A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Pergamum

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Today we arrive in ancient Pergamum. Have you heard of it? An island city, it was located about sixty-five miles north of Smyrna in the Caicus River Valley. Renowned for its extensive library that was second only to Alexandria, most of its 200,000 volumes were written on costly sheepskin—marking this city as vastly wealthy.

It was also famous for its advanced medical knowledge. Is it surprising, then, that it showcased the temple of Asclepius, a god of healing? False worship was extensive, including three temples devoted to the worship of Rome’s Emperor, and one each for Dionysius, Athena, and Zeus. It’s obvious that their worship was of supreme importance.

Additionally, all-powerful Rome had granted that Pergamum use capital punishment, which established the sword as the city’s symbol.

Why is the sword significant?

The Christian church related to the power of the sword, both then and now. When Jesus addressed this message to Pergamum through the Apostle John, He reminded them that He is “the One who has the sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 2:12a NASB). Ephesians 6:17 tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Residing in the midst of evil

He also acknowledged that this church resided in a very evil place, where believers proclaimed the name of Jesus in spite of persecution leading to death. ‘…and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells’ (Revelation 2:13 NASB). It was an extremely difficult time and place to be a Christian, but Jesus commended them for their courageous faith.

On the other hand, Jesus also had a warning for this church.

‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling-block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans’ (Revelation 2:14-15, NASB).

Do you recall the story of the talking donkey? Balak the king wanted Balaam the Gentile prophet to curse Israel. Read about it HERE in Numbers 22:1-25:9.

Who were the Nicolaitans?

We don’t know much about them, but we know that God hated their teachings. They encouraged sinful practices (licentiousness) so that God’s grace to forgive sin would increase, which is false teaching. Paul also addresses this in his admonition to the Romans, saying, “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under the Law but under grace? Far from it!” (Romans 6:15 NASB).

Lots of false teaching led to sinful actions. No wonder Jesus warned that unless they repented, ‘I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against [you] with the sword of My mouth’ (Revelation 2:16 NASB).

Can we imagine what a modern-day Pergamum might look like?

If we compare this city with the United States, there are uncanny similarities. Like them, our country has vast wealth, extensive libraries, the most advanced medical advances on the planet, and especially the sword of capital punishment.

But, like Pergamum, are our churches engaged in false teaching? Our Constitution affords religious freedom for all, whether we worship or not. But in these days of political correctness, we are conditioned to be tolerant of every religion—except Christianity.

There is even a move to combine the truth of Christ’s teachings with other religions, like combining vanilla and chocolate ice cream.  Swirled together, the vanilla gradually disappears, just as the truth of the Gospel cannot be watered down and remain pure. Just as a mouthful of cotton candy instantly dissolves in our mouths, so does the cotton candy gospel. It may taste sweet, but it’s empty. Beware of churches whose main attraction is personal prophesies, signs, and wonders, but devoid of studying the Word of God.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment will protect us from churches preaching false doctrine. We must wean ourselves from milk to the meat of God’s Word so we can grow and mature as Christians. Jesus addressed this issue through John in the last chapter of Revelation.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.’

Revelation 22:18-19 NASB

Strive for the prize.

Last, after these severe warnings, Pergamum was once again encouraged to strive for the prize. ‘To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it’ (Revelation 2:17b NASB).

Wow! Such amazing rewards await us for our obedience. All the suffering and persecution the world can inflict may be able to take our physical lives, but nothing can take away our eternal salvation. Let that knowledge empower us all to witness boldly to the lost.

His return is so close. Are you ready to meet Jesus?

Dear Father, thank you for Your Word, the sword of the Spirit. Make us overcomers in these days so that we’re not deceived into believing false teaching. May we always be rooted and grounded in Your truth. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Let’s continue our journey to Thyatira. Meet you there!

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Pergamum by Karen Jurgens © copyright 2023 All rights reserved

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Smyrna

Welcome to Smyrna, whose congregation suffers 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 brings 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 the 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. It is clear that this church suffered great tribulation, material poverty, and demonic attacks.

Jesus’s encouragement…

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. 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. 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 2:8-11 NASB

Endurance in suffering…

Jesus describes Himself to this church as one who was raised from the dead, which parallels His message to Smyrna, a church that also faces persecution, tribulation, and death for their beliefs. Jesus has no rebuke for this church, but instead encourages them in their suffering. The slanderous attacks they endure are led by followers of Satan whose evil intent is to destroy these believers.

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

How about today? No one wishes to be persecuted, but Scripture tells us that when we suffer as Christ’s followers, we shouldn’t be surprised. John 15:18-21 tells us that If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well; 2 Timothy 3:12 says,  Indeed, all who want to live in a godly way in Christ Jesus will be persecuted: also see Hebrews 2:10, 1 Peter 2:20 and 1 Peter 1:6-7.

Material poverty…

But God also commends this Smyrna church for its spiritual riches laid up in heaven. In contrast to the city’s great wealth, it is materially impoverished, probably due to unfair economic sanctions levied against it. Although their enemies are hell-bent on destroying this church financially, their faithfulness and obedience build up great wealth for them in heaven. Think how powerful their preaching must have been for Satan to attack them so ruthlessly!

Let’s also be encouraged to store up treasure in heaven by our deeds on earth, which glorify God and are acceptable to Him.

 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

This letter ends on a positive note.

What are the benefits of enduring persecution, even if it leads to death? God spells it out: receiving the crown of life.

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 are faithful unto death. 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 Jesus’s arms and the comfort of knowing that He is always in control. They didn’t fear prison or death.

And so can we. We don’t have to fear.

The Word tells us that Jesus wins the war against Satan at Armageddon, and then His kingdom will be established, where we will rule and reign with Christ forever. The Anti-Christ’s seven-year reign of terror is short, temporary, and controlled by God. We need NOT FEAR what is coming on the earth.

What does the modern-day church teach about suffering?

It’s common to hear the truth of the gospel twisted to promise that Christians are protected from suffering. The false gospel accuses people of a lack of faith and places the blame back on the believer, thus producing guilt and shame. Remember, Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1 NASB). We are all given the gift of faith as a mustard seed which grows in our spirit during our walk with the Lord (See Luke 17:6).

Our walk of faith will have mountaintops and valleys, but God is always with us and will never forsake us. Suffering teaches us patience while building maturity and godly character.

Material poverty?

The prosperity gospel falsely teaches that all Christians are supposed to be wealthy on the earth, and if you’re poor, you’re not blessed. Was Jesus born into a wealthy, politically affluent family? Did he live a luxurious lifestyle? Not at all, but all His physical needs were met.

Even Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness after His forty-day fast.

Again, the devil took Him along to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”‘ Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to serve Him.

Matthew 4:8-11 NASB

Are we prepared to head into these troubling days?

Do we have the personal assurance that we will be overcomers through Jesus’s death and resurrection? We find our solace in our Savior. There is only one safe place in these days of tribulation and attacks from the enemy. It’s  not a physical place, but a spiritual one found in Jesus alone. Here’s what the scripture says:

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

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:12-13 NASB

Dear Father, make us ready to face these days of persecution with the courage and strength of the Lord. We rest in the knowledge that You are in control, and we are safe in Your arms of loving protection. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Come along with me to our next stop. I’ll meet you in Pergamum.

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Smyrna by Karen Jurgens Copyright © 2023 All rights reserved.

A Survey of Revelation: The Church at Ephesus

“‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have placed before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding close to Him;'”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20a NASB

When I was an English teacher, I would grade essays by making comments throughout each paper. I would begin with the positives, summarizing what my students did well—the glowing commendations. Constructive criticism followed, pointing out any weaknesses and making suggestions for improvement.

We all learn from this technique. Even Jesus used the same pattern when he spoke to the seven churches through the Apostle John. Jesus began with 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

What were the commendations of the church at Ephesus?

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, let’s consider: does yours teach you to discern truth from error like the church at Ephesus?

Can you identify false teachers?

Thanks to the internet, we have access to myriads of people teaching the Word. But, are all teaching truth? Our Plumbline is knowing the Word of God for ourselves.

Some teachers are blatantly false and should be easy to discern, while the more dangerous ones preach truth with slivers of lies woven in. 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 the entire message false?

The answer is best illustrated by a story about homemade brownies.

When the delicious-smelling brownies were fresh and hot from the oven, the kids gathered around, 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, coconut sugar, a pinch of sea salt, and whole, organic milk.”

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

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

The kids’ faces turned green. “What? Dog poop?” They gagged at the thought and refused to taste a crumb.

This story makes an excellent point related to false teaching. Just a smidge of something false contaminates the whole gospel.

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

We must know the WHOLE gospel of truth.

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

Remember years ago when false teachers and prophets began to surface in the news? How about Jim Jones and his brainwashed followers who drank the lethal Kool-Aid.

Ever hear of the New Apostolic Reformation heresy based in Redding, California?

Some congregations may begin on the right path of truth, but somewhere down the road, they get sidetracked by worldly lusts and desires.

Ever hear of Ashley Madison?

Or perhaps it’s the lure of wealth and greed for bigger salaries to live like royalty in palatial estates and fly around the world in private jets.

Ever hear of the prosperity gospel?

Sin coming through the leadership can affect and mislead the entire congregation.

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 and teacher. He lives inside our spirit and will never leave or forsake us. Also, He leads us into all truth, guiding and teaching us as we study God’s Word.

The Holy Spirit 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 a wolf’s dinner.

Now let’s now examine the shortcomings of Ephesus.

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 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 or witnessing to the lost. We devoured His Word and prayed every day. We were deeply 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.

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.

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.

For example, our cell phones and other electronic devices must be charged every day or else they will go dead. What about our 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 witnesses through our spirit that we’re one with Him.

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.

In Ephesus, Jesus added a solemn consequence if the 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. Ephesus would lose its place as a church unless it 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 despised 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 cross frees us from sin to live a sanctified, holy life in Christ.

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

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.

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!

Dear Father, may we serve You with obedience and a pure heart. May we love You with all our heart, soul, mind, and body, and may our love for You never grow cold. Keep us in Your Word so that we cannot be deceived by the growing apostate church in these end times. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Where are we traveling next? Meet me in Smyrna.

The Church at Ephesus by Karen Jurgens copyright © 2023 All rights reserved.

Introduction to a Survey of Revelation

Is fear fun?

I vividly recall when The Exorcist hit the movie screen. Watching scenes where a young girl became possessed by demonic spirits seemed outrageous and in far left-field. Of course, nothing like that could happen in real life. It’s only at the movies where the producers are paid well to scare you out of your wits.

But I paid a price for feeding my fun-loving fear. For weeks after seeing that movie, I was scared of the dark and had to sleep with a light on.

My fascination with “fun fear” began when I was a child. As soon as I could read and browse in bookstores, I discovered there was more than just The Bobbsey Twins series. Nancy Drew Mysteries developed my love of suspense, and I later grew into a fan of everything Agatha Christie. My eye was also drawn to books with ghosts and haunted houses on the cover. The author? None other than the wonderful master of horror and suspense himself.

Alfred Hitchcock.

Could it get even better? You bet it did. Alfred Hitchcock Presents became my weekly TV haunt. I have no idea why, but it aired quite late at night, around ten. I lay under the covers in my dark bedroom, clutching my pillow and burying my face in it at the spookiest parts. As I turned off the TV at eleven, I took all that fun fear with me into my sleep. Needless to say, my dreams were not peaceful, and some nights I even had nightmares.

No wonder.

Back in the ‘60s, Christians weren’t as spiritually knowledgeable as today. Then, we flirted with fear which seemed thrilling, fun, and pretty tame. No one realized at that time how real the evil world of the enemy is, except for missionaries in third world countries where Satan worship prevailed. These missionaries would visit our church once or twice a year, and when they spoke at a Sunday service, we would hear all kinds of true stories that would make our hair stand up. Our solace was in the fact that America is a Christian nation, and Satanic activity is thereby limited from manifesting here.

Well, for a while, anyway.

Then, as I’ve already mentioned, The Exorcist was born on the big screen, and our innocence began to fade. As illegal drugs made the scene, free love in all its forms manifested. Rebellion and flower children blossomed. The Ten Commandments and prayer disappeared from public schools as rock bands with hellish music pounded their anti-Christian message into teens. Wholesome movies and TV shows were sidelined. Now TV shows became less moral and movie producers experimented with racier visions within inane storylines rated R and X.

Did they make mega-bucks doing that? You know it.

Like a lullaby sung over a sleepy giant, this great Christian nation was lulled to sleep. Churches began to dwindle as members became fascinated with worldly pleasures, and ministries worried about their financial future. How could they once again pack their churches and their offering plates to capacity?  Thus, they re-invented and molded themselves to attract modern-day society.

How so? Here are some of the ploys:

  • Make the church a welcoming, comfortable place—more like a club where you are encouraged to pay your monthly dues in the offering plate, or better yet, online.
  • Lure with rock band music containing Christian lyrics, and feature a coffee bar or restaurant on the premises. (I understand some are now even serving wine and beer.)
  • Do away with the true gospel, watering it down so that there’s no cross to convict, no call to repentance, and no mention of the word “sin.” Replace those terms with psychology, and help people reason away their guilt. Tell them, “After all, if God is a loving God, how could He send anyone to hell?”
  • No convicting sermons—just pleasant ear-tickling stories to entertain and keep everyone coming back next week.
  • Have lots of fun group activities for athletics and hobbies, or study books that sound religious, but really have no gospel message.
  • Give everyone a job in the church, so they feel included and important. Tell them “it’s all about you” instead of being all about Jesus.
  • Instead of spiritual milk and meat, feed the flock gobs of cotton candy—and remember the good news: sugar is addictive!

Now for the present moment.

Our innocent, precious children are weaned onto their first series of books as soon as they have learned to read. The title of the most popular one, in my opinion? Why, Harry Potter, naturally! The world of witches and spells teaches them fear, rebellion, and the ABC’s of Satanic worship. Right away their minds are receptive to witchcraft and closed to Christianity. (Some good parents and Christians alike scoff at the warnings that Harry Potter could in any way be dangerous.)

I remember hearing nuns say, “Let me train a child until he’s five, and by then he will be a Catholic his whole life.” Reminds me of the verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NASB). So, these early childhood years matter very much.

How about public school curricula?  

They now endorse soft education, meaning there is no discipline, no character training, lax patriotism, and little, if any, true learning. The consequences are lots of kids stoned on drugs, disrespectful, lazy, and with time wasted on technology (which is only a robotic substitute teacher). Schools have shut down over Covid, and mask-wearing became mandatory after re-opening. Currently, children as young as kindergarten are being taught to question their biological sex and are encouraged to assign themselves new gender pronouns, in addition to sexual grooming.

No wonder American education, no longer able to boast being number one in the world, has, in 2022, plummeted to 14th out of 37 OECD and G20 nations. What an educational failure we have become!

So, what is the church’s role in this present age, and what are God’s expectations?

The answer may surprise you, as it did me. In studying the book of Revelation, the beginning of John’s letter is to the seven churches. In my Bible studies spanning nearly five decades, I was taught that those letters were just for that day and time, or that there have been seven dispensational ages—one message for each church—and the last is for our present day.

But no.

I clearly see in my present studies that these messages are eternally pertinent for today, no matter the age or year. There is no perfect church outside of heaven’s—and we have to die to get there. On the earth, all of our churches have some commendations, but according to Jesus, there is always something in need of correction.

I plan to take each church and examine what Christ said to each one through John. Let’s agree to establish our hope in God and let Him establish our future.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV

What we may learn about the church could be startling. Please join me on this fascinating journey.

Our first stop? Ephesus.

Dear Father, instruct us through Your words of warning and encouragement to John. May our hearts and minds be open to Your truths, for Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. May we all come to You through Your Son. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Introduction to a Survey of Revelation by Karen Jurgens, copyright 2023 All rights reserved

Witnesses to a Divine Birth

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.”

Luke 2:8-9 NASB

The Shepherds

The social status of a Jewish shepherd during the time of Christ was as low as you could get. They were despised like tax-collectors and dung-sweepers. Although sheep-herding began as a noble occupation with the Patriarchs, the Israelites slowly changed into farmers and agriculturists. This began when Joseph and his brothers were reunited in Egypt, and Pharaoh invited them to relocate in Goshen. Joseph plainly informed his brothers, “…for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians” (Genesis 46:34 NASB).

But God chose people of the lowliest profession to have the greatest honor of the ages–to witness a supernatural birth announcement from heaven in the night sky.

And so the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.‘”

Luke 2:10-12 NASB

Can you imagine the amazement of the shepherds when the angel was suddenly joined in the night sky with “a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:13b-14 NASB).

A multitude of angel armies lit up the sky, and their praises must have resounded for miles. Afterward, they retreated into heaven, leaving the night sky black, but their glorious presence and message spurred the shepherds to quickly run to Bethlehem.

When they found Mary and Joseph, they looked at the Christ child and told them what the angels had said about him. Everyone was amazed at their words, and Mary especially treasured and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:20 NASB

The Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.

Matthew 2:1-2 NASB

The three magi from the east were polar opposites to the shepherds. As educated astronomers who studied sacred writings and served in royal courts, they understood the sign in the heavens. These wise men followed the star, which led them to the house where Messiah was found, bearing gifts to honor and worship the new king. They represented non-Jewish nations paying homage to the Lord of lords.

And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

Matthew 2:11 NASB

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh

GOLD was not only a gift of great wealth, but it symbolized royalty, nobility, and great love. By bringing gold to lay at Jesus’s feet, they were acknowledging Him as King of the Jews. This provision supported Mary and Joseph when they fled to Egypt and later moved to Nazareth.

FRANKINCENSE was a valuable, fragrant ingredient for making holy incense to burn in the Temple. It was used for ceremonial worship and represented Christ’s divinity. The magi confirmed through this gift that Jesus was special–fully God and fully man.

MYRRH was an aromatic spice used for burial. It was also used to make a fragrant smoke, a rich perfume, and as medicine to treat wounds and skin inflammations. This gift represented Christ’s humanity and sacrificial death because He was sent from God to die for the sins of the world.

Come as you are to worship the King.

So the last shall be first, and the first, last.

Matthew 20:16 NASB

Is it any mistake that the shepherds were first in line to witness the miracle of Jesus’s birth? God chose the humble and lowly of this world to be first. In fact, Jesus bills Himself as the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23. Further, God tells us in Isaiah 66:2b, “But I will look to this one, at one who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word” (NASB).

Today we have a personal invitation from God to come witness the miraculous birth of the Christ child. Whether we have great wealth to lay at His feet or have nothing, we can come as we are. He is offering a beautiful gift for each of us–the free gift of salvation.

Will you accept His gift?

Dear Father, thank you for sending Your Son to be born on the earth. We bow before you in worship and lay our hearts before You. We receive Your free gift of salvation, and we praise You for it. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Witnesses to a Divine Birth by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022, All rights reserved.

How Hanukkah Celebrates Jesus

How Hanukkah Celebrates Jesus by Karen Jurgens

The Hanukkah celebration isn’t just for Jews. If we look closely, we’ll find Jesus Christ, both the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world, at its very core.

First, some history…

The significance of Hanukkah is embedded in a miracle. The second Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greco-Seleucid Empire. The Jews expelled these pagans, after which the Jews purified the Temple. During this Feast of Dedication, eight menorah candles were lighted, one for each day. The flames required sacred olive oil, but there was only enough oil to last one day. In spite of the impossible circumstances, the flames miraculously burned all eight days.

Today, Jews celebrate this minor religious holiday not only to remember this miracle but also to commemorate the victory God gave to Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, in 139 B.C.

Jesus celebrated Hanukkah…

The gospel of John gives us the only account of Jesus during Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication. In John 10, we find Jesus walking in the Temple along Solomon’s porch.

Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’

John 10:24 NKJV

This group of unbelievers (much like a lynching mob) didn’t want the truth—they had already decided Jesus was a blasphemer, and they only wanted His words to legally condemn Him. But Jesus responded with a clever answer.

Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one.’

John 10:25-30 NKJV

Then the Jews took up stones to kill Jesus, claiming their right to do so since He had made Himself equal with God, a sin in Jewish law punishable by death. But Jesus proved His deity another way.

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.’ 

John 10:37-38 NKJV

This mob refused to believe Jesus’s miraculous works, which proved His supernatural identity. Instead of waiting for them to cast their stones, Jesus slipped away and withdrew to the region of the Jordan.

But isn’t it ironic that just as the Maccabees had driven unbelievers out of the Jewish Temple, now unbelievers were driving out the Son of God from that very Temple?

Jesus’s true identity…

Jesus claimed to be the light of the world.

He [John] was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.’

‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’

John 1:8-9; John 8:12; John 9:5 NKJV

What does Jesus, the Light of the world, have in common with this Festival of Lights, beginning at sundown on December 18th and concluding at nightfall on December 26th?

The symbol of lights comes from the lighted menorah candles, which burn for eight days and nights. As Hanukkah’s candles light Jewish homes, so Jesus lights the lives of believers.

God created our spirits with a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. When we’re born again, the war against unbelief is won, expelled from our hearts. Then our spirit’s “temple” is purified by the blood of the Lamb shed at the cross. The Holy Spirit fills our spiritual “menorah” with His sacred oil and ignites our hearts with the flame of belief. We shine with the eternal light of Jesus living within us, as a lighted lamp for the world to see.

The lamp of the body…

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.’

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.’

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.

Matthew 6:22; 5:14-16; Ephesians 5:8 NKJV

Jesus is Messiah…

God provides several prototypes of the miraculous advent of Messiah in the Old Testament. Messianic Jewish believers will understand how Jesus shines through the eight candles of the Hanukkah miracle, but now it’s time that Christians also discover this truth. Judaism and Christianity fit together like a hand in a glove.

As we come into this season of Christmas, let’s remember that the light of God came into the world through the birth of His Son, Jesus. May we rejoice, as did the shepherds that Holy Night, in the salvation message the angels brought to earth, announcing that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’

Luke 2:8-14 NKJV

Dear Father in heaven, May our hearts be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, and may our eternal spiritual menorahs burn brightly. May all the world see the light of Jesus, our Messiah, shine through our lives. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Wishing everyone a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!

How Hanukkah Celebrates Jesus by Karen Jurgens, copyright 2018 and 2022, All rights reserved.

Feasting on the Word of God

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!”

Psalm 34:8

Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner. Some people will enjoy a meal out, while others will be guests at another’s table. Perhaps some will prepare a dish to take, while others may be hosting the entire dinner, like me.

Wherever we take our places at the table this year, it’s always a special time to pause and reflect on our blessings over the past year.

As we feast on traditional or not-so-traditional dishes, let’s also feast on some “delicious” scriptures—specifically, the nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Here is a list of some of my favorite Bible verses, from both the Old and New Testament—several for each spiritual fruit (all taken from the New American Standard Version).

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

I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35

And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

Matthew 22:37

But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people.

Luke 6:35

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

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials,

James 1:2

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.

John 16:24

PEACE

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

Philippians 4:7

These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.

Psalm 122:6

When a person’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He causes even his enemies to make peace with him.

Proverbs 16:7

PATIENCE 

And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise.

Hebrews 6:15

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience;

Colossians 3:12

Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost sinner Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

1 Timothy 1:16

For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

1 Peter 2:20

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

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Proverbs 3:3

He has told you, mortal one, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal turban on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti.

Esther 2:17

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.

Psalm 23:6

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will consider you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power,

2 Thessalonians 1:11


You have granted me life and goodness; And Your care has guarded my spirit.

Job 10:12

FAITHFULNESS 

They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness 

Lamentations 3:23

The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and just is He.

Deuteronomy 32:4

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His faithfulness is everlasting.

1 Chronicles 16:34

What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?

Romans 3:3

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

Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near.

Philippians 4:5

Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.

Galatians 6:1

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

James 3:13

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

Like a city that is broken into and without walls So is a person who has no self-control over his spirit.

proverbs 25:28

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

1 Corinthians 9:25

Older men are to be temperate, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.

Titus 2:2

Which scripture verses are your favorites?

Dear Father in heaven, thank you for all your blessings this year. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, may we look to You as our source of provision. May we feast on Your Word and hide its truths in our hearts so as to live sanctified lives, pleasing to You. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Feasting on the Word of God by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

“’Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.'”

Matthew 7:15 NKJV

How close are we to the days of deception? The Bible tells us that it will sweep the world and deceive many just before the Great Tribulation. Jesus warns us Himself to beware of false Christs and false prophets who will deceive with signs and wonders in an effort to mislead the elect (Mark 13:21-23).

Throughout Scripture we are repeatedly warned about false teachers and prophets. The Apostle John tells us to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). The Apostle Paul warns us that even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The Apostle Peter explains that these false teachers will teach destructive heresies, even denying Jesus as they twist truth and exploit with lies, motivated by their greed (2 Peter 2:1-3).

The Book of Jude addresses this danger by describing apostates as …grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage (Jude 1:16 NKJV). They are also… mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit (Jude 1:18-19 NKJV).

God warns about false prophets in Jeremiah:

Then the Lord said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.

Jeremiah 14:14 NIV

How do these warnings apply to the contemporary church?

A growing hunger for knowing God exists today like never before. Many teens and young adults are fed up with the world’s lies, and they are earnestly seeking God’s truth. Drawn into non-denominational, charismatic churches, they are taught to experience God through singing, praising, and prayer–minus the all-important and necessary emphasis on the Word of God. As recent proselytes, they become easy prey for Satan to mix truth with lies and lead them astray from the true gospel. In short, they may eventually fall into a cult without even realizing that they are being deceived.

What are these false teachings that have crept into the church?

New Apostolic Reformation

History: The NAR has crept into many charismatic churches and is very dangerous. It originated in the 1940s and has mushroomed into its current form through various ministries and teachings, such as Kansas City Prophets, Toronto Blessing, Brownsville, and Lakeland, Florida. C. Peter Wagner, its founder, coined the movement as NAR, which is also known as “network Christianity.” It lacks a central organizing body or statement of beliefs and is made up of a loose connection of charismatic churches.

Basic Beliefs: This movement has flipped the importance of the pastor and biblical teaching with the role of apostles and prophets. Instead of studying the Word of God, they emphasize experiencing God–especially through singing, prayer, prophecy, and signs and wonders. They concentrate on teaching followers how to become “gods” and usurp God’s power for themselves.

Here is a good outline of their beliefs according to Prophecy Today UK, November 3, 2022:

  1. The leadership of modern-day ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’
  2. Dominionism: the teaching that ahead of Jesus’ return, the Church will become all-powerful on earth and make it ready for the Lord7
  3. The belief that unlimited divine power and blessing is available to believers to equip them for this task
  4. An over-emphasis on the supernatural and extra-biblical revelation
  5. An over-emphasis on power and human agency

(Read more at ProphecyToday.UK, BereanResearch.com, NAR churches in your area, PirateChristian.com, Biola.edu.)

Ministry Schools

Another great concern is the recruitment of young people into their ministry schools. These churches are known world-wide for their Christian music, which makes big bucks for the top echelon. For a large fee, students are housed and spend twelve to eighteen hours a day in classes, serving in the prayer rooms, and doing the bidding of their mentors. Over time, their weariness may break down their emotional and cognitive defenses so that they obey and believe without thinking, becoming programmed zombies.

Which churches are NAR? The most well-known are Bethel Church in Redding, California (Bill and Beni Johnson); Hillsong Church in Australia; Catch the Fire in Toronto; Iris Ministries (Heidi Baker); and Morningstar Ministries (Rick Joyner). The network also includes hundreds of small churches and fellowships across the globe.

What is the penalty for entering into these false beliefs and practices? Here is what Jesus has to say:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’* And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV

*The emphasis above is mine. Jesus seems to be outlining the very beliefs and practices of NAR, doesn’t He? Although God’s prophecy, spiritual gifts, and power over the enemy are very real, this warning is about Satan’s counterfeit. We must discern the difference, the true from the false. Let’s be sober-minded and pay close attention to Jesus’s warning. Where we will spend eternity may be at stake.

Sozo Prayer

“Prayer” is a misnomer because Sozo is actually hypnosis with a spirit guide experience, full of mysticism and witchcraft. Christians seeking answers to personal problems or who want to draw closer to God are candidates for this false experience. Placed under a mild trance, they travel into their subconscious with a spirit guide whom they believe is either Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit, visiting various places in the mind. Often suppressed childhood memories may resurface, including false memories, leading to further distress.

Christians only need the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, prayer, and fellowship with other believers to draw close to God. Spirit guides are demons from hell, but we Christians rely solely on the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, comforter, and the one who leads us into all truth. Jesus tells us:

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take from Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; this is why I said that He takes from Mine and will disclose it to you.

John 16:13-15 NASB

I encourage you to research these topics yourself for a richer understanding of these dangerous teachings and practices. I pray that the Lord keeps us from the spirit of deception, embodied in false teachers and false prophets. Let’s defeat the plans of Satan, who counterfeits God’s truth with his lies and deception, by putting on the full spiritual armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:10-18). Remember, we always overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

(Read more about the dangers of Sozo prayer at CompellingTruth.org , WomenofGrace.com, Bereanresearch.org, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rS9KCAOmK7s.)

Let’s allow Jude to close us out in prayer with his beautiful doxology:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.

Amen.

Jude 1:24-25 NASB

Beware of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing by Karen Jurgens, copyright 2022 All rights reserved

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?

“Awake, sleeper,

And arise from the dead,

And Christ will shine on you.”

Ephesians 5:14 NASB

Driving through the neighborhood, orange lights shimmer after dark, outlining houses. Snarling ghosts, the size of giants, stand illumined and poised with hands raised and ready to pounce. Thick spider webs shimmer around bare branches of trees, and several black spiders hang in every direction. Illumined Halloween blow-ups of witches and goblins rock in the wind. Carved pumpkins are on every doorstep.

stock-photo-47819144-halloween-cutie

On Halloween night, children will fill the sidewalks, costumed, masked, and carrying open bags, ringing doorbells, shouting “Trick of Treat!” The tiny ones, precious in their princess or bunny costumes, will be led by their parents who prompt them in what to say. The older kids will be dressed in scarier costumes, some too tall or too old to be trick-or-treating. (Have you noticed how truly evil some of those costumes look?) Even some adults will be dressed up too, perhaps as witches with broomsticks, seated at their doorsteps as they hand out candy. It’s all in good fun.

Or is it?

At home, parents sift through their kids’ bags, making sure all the candy is wrapped. Anything look suspicious? Remember not long ago when razor blades were hidden inside those delicious-looking treats? Sounds like the evil queen in Snow White may be lurking behind some of those decorated doors. But surely not in 2022.

stock-photo-17862684-jack-o-lantern-in-moonlight

Our children are our most precious possessions and can never be replaced. Should they be taught to dress up like devils and witches? To believe that fear is fun? I hope we can remember the origins of this festival and what the Bible says about this issue.

As Christians, let’s think twice about participating in this holiday glorifying Satan and his world of evil.

Here is an interesting perspective in the article below, written by a former witch high priest.

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

by William J. Schnoebelen

“An old proverb says, “When you sup with the devil, use a long spoon.” Presumably, NO genuine Christian would want to sup with the devil at all and yet many may be doing so in ignorance.

As a former witch high priest now saved by Jesus, I was astonished by how many Christians let their kids celebrate Halloween. Some churches even sponsor “haunted houses” and similar events on what is the Number One satanic “helliday” of the year. Halloween used to be called Samhain, and is still celebrated as an ancient pagan festival of the dead by witches all over the world. Unfortunately, just giving the date a “holy” name like All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve cannot change its grisly character. Halloween is an occasion when the ancient gods (actually demons) are worshiped with human sacrifice. The apostle Paul warns us: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils” (1 Cor. 10:20).

If you are a Christian parent, God has given you a precious responsibility in your children. Remember, their ability to resist spiritual wickedness is much less than yours. If you allow your children to participate in Halloween (Trick or Treating, costume parties, etc.) you are allowing them to play on “the devil’s turf,” and Satan will definitely press his home court advantage. You are opening up doorways into their young lives for evil by bringing them into a kind of “fellowship” with these ancient “gods.”

We are commanded not to become involved with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). Both from my experience as a witch, and since getting saved, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have seen far too many examples of how breaking this command works out in lives. Remember, while we have God’s promise of protection for ourselves and our children, that promise may not hold if we allow our children to celebrate this dark holiday. Case after case has come to us of children in rebellion. In many of these families, the problem can be traced back to the children being exposed to Halloween at a young age. It is hard enough to raise children these days in a Godly way without exposing them to Satan’s realm.”

stock-photo-68865945-spooky-halloween-party

but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your hearts to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father; and subject yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.

Ephesians 5:18b-21 NASB

Dear Father in heaven, may we wisely guide our innocent children away from Satan’s evil influence. Thank you for defeating the devil at the cross. We come against the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween? by Karen Jurgens copyright 2015 and 2022, All rights reserved.

How to Get Rid of Stains

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.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; 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.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,

And sinners will be converted to You.

Psalm 51:10-13, NASB

Dear Father, cleanse our hearts and make them new by the power of Your blood. Erase the stain of sin, and make us whiter than snow. Use us to witness to the lost and bring them into Your kingdom. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

How to Get Rid of Stains by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved.