The Lord’s Day

“It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshipping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast.  It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.””
Revelation 1:10-11 NLT

Just a few verses ago, we read about the “seven churches”. Well, here they are all listed. But before we get to them, we read that John “was worshipping in the Spirit“. For him it was a wonderful place to be, but what does that look like to a Christian pilgrim today? The other day I was watching a TV programme where a congregation in a church somewhere were singing that old hymn, “Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven”. They were belting it out, filling the nave with their singing, a wonderful sound drowning out the organ accompanying them. In the first verse they reached that wonderful line, “Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven”, that so eloquently, but succinctly, describes what God has done for us, but my spiritual elation was dampened somewhat by a sense of sadness that their faces and body language failed to share my enthusiasm. “Worshipping in the Spirit” involves a connection with God that shuts out all worldly influences and elevates us into Heavenly places where we tap into God’s heart, offering Him our worship for all he has done for us. That’s what “worshipping in the Spirit” looks like for us pilgrims. In the God-worship-zone He connects with us. He gives us visions and a glimpse of His thoughts. In that wonderful place, “the things of earth grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace“. And people will recognise that here is a pilgrim who has been in God’s presence.

John was lost in the Spirit, when His peace was shattered by a verbal trumpet blast. He received his commission, “Write in a book…”. And so John did, faithfully recording all he was told. I immediately thought about another Biblical character’s commission – Isaiah. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah was in a difficult place. His King, Uzziah, had just died, and that had the potential to bring in a period of instability in the society of his day. So Isaiah did what many pilgrims often do in similar circumstances – he went to church, in Isaiah’s case the Temple, to pray. And while he was there he saw a vision of the Lord, “high and lifted up“, and we read from verse 8 to the end of the chapter about his commission. John was told to write to the seven churches. Isaiah’s assignment was to take God’s message to the people of his day and society. As pilgrims, we too are commissioned. No Christian can ever claim that he or she was never given anything to do in God’s service. We read about the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, “Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” We all have a role in the Kingdom of God. We may not hear a trumpet blast, but we will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit whispering in our spiritual ears, sending us out with our messages of hope, to a people with hardened hearts, plugged ears and blinded eyes (Isaiah 6:10). But, like Isaiah, we will be obedient to our commission.

The seven churches. These were church plants in what was Asia Minor, and is now Turkey. There will always be someone who perhaps will assume that as they don’t live there, or go to any of these churches, the message John wrote about doesn’t apply to them. But nothing is further from the truth. We will be reading about the message Jesus had for these churches in the coming weeks, but we must bear in mind that there will be principles here that we need to take note of.

John was worshipping God on the Lord’s Day. It has become fashionable to spend our Sundays doing something other than worshipping at church. Even Christians find themselves staying away from a service on occasion for a variety of reasons. One of the arguments I have heard is the one that says, “I don’t have to go to church to worship God”. That is perfectly true. But I always counter with the thought that there is something special about worshipping with God’s people in a corporate act of worship. Here we find like-minded people, with prepared hearts full of anticipation, bursting into the worship of their Heavenly Father. Both Isaiah and John put themselves into a place where they could worship God, unhindered and undistracted. Perhaps the golf course or a supermarket might not tick that box. Hmmm…

But we leave these verses, worshipping our loving Heavenly Father. To Him be all the glory, for ever and ever.

Dear Father. Thank You for John’s faithfulness in listening to Your message and for writing it down. Please help us to carefully consider Your messages, that we don’t fail in our “Great Commission” and that we continue to worship You forever. Amen.

Suffering

“I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus.”
Revelation‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It must seem a bit harsh, being punished for preaching the Gospel. Why would the recipients of such wonderful “Good News” want to not only reject the message but exile and imprison the messenger? I have this humorous picture of an alien being (think ET) looking on and scratching its head, finding such behaviour so strange and incomprehensible, that it might feel that such an apparently intelligent race of humans was perhaps not quite so intelligent as it first thought. The alien might have been correct with its superficial assessment, but it would have to dissect cultural mindsets to find out what was really going on. It would have to start at the beginning, with the fall of man. Someone would have to tell it about the ejection of satan and a third of the angels from Heaven. The story of the dark and negative influences that have shaped humanity over the years would have to be told. It would have to understand that mankind prefers to live in a dark, sinful place, (well most of them anyway). And after all that, I can imagine that our alien friend might start to realise why Good News would, to many, not be good news at all. 

We enlightened pilgrims have grasped the Gospel message with all our beings. And we hang on to it because “we who are being saved know it is the very power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Through the Gospel we are energised. Empowered. Resourced. We therefore cannot stop sharing what we have found. And neither could John. In both cases we face into a world that has largely rejected God. A sceptical world. A world where sinful people, under the influence of the devil, try their utmost to undermine and rubbish God and His children, us pilgrims. The hostility to the Gospel in our age is just as prevalent as it was in John’s day with one exception. We, at least for a time, cannot be imprisoned for sharing the Gospel. But the current direction society is taking may change that. I heard today of a primary school teacher who suggested that her young pupil asked her Sunday School teacher the following question – “If God exists, when is He going to apologise for all the bad things He has done?” So sad that a new generation is being corrupted by the very people who should be introducing them to God. Instead, their young minds are being polluted with wrong ideas and concepts. And doubly sad that the primary school teacher will one day stand before God, called to account for his or her words. Thankfully we have good people able to lovingly right the wrongs being committed to those so young. We need to look out for opportunities to push back the lies of the enemy.

John was exiled to Patmos, and there he was suffering. And he was aware that there were others of his generation who were also suffering. Such distress is still with us today, and we think of our brothers and sisters imprisoned and exiled, abused and suffering, all for the sake of the Gospel. In places like North Korea, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Palestine, India, Pakistan, and so on. John was aware that he was called to endure the suffering he was experiencing, and I’m sure he did so with patience. He was aware of the reward coming his way, in his not-too-distant future. 

We pilgrims may not be suffering for “preaching the Word of God”  but we face ostracism and exclusion in other ways. And we endure it with “patient endurance“, as John did. Because we love God and His ways. Because we cannot hold within us the wonderful Good News entrusted to us by our crucified Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord. We thank You that You have entrusted so much to us. We pray that as we continue our journey through the corridors of life, Your Spirit goes with us, and You keep us safe from the evil one. Grant us more opportunities, we pray, to share Your message of hope, Your Gospel, with our fallen world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Alpha and Omega

““I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.””
Revelation‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This verse is a direct message from God Himself, recorded by John to establish irrefutably God’s  absolute and eternal status in His created universe. It appears between a verse about Jesus’ second coming and John informing us about his exile on Patmos. But its content is so profound that it can stand alone in any context.

The Alpha and Omega, two letters from the Greek alphabet. One at the beginning and one at the end. They portray a message of completeness, something confirmed with the statement that God has always been around. In our human thinking, bounded by time, the concept of eternity is something that really is mind boggling. We are imprisoned by our clocks. We get up at a certain time. Our daily events are all timed. Seconds tick by, unstoppable. We celebrate our birthdays every year. We record the time and date of our births, marriages and deaths. Young people behave as thought they will live forever, but the oldies amongst us become aware of their mortality, a state compounded by increasing aches and pains and visits to medical facilities. But God lives outside of time. He lives in another universe, Heaven itself. The phrase in our verse today, “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come”, defines His eternal state.

As humans, we have a tendency to look back, into our “was”. Our lives are shaped by what has gone on before in our lives. Choices and decisions made in years past define who we are now. And what the rest of our lives will be, our “still to come”. But it is not possible to apply the same concepts to our eternal God. Living in an eternal state is totally incomprehensible to us. And it certainly confuses the evolutionists and educationalists in our societies, who try to apply time-based principles to an eternal, timeless universe. A universe created by “the Alpha and the Omega”, the “Almighty One”

So where does this verse fit into the pilgrim’s mindset? It once again reminds us of the God we worship. We can only wonder about this Eternal Creator, who cared so much for us, that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for us, as a sacrifice for our sins, and restore to us the status He designed into us from the very beginning. What else can we do other than praise Him forever?

Father God. We join together in praise to You. You are the Almighty God and our loving Heavenly Father. We are so grateful. Amen.

Seen By Everyone

“Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen! “
Revelation 1:7 NLT

John would have been in the little group of disciples who stood with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, just outside Jerusalem, as He provided their final instructions and answered their last questions. And then, as they were speaking with Him, He was taken up from their presence into the clouds. They strained to see Him go, but as they were doing so, two angels suddenly turned up, wearing white robes, telling them that Jesus had gone up into Heaven, but would return the same way at some future date. We can read the story in Acts 1:6-12.

So John would have been very certain of his facts when he said Jesus “comes with the clouds of Heaven“. And John goes on to tell his readers that everyone will see Jesus when He returns, including those who crucified Him. John may have been confirming Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7:13, “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence“. He would also have been aware of the prophetic words in Zechariah 12:10, “Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died“. But John’s words were very clear. Jesus will return one day, and there will be a global outbreak of mourning for what sinful men and women did to Him. And still do, come to that.

How does all that matter for today’s pilgrims? Surely we just continue as normal, interested and even excited by the Second Coming of Jesus, but not considering it as an event all that relevant. After all, the chances of it happening in our lifetimes must be pretty remote. 

In Matthew 25, Jesus told the story of the wise and foolish virgins. Five of them were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom. They had enough oil for their lamps, so they were the wise ones. But the other five didn’t have enough oil, and in the process of trying to buy some they missed out on celebrating the marriage feast with the bridal party. These were the foolish ones because they weren’t ready for the bridegroom’s coming. Jesus ended the parable with these words, “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.” (Matthew‬ ‭25:13‬ ‭NLT‬). The meaning of this parable was that wise people are always ready for the Lord’s return, whenever that might be, while the unwise, the foolish, put off their readiness until it is too late.

Today’s pilgrims must live as though Jesus was coming today. So we keep spiritual short accounts, confessing our sins. We encourage one another. We continue to help each other. We look for opportunities to share our messages of hope with those around us. Today’s pilgrims want to be found by Jesus as faithful servants – Jesus graphically told the story of a faithful servant, and the consequences of being unfaithful, in Matthew 24:45-51. 

But moving on out of negative territory, the second coming of Jesus will be amazing. Words cannot described the wonder of that event. The excitement for those ready and waiting. After all, His first coming was full of wonder and amazing things, with visions of singing angels, stars and all. His second coming will, in some ways, be the opposite to His first – everyone will see Him coming as a King, in all His Heavenly majesty, not just a select few witnessing the events around the birth of the son of God. And we read in Philippians 2:10-11, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”. That’s pretty inclusive, folks. He will be seen by everyone.

Father God. Today we enter Your presence with deeply grateful hearts, for all You have done for us. We echo the words at the end of this book, “Come Lord Jesus”. Amen.

Kingdom of Priests

He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”
Revelation‬ ‭1:6 ‭NLT‬‬

This verse mixes adoration and worship with an affirmation of who we are, and a declaration of praise and worship to God for all He has done.

Let’s start with where we should always start, proclaiming the wonder and majesty of Jesus. John declared that all glory and power should belong to Jesus for all eternity. And so it should be. What other religion has a God who leaves His throne and comes to earth as a human being, born in humble circumstances, living a peasant life and ending up crucified on a Roman cross? And why would He want to do such a thing? So that you and I would have the opportunity to embrace His loving sacrifice, in grateful acknowledgment that what He did, He did for us, to forgive us our sins, and give us His righteousness so that we can enter His Father’s presence. All because of His love for us, a love that knows no bounds. So we echo John’s words and proclaim, “All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen”. We can do nothing else!

With our elevated status as God’s children, comes a new role, that of being a priest. Immediately, we get an image of a person, usually a man, wearing strange clothes and an odd-looking hat. Or perhaps someone dressed in black wearing what has become to be known, a “dog collar”. But nothing could be further from the truth. Traditionally, a priest acts as a representative of God, acting as an intermediary for a people who do not feel they have direct access to God. But in our Christian context, the coming of Jesus, God’s Son, changed all of that. Because of Him we can go fearlessly into God’s presence, as it says in the book of Hebrews. In the old Jewish religion, there was a very heavy and thick curtain that separated the place where the ark of the Covenant was located and where the Jews believed God resided, from the people. And once a year, the High Priest entered God’s presence behind the curtain to offer sacrifices for the sins of the people. Such was their reverence for, and fear of, God, that a chord was tied to the High Priest’s ankle, so that in the event he did something to offend God, his dead body could be pulled out by those outside the curtain. But coincident with Jesus’ final act at Calvary, the curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying that all people, through Him, could now access God directly.

Our role in the Kingdom of priests, is simply to introduce others to Jesus. We share the Gospel message, and our stories of what He has done for us, with the world around us. And we do it all for our Father God. Because he loves us, and we love Him. So no extended period of training in a seminary. No funny clothes. No regrets that we can’t access God directly. We have all become His children, adopted into His family. Given a new role as priests in His Kingdom. And there’s more. It says in Galatians 4:6, “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father””. Folks, we can call our loving Heavenly Father “Abba”, or in our language, “Daddy”. That somehow seems a long way from the separation of God and man, before Jesus came to this world. No wonder John couldn’t continue with his writings without offering his praise and worship to God.

Dear Father, we thank You that You loved us so much that You put in place a plan to enable us to enter directly into Your presence. All through Jesus Your Son. We’re so grateful and we give You all the glory and power, forever and ever. Amen.

Greetings

“John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood,”
Revelation‬ ‭1:4-5‬ ‭NIVUK

John starts his writings with an introduction explaining who the letter is for and who it is from. It is addressed to “the seven churches in the province of Asia“. They are all listed later in the book. And then we have a detailed explanation of the contributors to his Revelation. For me, John’s words describe the everlasting God, because His throne is mentioned. And then we have the seven spirits. That can only be the Holy Spirit, the number “seven” denoting perfection or completeness, as it does in other parts of the Bible. And then we have a reference to Jesus, acknowledging Him as the faithful witness behind John’s Revelation. For good measure, we then are reminded of His death and resurrection, and His status as Lord of all.

John starts with announcing God’s grace and peace to “you”, who are the churches, the fellowships that he founded or spiritually fathered in the “province of Asia”. Again, the number “seven” is mentioned, perhaps indicating that it applies to all churches everywhere. There is no better introduction than speaking out a blessing of grace and peace. Oh, don’t we need both these qualities in our war-ravaged world. We need all the grace and peace that God has for us. Starting a letter or, to bring it up to date, an email or message, using a greeting, especially one including the words “grace and peace” is not a usual convention these days. But what a wonderful way to start. At a stroke of the pen, or tap of a key, it sets the scene for what is to come in the communication. It elevates the subject matter into Heavenly places, away from the mundane worldliness burdening our lives. Perhaps I’ll break with convention and start to use it more in my emails and messages, smiling at the thought of the quizzical smiles that will appear as the missive is read.

John finishes his greeting with a dedication, “to Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood”. We must never forget to dedicate all we do in our service to God to Jesus and all He has done for us. His love knows no bounds. His willingness to die for each one of us echoes through past, present and future generations, bringing salvation to all.

Heavenly Father, we pray for more of Your presence in this sinful world, bringing grace and peace where there is anger and strife. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Time is Near

God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and He blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near.
Revelation‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Right at the beginning of his book, the Apostle John, the writer, said it was a prophecy. It is common for Christians to expect a prophecy to tell of some future event that has not yet happened. A revelatory glimpse of the future granted to a chosen person from God, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Well, this book is full of such events, portrayed in graphic and pictorial, even apocalyptic, language that is both fascinating to read but difficult to understand and relate to in our world today, particularly our physical world. But a prophecy can be more than that. Our “revelatory glimpses” can apply to the here and now, as God unfolds a situation or problem that has somehow eluded the attention it should have had through personal or pastoral care, bringing admonishment and exhortation as part of a prophecy. Such matters are in this book as well. 

John spoke out a blessing, to be bestowed on those who read this book to the church. A blessing direct from God. But when did we last hear a passage from Revelations dispensed from the pulpit? It is not a book commonly read because it needs a sharp mind to discern its meaning. In other places in the book it makes for uncomfortable reading and listening. But the blessing continues to those who listen to this book being read. There is much in John’s writings to bring a blessing, if we only take the time to read and study, listen and apply, the truths within. 

John finishes this verse by introducing a sense of urgency. He said “the time is near“. Other translations use different phrases such as “the time of fulfilment is near” (AMP), or “the time is almost near” (CEV). The KJV uses the phrase “the time is at hand“. But all these translations bring across the impression that what is contained in this book will soon happen. But it begs the question – if John said the time is near 2000 years ago why hasn’t what he wrote about happened yet? How near is near? There will be several answers to this question, just as there are several different events and situations mentioned in the book. “Near” started before the ink dried on John’s parchment and will continue until the end of time. This book did not describe a single point in time but set out a series of events that will encompass time as we know it but also might even push the boundaries of eternity. To start getting our affairs in order is probably a bit premature if all we take from Revelation is a picture of the end of the world. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:36, “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows”. So we need to trust our Heavenly Father with this. Sadly, there is always someone who pops up with a pronouncement that the world will end on such and such a time, only to find that the time comes and goes, with no end in sight.

There is much more in Revelation, however, that does apply to the hear and now. Timeless parts of the prophecy that we do well to take note of and apply in our own lives and the lives of our churches. So we pilgrims tramp on, studying the words of John, allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what God wants us to read and hear. The Book of Revelation is an amazing book. Yet again, God used a man incarcerated in a prison cell, set apart from every day life, to hear and record His Word. A man in a special place at a special time in history. And John faithfully wrote down what he was told. 

Dear Lord. We thank You for Your servant John and his faithfulness. We pray that the legacy of his words helps us to grow in our pilgrimage to become more like You. Amen.

A Revelation

“This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to His servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭1:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In this new season, I believe God has led me to consider the Book of Revelation. Not an easy ask, I think all my readers will agree, but this last book in the Bible is there for a reason and is there to be read. And the Holy Spirit will reveal what He wants us to see. So hopefully you can bear with me as I journey, or more likely stumble, through this book, perhaps revealing something of help, both to myself and to fellow pilgrims on our separate journeys through life.

The first two verses are very clear. This book is a direct revelation from Jesus. It was given to Him by His Father in Heaven. Its purpose was “to show his servants the events that must soon take place”. Pausing there, who are His servants? They will be all of us who have decided to follow Jesus. All those who call themselves Christians, because they have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We now serve Him. By doing His work wherever we are. So, Jesus wanted to reveal things to us. Continuing, what are these events? We don’t know yet, but they will “soon take place“. This book gives us a glimpse, often in apocalyptic language, often apparently, at least to us, confused and unclear, often referring to realms unknown to us, of what is to come. These “events” can only be shown as a glimpse or a hint because we lack the understanding necessary to fully comprehend what they are. As a rather poor analogy, imagine trying to describe a modern smart phone to someone alive 100 years ago. They might get a glimpse of how valuable it could be in terms of communication, but the rest of its capability would be lost on them.

Moving on through these two verses, Jesus sent an angel to reveal what was going to happen, to the old Apostle John, now exiled on the island of Patmos. He was the last of Jesus’ Apostles, and he was entrusted to record for posterity what he was told. We’re told he did this “faithfully”. But then such a wonderful man could do nothing else. And the angel took him into incredible places, where he could see what was coming.

And then the second verse ends with the assurance that what he wrote was the “word of God” and the testimony from Jesus. I think we can agree that this last book in the Bible must be very important, and one we should persevere to try and understand. 

Lord Jesus, as we venture with anticipation into this book over the coming days and weeks, I pray that You lead us and guide us, and reveal to us what You want us to see. In Your Precious Name. Amen.

Final Blessings

“Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters, and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness. May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ephesians 6:23-24 NLT

Paul finished his letter to the Ephesian church with a blessing. There is something powerful about speaking out a blessing. A God-focused blessing does something profound in Heavenly realms. As it is uttered, angels pause in their duties, enjoying the moment. Demons in other places cringe as the words echo around their spiritual realms. The devil moves away to find an easier place to undertake his nefarious works. 

Paul’s blessing included three fundamental God-principles. Firstly His peace. In this war-torn world, Russia and Ukraine are, as I write, fighting a war I thought I would never see in my lifetime; peace is a precious commodity and one I pray for daily. A lack of peace destroys us. There is so much strife in our relationships, our families, our communities. Sometimes it is despairing to see so many people who seem to prefer a lack of peace in their lives. A God-peace is precious. It soothes our troubled souls. It brings relief to our mental conflicts and distress. So at every opportunity, we must, as peace-loving pilgrims, speak out God’s peace, avoiding conflict wherever possible.

Paul’s second blessing was to ask God, our Heavenly Father, to give us ”love with faithfulness”. And Paul reminded us that God is also the Father of Jesus, making Him our elder brother. How amazing is that! And we open up our spiritual receptors to receive God’s love, which we can then faithfully pass onto others. We feel God’s love penetrating deep within our spirits, melting away the tensions, softening any hard bits that are calloused by contact with the unloving world around us. Our neighbours, friends, and family members, may not be feeling God’s love for themselves, so we have the opportunity to share our messages of hope and love with them. It’s amazing to watch a hardened God-denier soften when told that God loves them regardless of their rejection of Him. 

Paul finishes with his third blessing. Grace. Eternal grace. God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense is a great way of remembering what He has done for us. God’s grace covers us. It manifests in love regardless of how we behave. Grace sees Christ’s righteousness when we deserve judgement. Grace pours from God’s throne without limit. And it is there for us whenever we are feeling a bit wobbly. When we are unsure and feeling a bit insecure. And it never ends – Paul prays that it will be eternally with us. 

I love the blessing that we find in Numbers 6:24-26. Let’s finish with it today.

May the Lord bless you and protect you
May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you
May the Lord show you His favour
And give you His peace.

Final Greetings

“To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.”
Ephesians 6:21-22 NLT

No social media, internet, email, texts or WhatsApp in Paul’s days. Instead, communication was all about quill pens and personal visits. Paul was obviously allowed visitors into his prison cell. Perhaps they were able to bring him food, keeping him up to date with all the latest news. Able to pray with him. And of course assess how Paul was “getting along”. Note that Paul used the wording, “to let you know how we are doing”. Paul was obviously not just on his own – there were others possibly imprisoned with him. But perhaps the Roman church was supporting Paul, and it was to them that Paul referred.

One of his visitors was a man called Tychicus. He popped up several times in the New Testament, mentioned for supporting and serving Paul’s ministries and missionary journeys. One of those shadowy characters who were never obviously involved in up-front ministries, though he may well have been, but nevertheless performed very important serving roles. Paul’s opinion of Tychicus was glowing – he was a “beloved brother” and a “faithful helper“. And of course he was devoted to doing the “Lord’s work“. What a testimony!

On this occasion, Tychicus’ service to Paul was to travel from Rome to Ephesus, to bring Paul’s Ephesian friends the news about what was happening to him in Rome, and to encourage them. No mean ask in those days. Even though the Roman civil engineering skills had opened up travel routes and opportunities, there would also have been some potentially hazardous sea journeys involved. But not even a hint that he was unwilling to make the journey. A willing servant who was sent for a purpose.

Back to our pilgrim illustration. Paul planted a church in Ephesus. A fellowship of believers who cared for each other and were growing together, encouraging one another on their journeys. What role do we pilgrims have in our local church? Or are we making our own journey alone? Jesus said that He would build His church, implying that we pilgrims should be a part of one. This may not be an easy request, because some local churches we consider are far from ideal, perhaps having a vision different to ours, or involved in liturgies which we don’t agree with, but there will be a local church that we should be a part of somewhere. Even if we have to move house or job to join it. However, having said that, of course there are some parts of the world where to be a church member is an impossible dream because of local or national persecution. But Jesus cares for us all regardless of our circumstances. And where possible, His caring is often dispensed through a local church.

As pilgrims, what role do we have in our local church? Are we in an up-front ministry? Only a few are called for such a role. Or are we a Tychicus? In a support and serving role? Or just a pew warmer, not really involved in much at all? These two verses today emphasise the role pilgrims should have. We must always be looking for a way to serve our fellow brothers and sisters. Always looking for a way to encourage and love, with a “can-do” attitude. Always willing to devote our time and resources to support the brothers and sisters, who, like Paul was, are at the sharp end of building Jesus’ church.