss out on something. Access to the “fruit from the tree of life” has a prerequisite, which is that we must first overcome the obstacles that otherwise mask it from our view. Imagine that in front of us is a gate, through which we must enter to access a wonderful place on the other side. Or perhaps we have to gain entry to find particularly valuable treasure. But like a modern computer game, there are hazards, and assailants, that have to be dealt with, before we can reach the gate and open it to pass through. Psalm 24:3-4 reads, “Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies“. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places”. 

Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of the Word of God, we have all the resources necessary to be “victorious”. We are fighting against unseen foes, and, mostly, the battleground is located in our minds. In 2 Corinthians 2:4-5 we read, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ”. 

So, what does being “victorious” look like? And how do we know that our victory has been achieved? Jesus has already overcome the enemy. He did that at Calvary and the devil is a defeated foe. We read in Colossians 2:3-5, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He cancelled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross”. We are victorious because our sins have been forgiven. So we ensure our place in Jesus’ victory parade by staying close to the Cross, and to our wonderful Saviour. And we do so by living a life of faith. A faith we can read about in Hebrews 11. A faith that underpins our lives day by day. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we have all the spiritual resources we need to “knock down the strongholds” that occupy our minds and block our ways to the “tree of life”. The Apostle Paul provided a helpful picture of the spiritual armour we can access, in Ephesians 6.

As Christian pilgrims we are on a journey passing through the world around us. But our victory can be assured by keeping apart from the ways and customs of the world, those that are incompatible with our lives of faith. We are in the world but not of it. So we avoid temptation. We turn our back on anything that will detract from our life of faith. And we set our minds on the things of Heaven, looking forward to the day when we will pass the Great Divide to join God there. We are counter-cultural soldiers for Christ, avoiding the road to hell.

What is the significance of this fruit from the tree of life? It sustained Adam and Eve before the fall in the Garden of Eden, and one day it will sustain us. In a sense we are living between the two occasions when the tree of life was mentioned in the Bible. It first appeared in Genesis and lastly appears in Revelations. The first manifestation of this tree is no longer available to us, but one day we will have access to it because it has been transplanted to our new home, in Paradise. A fruit put there by God, accessible for our future life with Him in Heaven. A fruit for the eating, part of our new life one day in God’s presence.

Dear Lord God. There are so many things to consider in our life-journey. But I thank You today that we don’t journey alone, for You are always with us. Amen.

Ears to Hear

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
Revelation 2:7 NLT

In His message through John, Jesus reminded us that the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and we must listen. And not just hear what He says, but “understand“. Now this can be difficult for some, because many denominations minimise or even deny the active and necessary work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians everywhere. And to add to this we are not generally good at hearing that “still small voice” whispering in our souls. We would much prefer the Holy Spirit to audibly message our natural ears. Or, even better, write down what He wants us to receive. But if the Holy Spirit is talking to us, what does that look like, to us pilgrims in 21st Century planet earth? Once again, we can turn to the Bible, God’s Word, for inspiration and explanation. In John 14:26, Jesus stated clearly what the role of the Holy Spirit would be, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you“. Though directed at His disciples, the Holy Spirit’s work has continued through the centuries, right up to the current day. In these verses, Jesus informed His disciples that “He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything”. “Everything” seems pretty comprehensive, I think. So, the Holy Spirit speaks to us, and our spiritual ears must discern His voice, from God’s Word, from the dreams and visions of Joel 2:28, from prophetic pictures and messages given to us or through another, perhaps through our consciences, and even directly from the pulpit or other Christians. 

But what is the Holy Spirit saying to the churches? We obviously have the message to the Ephesian church, and the messages to come for the other six churches mentioned in Revelations. These messages are generally relevant to Christians and churches today, I’m sure. But what about anything specific? What is the Holy Spirit saying to the church that I attend? Speaking of which, my church is part of the Elim Movement, a movement that has been established on twelve foundational truths, covering topics such as the Bible, the Trinity, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Church, and so on. All Bible-based principles that are non-negotiable. One Holy Spirit message to us will ask if we are being faithful to these God-given principles. The authority of the Bible is paramount and is over-arching in all we believe and do; we stray away at our peril.

Another consideration is that we mustn’t go through a box-ticking exercise, legalistically interpreting and implementing Biblical truths. If asked, I’m sure the Ephesian church would have said they both loved God and each other, but Jesus reminded them that, somehow, this was much less than when they first came to know Him. We have a responsibility, as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:1, to “stay true to the Lord“.  

Dear Lord, we are so sorry for the times when we have “erred and strayed like lost sheep” and neglected You and Your Words. We’re so grateful that You have sent the Holy Spirit to be with us, 24/7, helping us through our life-pilgrimage. Please help us to be sensitive to Your voice, each and every day. Amen.


But this is in your favour: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.
Revelation‬ ‭2:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Almost as an afterthought, Jesus encouraged the Ephesians with a favourable mention, perhaps not wanting to leave them with a negative. He affirmed them for hating “the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do”.  It appears that the Nicolaitans were a sect that probably started well but went off the rails, erring into theological error and sinful practices. There has been some conjecture that they were led by a man called Nicolas, who was one of the seven deacons chosen to wait on tables, as mentioned in Acts 6:5. Their error came from an attempt to merge with the sinful practices of the other religions around them, with things like sexual impurities, and eating food offered to idols, as expressly forbidden in the Apostolic dictate issued in Acts 15:20, “Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood”. And Jesus, in His message through John, declared their practices evil.

We see a similar problem in following our faith today. Our societies tend to follow and implement customs and practices that are at variance with Biblical teaching. And there is always pressure applied, from both inside and outside the church, to embrace and include worldly customs and practices in our liturgies and teachings, thus diluting the purity of our faith. In the UK today, topical moral issues involving, amongst other things, gender and sexuality, collide with Biblical teaching. But, Christians, amongst others, are even afraid to mention such difficulties between the world and the church, for fear of causing offence, which can potentially lead to being the subject of hate speech litigation. 

So what do today’s pilgrims make of all this? We know what the Bible says. We know about the moralistic debates going on in society. And we know that the two are incompatible. But rather than, as some denominations have done, try and integrate the two in our church liturgies, we must remain counter-cultural, upholding the truths we have been taught. Thankfully, we have been granted wisdom. Not worldly wisdom, but the wisdom that comes from above, with which we can plot a course through the minefields of life, avoiding the clash-points that can be so destructive. In James 3:17, we read, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere“. Notice that wise old James gave us guidance about how to avoid conflict. Godly wisdom will always look for a way of peace, love, mercy, and good deeds. And Godly wisdom, above all, exemplifies purity in our faith. With such sentiments as these we can avoid becoming modern-day Nicolaitans.

Dear Father God, we thank You for Your Word and the faithful men who recorded Your Spirit-filled messages so many years ago. Please help us to always seek Your wisdom and Your guidance in the issues we face day by day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love Me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭2:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How disappointed the Ephesians must have been to hear Jesus’ next words, just after the encouragement they had just received. To be accused of not loving Him as they should must have hit their hearts like an arrow. A frantic rush of soul-searching must have tumbled through their minds and emotions. And the criticism extended to include their lack of love for each other. Jesus said to them, “Look how far you have fallen!”. Oh dear. As I have said before, mankind generally has a tendency to lapse into a state of comfort, where reduced effort and complacency rule the days. It takes effort, considerable at times, to keep loving God and loving each other, sad though that is. And it looks as though this is what happened to the Ephesians. Jesus went on to remind them of the consequences of continuing as they had been doing; their “lampstand” would be removed from the list of churches. But with Jesus there is always a way back. He encouraged these early Christians to repent. He told them to “Turn back to Me and do the works you did at first”. That is what repentance is all about – it is a turning back from the wrong and sinful ways of life and returning to those that are God-ordained. We don’t know the outcome of Jesus’ impassioned appeal because Ephesus as it was in those days doesn’t exist anymore. It just consists of a number of ruins, including a cathedral that was active up until at least the 5th Century. But perhaps the message from Jesus produced the fruit of repentance and led onto greater things, but of which we have no record.

This message to the Ephesians is a timely warning to us pilgrims. It reminds us, as do the messages to the other churches, of the importance of staying close to Jesus, as we did when we first encountered him. At the point when we were saved. It reminds us to repent when we stray. Because stray we will unless we work hard to keep the faith.

Near where I live there are some “lampstands” being removed. A number of churches in the Church of Scotland denomination are having to close because their congregations have dwindled to the point that it is no longer viable to keep them open. And in some cases, the upkeep of old buildings, monuments to our rich Christian heritage, is no longer affordable. So sad. But Jesus said He would build His church, and He was very graphic in His teaching to His disciples in John 15. We read, ““Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” Jesus’s church will not be based on dwindling congregations in dusty old mausoleums, but instead will be a growing, vibrant, fruit-bearing, and dynamic group of His followers. Grafted into the Vine. Loving God and their fellow Christians. Doing the works of His service. Are we pilgrims such fruit-bearers? Or are we useless branches? Hmmm…

Dear Lord. We thank You for this timely message. We repent of the barren times when we have erred away from You and we ask for Your forgiveness. Please help us, Lord , we pray. Amen.

Jesus Sees

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for Me without quitting.
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭2:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In His opening few lines, Jesus commends the Ephesian church. He has noticed that they have been actively involved in doing good works in their church, and probably their community. And they have diligently gone about it without giving up. Also, Jesus commends them for their discernment. They have been able to sniff out “evil people“, and “apostles [who] are not”, having the confidence to label them “liars”. And they have been suffering for Him; we don’t know in what way, but it in other places in the New Testament, we find that the early Christians experienced ostracisation in their communities and problems in running businesses. Probably low level anti-social behaviour was focused on them. They may have even been imprisoned for their faith. But whatever the suffering was, they didn’t give up being Christians. Jesus was saying to them, “Well done”, and you can perhaps feel their pride in the accolade.

As pilgrims today, do we relate to these tributes from Jesus? Should they even be applied to us? What I mean is, do we work hard for our faith? Are we also discerning and weeding out evil people, those who would try and lead us away from the purity of the Gospel and Biblical teaching? Are we suffering for our beliefs? 

Christianity today has somehow acquired a reputation for being tired and irrelevant in the Western societies in which we live; at least, that is what the media would try and have us believe. And the religious scandals of recent decades have provided further evidence to support their negative and misleading articles and reports. Furthermore, liberal theology has crept into some denominations, diluting the purity of Jesus’ teaching. A recent media article from a retiring Church of England Vicar lamented the fact that his liberal views on morality were not accepted by many churches in his denomination. And he went on to say the only churches growing in numbers and income are those which are “conservative, punchy and fundamentalist”. Perhaps those churches were the ones that adhered to Jesus’ teaching, rejecting the worldliness that comes with theological liberalism. Note that Jesus appealed to the Ephesian church to repent of its apostasy before their “lampstand” was removed. Perhaps His message is echoing down the corridors of time into our day as well.

We pilgrims live our lives the Jesus way. Conscious that He is with us in every step we take. Conscious of His love and encouragement. We are always working hard for our faith. Enduring the negatives we encounter for daring to be counter-cultural, Bible-believing Christians. And keeping our eyes firmly fixed on the goal ahead; our own accolades are waiting. 

Dear Lord. We thank You for caring for us, for loving us, for encouraging us, for being with us, day by day. Amen.

Testing Ourselves

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
Revelation‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

John continues with a message from Jesus, “the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven gold lampstands”. Perhaps we could ask the question why John didn’t just say “Jesus”. But there’s something significant about the authority behind the message when the One giving it is described in the way John did. To me, it’s almost as though John is saying that although he once knew Jesus in a friendly, human way, as they walked and talked together in Israel, he now knew Him as the Son of God, with all the authority that that entailed, and He was central to this part of his vision.

The message from Jesus was addressed to the church in Ephesus. We remember our recent pilgrimage through the Book of Ephesians (and my latest book, “The Ephesian Pilgrimage”). Paul’s Epistle to his Ephesian friends was a treasure trove of loving instructions, designed to keep them free from error, that was so prevalent in his day. But over the years, it looks as though some issues have arisen, and Jesus cared so much about this group of His followers that He had a direct message for them. It is a human trait that we lapse into a state of comfort. To live in accordance with God’s will and wishes requires energy and commitment. The Ephesian church got some things right and missed the mark on others. 

So, as pilgrims, what is there in life that we have done well, and what is there with the dreaded report-card remarks, “could try harder” or “could have done better”? Come to that, who is filling in our report cards anyway? A dangerous prayer to pray is the one David prayed and recorded, in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life“. And then 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith”. If we let Him, God will sign our report cards, and of course in a gentle and loving way.

Dear God, we echo David’s prayer today, asking You to search our hearts and help us maintain our lives in accordance with Your will and purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.