The Fruit of the Spirit Study Week 39: Gentleness

Welcome to the second part of our study on GENTLENESS. This week we’ll look at James’s teaching as he defines meekness in greater detail. We’ll conclude with examples of strength founded in humble meekness that we can model from the lives of Moses and our Lord Jesus.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

James 4:10 NKJV

How do gentleness and wisdom fit together? Click HERE to read James 3:13-18.

According to James, worldly wisdom is…

Unspiritual, earthly, and demonic, a kind of wisdom that has no substance of goodness. When others get ahead or attain success, bitter envy and jealousy rear their green heads. In competition, its red-hot ambition is not for the good of others–it’s purely selfish. James declares that envy and selfish ambition yield disorder and every kind of evil practice.

But heavenly wisdom…

The yield of heavenly wisdom is good deeds rooted in humility. Peacemakers sow seeds of peace and reap a crop of righteousness. Godly wisdom overflows with purity, peace, consideration for others, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality, and sincerity.

May we always pray to receive God’s heavenly wisdom that allows us to grow in humble meekness.

Moses…

“(Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”

Numbers 12:3 NKJV

This passage of Scripture describes Moses as the meekest and most humble of all men. Bearing these powerful credentials of spiritual strength, God chose him to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land–a gargantuan task. He faced problems no one man has ever encountered, but God brought him through each one with success. Here are a few of God’s miraculous provisions: water in the barren desert pouring from rocks; daily manna from heaven; clothes and shoes that lasted forty years; a dry path through the Red Sea to escape the Egyptians; speaking face-to-face with Moses on Mount Sinai where he received the Ten Commandments on stone tablets; and God’s guiding presence in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

One story shows Moses’s humble gentleness toward his siblings, Aaron and Miriam. Apparently these two became upset after Moses had married a Cushite woman, and they began to criticize their brother’s leadership. “’Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?’” (Numbers 12:2 NKJV). The Lord heard their words and became angry, dressing them down in front of the tent of meeting and dealing out retribution by making Miriam leprous. Aaron repented, and Moses pled with the Lord to take away Miriam’s punishment. (Click HERE to find out the rest of the story.)

Jesus…

Jesus shows His strength like a lion and His humble meekness like a lamb. From the Gospels through Revelation, He is depicted as the strong Lion of Judah as well as the humble Lamb of God. He embraced the little children to bless them (Matthew 19:13-14), and He treated women with respect and forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50).

The Scriptures about Jesus’s road to Calvary reveal the most about His gentle humility and controlled strength. Here are a few examples:

  • When Peter cut off the slave’s ear during Jesus’s arrest, Jesus rebuked Peter and performed a healing miracle (Luke 22:49-51).
  • Later when Peter denied knowing Him, Jesus sadly looked over at His disciple without a word (Luke 22:54-62).
  • He remained silent at the lying accusations of a mock trial and submitted to their physical torture (Mark 15:1-20)
  • When Pilate threatened Jesus that he held the power to either release or crucify Him, Jesus responded that God alone was in control of His fate (John 19:10-11).
  • Even as He was dying on the cross, Jesus forgave His enemies and voiced His will concerning His mother, Mary (John 19:25-27).
  • He forgave the sins of the thief on the cross next to Him (Luke 23:39-43).

Like Moses, have you ever struggled with humble gentleness as a leader of obstinate people? Have you ever forgiven an undeserving sibling or family member?

Like Jesus, have you forgiven your enemies–even in the face of the threat of death? Have you extended grace to them? Held your tongue when rejected or wrongly accused?

Whatever our trials, may we count them all joy because through them we will be made perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4) Our triumph and victory glorify our Savior, Jesus Christ. May we follow the humblest, gentlest and meekest man, the Son of God, and emulate His example.

Dear Father, thank you for teaching us about spiritual strength found within humble meekness. May we follow Your example and grow to be like You as we study Your Word and commune with You in prayer. May Your controlled strength shine through our lives as we humbly submit to You. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Front Porch Bible Study Series by Karen Jurgens
Front Porch Bible Study Series by Karen Jurgens © Karen Jurgens. All rights reserved

The Lamb’s Sinless Blood

The Lamb's Sinless Blood by Karen Jurgens

Growing up, my mother had encouraged me to become two things—a pianist and a nurse.

After seven years of piano study with some of the finest teachers at the Cincinnati College Conservatory, my final teacher dismissed me with a smile and a word of advice: “Perhaps your true talents lay elsewhere.”

However, I was wise enough to know without being told that I could never be a nurse. I couldn’t bear the sight of blood nor stand to be in hospitals, so I disqualified myself from seeking that degree. Even my two daughters had to clean and bandage each other’s booboos growing up, poor things. They learned at an early age that Mommy couldn’t stand the sight of blood.

As distasteful as the subject of blood may be, it is of supreme importance and significance, however, in Judaism and Christianity. As I discussed in my previous post, only innocent blood can atone for sin. Since there is no flesh and blood in heaven, only spirit, that sacrifice had to be made on earth. So, after using animal blood for thousands of years, God sent His Son to be the final propitiation for our sins. Simply put, Jesus was born to die.

How could Jesus be born with sinless blood?

Click to tweet: How could Jesus be born with sinless blood?

The Lamb's Sinless Blood by Karen Jurgens

Martin R. DeHaan, M.D.

What a fascinating question. Martin R. DeHaan, M.D., author of The Chemistry of the Blood, is an expert who scientifically proves how this is possible. Dr. DeHaan (1891-1965) was a physician, author, pastor and Bible teacher. Founder of Radio Bible Class, he spoke to millions of listeners for twenty-seven years. Author of more than twenty books, he also founded and contributed countless daily devotionals in Our Daily Bread, still published today from Michigan. (Click on the name above to visit Our Daily Bread website.)

Conception and Birth of Jesus

Even though Christmas is five months behind us, let’s begin by reading the Bible’s account of this supernatural event in Matthew 1:18-23:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.  And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us’ (NASB).

God sent Jesus to earth to be born of a virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit. His human body required a pure vessel to grow in, one that had never been touched by a man. Mary herself wasn’t sinless, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 NASB), but her physical body hadn’t yet known sexual intimacy with her husband-to-be.

After the immaculate conception, Scripture tells us that Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus (Matthew 1:24-25 NASB).

The Origin of Blood

The Lamb's Sinless Blood by Karen Jurgens

Have you ever cracked open an egg and found a dot of red in the yolk? I learned as a young, aspiring cook to throw that stained egg down the drain and never use a fertilized egg in recipes. Left alone, a hen’s egg won’t develop into a chick, but just hours after it’s fertilized, the red streaks of blood appear. Life is in the blood, and exactly twenty-one days later, a chick pecks its way out of its shell.

 

The same principle applies to us. A women’s menstrual cycle occurs every month, but a pregnancy requires a father’s contribution. After sperm unites with an egg, life begins, and the life is in the blood–proof that life begins at conception. Forty weeks later, a baby is born. Scripture tells us this fact:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:14a NASB).

Since it’s the father’s contribution that produces the blood in a conceived child, God’s Son grew inside Mary’s womb with God’s perfect, sinless blood. Scientifically, the mother’s blood never mixes or comes in contact with the growing child. For a more scientific explanation from Dr. DeHaan, click How Jesus had sinless blood.

Sacrificing lambs, goats, and bulls wasn’t God’s final solution. He had a better plan.

While Jesus celebrated Passover in the Upper Room with His disciples, Passover animals waited for slaughter on the altars of Jerusalem’s Temple. As His ministry came to a close, Jesus explained to His disciples about His blood and Its purpose. Remember when Jesus said people would have to eat His body and drink His blood to be part of Him? Consequently, many of His followers found this to be a hard saying and had fallen away. However, Jesus was referring to the New Covenant, not cannibalism.

Communion, not cannibalism

The Lamb's Sinless Blood by Karen Jurgens

During the night on which He was betrayed, Maundy Thursday, Jesus established the New Covenant’s Holy Communion with His disciples at the Last Supper.

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’  And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom’ (Matthew 26: 26-29 NASB).

What a glorious day when we will all take communion together with Christ in heaven!

While sacrificial animals shed their blood on the Temple’s altars, the Great Exchange happened at the Cross, and Jesus became the Savior of Mankind. With the establishment of the New Covenant, we take communion to remember what the Lord Jesus did for us—die in our place so we can be forgiven of our sins.

With the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, all blood sacrifice has ended. Forever. There is only one way to God, by His Son’s blood shed at Calvary. Through His sacrifice we are forgiven, and through His resurrection we have eternal life in heaven, becoming joint heirs with Christ.

The Lamb's Sinless Blood by Karen Jurgens

Do you know Jesus as Savior and Lord? You can. Today is the day of salvation. We have no promise of tomorrow. Ask Him to come into your heart and cleanse you of your sins with His blood. You’ll become His child, and the angels will rejoice in heaven. The angels will write your name in The Lamb’s Book of Life, and your eternity with Jesus will be sealed forever.

Have you noticed that this theme of the Lamb of God keeps growing? The more I’ve studied and delved into Scriptures concerning the Lamb, the deeper it’s become. The final post about the Lamb of God in Revelation will be the most exciting because those events are yet to come. I hope you’ll join me again soonUntil then, be blessed!

How to Get Rid of Stains

How to Get Rid of Stains by Karen Jurgens

This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father … to keep oneself unstained by the world ~ James 1:27, NASB.

Do you like organic beets? Those deep-red purplish ones. Occasionally, I used to bring some home to cook, but I had to bribe my daughters to eat them. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention.

Why the need for culinary creativity? When the girls were small, vegetables weren’t on their menu, unless French fries counted. Cait, the younger one, had taste buds that could laser-out any veggie, no matter how cleverly I tried to disguise it.

One evening my mother joined us for dinner, and I served a new creation: beets in a lovely orange sauce. After one bite, Cait screwed up her mouth as though she had just tasted poison and refused to eat it. Meg wasn’t sure about the new combination, but my mother adored it. Having already cautioned them not to splash beets on their clothes, I turned to admire Mother’s appreciation for all my careful work. To my dismay, a big red spot glared at me from her white, dry clean-only blouse.

No, that red circle would not come out completely, even after the cleaners had tried every available remedy. The shirt was ruined.

Have you ever had a stain that refused to wash out? In the Word, sin is also described as a stain. Try as we might, this kind can’t be washed out with worldly products. We might think that attending church, doing good deeds, and volunteering, for example, can remove those stains, but instead, they set more deeply. We don blinders and refuse to look, convincing ourselves that we are clean and white. Although invisible on the outside, how do our hearts appear in God’s eyes? He alone can see into the depths of our souls, and try as we might, we can’t hide from His scrutiny.

Have you ever accidentally fallen or cut yourself? Whenever I’m injured, I can never look. I grasp the wound and squeeze while I grimace and look away. The sight of blood nauseates me and makes my ears buzz. But when I finally get enough courage to peek and am convinced that I won’t die, then I can deal with cleaning and bandaging it. (No, I could never have become a nurse. Obviously.)

But, can we take off our blinders and examine our souls? We can cover up our sins with all kinds of excuses and home-remedies, but we have to open our wounds to God’s scrutiny. He is the One who cleans, sterilizes, and bandages so it can heal. He cleans out all the sin from our hearts and makes us whole, erasing the stain so completely that it is as though we had never sinned.

King David cried out to God when confronted by Nathan the prophet regarding his sin with Bathsheba:

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
[g]Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
[h]Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities. ~ Psalm 51:1-2, 7, 9, NASB.

We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but the Good News is that our sins can be washed away in the blood of the Lamb. May our salvation give us joy and be a testimony to bring others to the cross of Christ.

10 Create [j]in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew [k]a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will [l]be converted to You. ~ Psalm 51:10-13, NASB.

 

 

 

Got Faith?

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

             Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen ~ Hebrews 11:1, KJV.

 As a child, I used to hope for all kinds of things, especially at Christmas or my birthday. Sometimes books or board games or tea party sets. But what I hoped for most were dolls.

When I would go shopping downtown with my mother, I always sweet-talked her into visiting the toy department where beautiful dolls were displayed. Perched on wall shelves and inside sparkling glass cases were Shirley Temple dolls with different outfits and hats. Jenny dolls dressed in tutus and ballet slippers. Betsy-wetsy dolls with bottles, blankets, and diapers. Dolls dressed in bridal dresses with veils and high heels. And Barbie dolls with her dream home, sports car, and wardrobe along with must-haves Ken and Midge.

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

I had complete faith in my parents that they would fulfill my childhood wishes on those special days. Looking back, I can’t ever remember being disappointed.

I had put my faith in God at a young age. But childhood turned into teen years and then adulthood. As the season of dating began at sweet sixteen, I had faith that my life would continue as it always had, with few disappointments. I would meet a wonderful man someday, and by the time I graduated from college, a wedding would follow, and I would live happily ever after.

But those dreams didn’t come true for me. Instead, I lived through two heartbreaking divorces. Although I’ve been single for twenty-two years, I have two precious daughters whom I wouldn’t trade for the world. They are part of my dreams that DID come true.

Have you lived through disappointment at times in your life? Sometimes it comes unexpectedly, as it did for me. But instead of throwing away my faith and agreeing with the expression, Happily ever after? That fairy tale? —I hold onto my dreams and continue to hope. Trusting the Lord for a good future where my dreams will still come true have prevented me from falling into an attitude of bitterness, depression, and despair.

For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’ ~ Jeremiah 29:11, NASB.

I can hear some laughter across the virtual meadows–sounds way too Pollyanna-ish?

Let’s consider Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her dream of a wedding and a happily-ever-after life with her betrothed, Joseph, took a different turn. In fact, as a respected young woman in Nazareth, her entire life turned upside-down when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing that she had been chosen by God to carry and give birth to His Son. She believed the message of the angel and rejoiced that God was trusting her for the sacred role of bringing the Savior into the world.

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

On the other hand, think of the difficulties confronting her. In those days, a woman was stoned to death if she were pregnant without a husband.

After Joseph had found out the news, he wanted to rid himself of his obligation to Mary without doing her harm. He believed she was guilty of adultery (well, wouldn’t you?) until an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, reassuring him that Mary’s word was true.

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit ~ Matthew 1:20, NASB.

So, out of faith, this couple began their adventure. You’d think it would have been an easy road, seeing as how they were to be the parents of the Son of God, but just the opposite occurred.

  • Right before the baby was due, they had to travel to Bethlehem for a census. Mary had to leave her family and ride uncomfortably all the way on a donkey.
  • Upon arrival, Mary went into labor.
  • The town had no rooms available where they could stay, so a barn full of animals became Jesus’s delivery room.
  • Months later, the Lord warned Joseph in a dream that Herod was searching for the Child to kill Him. The family arose that night and fled to Egypt.
  • Years later after Herod died, the family again uprooted to resettle in Nazareth.

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

Mary and Joseph had to boldly live out their faith, but rumors swirled about the true parentage of Jesus. What did the people of Nazareth think of Him, even after He had begun His ministry and was working great miracles?

And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’ And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief ~ Matthew 13:57, NASB.

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

It’s hard to imagine the Son of God growing up in the shadow of wagging tongues and disbelief in the midst of those amazing miracles—and ultimately, His crucifixion and death, based on jealousy, betrayal, and lies.

But through it all, Mary chose faith. She believed God’s word to her from the first proclamation uttered by Gabriel. No matter the trials she had to endure, she clung to hope, trusting God no matter the circumstances—even watching her Son suffer and die on a cross.

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

God didn’t disappoint her. Fifty days after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, she received the baptism of the Holy Spirit along with others waiting in the Upper Room.

As we walk down our individual paths of life, we must cling to hope and live by our faith, in spite of the hardships thrown at us along the way. Sometimes God doesn’t permit us to fully understand, but He expects us to be obedient and trust Him. With His strength, we can endure through it all.

 

And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing ~ James 1:4, NASB.

How important is our faith in God?

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him ~ Hebrews 11:6, NASB.

I will say YES to trusting God. I will place all my faith in Him today and every day.

Will you?

Got Faith? by Karen Jurgens

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful for Advent

thankful-for-advent-by-karen-jurgens

First published on www.HeartWingsBlog.com

The Advent of the Lord Jesus is a wonderful time when we are truly thankful. God bestowed an abundance of blessings on all people and for all generations when He created His First Family into which Jesus would be born.

I’ve often guessed what it must have been like for Mary on that day of angelic visitation. What joy to hear Gabriel announce that she would become the Holy Mother of the promised Messiah. Furthermore, he brought news about her relative Elizabeth who had conceived in her barrennes and was six months pregnant. I can imagine Mary dropping everything and running to the hill country to witness this miracle for herself.

As Mary entered the house of Zacharias in the city of Judah, Elizabeth, her round belly protruding, proved God’s Word. Thankfulness and joy abounded, and even John leapt in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and rejoiced:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” ~ Luke 1:42b-45, NASB.*

Mary responded with worship, praise, and thankfulness to God for His goodness in her famous Magnificat:

And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, 47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48″For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49″For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50″And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him. 51″He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. 52″He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble. 53″He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed. 54″He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy, 55As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever” ~ Luke 1:46-56, NASB.*

Did Mary know what would really happen? Not fully, but she understood that she had been chosen to give birth to the Promised One who would bring deliverance and salvation to the Jews. The births of these two babies—one God’s only Son and the other a trumpeter of His Advent—would change the course of human history.

That may have been enough then, but there would be so much more to unfold in the next thirty-three years. Still, I wonder … Mary, did you know? (Click the link below to watch)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifCWN5pJGIE

*www.Bible.com

Let it Rain

Let it Rain by Karen Jurgens

It’s  sizzling summer in Texas. Dry, cracked earth begs for a drink. Grass—green last week—broils in the heat, turning yellow. Scorched air sucks up every droplet of water from the sprinklers as it makes rainbows through the sun’s reflection. Moisture never reaches those wilted blades with open, thirsty mouths. Trees’ leaves flip over, showing only their undersides to the blazing heat. All things green pant through the day, melting in surrender as the sun dissolves under the horizon. Darkness removes the fire but not the hot simmering that radiates incessantly from the parched ground. No relief is in sight.

My spirit goes through deserts, just like August in Texas, begging for rain from heaven. The skies turn to brass—are my prayers ascending higher than the treetops? Or do they lay with the straw that used to be grass? No answers, just silence—just heat—and I pray for rain. And watch.

Let it Rain by Karen Jurgens

Let it Rain by Karen Jurgens 4

That’s when is happens. As the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18, a cloud the size of a man’s hand forms at the horizon, promising a coming deluge after a long drought. The clouds bubble and gather until the entire sky is dark with promise. I wait … then feel droplets splash, becoming pelts of drenching wet. I rejoice and dance in the rain, thanking the Lord for His answer. His living water brings my spirit back to life, opening the floodgates of communion with my Saviour, and I am once again alive in Jesus Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit.

Let it Rain by Karen Jurgens 5

Come dance and worship in the rain with Michael W. Smith today … it will be the best five minutes of your day, I promise.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjY_d3ogcDOAhUKxCYKHa7VAKsQyCkIHzAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DAG7v8jJKAOk&usg=AFQjCNFVtk8JzrixQprwG93JRIKF_482qA&sig2=bo7cCGZToK9tqIAZy643qQ

The Revelation Church at Smyrna

Welcome to Smyrna, whose congregation suffered perhaps the greatest persecution in all Christianity. As a materially poor church located in a wealthy city, their faithful works performed in the name of the Lord Jesus brought them great tribulation on earth, yet great reward in heaven.

First, a little history …

Located about thirty-five miles north of Ephesus, Smyrna (modern day Izmir) was a cultural center referred to as the “Ornament of Asia.” Very loyal to Rome for at least three centuries, this city built temples devoted to various Roman gods and was the worship center for Emperor Tiberias. Over time, emperor worship became compulsory for every Roman citizen on penalty of death, and those who refused to obey were burned alive.

Such was the fate of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, a student under John who would not deny his faith in Jesus. Isn’t is crystal clear what a hotbed of hatred and persecution this church must have faced?

But it has also surfaced today in many parts of the world. Look at the cradle of Christianity in some Middle Eastern countries, for example. Believers are imprisoned, beheaded, and crucified by the thousands for their unwavering stand for Jesus. Quite unbelievable that this could be happening in 2015, but Bible prophecy tells us to expect it in the Last Days before the Apocalypse.

And to the angel of the church of Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this: I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:8-9, NASB).

Jesus has no rebuke for this church, but instead commends them for their suffering. The attacks they endured were slanderous ones led by those whose evil intent was to destroy this believing church.

Even today, does political unfairness against Christian churches exist? In some countries, they are being burned down, branded as houses of worship for Infidels. And this trend is spreading around the world.

But God also commends this church for the spiritual riches they laid up in heaven. In contrast to the city’s great wealth, it was materially impoverished, probably due to unfair economic sanctions levied against it.

chest

 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal (Matthew 6:20. NASB).

Although their enemies were hell-bent on destroying this church financially, their faithfulness and obedience built up great wealth for them in heaven. Think how powerful their preaching must have been for Satan to attack them so ruthlessly!

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days (Revelation 2:10a, NASB).

God readied them for their upcoming persecution, telling specifically how long it would last. He began with encouragement that they need not fear what they were about to suffer at Satan’s hands.

crown

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death (Revelation 2: 10b-11, NASB).

This letter ends on a positive note. What are the benefits of enduring persecution, even if it leads to death? God spells them out.

In Smyrna’s day, one of its money symbols was a crown engraved on their coins. In contrast, Jesus promises to give the crown of life to those who hold true to their belief in the Lord. What a glorious benefit, along with eternal life in God’s kingdom.

No matter how bad it appeared, the Smyrna congregation could rest in the safety of His arms and the comfort of knowing that He is in control.

And so can we.

We don’t have to fear. The Word tells us that God wins the war against Satan at Armageddon, and His kingdom will be established . Then we will rule and reign with Christ forever. The Anti-Christ’s seven-year reign of terror is short, temporary, and controlled by God.

Are you prepared to head into these troubling days? Do you have the personal assurance that you will be an overcomer through Jesus’ death and resurrection?

We find our solace in the Savior. There is only one safe place in these days of terrorism and persecution. It’s  not a physical place, but a spiritual one found in Jesus alone. Here’s what the scripture says:

If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9, NASB).

For by grace are you saved through faith, and not that of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 8:11, NASB).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe (Proverbs 18:10, NASB).

He who dwells in the shelter of the most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Psalms 91:1, NASB).

Are you ready? So am I. Together, let’s face these days with the courage and strength of the Lord

Please continue with me to our next stop. Meet me in Pergamum.

Feasting at Thanksgiving

By Karen

Happy Thanksgiving!

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

 

If you’re like me, you’ll be in the kitchen chopping, whipping, mixing, roasting and baking for your Thanksgiving feast this week. This is one of two times a year that I go all out, preparing a knock-out menu that requires several days in advance. I absolutely love it! Here is a preview of this year’s holiday table:

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

 

Do you like to play games? If you never cook for Thanksgiving, or if you just take one dish to a party or family gathering, this blog post is still for you. No, it’s not about menus or recipe ideas—which are lovely—but it’s about thanking God for His blessings this year. And I’m inviting you to join me in doing it.

As we’re feasting on the turkey, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, let’s also remember to take this day to feast on the Word of God.

www.KarenJurgens.com

www.KarenJurgens.com

O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! (Psalms 34:8).

As I thought about how to choose some “delicious” scriptures, it seemed logical to pick the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For this game, I’ll begin by listing my favorite Bible verses, from either the Old or New Testament—one for each spiritual fruit. Here goes: (All from New American Standard Bible)

 

LOVE: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

JOY: These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (John 15:11).

PEACE: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

PATIENCE: And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise (Hebrews 6:15).

KINDNESS: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

GOODNESS: Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23:6).

FAITHFULNESS: They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23).

GENTLENESS: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS (Matthew 11:29).

SELF-CONTROL: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).

Now it’s your turn … what are your favorite verses we can feast on today?

image

The Revelation Church at Ephesus

stock-photo-14979311-father-helping-daughter-with-her-homework

Remember when you were a student? A graded paper would be returned to you with teacher’s comments. Usually these began with the good points, summarizing what you did right—the glowing commendations. Then the criticism, if any, followed, pointing out the weaknesses and making suggestions for improvement.

We all learn from a combination of praise and constructive criticism. Even Jesus used this same pattern when he spoke to the seven churches through John the Revelator. Let’s read their review and examine what they did right.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:1-3, NASB).

Apparently the Ephesians were very diligent in their quest for truth. God’s Word provides standards for discerning truth from error, and the Ephesians had been well-prepared to fight against false teaching. When Paul was at Ephesus, he trained them in the truth of the gospel, warning that false teachers would surface later. Even Timothy prevailed there with hard work, patience, and perseverance, proving that he and the church at Ephesus had taken this warning to heart.

As we apply this truth to our present-day churches, answer this question: does yours train you in discerning truth from error, like the church at Ephesus? Can you identify false teachers?

With access to the internet, cable, and satellite TV, we have access to myriads of people teaching the Word. Are all teaching truth?

Some are blatantly false, and should be easy to discern, while the more dangerous ones preach truth with slivers of lies underneath. It is imperative to understand what we hear and be able to line it up against the whole truth of God’s Word.

If one little part is a lie, is their entire message false? The answer is best illustrated by the joke about brownies a dad made for his kids.

brownies

When the delicious-smelling brownies were fresh and hot from the oven, the kids gathered round, begging for a piece. But they had to cool, so while they waited, they asked their dad to tell them how he had made them.

He rattled off a list of the finest ingredients. ” Organic flour, pure cane sugar, a pinch of sea salt, and a cup of whole, organic milk.”

“Yummy!” The kids drooled. “What else?”

“Oh, lots of dark chocolate, and just a little smidge of dog poop.” He smiled.

The kids’ faces turned green as they grimaced. “What? You ruined a wonderful pan of brownies with dog poop?” They gagged at the thought.

“It was just a little bit. You probably can’t even taste it.”

I can’t imagine that this Dad could persuade anyone into eating those treats. But this story makes a good point about false teaching. Just a smidge of something contrary to the pure gospel contaminates the whole thing, making it false.

How can you know if you are being tricked? If you don’t know the Word, these charlatans can trip you up every time. In fact, they count on the flock’s lack of knowledge in order to gently lead them astray.

We must know the WHOLE gospel of truth.

God warns, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6, NASB).

stock-photo-13360990-gimme-brownies

Remember years ago when false teachers surfaced in the news? How about Jim Jones and his faithful followers who all drank the lethal Kool-Aid? Those are an insignificant number compared to thousands today who may be seated on a church pew or a couch at home, their ears devouring tainted brownies, chased by poisoned Kool-Aid.

Some congregations may begin on the right path of truth, but somewhere down the road, they get sidetracked by worldly desires. The leadership may fall from grace because of the temptation of adultery, or watching pornography in the late night hours in the comfort of their home offices. Ever hear of Ashley Madison, for example?

Or perhaps it’s the lure of wealth, and they become greedy for bigger salaries to live like kings in palaces. Ever hear of the prosperity gospel?

Whatever the sin may be, coming through the leadership or the congregation, everyone is tainted and affected.

But God.

The Lord will help and deliver us from false teaching if we stay close to Him, planted in His Word. The Holy Spirit is our comforter, our teacher, and our link to God through the blood of Jesus. He lives inside our spirit and will never leave or forsake us. He will lead us into all truth, guiding us through our conscience, teaching us as we study God’s Word.

He protects us, His sheep, from wolves hiding under sheep’s clothing. He will reveal the truth to us, and we don’t have to fear becoming that wolf’s dinner.

Now let’s now examine Epheseus’ shortcomings.

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5, NASB).

How could this church be so savvy at uncovering false teachers, yet be accused of this? Those who hate evil and false teaching have a strong gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit; yet, leaving  Jesus, our first love, is different. It’s about the condition of the heart.

Remember when you first got saved? Most of us fell in love with Jesus and couldn’t stop talking about Him and witnessing to the lost. We devoured His Word and prayed every day. We were sloppy-drunk in love with the Lord and His Holy Spirit. Just like a romantic relationship that culminates in marriage, we spiritually felt and acted the same way.

stock-photo-12421294-logs

What happens? Just as in a marriage, the relationship settles and cools as that fire of passionate love begins to temper, dying down into glowing embers. We must poke them, blowing gently, feeding them with kindling until it smokes and the fire again catches. The more we feed it, the hotter and higher the flames will grow.

stock-photo-9711326-firewood

How do we stoke the fires of our love for the Lord?  Revelation 2:4 instructs us to “repent, and do the deeds you did at first.” Then the fire will catch and burn again.

Here’s a 2015 example we can all relate to. Our cell phones and other electronic devices must be charged every day or else they will go dead. This is of such major importance in our lives that we carry chargers with us to use during the day. Even in schools, airports, and hospital waiting rooms–you’ll find charging ports with people sitting next to walls with their devices juicing up.

Think of your relationship with Jesus. We also have to charge up our spirits on a daily basis. We download His power through reading the Word. Then we send back the current to God through prayer, and the Holy Spirit joins us together through the cross and the blood of Jesus so that we’re one with Him. If we neglect to do this, our power lessens, and at some point will go dead.

But the good news is that we can get charged up immediately as soon as we go into our prayer closets. It’s never too late.

OR ELSE …

As parents, haven’t we used OR ELSE phraseology to back up our demands?  We let our children know exactly what consequence their rebellion holds.

God does likewise.

At Ephesus, Jesus added a solemn consequence if that church refused to listen and heed His warning. His OR ELSE is spelled out in Revelation 2:5: “I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” Jesus meant business, and He meant what He said. Ephesus would lose its place as a church, unless they listened and obeyed.

It is interesting that Jesus concludes this warning to Ephesus by saying, “Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:6, NASB).

Who were the Nicolaitans? We know little about them, but it is supposed that they may have been a sect that introduced false teaching in regard to a believer’s freedom in Christ. Perhaps they espoused that once you’re saved at the cross, that frees you to live like everyone else who was immersed in a world of idolatry and sexual sin. Whatever the teaching, it was a stench in the nostrils of God, and He hated it with a passion.

The truth is that the cross frees us from sin to live a sanctified, holy life in Christ.

christian-cross-sunset-28820686

As with each letter to the churches, the conclusion ends on a high note with a wonderful promise.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7, NASB).

stock-photo-17460763-apples-on-branch

Do we have a spiritual ear to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking to us today? If we hate evil, persevere for truth without growing weary, discern false teachers, and always keep our love for the Lord first in our hearts, there is a reward for that victory. Jesus promises us fruit to eat in heaven—but not just any fruit—the tree of life that gives eternal life.

Is it worth it to be obedient to God’s Word? You bet it is. What a wonderful reward awaits us in God’s kingdom!

Where are we traveling next? Meet me in Smyrna.

The Still, Small Voice

SunSaturday began as a perfect day…the balmy weather almost whispering, it’s spring! Blue skies framed the background of the bright lemon sun, toasty-warm. I shed my winter coat in exchange for the day’s warmth, so liberating after days upon days of knife-cutting cold.

Uptown, Dallas. City sidewalks teeming with sweater-clad people of every age. Moms and dads directing little girls bouncing in pink tutus and jeweled tee-shirts, their long, dancing curls glittering white in the sunlight. Couples holding hands, their strides exactly matching. Older couples with younger family, sons and daughters and grandchildren. One storefront flowed into the next, parked cars slept snugly in a row, manicured winter flower beds hugged majestic trees, bare in this winter season.

Having a late lunch in a restaurant, still full in spite of the late hour. Everyone is out to celebrate this glorious day, to revel in the wonder of a small slice of spring dealt in the middle of winter. No, it wouldn’t last long. We pretended we didn’t know or that we had forgotten. Every precious minute counted. Like Cinderella, we knew this party would end as soon as the sun set.

Walking back to the car, we stopped to take some pictures in front of a bare tree with a landscaped flowerbed. My elderly mother, almost 93, walked with my daughter and me down the sidewalk. For some reason, she walked ahead, faster. I heard the Holy Spirit whisper softly to me. Watch her…take her arm. But I was distracted, conversing with my daughter, looking in the shop windows as we lounged down the sidewalk. Looking down, I observed the pavement, cracked and uneven.

Sidewalk

“Mother, come back and walk with us.” I called ahead, counting on her to do just that. But her determination to “do it her way” prevailed.

Distracted. Go get her. Make her stop. Laughing and enjoying the conversation, almost finished. My eyes turned completely the opposite way, focused on my daughter’s face. Her eyes popped as she screamed, “Nana! Nana!”

She ran to the curb. I turned around and followed, seeing what I could never have imagined. My mother was lying on the side of the pavement, next to a car. Her shoe held wedged in a crack on that rounded curb, a curb she had not seen as she took a shortcut around a tree.

In a crisis, God always supplies help, and today it was in the form of a strong father and his teenaged son. They helped her up and into the car. Terrified that she had broken something, we rushed her to the hospital. At her age, the ease of breaking a hip, a wrist, or having a head injury is all too common. But nothing was broken—just a gently-sprained ankle. A true miracle!

Later, she revealed to us that the Holy Spirit had also spoken a warning to her. Before making the split-second decision to walk around that tree, He had whispered to her, Go straight. Don’t walk here. But the way around the tree would save a few steps, so she ignored the warning and continued, not looking down to see the jagged curb. Too late.

How often have we heard that soft whisper of warning? Do we recognize that the Holy Spirit, who lives inside us, is guiding and protecting us from harm?

I regret not responding. Next time, Lord, I will promise to listen and obey. Immediately.