Wednesday, December 11
Revelation 1:17—2:7 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. (v.4)
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, each of the seven principal churches (congregations) of Asia Minor is given reports from Christ through the author, John of Patmos. The first of these, Ephesus, gets a generally favorable report. What about the one criticism? There is a sense in which we cannot recover an early love. Time passes, things change. We can never reverse the former days. When the Christians at Ephesus first received the Good News, that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Yet the gospel was, and remains, the Good News. There is the danger that churches can become so preoccupied with the business of their affairs, however important, that they lose the desire to encounter Jesus in the challenges of life as well as in the daily rounds of worship and fellowship. They uphold their faith but witness poorly to others about it.
“All things are made new in Christ,” wrote Paul (2 Corinthians 5:14-18). May we not become old, or too settled, in our faith.
Amos 8:1-14; Psalm 38; Matthew 23:1-12
Thursday, December 12
Revelation 2:8-17 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. (vv.9a, 15-16)
The first citation is a reminder that spiritual wealth has little or nothing to do with material wealth or circumstances.
It’s interesting to note that Polycarp, a great saint and martyr of the 2nd century, was Bishop of Smyrna. The church at Smyrna had a proud role in the early history of Christianity.
The Nicolaitans, also mentioned in 2:6, were a sect that believed that, being new exempts from Jewish law, they were free to indulge in licentious practices.
As Bishop Stephen Bayne observed in his Christians Living Love, we are finally free to choose whom or what we shall serve. Freedom itself if made our absolute, becomes an ideal. We cannot practice Christianity and immorality at the same time; they are opposing masters.
Amos 9:1-10; Psalm 37:1-18; Matthew 23:13-26
Friday, December 13
Revelation 2:18-29 “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets, ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’”(vv.24-25)
We’ve all heard plenty about the desirability of progress. Of course we want to move forward in life. There are times, however, when on our own terms we can’t. An army or a sports team can’t always be on offense. A good defense, at least as much as offensive power, is what wins battles or contests. The ability to hold fast, to protect one’s territory is crucial to victory.
The false prophets were leading some of the congregation at Thyatira astray. As for the others, there was no need to digest new teaching; rather they had only to remain faithful to the apostolic teaching they had already received. That would be defense enough against the deep secrets of Satan.
When you are in situations where it seems there is no progress, we may well be making more progress than when it is visible to us. God is in charge, and if we hold fast to what is truly Christian, we will indeed be moving forward in the divine plan.
Haggai 1:1-15; Psalm 31; Matthew 23:27-39
Saturday, December 14
Matthew 24:1-14 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. (vv.12-13)
This fulfills what was spoken about in yesterday’s reflection. What Jesus tells us in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew is:
- The struggle will not be easy. Victory over Satan and his forces of evil will not come cheaply. This is similar to those in the Parable of the Sower who are like seed scattered on thin soil, receiving eagerly the word of God and then when the going gets tough, fall away. Endurance, not enthusiasm, on our part is the means to victory.
- We have Jesus’ promise that final victory will be ours. No matter how dismal or distressing our present condition, in Christ we shall win out if we don’t surrender, as surely as Easter morning followed the darkness of the Friday. That is the word, the fruitful word, of the Sower.
Haggai 2:1-9; Psalms 30, 32; Revelation 3:1-6
Sunday, December 15
Psalm 98 Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. (v.1a NIV)
Truly the Lord has done marvelous things and all one has to do is to stop, look around, and take in all the beauty that is so close at hand. In The Message, this verse goes: “Sing to God a brand new song. He’s made a world full of wonders!”
For many years I’ve raised and released butterflies—monarchs, gulf fritillaries, and black swallowtails. The journey from a little egg on a leaf becoming a tiny caterpillar that grows and grows, then transforms itself so magically into a well-camouflaged chrysalis that may look like dried leaf or a branch or a gold-rimmed green lantern, just fills my soul with joy and wonder.
Truly the Lord has done marvelous things and created a world of full of wonders. Give thanks to our creator God as you look at the next breathtaking sunrise or sunset, bright and clear full moon, beautiful rose, or even that pretty butterfly fluttering around your yard. Take a moment to see God in all creation and experience the wonder.
Amos 9:11-15; Psalm 63; Thessalonians 2:1-3, 13-17; John 5:30-47
Monday, December 16
Psalm 41 Blessed is he who has regard for the weak. The Lord delivers him in times of trouble. (v.1)
On two separate occasions after leaving work, I’ve passed by what seemed like a chance encounter. Some parts of downtown provide respite and opportunities for people down on their luck, perhaps homeless. Often intersections during rush hour are places where some of these people stand, usually with a cardboard sign, obviously asking for food or money. My cynical side often challenges my more compassionate side that questions whether to give eye contact or even a dollar. After all, the Coalition for the Homeless is less than a mile away and meals are available there.
One the aforementioned occasions, I was traveling a side street when I came upon two men. One, who appeared homeless, was sitting with his few possessions beside a lumber warehouse. The other man talking to him, wearing black scrubs, was obviously leaving work at the nearby hospital. The hospital worker had a backpack with him and was giving the destitute man a bottle of water as they talked. Several weeks later I passed them again, almost the same scenario with the backpack opened, some containers/bags and several bottles of water in view. This time, the hospital worker had his hand on the other man’s shoulder. What were they saying? What relationship do these men have? I don’t know, but what I witnessed was one man’s “regard for the weak” and it touched my heart as I recalled Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Zechariah 1:7-17; Psalm 52; Revelation 3:7-13; Matthew 24:15-31
Tuesday, December 17
Psalm 45 You love righteousness and hate wickedness, therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (v.7)
The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness as the psalmist says. Being human, we fall short of perfection on every level and acknowledge that we are sinners by our own very nature. In another of today’s readings, Matthew 24:42, we are warned: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
It’s so important to seek forgiveness as well as to bestow forgiveness in those relationships in need of such. Recently, I lost a very dear friend and a coworker. Although she had been battling cancer for several years, her death came quite suddenly. She worked on a Friday and then called in on Monday. By Wednesday she was in hospice and two days later she died. We need to appreciate each day as it comes remembering it is a gift, something we have not earned but have been given. Use it well and give thanks in all situations.
Zechariah 2:1-13; Revelation 3:14-22; Matthew 24:32-44