Pastor’s Pen

A Monthly Blog from Senior Pastor Chris

DECEMBER 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth…. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne…  (Revelation 12:1-2, 3b-4, ESV)

Who says the Bible is boring? We have dragons and kings and power and conflict. The images of Helms Deep in Tolkien’s The Return of the King have nothing up on the descriptions found in this incredible book of Revelation. Giants standing on land and sea. Hordes of evil creatures pouring out of the pits of hell. Evil beasts and prophets, powerful woman riding a seven-headed beast – these are images as grand as any of the tales from the ancient Greek and Roman myths.

The difference, between these images from Revelation and though mythic writings, is that these represent real, actual events. The vision of John, given in symbols as a prophetic statement of God’s interaction with the human race from the time of Adam until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, opens up the very annals of human history, past, present, and future more clearly than Scrooge’s three ghosts. Seen from the ever eternal view of the timeless God, the panorama of human existence with the spiritual battles that have brought devastation and resurrection to light are all laid bare before the saints of the Most High God through His Champion, Jesus Christ.

The same God, who delivered the people of Israel in the Old Testament from the many tyrannical governments that sought their destruction at the behest of the Evil One Himself, faced the maw of the Great Dragon, the serpent of old, Satan himself. Our Savior and Deliverer has not been seated in some Ivory Tower, but He is the child who was born, the Son who was given who barely escaped the marauding hosts of the murderous King Herod as an infant, passed through the rioting crowds wanting to cast Him off the cliffs, and faced down violent storms whose waves cascaded over the prow of the small fishing boat as Satan sought His destruction.

Then on that perilous day, a day of infamy far worse than D-Day or Pearl Harbor, taken by Jewish hoodlums, turned over to the mighty Romans, beaten and flogged mercilessly, He was crucified. The Dragon had swallowed Him into the darkness of death’s ugly claws. This child, who was destined to rule the nations with a rod of iron, lay swathed, not in swaddling clothes in the comfort of a straw filled manger, but in burial clothes in a borrowed tomb.

That is not how the story was supposed to end. We were only halfway through the movie, at the center of the novel. How could this story end here? Three days later, the commercial break was over and a rumbling sound rocked the set. Out from that Dragon’s belly a blast stronger than the one in Men in Black II blew that grave open and out came, not a baby, not even a beaten and bloodied Walking Dead, but an overcomer who had wrestled, not a Balrog, but death itself into submission and in short order showed that Superman was not the first to prove gravity can be overcome. Snatched up into glory in a cloud, He now reigns as the Master of the Universe.

Revelation is not a horror story; it is the Revelation of a grand scheme superior to any plan designed by Hollywood’s best. We live in the second half of this story, facing what appear to be inconceivable odds, marching at times it seems toward Mount Doom, crossing the plains of Mordor, wondering whether we will survive to reach the end of our faith. Revelation guarantees our victory. As has often been said, “We have read the end of the Book and we win.” No wonder Jesus spoke so often to the disciples those haunting words, “Fear not.” 

So, my friends, when you feel overwhelmed, when it seems that Hell is winning, take the time to read Revelation again. Yes, there are so many evil monsters, demonic powers, corrupt governments, and false religions that threaten us on every side. But we can look back on Israel to see God’s faithfulness in saving the remnant by faith, and see how He snatched the Savior from the mouth of the Dragon, and He has shown you and me His plan to save us too. So this Christmas, look past the manger, past the cross, to the Throne on which our deliverer sits bringing all things under submission to His glorious name, and trust Him with your life.

NOVEMBER 2017 PASTOR’S PEN 

Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:19-20, ESV)

Imagine the incredible sensation that the last of the Apostles, John, must have experienced when he beheld this awesome vision that we call Revelation. He was exiled on an island that was a Roman penal colony as an old man, probably close to ninety years old, freezing in the winter and hot in the summer. Then in the midst of his own personal worship service on the Lord’s Day, he was caught up in such glory.

I am not sure whether or not I would want such an experience for myself. As Christians, many of us wish that God would send an angel or give us a vision or do something supernatural that would make our faith more solid. But would it? How many times did God work mightily among the Israelites and still they fell away, rejected His truth, and died in their sin? Last week in our Sunday Evening Seminar on Broken Judges, Tony Jin pointed out that when God worked through a Judge, often that generation of Israelites remained faithful, but the next generation faltered and turned from God.

John is coming to the end of his life. The age of the Apostles was coming to an end. Would the next generation turn from Christ and forget the truth? These thoughts must have been going through John’s head when, in that moment of worship, God spoke to him. This Revelation created for John the assurance that what God began in creation, and brought to fulfillment in Christ, would not cease with the passing of the generation who knew Jesus on earth.

That is why the Revelation, while given to John, is to the seven churches. That number “seven” has biblical significance as a number of perfection. God has spoken to His church, which is why at the end of each of the short “letters” to these seven churches, the Spirit speaks, not to a church, but to “the churches.” These are the one through whom the light of the Gospel will continue to shine, the golden lampstands from which the glory of God’s truth will go forth into the world, and through them, it has come to us.

As the Lord Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, speaks to His Church in their various locations scattered around the globe, He communicates to them His sovereign hand and care throughout all ages with the promise that He will continue to use the Church to be the light in darkness. You and I, as we have for the past two years examined the words spoken to each of the seven churches, have come to realize the personal and powerful truth that transforms and builds us up.

The Church is held in the right hand of the Lord, the symbolic picture of His strength. Elsewhere we are told that we are engraved on His hand, secure and unwavering because He will never leave us or forsake us. Yet, the warning throughout these seven letters speaks to the fact that not all is well with the church. While Christ holds His Church in His mighty right hand so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, that does not mean that all who are within the Church belong to Christ. Revelation comes to us to encourage us and to warn us.

The rest of the book after these letters reveals God’s past supernatural and sovereign control of the world in the midst of the persecution and suffering of His people in chapters 8 and 9. He showed John the suffering of Jesus Christ and the victory wrought by God that brought eternal protection to the saints of the Old Testament and glory for Christ in chapters 11 and 12. Then He declared how He intends to guard and protect the new covenant saints that Satan, like a roaring dragon, wants to destroy in chapters 13-18. 

This book is to the Church of Jesus Christ, who is the Lion/Lamb of glory slain before the foundations of the earth and raised in power and glory. Those seven candlesticks will forever burn; even if some fail, they will be replaced until the Day of Christ’s return. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to stand firm and overcome in order that we might receive the full promise of Christ to the churches in chapters 2 and 3. Let us rejoice in our glorious Redeemer and sovereign Creator forever and ever. Amen.

OCTOBER 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:21-22, ESV)

This is the seventh time we have heard these words concerning the one who conquers and the last verse, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. It is almost like the chorus in a hymn. That means that the Holy Spirit intends for us to get the point, to pay attention to His Words to the churches with excellent hearing and therefore doing.

Instead, what often happens with recurring phrases and words, we grow dull in hearing. The phrase becomes too common, too casual. Like the boy who cried wolf, these words, though oft repeated, eventually are ignored, not because the danger has gone, but because the readers have grown accustomed to the danger, accustomed to the warnings. 

At least that is how it might have happened if not for the 19 chapters that follow these seven letters to the churches. The explosive symbolism and horrendous creatures wake us from our doldrums, like the sudden sound of an actual tornado that overwhelms the tornado siren that was ignored because of its familiarity. Wrath, fire, brimstone, death, craziness bursts forth on the pages that follow. The awesomeness of a glorious God, of a heaven beyond description, of a promised eternity shown as a reality flows over us like the waves on the sea shore.

We are brought up short, awakened to a new awareness so that we will listen to these warnings of the Holy Spirit who has spoken to the churches. With opened eyes, we glance at this final promise to the churches and those within the church who “conquer.” The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. This is no longer an imaginary throne, but the immensity of the emerald throne of chapter 4 and the unity of Christ on His Father’s throne in chapter 5. The words of Romans 8:16 -17 are fleshed out in glorious detail: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The Laodicean lukewarmness, the lackadaisical ho hum of the average Christian is stomped out the moment the reader turns the page and is grasped by the awareness of the powerful and incredible glory of the heavenly throne room. To join with Jesus Christ on that throne in chapter 5 because we have been bought with the precious blood of the Lion/Lamb, who has conquered all His enemies and been declared to be the Son of God with power, is the privilege of the one who conquers, who overcomes, who finds victory in Jesus, our Savior forever. 

Each of these promises to the individual seven churches comes to light in the rest of the book. So often the seven letters are taken as simply a preamble to the real story of chapters 4-22. Instead, chapters 4-22 are the postlude to the seven letters. Revelation is a letter to the church calling us to action, calling us to trust and to life as we await the coming of our glorious Redeemer. 

Christ has conquered. He has overcome. The redeemed are sealed for glory. The Kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. The Old Testament saints are already safe from the enemy of Christ. Like them, we too must stand fast, count the cost, fight the good fight of faith, for there is laid up for us a crown of righteousness fit for a king.Unfortunately, the churches of Ephesus, Pergamum, Laodicea, Smyrna, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Thyatira today are gone. They failed to heed the warnings and their candlesticks have been removed. The same is true for the churches of Geneva, Zurich, London, Rome, Madrid, Paris, and Wittenberg, the homes of the Protestant Reformation. This year, on October 31, the Protestant Christian world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Yet, the very places that 500 years ago burned with the fervor for God’s Word and God’s truth today deny the existence of God Himself.

Will the same be said of the United States of America - the nation known for years as a Christian nation? Will the Lord find faith in America when He returns? Only if we, who name the name of Christ today, overcome. We are more than conquerors, the Scripture says. Then let us awaken our faith, and with Martin Luther declare, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” God help us. 



SEPTEMBER 2017 PASTOR’S PEN 

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:12-13, ESV)

Giving a name to a new born baby is often a lengthy process as parents discuss the matter between the husband and wife, study various names, and research the meaning of those names. Once the parents decide on that new infant’s name, they then need to give it to the hospital for the birth certificate. At that point, the child is no longer “a boy” or “a girl” but has his or her own identity. Naming holds the future for that child.

In some cultures, the naming of the child holds even greater significance. In many Hispanic countries, the child’s name reflects the heritage back several generations on both sides of the family. Other cultures look at the events leading up to the birth of that child in determining names that speak to those events, such as Rachel naming her youngest Benoni, generally thought to mean “Son of My Suffering,” while Jacob renamed him Benjamin, meaning “Son of My Right Hand.” Still other cultures name their child what they hope for that child in the future, as we experienced in Ireland with children named Blessing, Great, and Prosper. 

It is with interest then that we look at the naming promised to those who overcome/conquer in this text. Three names or titles are given – the Name of God (Yahweh), the name of God’s city (New Jerusalem – City of Peace), and the Lord’s new name. The name Yahweh represents the greatness of the God of the Old Covenant, while the New Jerusalem indicates that the presence of God is not in a physical temple in the land of Israel but is the presence of God in the midst of His eternal church. The new name of our Lord seals the glory of the New Covenant binding the Old Covenant and New Covenant people of God together in one.

This promise to the overcomers, then, focuses on the inclusion of each of the elect under the Old and New Covenants who are being built up into the eternal temple where God dwells. The concept that overcomers are set eternally as pillars in the temple of God focuses on the eternal nature of our salvation. Pillars are not temporary items that can be removed. A pillar is an integral part of the temple, that upon which the structural integrity rests. 

The Lord wants us to understand that those who have received the new life through Him, who have His Spirit and power within, and have become living stones (1 Peter 2:5) have been placed in the dwelling place of God (Ephesians 2:21-22). Often throughout the New Testament, the concept of the Church as a living building, an eternal structure, is used to point to the permanence of the salvation that is ours. 

In Revelation, in passages like this one, we find a blending of the idea of the Temple and of the City as though the two are one. That is because, as Revelation 21 and 22 indicate, they are. For we are the Temple of God, the place where the Spirit of God indwells us now. (2 Corinthians 6:16) This is not just a typological concept, but it is a reality. Through the Holy Spirit, we are then connected to one another, by which we are brought into communion with other members of the Church in an unbreakable unity. That it is why it is important, as Paul shared with Timothy, for Christians to understand that their spiritual family is of more lasting importance than the physical family. 

Yet, the Temple image melds into the picture of the New Jerusalem where there is no temple (Revelation 21:22) for the presence of God and of the Lamb is in the midst of His people. There is no longer a need for a mediator, for a sacrifice, or a place of separation of the sacred and secular. This is the promise given to the overcomer, that the God of the Old Covenant and the Savior of the New Covenant seal us forever in Him where we no longer worship in a building of brick and mortar, but the Lord dwells in us and with us.

Knowing this, how then ought we to live? We read in 1 John 3 that those who have this hope purify themselves as He is pure. When you know that you are the Temple of God, that the Spirit dwells in you and will bring you into the eternal Kingdom, how can we live in a way that defiles that temple and brings disgrace to His name? We must seek to be conquerors/overcomers for the glory of God and the honor of His name.


AUGUST 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

AUGUST 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:5-6, ESV)

For some people, shopping for new clothing is looked forward to with glee. Place them in a Macy’s or Penney’s, it doesn’t matter; if they get to try on new clothing, check out new shoe styles, or swimwear, and they might as well be at Saks Fifth Avenue. While everyone does not feel that way, there is something about wearing a new outfit that feels different from a well-worn ensemble.

The church of Sardis had become a dead church. They were all dressed up in their Sunday best, but they were lying in a spiritual coffin with hands folded across their chests. Like manikins in the storefront window, these men and women of Sardis dressed up nicely but had no reality of faith inside.

Those individuals are in sharp contrast to those who, by faith in Jesus Christ, overcame the temptation to compromise their faith under persecution. These true believers, like righteous Lot of old, were “greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7, ESV). These will be clothed in white garments like the High Priest Joshua, in Zechariah 3, whose filthy clothing was removed and clean garments put on by the Lord Himself.

It is important to notice that the white garments are not the good works of the “overcomer,” but they are the righteousness that comes by faith in Jesus Christ. It is Christ Himself who clothes the believers in His righteousness, a righteousness they do not have and do not deserve, but which the Lord provides in place of our filthy rags.

The second promise, given to those in Sardis who overcome, is that their names will never be blotted out of the Book of Life. This Book of Life is mentioned five more times in Revelation: 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. This Book of Life was penned by God before the foundations of the world were set in place. The point of Revelation is that those whose names are found there have been sealed by God in His mercy and grace, have been purchased by the precious blood of the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world, and are therefore secured eternally. 

So why say that their names will never be blotted out of the Book, if there is no possibility of anyone having their name removed? First, this is simply one way of giving assurance; rather than stating it in the positive, it is given in the negative. But there is another biblical reason for such wording. In Exodus 32, after the Israelites had created and worshipped the Golden Calf, Moses interceded with God on their behalf by saying to God, “But now, if you will forgive their sin - but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” God responded that He would remove those who sinned against Him. A similar thought is found in Psalm 69:28. Those, who profess to be believers but are not, will have their names “erased” from the rolls of humanity by God’s judgmental wrath.

Daniel 12:1-2 is the backdrop for the Lamb’s Book of Life found here in Revelation. These are the ones whose names have been written in that Book and engraved in indelible ink. The Lamb’s Book of Life has not and will not be changed from the foundation of the earth until the last individual will be saved by His grace. We are forever secure in Christ.

The three-fold promise ends with the affirmation that Christ will confess their names before His Father and the angels. We see from chapter 20 that all stand before God on the final Day of Judgment and the books are opened, along with the book of Life. All are judged by what they have done in this life and condemned, unless their names are read from the Lamb’s Book of Life. 

What a glorious promise and assurance is ours. We overcome because He has overcome for us. We keep our clothing spotless because He clothes us in Christ’s righteousness. We remain in the Book of Life because Christ claimed us for His own before the Foundation of the World. Our names are confessed before the Father and his angels by our Lord who is not ashamed to call us brothers. Hallelujah, what a Savior!



JULY 2017 PASTOR’S PEN  

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.(Revelation 2:17, ESV)

To the one who conquers… Spiritual victory comes through faith in Jesus Christ. In the seventh of these closing statements to the seven churches, the Lord Jesus states that we overcome as He overcame, that is, because the Lord Jesus overcame, those who believe on Him shall overcome as well. 

This term “overcome” is almost exclusive to John’s writings, appearing only three times in any of the other New Testament writers, but twenty-three times in Johannine writings. The first comes in John 16:33, I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. The other twenty-two times the term “overcome’ is found in 1 John and in Revelation. There the conquering of believers is associated with their having been born again, as we read in 1 John 5:5, Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Thus, in each of these seven churches, to overcome means to be a believer, not to be deceived by the efforts of the Liar/Satan and his minions to keep one from walking by faith in Jesus Christ. All who have truly come to know Christ remain firm to the end through the strength of Him who has already overcome the world for us.

For the Church of Pergamum, awesome promises are given to those who overcome by faith in Jesus Christ. The first promise indicates their participation in Christ who is the Manna come down from heaven. Here the Manna is described as “hidden” because Christ cannot be known and partaken of apart from faith in Him. When we come to true faith in Jesus Christ, the life of Christ which is hidden from the eyes of this world is given to us that we might walk in fellowship with Him.

The second promise has a relationship to the first, for when by faith we partake of the Bread that came down from Heaven, we receive a guarantee of eternal life through the coming of the Holy Spirit. The white stone represents the invitation to a banquet, in this case the wedding banquet of the Lamb. On that stone is written the name given by the adoptive father to His child that gives that child free access to the heavenly banquet.

In Roman culture, if a Roman citizen adopted a slave or an orphan, that citizen would give a new name, a Roman name that gave status, to the child. This is probably the reason that Saul of Tarsus was known as Paul the Apostle. Saul would have represented his birth name as a Hebrew, while Paulus indicated that he was the son of a Roman citizen.

Here in Revelation the promise comes as a personal relationship from God to the true believer. While other Christians may look at an individual and think they are a Christian, only the individual knows whether or not they have received the Holy Spirit as God’s guarantee of eternal life. Our assurance of our relationship with our heavenly Father cannot come by some evangelist or pastor or Sunday School teacher telling us that we are a Christian, it must come from within.That inner witness of the Holy Spirit is referred to by the Apostle Paul as the guarantee or down payment of God’s eternal promises to us as His adoptive children. It is by the presence of the Holy Spirit that we, His children cry, “Abba, Father.” No wonder the Scripture teaches us to test the spirits to see if we are in the faith.

Once Christ, who has overcome the world, has opened our eyes to see the truth and by the Spirit of Revelation has quickened faith within, we become partakers with the other Christians in the One Loaf which is Christ who is the hidden manna. Through Him we receive adoption into this hope, receive a new name as Children of the Most High God, and become citizens of His Kingdom. Through Him we receive the invitation to eternal joy and fellowship as the Bride of Christ. To him be the glory forever and ever, Amen!


JUNE 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11, ESV)

In the Greek myths, the Greek hero, Achilles, was invincible, unable to be wounded because his mother had dipped him in the river Styx, the underworld river. By doing so, she sought to make him immortal, but she held on to his heel, and that part of him was mortal, leaving him vulnerable to the ravages of humanity.

For the Christian, the promise of God exceeds that of even this Greek myth. The Lord has promised that those who overcome will not be hurt ever by the second death. While our bodies in this life are mortal, in the resurrection this mortal will put on immortality and this corruptible will put on incorruptibility. In other words, we will live forever without fear of being injured, wounded, or sick.

The promise in this passage comes to the one who hears. As we saw last month, that indicates that they have ears to hear and a heart to understand. They are Christians. Only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit can persevere unto the end. The Scripture assures us that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Still, the passage here in Revelation 2 insists that one must “conquer.” While the battle is the Lord’s, the fight against the enemy requires us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

So, the one who conquers is the one who will not be hurt by the second death. You are not a warrior if you do not go into battle. In 1 John 2, we read that those who have begun to mature in the Lord, the “young men,” have overcome the Evil One. The Lord did not save us to sit in a rocking chair until He returns. We are called to enter into warfare against the Evil One. 

The promise to those who conquer is immortality. The term “the second death” is mentioned three more times in the book of Revelation: 20:6, 14; 21:8. It is in that final mention that the explanation of the second death is given. “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

There are a number of Christian groups and teachers who have begun to teach that God will not punish people eternally in hell, but instead He will simply annihilate them. That sounds so much nicer. Who wants to consider an eternity of torment for those who are lost? We love to consider that we will live eternally, but some shudder at the thought of such a severe judgment against the wicked. Certainly, they argue, there cannot be a place of fire and eternal torment.

Let’s think about that. What good is a promise to us that we will avoid the “second death” if that death is an instantaneous annihilation? Why not eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we will die, and be annihilated? I had a brother who basically said that: “I will have all my fun first, and then maybe I will think about becoming a Christian.” Why battle temptation, why fight against the “roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,” if there are few consequences for that behavior?

It is essential that we understand that sin has consequences both now and for eternity so that we might fight the good fight of faith, conquer in Jesus’ name, and seek to win others to Christ. For the Church at Smyrna, this promise had powerful meaning since they were facing severe persecution that was similar to what Daniel and his three friends had faced in Babylon six centuries earlier. As Daniel and his friends were tested for ten days, so we as Christians will also face persecution as we live out a godly life. Is it worth it to face that persecution, to suffer, and perhaps die for our faith?

In verse 10, the Lord promised that He would give them the crown of life, and here in verse 11, he promises that while in overcoming they will not be touched by the fires of hell, the very ones who are persecuting them will suffer for eternity. So, ask yourself, “Is it worth living for Jesus and suffering in this world for His name sake, with the promise of life forevermore?” Remain firm in the face of persecution knowing that while the Lord sustains you through your suffering, those who persecute you will receive their just reward.

 

 MAY 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7, ESV)

For the past year, these Pastor’s Pens have examined the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. First, we looked at the central message to each of the churches. Then we looked at how Jesus introduced Himself to the seven churches. For the next seven articles, we will discuss the promises given to each of the churches, beginning with the verse above

Imagine living in a world where no one had ears. It would be a world without music, without videos and DVDs, no YouTube or Vimeo tracks. Sunday morning services would be a whole lot shorter, since we could eliminate the music, the reading of announcements, and the sermon. Arguments would be mostly eliminated, since no one would bother to raise their voices, because no one could hear anyway.

The closing exhortation of all seven letters begins the same way in each: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” This lets us know that, while the messages had a unique bearing to the specific congregations to which the Lord spoke, in a deeper sense the message to one is a message to all churches. This is not a new message, but comes to us from Isaiah 6:9-10, and is reiterated by Jesus multiple times in the Gospels.

Those who hear have received the Holy Spirit and are being taught the things of God. They are not, as James warned, “hearers only,” but they are those who hear and respond. The Elect are revealed as those who have ears to hear and hearts that obey, while those who refuse to hear and respond are lost, separated from God. They have stopped up their ears, like those responsible for the stoning of Stephen. The Scripture tells us that Satan deafens the ears making it impossible to hear and follow God’s voice apart from the empowering work of the Holy Spirit.

The one who has ears to hear reveals the ability to know and understand the truth by his or her actions: “To the one who conquers.” Other translations have “To the one who overcomes.” It is virtually impossible to overcome or conquer an enemy if you do not know who they are or what they are doing. Thus, one must first have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches before he or she will have the ability to overcome. If we do not have ears to hear, then there is no warning that we are in danger. The train may blow the whistle, the tornado siren may be sounding, but the one who cannot hear has no way of knowing and understanding the trouble they face.

The one who overcomes, who conquers, is the one who has ears to hear, and as a result they receive eternal life. “I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” In the Garden of Eden, God had spoken to Adam that he and his partner Eve were to heed God’s command. While Adam heard the words spoken by God and passed those words on to Eve, neither of them grasped the message behind the words. They knew how to spit back out the saying of the Lord, but they had no spiritual understanding of the meaning. So, when the enemy, that Great Serpent the Devil, came to them, they failed to overcome/conquer him with the resultant loss of the Tree of Life.

In the new Covenant, those who have received the spiritual ears to hear, who respond in faith and obedience, are restored to the Garden of Eden and thus have the right to eat of the Tree of Life. In this passage, there is no object to the command to overcome. It is not that we are to overcome temptation or overcome Satan or overcome heretics. This is a reference back to the issue Christ warned the Church at Ephesus about: they had lost their first love. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, the fresh fellowship with the Lord who walked with them in the cool of the evening had grown stale. Thus, they were not on their guard against the wiles of the enemy; they fell and were cast out of the Garden unable to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life.

It is not so much the fact that our temptations are so severe or that the heresies are so subtle that cause us to fall. We fall because we have failed to enjoy the sweet fellowship with Christ which makes us dull of hearing, and we fall for the enemy’s deceitful schemes. So, return to your first love, fellowship with the Lord in sweet communion, so that whatever lies the enemy speaks in your ear, you can overcome them and remain in that place of dear fellowship with the Lord for all of eternity. Amen.


APRIL 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.” (Revelation 3:14, ESV)

Imagine being present to watch as God created the world. In the C. S. Lewis Tales of Narnia book, The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis describes the creating of life on Narnia, as seen by those who had ended up there accidently from earth as Aslan sang the world into place. The description is spine tingling and powerfully allegorical.

While we may not have had front row seats for the creation of this present universe, the Bible teaches that we do have front row seats for the new creation. The promise of a new creation was reiterated several times in the book of Isaiah which we just finished studying on Sunday mornings. The promises God made through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel began to find its fruition in the coming of Jesus Christ through whom, by faith, we are born again, recreated in Christ Jesus. Yet, this is just a foretaste of the promised New Heavens and New Earth, the ultimate conclusion of the recreation.

Twice in Isaiah 65 (note that in Isaiah 65:16 amen is the name for God), and then in 2 Peter 3:13, and Revelation 21:1, the Scriptures speak of this new creation, and it is to that the Lord speaks in these opening words to the Church of Laodicea. Since John has taken most of these introductions to each of the seven churches from what is found in Revelation 1, we can understand that these terms for Christ are expansions on Revelation 1:5, Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

The death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ put to death the old creation and was the beginning of the new creation (i.e. “the new covenant in My blood”). As the firstborn from the dead, Jesus Christ is the first in the new creation, and we too belong to this new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) through faith in Him (Colossians 1:15ff.). The word translated as ruler in Revelation 1:5 comes from the same root word as beginning here in 3:14. In his incredible play on words and reorienting of concepts, whether from the Old Testament or from chapter 1, John is reinterpreting the whole of the Old Testament promises of God to Israel as being done in Christ Himself, who is the Amen, the Yes of God (2 Corinthians 1:20).

This declaration of Jesus Christ as the Amen (meaning final true word), the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation is the foundation of the correction leveled at the Church of Laodicea for its lukewarmness. How can Christians, who through Jesus Christ have entered into this new creation, continue to live as if life on this planet will go on forever? When Christians grasp the significance of whom Jesus Christ is and what He inaugurated through the New Covenant in His blood, it is impossible to sit comfortably as couch potatoes going on in pursuit of life’s pleasures as our main goal in life.

In the verses that follow, Jesus Christ lets the Laodicean Christians know that He is the Faithful and True Witness before whom they will stand one day as Judge. Should they fail to take the Gospel seriously and live for the pleasures of this world, He will bear witness against them. Instead they, and we, are called to become faithful and true witnesses with Him as part of the new creation, bearing witness to a lost and dying world.

The church in America is in danger of being spit out by the Lord. We need an inpouring of the Amen, a strengthening from the One who is the Faithful and True Witness, in order that we might not become swallowed up by the seeming innocuous participation in the world around us. Through entertainment and politics, the American Church has lost its uniqueness. Rather than revealing the shining light of the New Creation, the Church is in danger of being a flickering lamp, casting more shadows than clarity on the differences between the old creation and the new.

Let us pray that the Spirit of Christ will trim the wicks on our lamps, empower us as faithful and true witnesses to the power of the New Creation and that many may come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Then we can say with the biblical writers – Amen and Amen to Him who is the life, light, and the Firstborn over all Creation.


MARCH 2017 PASTOR’S PEN 

Pastor Chris Gardner

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7, ESV)

Pilate once asked life’s toughest question: “What is truth?” Jesus answered that for us in John 17 and in John 14. “Your Word is truth,” He said in John 17:17, and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” was His teaching in John 14:6. 

So Jesus speaks to this church of Philadelphia by introducing Himself as the Holy One, the True One. This reference to the Holy One goes back to the book of Isaiah where nearly 20 times Yahweh is called The Holy One of Israel. It is a saying almost unique to Isaiah. God alone speaks truth and cannot lie because He is the Holy One, perfect and pure in all His ways. This Holy One, this True One, alone has the right to be the Judge of the whole earth. That is why this is also the name written on the One riding the white horse of vengeance in Revelation 19.

Yet, this Holy and True One also has the Key of David. This too comes from the book of Isaiah, where Eliakim is prophetically given the key of David that he might open and no one shut or shut and no one open. In Isaiah 22, however, in the end, Eliakim fails and the fulfillment awaits the coming of the true Messiah.

Only God Himself, then, can know truly those who may enter the Kingdom, and can faithfully open the door to eternity or shut out those who do not belong. This introduction in verse 7 is a reference to the all-knowing and all-perfect wisdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the eternal Son of God come in the flesh. As the passage goes on to indicate, He knows the true believers in Philadelphia and the liars who call themselves Jews, but are not.

For those of us who have received eternal life from Jesus Christ, we have this assurance that the Lord knows those who are His. In each church, there are those who are fake Christians, who believe they will get into heaven because of their good deeds or by saying or doing the right things. The Lord does not look at their outward actions or listen to their pious words. He knows the heart. Unless He opens the door, they are eternally lost, even when they try to justify themselves by claiming to have done things in His name.

I have often been asked if I believe that someone can lose their salvation. That is a difficult question, not because the answer is hard. It is a yes or no question. But if I answer it by saying, “No, a person cannot lose his or her salvation,” then what I get is the individual who responds by living in sin, then says, “I know I have lost my blessings here on earth, but I will still go to heaven.” That is just plain false.

Yet, I cannot say yes, I believe an individual can lose his or her salvation, or I am in danger of denying the power of the Lord Jesus Christ to keep all that the Father has given Him. It is foolishness to think that anyone, me included, is stronger than the One who says that no one can snatch the believer out of His hand. So what can we do?

We can affirm two truths found in this promise to the Church of Philadelphia. The Holy One, the True One, can never make a mistake. He knows those who are His and has known them from eternity. He is the Judge of the whole earth and He will do what is right. He will not permit those who live a life of sin and rebellion to enter His Kingdom and pollute it, no matter how much they attempt to claim the right to come in.

He is also the One who has the Keys to the Kingdom, and once He opens the door of salvation for you, no one can close that door. He will close it to those who do not belong to Him, but to those who are His, those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the earth, who have been purchased by His own precious blood and who have been given to him by His Father, He will in no wise cast out. They are sealed by His Spirit, washed in His blood, adopted into His family, and secure in His love. That is the promise to Philadelphia and to us.

 

FEBRUARY 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

Pastor Chris Gardner

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.’ (Revelation 3:1, ESV)

The reader of the book of Revelation has to be a discerner of imagery, a student of the Old Testament, and a theologian in order to grasp the meaning of much that is written there. Either that or have a good library of trustworthy commentaries that will help one discover the meaning of much that is written there. For over a year, we have looked at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. More recently in that study, we have examined the way the Lord introduces Himself to each of the churches.

The message of our Lord to the Church at Sardis begins by describing the Lord in this two-fold capacity that has become familiar to us in the first three out of four churches we looked at so far. He is the One who “has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” These two phrases come from chapter 1 where the seven stars are described as the messengers of the seven churches to whom these letters would be distributed and the seven spirits are expanded on in chapters 4 and 5.

Yet this book is not the first place the concept of the seven spirits appears. It is also in Zechariah 4:2-7. There the image of the seven lampstands mentioned earlier in Revelation is connected to the work of the Holy Spirit coming upon God’s people in order to overcome the brokenness of the people of God and the reestablishment of the community of God as it would influence the world. We find from Zechariah and from the reference in Revelation 5 that the fire of the lampstands, which are equated with the seven horns and the seven eyes, all represent different aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit.

The seven stars, we have seen earlier in our studies, are not seven angels, for angels cannot fall, cannot sin any more, nor can they be cast out. So, the seven stars represent the messengers or elders of the churches. They have the responsibility of holding the church accountable, of making sure that the church remains faithful and holy.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit through the church leaders that awakens the people of God, impassioning us in His service. That is how a Church grows from death to life, from having simply a good reputation and instead becoming a living, vital ministry through which God’s Spirit turns the mountains that oppose God into level ground (Zechariah 4).

Sardis was a church asleep, slowly fading into irrelevance. It is easy for a church to become so internally focused that it fails to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. To avoid that danger, a local church has to constantly be listening to the Spirit of the Lord, who as the “seven eyes before the throne,” is searching the world constantly for those who will serve the Lord with passion for His glory.

In the end, the responsibility for the failure of a church to be alive is with the Seven Stars meaning the church leadership. Like watchmen on the walls of Sardis who fall asleep and let the enemy slip into the city, so pastors and church leaders who become so focused on programming and success that they fail to maintain evangelism, discipleship, and holiness will open the church to false teaching and spiritual inactivity.

Pray for the leaders of Metropolitan Baptist Church. We do not want to fail to heed the Holy Spirit, who is the fire of God that sets the candlestick alight with the passion of God. Intercede on our behalf so that we do not become lazy, too busy, or fail to focus on the things that really matter. With a building as old as our church structure, and the many needs for repair, we can become distracted by the many things and miss out on the one thing that truly matters, creating a passionate pursuit of God’s glory among the members and friends here at MBC.



JANUARY 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

Pastor Chris Gardner

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyeslike a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.’ (Revelation 2:18, ESV)

It is images that strike terror into the hearts of movie goers. Red flaming eyes are generally portrayed as evil. In the Star Wars movies, the dark side had the red saber light swords, while the good guys had cool blue. Haunted houses flare bright with red eyes appearing through walls, and demon movies always have fire coming from the mouth and eyes of the demons.

I am not sure when all of that became the theme of evil, but I understand the idea of terror that lies behind the flaming eyes. It comes from passages like this one in the Bible. Starting with Psalm 29:7, The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire, the Scripture relates the flames of fire with the Word of God. Notice how the text above begins with The words of the Son of God. In the final passage from Isaiah, in chapter 66, verse 15, we read, For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. Here again, the fire is associated with His words of rebuke. But the most significant passage is from Daniel 10:6, His eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze. There Daniel has the same response John has in collapsing and falling down as though dead, unable to speak in the presence of this majestic holiness.

Then we come to Revelation, and three times this phrase, His eyes are like a flame of fire, appears. The first comes from Revelation 1:14, a passage describing the awesomeness of the fullness of Christ, which so terrified John he fell down as though dead. The second is here in our text to the church of Thyatira. The final passage is Revelation 19:12, the terrifying passage about the Lord’s destructive attack against His enemies resulting in the massacre of the nations. Seeing how Revelation 1 and Revelation 19 have portrayed the Lord as terrifying that would suggest that we see this statement to the Church of Thyatira in the same way.

This connection of God’s Word with the flaming torches for eyes is meant to reveal to us that the holiness of Jesus Christ is so glorious that whenever He looks upon His Church, He purifies us through His Word. Where He sees sin among His people, He consumes it in the fire of His holiness. The church of Thyatira had individuals speaking falsehoods about God and His Word. It was not hidden from His sight. The all seeing, holy, Savior will not long tolerate sin and heresy, but will purge it from His sight.

Jesus warns the church of Thyatira, And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. Consider that, in this New Year. The Lord Jesus Christ has His eyes on you and me and Metropolitan. With eyes of flaming fire, He searches the thoughts and intents of our heart, of our actions, of our church. We have just finished with Christmas. He saw everything about this season that you and I did, thought, how we acted, how we felt. Most of all, He looked on what we did with His birthday.

Think back, my friends. How did you celebrate His Special Day? Did you spend Advent, the 4 weeks before Christmas meditating on the glories of God and of His Christ? Have you come through this holy season rejoicing in a deeper fellowship with the Lord? Did you spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day focused on the wonder of what God did in sending His Son to us? This is not meant to make you feel self-righteous or feel guilty. I simply want us to consider whether we recognize that nothing is hidden from His eyes of holiness.

As we enter the New Year, we can all make a resolution that has great value. The Apostle Paul says that bodily exercise profits little, so let’s not fool ourselves into believing that we will make it to the gym five days a week in this New Year. What we can and should do is refocus our thoughts and actions to line up with those of our Lord. Will you commit to being more faithful in the study of God’s Word, in fellowship with His people, and in sharing the Good News with others? Will we pledge to seek first His Kingdom and righteousness in 2017?

It might sound creepy, even terrifying, to consider that the Lord has His eyes on us 24/7, to consider that He sees even the thoughts and intents of our heart. If we do, however, we will hear the promise the Lord made to Thyatira Christians, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. May this be your best year yet walking with Jesus.




DECEMBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.’ (Revelation 2:12, ESV)

Mythical movies, that feature dragons, knights on horseback, battles between magicians, and incredible warfare with swords, stir the imagination. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Tales of Narnia series, and more make for exciting reading or watching. Stories of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician fire the desire to see the good win out and evil vanquished.

Such a desire is not new. It has been around for millennia. It is in this view of the world that the Apostle John writes the Book of Revelation. It is filled with mythical creatures, apparent lost causes, Gods in the heavens and demons under the earth, all caught up in this glorious and terrible battle for the souls of humanity. 

This death struggle pits the Church against the Dragon, the false prophet and the beast. Who will win and how do they win? It is a thrilling, nail-biter, unless you know the end of the story. Like those who had read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy before seeing the movies, the great animations and titanic struggles were a bit anticlimactic because we knew how it would end. That is not to say that watching the movies didn’t stir the pulse, they did, but you knew how it was going to end, who was to be killed, and how every cliff hanger would be resolved.

The book of Revelation is such a story. Once we have read the end of the book, we know that every time it seems that the Church is about to be destroyed, God will rescue it. Yet the startling imagery catches us by surprise, and we find it difficult to get past the images to their meaning. Our verse in Revelation 2:12 helps us grasp some of the ways to look at the rest of the book.

The church at Pergamum was caught in an anti-Christian city, surrounded by false Jewish faiths and temples to the Roman gods, along with Emperor worship. How could they possibly survive in those early years of Christianity when the Emperor Domitian had set out to wipe them out? One of the ways some of the false teachers in the church taught the believers to survive was to just mix in with the crowd. Go to the temples, say that Caesar is Lord, and they would not have to die like Antipas had. 

It is against those false teachers that Jesus identifies Himself as the One who has the sharp two-edged sword. In chapter One, we learned that the sharp two-edged sword was coming from His mouth. Then in verse 15, Jesus states, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. Here is that strange, mysterious imagery. What kind of battle and what kind of warrior is this that has a sword for a tongue?

Most of us, when reading this, immediately recognize that Jesus is not speaking of an actual sword; He is talking about the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. False teachers will be brought down by the teaching of biblical truth. As Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness by the Word of God, so the enemies of the Gospel will always be destroyed by that same means. Someone said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Jesus would agree, if that pen is the writing of God’s truth. Christians cannot survive by weapons of this world, by swords or guns.Instead, we will overcome by the Word of God. The rest of the images, then, in the book of Revelation ought to be seen in the same light. The radical descriptions of beasts and monsters have the same interpretations of spiritual truths and realities, rather than literal meanings. This same Jesus, who would destroy the Balaam and Nicolaitan followers of John’s day, will defeat all other enemies led by the dragon Satan through the truth of His Word (see chapter 12).

Thus, it behooves us to be students of the Word, to memorize, meditate on, and study the Word so that we might use it to defeat the enemies of God, whether religious or governmental. In the end, the Church is victorious, not because we are physically stronger or wiser, but because the Word of Truth is more powerful.




NOVEMBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. (Revelation 2:8, ESV)

In our last month’s examination of the Lord Jesus Christ as He introduced Himself to the churches in Revelation 2:1, we understood that He is both the Sovereign Lord who upholds the church by His mighty hand, and the one who walks among the churches to prune and even cut down those not bearing fruit. In other words, He is both transcendent (existing apart from creation), and imminent (coming into creation).

To the church at Smyrna, the Lord reveals two other aspects of His character. The church of Smyrna received no rebukes from the Lord. Like Daniel, they would be tested for ten days to see if their God could keep them from being defiled. The Lord promised that they would remain strong, even under persecution. To this church, the Lord reveals Himself as the One who is eternal (the First and the Last), and the One who lived in this world and suffered what they suffered (who died and came to life).

We are in the midst of a terrible election cycle. The American people are trying to decide for whom they will cast their vote. In doing so, they want to know who can protect them the best, while also wanting to know who will best relate to their life situation. Donald Trump claims he will be the best at protecting us by building a wall and a strong military. Hillary Clinton says she is the one who can keep us safe, in spite of Benghazi and the Iraq/Syria debacle, by merging our nation with the rest of the world in building world peace. Neither has a good record to build on.

Jesus Christ, however, has an excellent record. As the eternal Son of God, He was before all things and will endure to the end of time and beyond. He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. Because He is eternal, He is not affected by the fluctuations of this created world nor of its politics. The outworking of God’s eternal purposes is sure and undeniable, no matter what happens in the day to day affairs of this planet.

Yet, we do not have a High Priest that cannot be touched by our infirmities. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump can relate to the problems of the everyday American. In Christ, though, God became man. He has experienced all that we have gone through. He lived and He died. No one can say about the Lord that He does not know what we have to face. From birth to death, Jesus endured the hardships and persecutions that are part of the human experience.

Those church members in Smyrna lived in a city whose government and religions hated them. The culture sought to make them conform, even imprisoning them for refusing to fit in. It was so severe, we read in verse 10, Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.

The reference to being tested for ten days takes us back to the book of Daniel, who resolved in his heart, along with his three companions, not to defile himself. For ten days they were tested, and came out stronger and better. While the Lord makes that reference, He also warns the church that they may not be spared as Daniel was; they may face death. Were they willing to do so? If they did, He promised them the Crown of Life.

We live in a culture that is doing everything it can to force Christians to conform. There is open animosity toward those who would hold to biblical ethics. Should Hillary Clinton be elected, these policies against the godly will intensify. Yet, no matter who is elected, until there is a change in our educational and legal systems, Christians will still have to endure ongoing persecution. That is why it is so important that we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the Eternal One whose purposes will stand through all of time, and the One who has suffered with us and for us.

Only then will we, as a church and as individual believers, stay committed to the truth for the “ten days” of testing. It is encouraging to know that there is a limit to that tribulation. Ten days does not mean that it will literally be ten, but that it is a temporary time. For those who covenant not to defile themselves with the king’s food (the anti-God culture), we have the promise that as Jesus was raised from the dead to eternal life, so we will share in that eternity with Him.


OCTOBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands…” (Revelation 2:1, ESV)

In our continuing look at the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, it is time to consider who the letters are from. In Revelation 1, John tells us that he has received this revelation of/about/concerning Jesus Christ, and then beginning in chapter 1 verse 10, the glorious description of our resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ astounds us. Then, each of the seven letters to the churches begin with the Lord telling us about Himself.

In the verse above, we learn two ministries by which we understand how our Lord relates now to His church. He holds us and He walks among us. These two aspects of His ministry balance one another out.

As a church, and as members of this church, we rejoice in knowing that the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, who has overcome even death itself, holds us by His very own power. No wonder Jesus said that the Gates of Hell could not prevail over His Church. Those seven churches were part of the growing body of believers that were saved thorough the precious blood of the cross.

When Jimmy Carter was president, I did not feel safe as an American. His weak international policies led to the US Embassy in Iran being overrun and the staff being held hostage. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days. Other events, including the failed attempt to extricate them because our military equipment was so outdated, made Americans realize that our leaders could not protect us.

However, as soon as Ronald Reagan was elected president, the hostages were released, and within a short time Americans felt safe to travel again. Strong leadership gave us a sense of security. There is no stronger leader than Jesus Christ, who has overcome even death itself, defeated Satan, and won the eternal victory for those who are His. We rest in that assurance.

On the other hand, He walks among the Candlesticks. The Lord Jesus is not an absentee landlord. He is intimately involved in His church, which is His bride. Some husbands couldn’t tell you what is going on in their wives lives. Our Lord loves His bride, the Church. He walks among the candlesticks informs us that He genuinely cares about what is happening.

In the Gospel of John, we are compared to a vineyard, where the owner passes through it, trimming away the dead branches, pulling the weeds, pruning the healthy vines. So our Savior walks among His church, looking for what can be destructive, burning dead wood, and causing the rest to bear good fruit.

That is why, at the end of five of the seven letters, He warns those churches that He will pull up their candlestick. He looks past our outward facades and sees the heart of the church leaders, as well as that of the church members. As we read in several of these letters, the churches appeared on the outside to be healthy, but they failed to meet the Lord’s standard, so He warned them to repent or be wiped out. As God sought to cleanse Israel and Judah through the exile and captivity, so our Lord Jesus still seeks to purify His Church.

In the end, we realize that for those who are God’s children, they are safe and secure, held in the right hand of his power. We rest assured that nothing can separate us from His love. Yet, such is not the guarantee for a local church. The Lord walks in our midst. Jesus stated that wherever two or three are gathered in His name He is in our midst. The church is called to be the Pillar and Foundation of the truth. When, in the midst of our culture, the church fails to remain pure and holy, then the Lord Jesus uproots that ministry so that His name is not undermined and His bride remains holy.

The Lord has watched over Metropolitan. He has kept us for 42 years. We have much to be grateful for as we see what has occurred during that time. Yet, no local congregation can rest on past laurels. The Holy God walks among us, and He is ready to either prune us to improve us or cut us off if we are not bearing fruit. As members and friends of Metropolitan, may you become a fruitful member that together we might bear good fruit for His kingdom.



SEPTEMBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write... (Revelation 2:1 ESV)

Revelation 2 and 3 contain seven letters, each one addressed to “the angel of the church in…”

A great deal of discussion has gone into determining what is meant by the angel of the church. Over the centuries, some have thought that it is a guardian angel of the church, similar to the angel described in Daniel 10 set over different nations. This seems unlikely, however for several significant reasons.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel and the arch-angel Michael are identified, but not as being guardians of a nation. While there may be demonic powers associated with a nation or king, we cannot glean such support from the Scriptures regarding angels guarding nations.

Second, and more significantly, Jesus Christ addresses the angels of the churches when he lists the failings of the church. Since angels have been perfected and can no longer fall from God’s grace, then an angel could not be told that he has sinned and will be cast out of God’s presence.

Since the Greek word, “angelos,” translated in most Bibles as angel, means messenger, whether human, angelic, or divine, it is best to see these individuals as the head Elder or Bishop of the Church in that community. This makes far more sense that the leader of the congregation would be held responsible for the growth or failing of the ministry.

It is notable that in every church, one leader is addressed, even though in the five churches that receive a rebuke, that leader is not the perpetrator of the wrongdoing. In other words, the Lord Jesus holds those in authority responsible for failing to guard the unity, holiness, doctrinal purity, and vibrancy of that local church.

This is no different from the letters the Apostle Paul wrote to some congregations 30 to 40 years earlier. In Philippians 4, he exhorts the “Yokefellow” to intervene in a dispute that was dividing the church. The Elder John, in 3 John claims that the leader of that congregation, Diotrophes, was misleading the congregation and John would soon deal with him. James warns the teachers of the church that they would be held to a higher standard of judgment from God. Paul warns Timothy and Titus to be wise in selecting Elders for the same reason.

We recently held a mandatory Christian Education staff meeting. At the meeting, we shared the new Church security and safety procedures. Those procedures cover such things as protecting the personal property of the church, creating a hazard free facility, and how to deal with various emergencies including medical, fire, bomb threats, active weapon situation, and protestors. These are serious issues that the church needs to be prepared to face.

Yet, these are not the issues Jesus Christ warned the leaders of the churches about. It was the spiritual issues - the passion for God’s glory, the protection of the doctrines, and the purity of the congregation - that raised red flags for the Lord. When the Apostle Paul addressed the Elders of the church in Ephesus recorded in Acts 20, he too failed to mention one thing about church safety or security, policy statements, and the like. He did speak strongly to them about guarding their own spiritual fervency and walk and that of the congregation they oversaw.

We can learn two lessons from this. First, for those in any position of authority whether you serve in the nursery, music ministry, Christian Education, or as an Elder or Deacon, you have been entrusted with a great responsibility. Remain faithful and fervent. Second, the whole congregation has a responsibility of maintaining a high standard in selecting those who will lead.

As members of MBC, each one must take seriously your role in helping elect or appoint people to any position. For that reason, the Elder Board has established a policy that all church workers are required to participate in one of our discipleship ministries on a regular basis as a student if they want to continue to serve. Anyone who does not participate regularly as a student will be asked to step down so that they might be fed spiritually. We do not want the Lord to spit us out!


AUGUST 2016 PASTOR’S PEN by Pastor Chris Gardner

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV)

We just finished examining aspects of the seven church letters found in Revelation 2 and 3. These letters are addressed to specific churches in Asia Minor, in the Roman province of Asia. As the apostle John wrote to each of those churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he made the comments pertinent to aspects of their actual communities.

The Bible is designed to be pertinent to the lives of the people to whom the books were actually addressed in biblical times. Yet, because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, what was written there for the people of that time has definite application to the lives of Christians in every generation. Since God exists outside of time, and sees all time at once, He is able to control what was written back then so that it has a timeless application.

That is why, at the end of each of the seven letters to specific churches of the first century, the Holy Spirit directed John to add a phrase similar to the one above. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV) “Churches” is in the plural, a reminder to them, and to us, that what one church faces, the whole body of Christ faces. The blessings directed toward one church also are directed to the whole Body of Christ.

We have made that application clear for the past seven months as we applied the principles of these seven letters to us here in the 21st century. While the applications may be different in our generation than they were in the first century church, the principles remain the same. And what is true of these seven letters is true of the whole of Scripture.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10 that what was recorded in the Old Testament was written so that the Church of his day would learn from the errors and the righteousness of the Old Testament people. It is for this reason that every Christian needs to immerse himself or herself in the Word of God and in prayer. A failure to be a disciple of the Word will lead to failure in the Christian life

John recorded what the Spirit had to say to the churches in Asia Minor in those two chapters of Revelation. That same Holy Spirit inspired every passage of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, from Matthew to Revelation. Every word, every phrase comes from the Spirit of God and is, therefore, as powerful and trustworthy as the messages we find in Revelation 2 and 3.

When Pastors, Church leaders, and Bible study facilitators encourage you to read the Word of God, they do so, not to make our faith legalistic, but because we truly know that the Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). Some secular and even Christian books might be so well written that they make you cry or laugh or feel fear. While the Bible can do the same thing, the Bible goes well beyond even biographies. While it is the true life experiences of sinners and saints alike, that is not what makes it inspired. Instead, as the very Word of God, the words come alive within us, empowered by the Holy Spirit and working as actively in us as any form of medicine, once taken. 

To hear, then, what the Spirit has spoken to the Churches means not just to have audio or visual relationship to the Word. It means that individuals, you and me, knowing that God is speaking with power and might through His Word, open up our hearing and seeing to be receptive to God’s power within us, activated through the hearing of the Word. Paul wrote to the Romans that faith comes, or is awakened, through hearing and hearing through the Word of God.

So, if you wish to grow into a godly man or woman, if you wish to become passionate for God’s glory, then open the Word, immerse yourself in it, hunger for it, and live. To have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches will create a love for God, a love for His Word, and a love for His way.


June 2016, Pastor's Pen by Pastor Chris Gardner

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV)

We just finished examining aspects of the seven church letters found in Revelation 2 and 3. These letters are addressed to specific churches in Asia Minor, in the Roman province of Asia. As the apostle John wrote to each of those churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he made the comments pertinent to aspects of their actual communities.

The Bible is designed to be pertinent to the lives of the people to whom the books were actually addressed in biblical times. Yet, because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, what was written there for the people of that time has definite application to the lives of Christians in every generation. Since God exists outside of time, and sees all time at once, He is able to control what was written back then so that it has a timeless application.

That is why, at the end of each of the seven letters to specific churches of the first century, the Holy Spirit directed John to add a phrase similar to the one above. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV) “Churches” is in the plural, a reminder to them, and to us, that what one church faces, the whole body of Christ faces. The blessings directed toward one church also are directed to the whole Body of Christ.

We have made that application clear for the past seven months as we applied the principles of these seven letters to us here in the 21st century. While the applications may be different in our generation than they were in the first century church, the principles remain the same. And what is true of these seven letters is true of the whole of Scripture.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10 that what was recorded in the Old Testament was written so that the Church of his day would learn from the errors and the righteousness of the Old Testament people. It is for this reason that every Christian needs to immerse himself or herself in the Word of God and in prayer. A failure to be a disciple of the Word will lead to failure in the Christian life.

John recorded what the Spirit had to say to the churches in Asia Minor in those two chapters of Revelation. That same Holy Spirit inspired every passage of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, from Matthew to Revelation. Every word, every phrase comes from the Spirit of God and is, therefore, as powerful and trustworthy as the messages we find in Revelation 2 and 3.

When Pastors, Church leaders, and Bible study facilitators encourage you to read the Word of God, they do so, not to make our faith legalistic, but because we truly know that the Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). Some secular and even Christian books might be so well written that they make you cry or laugh or feel fear. While the Bible can do the same thing, the Bible goes well beyond even biographies. While it is the true life experiences of sinners and saints alike, that is not what makes it inspired. Instead, as the very Word of God, the words come alive within us, empowered by the Holy Spirit and working as actively in us as any form of medicine, once taken.

To hear, then, what the Spirit has spoken to the Churches means not just to have audio or visual relationship to the Word. It means that individuals, you and me, knowing that God is speaking with power and might through His Word, open up our hearing and seeing to be receptive to God’s power within us, activated through the hearing of the Word. Paul wrote to the Romans that faith comes, or is awakened, through hearing and hearing through the Word of God.

So, if you wish to grow into a godly man or woman, if you wish to become passionate for God’s glory, then open the Word, immerse yourself in it, hunger for it, and live. To have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches will create a love for God, a love for His Word, and a love for His way.


I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8, ESV)

When Noah, his family, and all the creatures of the earth had entered into the ark, the Bible tells us that God shut the door. I know when I was younger, if I got mad at someone in my family, I would go to my room and slam the door so that everyone in the house knew I was upset. I also often got in trouble for doing so! Shutting the door, though, did not do a lot, since none of the bedroom doors had locks, and I shared the bedroom with my two brothers.

There were many times that I wished I had the power to shut the door so no one could come in. Here, in this letter to the Church of Philadelphia, God claims the power to open doors that no one can shut and shut doors so that no one can open them. Right now the door is open. That means, as Paul wrote elsewhere, “Today is the day of salvation.” No matter how many Isis threats and beheadings occur, the door of salvation remains open and thousands of former Muslims have walked through that door.

What is true in Iraq and Syria is true here in Bensonhurst as well. I hear people say that the city people are too hard to reach, that the new people coming into our community have their own religions, or that the English speakers in our neighborhood aren’t interested in religion. The news media and the national polls tell us that many people are either atheist or agnostic anymore. In other words, we are being told that the door has closed. America has become post-Christian.

So who are we going to believe, the news media or the Word of God? Jesus said that He has opened the door and no one can shut it. So why are so few becoming Christians? Why are people moving away from Christianity? Because the Church across America has become weak! I know that you have but little power…, Jesus told the Philadelphia Church.

The problem, then, is not in whether the Gospel still has the power to save or Jesus has the ability to keep the door of salvation wide open. The problem is with the Church. Many churches across America have forgotten the power of God and are turning to their own power, using programs and gimmicks to get people to come. The power of God, through the proclamation of the Gospel, remains just as powerful as it was in the first century. Do we believe that?There are numerous churches, across this country, that are seeing great numbers of people become disciples of Jesus Christ. In spite of this so called post-Christian atmosphere, they believe that the door is wide open, and they go out with that conviction to invite people to know their Savior and Lord. They are not ashamed of the Gospel.I see that happening more and more here at Metropolitan. Some in this congregation have remembered the promise of God to save whoever will come to Him. So they are going out on prayer walks in the community, passing out Bibles on street corners, distributing TrueLife business cards, and sharing the Good News whenever God gives them the opportunity. As a result, we are seeing men and women come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, getting baptized and joining the Church.Like the Church in Philadelphia, our Lord Jesus has looked on Metropolitan and said, I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. We may not be the largest church in Brooklyn, but God is revealing His power among us. We are seeing people healed, families restored, the lost coming to Christ, and God is being glorified. I invite all who have been sitting on the sidelines to join in with what God is doing now. Ignore the naysayers, and join in with us to see what God will do in MBC in the coming year.

May, 2016 the Pastor's Pen  by Pastor Chris Gardner

I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don*t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. (Revelation 3:1b-3, ESV)

In our study of Isaiah, the passage for last Sunday and for this Sunday, May 1, both begin with the word “Awake.” The timing of this fifth in the series on the churches of Revelation could not have come at a more apropos time. “Wake up” was the word of our Lord Jesus to the church in Sardis, an important city in the Roman province of Asia, today’s western end of Turkey.

Sardis served as the capitol of the Lydian Empire during the time when Assyria and Babylon were the powers in the east. It controlled most of Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean Sea. After the Persians had overthrown Babylon, they turned their attention toward the Lydian Empire. When they arrived at Sardis, they could not take the city because it was high up on a hilltop. The city fell, eventually, because the guards, who were supposed to be awake and watching, fell asleep. A similar event occurred later in their history.

So Jesus’ words to them to “Awake” resonated powerfully with the people of this city, as did those final words, If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and the armies of Sanballat and Tobiah threatened them, we are told that guards were set all around the city, and the people who slept, slept with their clothes on and their weapons at hand. That is the way to prevent being taken by surprise.

As Christians, we need to be constantly on guard. We live in an enemy territory. The god of this age, Satan, is going around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Roaring lions create panic and fear among their prey. Yet, at least when a lion is roaring, you can be prepared. It is the stalking lion that is more dangerous. We read in Scripture that we need to be on the alert because Satan comes as an angel of light, pretending to be on our side.

Therein lies the greater danger for us as Christians. It is doubtful that most Christians will fall for open blatant sin. If a college professor declares God is dead, few in this church would give in to such a blatant challenge to our faith. Yet, quite often Christians get lulled to sleep spiritually by the hypnotic influences of the media and entertainment. Our daily lives grow monotonous with work, school, and the rest of our routine, so we become complacent in the spiritual disciplines.

While that is understandable, it is also dangerous for us as believers. A failure to daily meditate on God’s Word, or to pray without ceasing, or to find joy in fellowshipping together leads to spiritual sleep. That is when the enemy takes us unaware, and we fall into sin. The people of Sardis knew about long term sieges and the danger of the guards falling asleep. As Christians, we too have seen brothers and sisters in Christ, even spiritual leaders, who have fallen spiritually.

We need to wake up. Peter told the church in his second epistle that he wrote those letters to stimulate them to wholesome thinking. In other words, First and Second Peter were written to be a cup of coffee in the morning. That is true for all the books of the Bible.

Jude claimed that he had intended to write to his audience about the joys of our salvation, but instead found it necessary to appeal to them to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The writer of Hebrews warned, Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

If the American Church is to avoid falling into disrepair like the churches of Europe, we must be constantly on the alert. Wake up! As Jesus said to the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

April 2016 From the Pastor's Pen

Pastor Chris Gardner

I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants. (Revelation 2:19-20a, ESV)

This is the fourth in the series on the churches of Revelation. The first three churches were on the coast of western Turkey. Thyatira, the church we are looking at today, was an interior church on the highway that ran through the center of the Roman province of Asia. Known for is purple dye, Thyatira was the home of Priscilla who housed Paul and his entourage in Philippi.

It is seldom that any church can receive the praise that Thyatira received from the Lord Jesus that their later works exceeded their earlier work. Generally, when a church is first planted, there is an air of excitement and the church is very active. If you became a Christian either as a teenager or an adult, you know the initial thrill that comes with being saved, and how much you wanted to be involved. Then, after a time, things tend to cool off in your spiritual life, as it does with churches as they grow older.

That is not how it was with Thyatira. They had grown stronger, more vibrant as a church. Now, perhaps thirty years after they had first started as a church, they were a thriving, vital church with active ministries. That is what every church wants to see happen. It is not just a matter of having more programs. Living, vibrant churches have people who are excited about Jesus Christ, willing to invest their lives and treasures in the expansion of God’s Kingdom.

We do not know what their works of service were. Jesus just says that He knows their works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance. Can you imagine how delighted a church like Metropolitan would be to hear the Lord say that about us? That means that they showed true love to one another, letting the Gospel become real in their inter-personal relationships. Their faith was strong, trusting the Lord with a whole hearted devotion. Perhaps miracles were happening in their midst, people were being saved, in spite of the fact that persecution was happening.

Oh, that the Lord would work such great love and faith in our church family. We want to be known as a people of love and faith. We may face increasing persecution here in the United States, a persecution some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are already enduring across this country. We need to pray for them and be ready to continue with patient endurance no matter what comes our way as believers in Jesus Christ.

With all those good things happening in Thyatira, you might think that the church was above reproach. Not so. The Lord Jesus calls them out over the issue of the prophetess Jezebel. Through all the ages of the Church, the same difficulties have faced every generation. It is not enough to be excited about your faith. While we ought to be energetic in our work for the Kingdom, the fact is, godly work is based on solid doctrine. If we do great work for the Kingdom but have no concern for what we believe, then the Lord does not accept our work and ministry.The Church in America today has the same problem that Thyatira had. For some reason, many Christians think that the only thing they have to believe is that Jesus died for them so they can go to heaven. Like the church in Thyatira, we face the danger of compromising the faith.

It is past time that true Christians get serious about growing in their understanding of the biblical truth. Jezebel was promoting a Christian religion where God loves everyone and it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you live. Sexual immorality, pre-marital sex, and other sexual sins had become accepted practice in the church. The Lord Jesus looked on His Church and had become angry with them, threatening to close their church, if they did not start taking seriously the moral integrity and the doctrinal clarity He desired.

As Christians living in the 21st century, we need to look at ourselves in light of this warning to Thyatira. If Jesus came to Metropolitan, since He knows our thoughts and our secret lives, would He bless us or warn us? We are an active church and loving for the most part. Are we doctrinally sound and morally pure, or do we have a Jezebel in our midst?

March, 2016 From the Pastor's Penby Pastor Chris Gardner

I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam. (Revelation 2:13-14a, ESV)

This is the third in the series on the churches of Revelation. Those seven churches, while being actual churches that faced the issues John wrote about, also represented the various issues every church faces. We can say that because at the end of each letter to each of the seven churches, we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” So the messages to one became the message to all.

This third letter was written to the church in Pergamum. Pergamum had served as the center of Roman rule from 133 BC and onward in the province of Asia. As the center of Roman rule, Pergamum was also the center of pagan and emperor worship. No wonder Jesus called it the place “where Satan’s throne is.” This cultic worship was forced upon all citizens of the kingdom.

The grave danger, however, was not just in the worship of Caesar, but in the compromise of the saints. That is what Jesus meant by “the teaching of Balaam.” Balaam was the prophet hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites in the wilderness. Balaam refused to curse Israel, but later on, we find that Balak did something worse. He taught the Moabites how to infiltrate Israel and seduce the people into compromise.

That is the greatest danger the church is facing today. Very few Christians will bow down to Allah and Mohammed. Few will fall for the false teachings of the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. So Satan does not waste his time on getting Bible believing Christians to fall away from the faith. What Satan does is seek to seduce Christians, to get them to participate in sin and then excuse it.

We see this in the current election cycle. The number one reason that people have for voting for the politician of their choice is because it will make their lives better. The church is filled with people who choose comfort over conscience, convenience over conviction. Promise people a better economy and they fall all over that politician.

Meanwhile, Satan has brought the church to collapse by making pre-marital sex seem normal, making divorce acceptable, and letting prejudice under the guise of immigration reform welcome. By stirring up ISIS, by bringing drugs through Mexico, by tanking the economy, Satan has taken the eyes of believers off the kingdom and on to their safety, welfare, and pleasure.

What do we do when someone takes a stand? Even in the church, we call them fanatics. What’s a little compromise going to hurt? Doesn’t the Scripture say we should be peacemakers? So why do we have to stand up to the culture? Why do we have to be different? God is love, shouldn’t we be? God is forgiving, so my sin is no big deal, right?

Jesus warns the church at Pergamum that He will turn against them with the Sword of His Mouth. His own Word, the Scriptures, will condemn them. Are we in danger of that? The answer is seen in the way Christians are voting. Professing Evangelicals, who are Democrats, have voted primarily for Bernie Sanders because he promises to give them wealth. The Evangelical Republicans are going 2 to 1 for Donald Trump because he too is promising them wealth, jobs, and security. Few are asking the deeper questions - where is the worship of God, surrender to His will, and a life of holiness and compassion - in all of this?

We need an Antipas or two who will stand against compromise, even if it means death. Like Daniel, we are facing the test of ten days; will we compromise or stand? That is the real question for the church in America today.

Februray 2016 From the Pastor's Penby Pastor Chris Gardner

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that 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 throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:9-10, ESV)

We began the year examining the first of the seven churches spoken to by the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3. The Church at Ephesus was known for its great ministries, but it had grown cold in its love, its passion for the proclamation of the Gospel. When the love for the Lord grows cold, then the ministries become duties and tradition. We need to be on fire for Christ to have on fire ministries.

The second Church of the seven listed in Revelation is the one we are looking at today, the Church at Smyrna. Smyrna was the second largest city in what is today western Turkey. It had been destroyed around 700 BC and left in ruins for several hundred years before being rebuilt. Jesus makes that connection by reminding them that He too was dead and had come to life.

This Church faced persecution due to the fact that the Christians there would not bow down to the political elite. The city sponsored the first temple to the Emperor, and its citizens were required to offer sacrifices to the Emperor as a god. Due to their belief in the One, True God, the Christians refused to do so. As a result, many lost their jobs, suffered persecution, and even death.

Half a century later, the well-revered Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp, would be martyred for his refusal to claim Caesar is Lord. His immortal words send a clarion call to all believers to remain steadfast, no matter what the cost. "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong, how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked."

As Christians, we have entered into an era in which those who are passionate for the name of Jesus Christ are considered trouble makers. Just as the Romans thought that Christians were extremists for refusing to bow to a divine Caesar, so our educational, judicial, and political leaders see us as intolerant for not accepting all viewpoints as legitimate concerning morals and religion. When we dare to say that God’s way is the only way, we are ridiculed and even punished with fines, loss of promotions, and more.

Jesus warned the Church at Smyrna that they would be tested like Daniel for ten days. The test Daniel faced in Babylon was twofold. Would he and his fellow Israelites succumb to the pleasures of Babylon and give in to the pressure to just fit in, to not make waves? Second, would they stay true to their faith and beliefs, keeping their bodies and minds focused on the eternal, even if it cost them their positions and their lives. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah counted the cost and found it worthwhile. Would the Church in Smyrna do the same?

Today, we too are being called to face the ten day Daniel test. Will we believe that the Lord God will care for His own? Will we be faithful even unto death to gain the Crown of Life? Will we stand against the wiles of the enemy, overcome the political and peer pressure to give in?

In the current politically charged atmosphere, I have heard Christian after Christian throw their support behind this person or that one, simply because they felt that individual was electable. They have even said that they made the choice to go with electability over character. Perhaps they are right, but I wonder what Daniel or Polycarp would say? I am not certain who, as a Christian, I should vote for. I am still praying about it.

However, I do know that as Christians we need to stop doing what is expedient. We need to break out of the comfort mode and begin to live out the life of Christ. If He willingly walked to the cross, can we do less?

January 2016, From the Pastor's Pen  by Pastor Chris Gardner

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:1-5a, NIV 1984)

During the past year here at Metropolitan Baptist Church, we have sought to refocus our attention on the priorities of God in prayer, serving, justice, and missions/evangelism. Our Sunday evening seminars, that began this past fall, brought those priorities to the forefront for some of our church family. Those who have not chosen to participate in any of those seminars have heard much about justice from the book of Isaiah on Sunday mornings, culminating with the message by Gary Haugen on December 27th.

With all the emphasis on the great needs of this world and the need for the church to awaken to our responsibilities as the Body of Christ and as Ambassadors of Christ*s Kingdom, we can become overwhelmed. The tendency, as Mr. Haugen implied, is to shut down, to see the job as too vast, and therefore to end up doing nothing. It is at those times that we need a new year.

The blessing of a new year is the chance to start over, to forget our past failures, to let go of our wrong priorities, and to set out on a better path for the future. In other words, the new year offers the opportunity to see the greatness of what God has done through Jesus Christ, to rejoice with the angelic hosts that a Savior was born who is Christ the Lord, and to enter into the wonder of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Every Christian knows that at times we need a fresh start, a new look at what our priorities are. Sometimes our faith grows stale, not because God has diminished, but because we have forgotten to exercise our faith. I know that happens to us physically. The past few months, since Abby had the twins, I have hardly made it to the gym. My body feels it. I am sluggish, find myself tiring more quickly, and I am putting on weight. I know I need to exercise, but I have allowed all the changes over the past few months to distract me.

The same becomes true for our spiritual lives. With the coming of the new year, we can now start over. We can renew our love for the Lord and for His Kingdom work. It is time to rethink our priorities, to reset our internal computer, and to get on board with what God has in mind for us individually and corporately. The Apostle Paul tells us to forget what lies behind and to press on toward what lies before. The Apostle Peter said that he wrote his two epistles to stimulate us to wholesome thinking. Jude wrote that he was compelled to urge believers to contend earnestly for the faith entrusted to God*s holy people. The writer of Hebrews warned us to pay careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away.

I look forward to this new year. No matter who is elected as president by the end of the year, we already know who is the head of our Kingdom: Jesus Christ. Our allegiance is to Him and to His kingdom work. Our New Year's resolutions ought to be God-centered and passionate, driven by a desire to let the glory of God be experienced throughout the world. No matter what else we have planned for the coming year, let us stir up our love that may be growing cold.

What is a New Year’s resolution anyway? Isn’t it usually an acknowledgement that what we have done in the past has not met our expectations? We look back at where we have been and understand that changes need to be made to improve our lives or the lives of those who we care about. The Bible calls this “repentance,” and that is what the Lord’s message to the Church at Ephesus challenged them to do. Repent and do the things you did at first. That is our challenge for 2016.

JANUARY 2017 PASTOR’S PEN

And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyeslike a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.’ (Revelation 2:18, ESV)

It is images that strike terror into the hearts of movie goers. Red flaming eyes are generally portrayed as evil. In the Star Wars movies, the dark side had the red saber light swords, while the good guys had cool blue. Haunted houses flare bright with red eyes appearing through walls, and demon movies always have fire coming from the mouth and eyes of the demons.

I am not sure when all of that became the theme of evil, but I understand the idea of terror that lies behind the flaming eyes. It comes from passages like this one in the Bible. Starting with Psalm 29:7, The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire, the Scripture relates the flames of fire with the Word of God. Notice how the text above begins with The words of the Son of God. In the final passage from Isaiah, in chapter 66, verse 15, we read, For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. Here again, the fire is associated with His words of rebuke. But the most significant passage is from Daniel 10:6, His eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze. There Daniel has the same response John has in collapsing and falling down as though dead, unable to speak in the presence of this majestic holiness.



DECEMBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword.’ (Revelation 2:12, ESV)

Mythical movies, that feature dragons, knights on horseback, battles between magicians, and incredible warfare with swords, stir the imagination. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Tales of Narnia series, and more make for exciting reading or watching. Stories of King Arthur and Merlin the Magician fire the desire to see the good win out and evil vanquished.

Such a desire is not new. It has been around for millennia. It is in this view of the world that the Apostle John writes the Book of Revelation. It is filled with mythical creatures, apparent lost causes, Gods in the heavens and demons under the earth, all caught up in this glorious and terrible battle for the souls of humanity. 

This death struggle pits the Church against the Dragon, the false prophet and the beast. Who will win and how do they win? It is a thrilling, nail-biter, unless you know the end of the story. Like those who had read the Lord of the Rings Trilogy before seeing the movies, the great animations and titanic struggles were a bit anticlimactic because we knew how it would end. That is not to say that watching the movies didn’t stir the pulse, they did, but you knew how it was going to end, who was to be killed, and how every cliff hanger would be resolved.

The book of Revelation is such a story. Once we have read the end of the book, we know that every time it seems that the Church is about to be destroyed, God will rescue it. Yet the startling imagery catches us by surprise, and we find it difficult to get past the images to their meaning. Our verse in Revelation 2:12 helps us grasp some of the ways to look at the rest of the book.

The church at Pergamum was caught in an anti-Christian city, surrounded by false Jewish faiths and temples to the Roman gods, along with Emperor worship. How could they possibly survive in those early years of Christianity when the Emperor Domitian had set out to wipe them out? One of the ways some of the false teachers in the church taught the believers to survive was to just mix in with the crowd. Go to the temples, say that Caesar is Lord, and they would not have to die like Antipas had. 

It is against those false teachers that Jesus identifies Himself as the One who has the sharp two-edged sword. In chapter One, we learned that the sharp two-edged sword was coming from His mouth. Then in verse 15, Jesus states, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. Here is that strange, mysterious imagery. What kind of battle and what kind of warrior is this that has a sword for a tongue?

Most of us, when reading this, immediately recognize that Jesus is not speaking of an actual sword; He is talking about the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. False teachers will be brought down by the teaching of biblical truth. As Jesus defeated Satan in the wilderness by the Word of God, so the enemies of the Gospel will always be destroyed by that same means. Someone said that the pen is mightier than the sword. Jesus would agree, if that pen is the writing of God’s truth. Christians cannot survive by weapons of this world, by swords or guns.Instead, we will overcome by the Word of God. The rest of the images, then, in the book of Revelation ought to be seen in the same light. The radical descriptions of beasts and monsters have the same interpretations of spiritual truths and realities, rather than literal meanings. This same Jesus, who would destroy the Balaam and Nicolaitan followers of John’s day, will defeat all other enemies led by the dragon Satan through the truth of His Word (see chapter 12).

Thus, it behooves us to be students of the Word, to memorize, meditate on, and study the Word so that we might use it to defeat the enemies of God, whether religious or governmental. In the end, the Church is victorious, not because we are physically stronger or wiser, but because the Word of Truth is more powerful.




NOVEMBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. (Revelation 2:8, ESV)

In our last month’s examination of the Lord Jesus Christ as He introduced Himself to the churches in Revelation 2:1, we understood that He is both the Sovereign Lord who upholds the church by His mighty hand, and the one who walks among the churches to prune and even cut down those not bearing fruit. In other words, He is both transcendent (existing apart from creation), and imminent (coming into creation).

To the church at Smyrna, the Lord reveals two other aspects of His character. The church of Smyrna received no rebukes from the Lord. Like Daniel, they would be tested for ten days to see if their God could keep them from being defiled. The Lord promised that they would remain strong, even under persecution. To this church, the Lord reveals Himself as the One who is eternal (the First and the Last), and the One who lived in this world and suffered what they suffered (who died and came to life).

We are in the midst of a terrible election cycle. The American people are trying to decide for whom they will cast their vote. In doing so, they want to know who can protect them the best, while also wanting to know who will best relate to their life situation. Donald Trump claims he will be the best at protecting us by building a wall and a strong military. Hillary Clinton says she is the one who can keep us safe, in spite of Benghazi and the Iraq/Syria debacle, by merging our nation with the rest of the world in building world peace. Neither has a good record to build on.

Jesus Christ, however, has an excellent record. As the eternal Son of God, He was before all things and will endure to the end of time and beyond. He is the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega. Because He is eternal, He is not affected by the fluctuations of this created world nor of its politics. The outworking of God’s eternal purposes is sure and undeniable, no matter what happens in the day to day affairs of this planet.

Yet, we do not have a High Priest that cannot be touched by our infirmities. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump can relate to the problems of the everyday American. In Christ, though, God became man. He has experienced all that we have gone through. He lived and He died. No one can say about the Lord that He does not know what we have to face. From birth to death, Jesus endured the hardships and persecutions that are part of the human experience.

Those church members in Smyrna lived in a city whose government and religions hated them. The culture sought to make them conform, even imprisoning them for refusing to fit in. It was so severe, we read in verse 10, Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.

The reference to being tested for ten days takes us back to the book of Daniel, who resolved in his heart, along with his three companions, not to defile himself. For ten days they were tested, and came out stronger and better. While the Lord makes that reference, He also warns the church that they may not be spared as Daniel was; they may face death. Were they willing to do so? If they did, He promised them the Crown of Life.

We live in a culture that is doing everything it can to force Christians to conform. There is open animosity toward those who would hold to biblical ethics. Should Hillary Clinton be elected, these policies against the godly will intensify. Yet, no matter who is elected, until there is a change in our educational and legal systems, Christians will still have to endure ongoing persecution. That is why it is so important that we see the Lord Jesus Christ as the Eternal One whose purposes will stand through all of time, and the One who has suffered with us and for us.

Only then will we, as a church and as individual believers, stay committed to the truth for the “ten days” of testing. It is encouraging to know that there is a limit to that tribulation. Ten days does not mean that it will literally be ten, but that it is a temporary time. For those who covenant not to defile themselves with the king’s food (the anti-God culture), we have the promise that as Jesus was raised from the dead to eternal life, so we will share in that eternity with Him.


OCTOBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands…” (Revelation 2:1, ESV)

In our continuing look at the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3, it is time to consider who the letters are from. In Revelation 1, John tells us that he has received this revelation of/about/concerning Jesus Christ, and then beginning in chapter 1 verse 10, the glorious description of our resurrected and ascended Lord Jesus Christ astounds us. Then, each of the seven letters to the churches begin with the Lord telling us about Himself.

In the verse above, we learn two ministries by which we understand how our Lord relates now to His church. He holds us and He walks among us. These two aspects of His ministry balance one another out.

As a church, and as members of this church, we rejoice in knowing that the Sovereign Lord of the Universe, who has overcome even death itself, holds us by His very own power. No wonder Jesus said that the Gates of Hell could not prevail over His Church. Those seven churches were part of the growing body of believers that were saved thorough the precious blood of the cross.

When Jimmy Carter was president, I did not feel safe as an American. His weak international policies led to the US Embassy in Iran being overrun and the staff being held hostage. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days. Other events, including the failed attempt to extricate them because our military equipment was so outdated, made Americans realize that our leaders could not protect us.

However, as soon as Ronald Reagan was elected president, the hostages were released, and within a short time Americans felt safe to travel again. Strong leadership gave us a sense of security. There is no stronger leader than Jesus Christ, who has overcome even death itself, defeated Satan, and won the eternal victory for those who are His. We rest in that assurance.

On the other hand, He walks among the Candlesticks. The Lord Jesus is not an absentee landlord. He is intimately involved in His church, which is His bride. Some husbands couldn’t tell you what is going on in their wives lives. Our Lord loves His bride, the Church. He walks among the candlesticks informs us that He genuinely cares about what is happening.

In the Gospel of John, we are compared to a vineyard, where the owner passes through it, trimming away the dead branches, pulling the weeds, pruning the healthy vines. So our Savior walks among His church, looking for what can be destructive, burning dead wood, and causing the rest to bear good fruit.

That is why, at the end of five of the seven letters, He warns those churches that He will pull up their candlestick. He looks past our outward facades and sees the heart of the church leaders, as well as that of the church members. As we read in several of these letters, the churches appeared on the outside to be healthy, but they failed to meet the Lord’s standard, so He warned them to repent or be wiped out. As God sought to cleanse Israel and Judah through the exile and captivity, so our Lord Jesus still seeks to purify His Church.

In the end, we realize that for those who are God’s children, they are safe and secure, held in the right hand of his power. We rest assured that nothing can separate us from His love. Yet, such is not the guarantee for a local church. The Lord walks in our midst. Jesus stated that wherever two or three are gathered in His name He is in our midst. The church is called to be the Pillar and Foundation of the truth. When, in the midst of our culture, the church fails to remain pure and holy, then the Lord Jesus uproots that ministry so that His name is not undermined and His bride remains holy.

The Lord has watched over Metropolitan. He has kept us for 42 years. We have much to be grateful for as we see what has occurred during that time. Yet, no local congregation can rest on past laurels. The Holy God walks among us, and He is ready to either prune us to improve us or cut us off if we are not bearing fruit. As members and friends of Metropolitan, may you become a fruitful member that together we might bear good fruit for His kingdom.



SEPTEMBER 2016 PASTOR’S PEN

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write... (Revelation 2:1 ESV)

Revelation 2 and 3 contain seven letters, each one addressed to “the angel of the church in…”

A great deal of discussion has gone into determining what is meant by the angel of the church. Over the centuries, some have thought that it is a guardian angel of the church, similar to the angel described in Daniel 10 set over different nations. This seems unlikely, however for several significant reasons.

In Daniel, the angel Gabriel and the arch-angel Michael are identified, but not as being guardians of a nation. While there may be demonic powers associated with a nation or king, we cannot glean such support from the Scriptures regarding angels guarding nations.

Second, and more significantly, Jesus Christ addresses the angels of the churches when he lists the failings of the church. Since angels have been perfected and can no longer fall from God’s grace, then an angel could not be told that he has sinned and will be cast out of God’s presence.

Since the Greek word, “angelos,” translated in most Bibles as angel, means messenger, whether human, angelic, or divine, it is best to see these individuals as the head Elder or Bishop of the Church in that community. This makes far more sense that the leader of the congregation would be held responsible for the growth or failing of the ministry.

It is notable that in every church, one leader is addressed, even though in the five churches that receive a rebuke, that leader is not the perpetrator of the wrongdoing. In other words, the Lord Jesus holds those in authority responsible for failing to guard the unity, holiness, doctrinal purity, and vibrancy of that local church.

This is no different from the letters the Apostle Paul wrote to some congregations 30 to 40 years earlier. In Philippians 4, he exhorts the “Yokefellow” to intervene in a dispute that was dividing the church. The Elder John, in 3 John claims that the leader of that congregation, Diotrophes, was misleading the congregation and John would soon deal with him. James warns the teachers of the church that they would be held to a higher standard of judgment from God. Paul warns Timothy and Titus to be wise in selecting Elders for the same reason.

We recently held a mandatory Christian Education staff meeting. At the meeting, we shared the new Church security and safety procedures. Those procedures cover such things as protecting the personal property of the church, creating a hazard free facility, and how to deal with various emergencies including medical, fire, bomb threats, active weapon situation, and protestors. These are serious issues that the church needs to be prepared to face.

Yet, these are not the issues Jesus Christ warned the leaders of the churches about. It was the spiritual issues - the passion for God’s glory, the protection of the doctrines, and the purity of the congregation - that raised red flags for the Lord. When the Apostle Paul addressed the Elders of the church in Ephesus recorded in Acts 20, he too failed to mention one thing about church safety or security, policy statements, and the like. He did speak strongly to them about guarding their own spiritual fervency and walk and that of the congregation they oversaw.

We can learn two lessons from this. First, for those in any position of authority whether you serve in the nursery, music ministry, Christian Education, or as an Elder or Deacon, you have been entrusted with a great responsibility. Remain faithful and fervent. Second, the whole congregation has a responsibility of maintaining a high standard in selecting those who will lead.

As members of MBC, each one must take seriously your role in helping elect or appoint people to any position. For that reason, the Elder Board has established a policy that all church workers are required to participate in one of our discipleship ministries on a regular basis as a student if they want to continue to serve. Anyone who does not participate regularly as a student will be asked to step down so that they might be fed spiritually. We do not want the Lord to spit us out!


AUGUST 2016 PASTOR’S PEN by Pastor Chris Gardner

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV)

We just finished examining aspects of the seven church letters found in Revelation 2 and 3. These letters are addressed to specific churches in Asia Minor, in the Roman province of Asia. As the apostle John wrote to each of those churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he made the comments pertinent to aspects of their actual communities.

The Bible is designed to be pertinent to the lives of the people to whom the books were actually addressed in biblical times. Yet, because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, what was written there for the people of that time has definite application to the lives of Christians in every generation. Since God exists outside of time, and sees all time at once, He is able to control what was written back then so that it has a timeless application.

That is why, at the end of each of the seven letters to specific churches of the first century, the Holy Spirit directed John to add a phrase similar to the one above. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV) “Churches” is in the plural, a reminder to them, and to us, that what one church faces, the whole body of Christ faces. The blessings directed toward one church also are directed to the whole Body of Christ.

We have made that application clear for the past seven months as we applied the principles of these seven letters to us here in the 21st century. While the applications may be different in our generation than they were in the first century church, the principles remain the same. And what is true of these seven letters is true of the whole of Scripture.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10 that what was recorded in the Old Testament was written so that the Church of his day would learn from the errors and the righteousness of the Old Testament people. It is for this reason that every Christian needs to immerse himself or herself in the Word of God and in prayer. A failure to be a disciple of the Word will lead to failure in the Christian life

John recorded what the Spirit had to say to the churches in Asia Minor in those two chapters of Revelation. That same Holy Spirit inspired every passage of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, from Matthew to Revelation. Every word, every phrase comes from the Spirit of God and is, therefore, as powerful and trustworthy as the messages we find in Revelation 2 and 3.

When Pastors, Church leaders, and Bible study facilitators encourage you to read the Word of God, they do so, not to make our faith legalistic, but because we truly know that the Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). Some secular and even Christian books might be so well written that they make you cry or laugh or feel fear. While the Bible can do the same thing, the Bible goes well beyond even biographies. While it is the true life experiences of sinners and saints alike, that is not what makes it inspired. Instead, as the very Word of God, the words come alive within us, empowered by the Holy Spirit and working as actively in us as any form of medicine, once taken. 

To hear, then, what the Spirit has spoken to the Churches means not just to have audio or visual relationship to the Word. It means that individuals, you and me, knowing that God is speaking with power and might through His Word, open up our hearing and seeing to be receptive to God’s power within us, activated through the hearing of the Word. Paul wrote to the Romans that faith comes, or is awakened, through hearing and hearing through the Word of God.

So, if you wish to grow into a godly man or woman, if you wish to become passionate for God’s glory, then open the Word, immerse yourself in it, hunger for it, and live. To have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches will create a love for God, a love for His Word, and a love for His way.


June 2016, Pastor's Pen by Pastor Chris Gardner

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV)

We just finished examining aspects of the seven church letters found in Revelation 2 and 3. These letters are addressed to specific churches in Asia Minor, in the Roman province of Asia. As the apostle John wrote to each of those churches under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he made the comments pertinent to aspects of their actual communities.

The Bible is designed to be pertinent to the lives of the people to whom the books were actually addressed in biblical times. Yet, because the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, what was written there for the people of that time has definite application to the lives of Christians in every generation. Since God exists outside of time, and sees all time at once, He is able to control what was written back then so that it has a timeless application.

That is why, at the end of each of the seven letters to specific churches of the first century, the Holy Spirit directed John to add a phrase similar to the one above. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 2:7, ESV) “Churches” is in the plural, a reminder to them, and to us, that what one church faces, the whole body of Christ faces. The blessings directed toward one church also are directed to the whole Body of Christ.

We have made that application clear for the past seven months as we applied the principles of these seven letters to us here in the 21st century. While the applications may be different in our generation than they were in the first century church, the principles remain the same. And what is true of these seven letters is true of the whole of Scripture.

The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10 that what was recorded in the Old Testament was written so that the Church of his day would learn from the errors and the righteousness of the Old Testament people. It is for this reason that every Christian needs to immerse himself or herself in the Word of God and in prayer. A failure to be a disciple of the Word will lead to failure in the Christian life.

John recorded what the Spirit had to say to the churches in Asia Minor in those two chapters of Revelation. That same Holy Spirit inspired every passage of the Bible from Genesis to Malachi, from Matthew to Revelation. Every word, every phrase comes from the Spirit of God and is, therefore, as powerful and trustworthy as the messages we find in Revelation 2 and 3.

When Pastors, Church leaders, and Bible study facilitators encourage you to read the Word of God, they do so, not to make our faith legalistic, but because we truly know that the Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12, ESV). Some secular and even Christian books might be so well written that they make you cry or laugh or feel fear. While the Bible can do the same thing, the Bible goes well beyond even biographies. While it is the true life experiences of sinners and saints alike, that is not what makes it inspired. Instead, as the very Word of God, the words come alive within us, empowered by the Holy Spirit and working as actively in us as any form of medicine, once taken.

To hear, then, what the Spirit has spoken to the Churches means not just to have audio or visual relationship to the Word. It means that individuals, you and me, knowing that God is speaking with power and might through His Word, open up our hearing and seeing to be receptive to God’s power within us, activated through the hearing of the Word. Paul wrote to the Romans that faith comes, or is awakened, through hearing and hearing through the Word of God.

So, if you wish to grow into a godly man or woman, if you wish to become passionate for God’s glory, then open the Word, immerse yourself in it, hunger for it, and live. To have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the Churches will create a love for God, a love for His Word, and a love for His way.


I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8, ESV)

When Noah, his family, and all the creatures of the earth had entered into the ark, the Bible tells us that God shut the door. I know when I was younger, if I got mad at someone in my family, I would go to my room and slam the door so that everyone in the house knew I was upset. I also often got in trouble for doing so! Shutting the door, though, did not do a lot, since none of the bedroom doors had locks, and I shared the bedroom with my two brothers.

There were many times that I wished I had the power to shut the door so no one could come in. Here, in this letter to the Church of Philadelphia, God claims the power to open doors that no one can shut and shut doors so that no one can open them. Right now the door is open. That means, as Paul wrote elsewhere, “Today is the day of salvation.” No matter how many Isis threats and beheadings occur, the door of salvation remains open and thousands of former Muslims have walked through that door.

What is true in Iraq and Syria is true here in Bensonhurst as well. I hear people say that the city people are too hard to reach, that the new people coming into our community have their own religions, or that the English speakers in our neighborhood aren’t interested in religion. The news media and the national polls tell us that many people are either atheist or agnostic anymore. In other words, we are being told that the door has closed. America has become post-Christian.

So who are we going to believe, the news media or the Word of God? Jesus said that He has opened the door and no one can shut it. So why are so few becoming Christians? Why are people moving away from Christianity? Because the Church across America has become weak! I know that you have but little power…, Jesus told the Philadelphia Church.

The problem, then, is not in whether the Gospel still has the power to save or Jesus has the ability to keep the door of salvation wide open. The problem is with the Church. Many churches across America have forgotten the power of God and are turning to their own power, using programs and gimmicks to get people to come. The power of God, through the proclamation of the Gospel, remains just as powerful as it was in the first century. Do we believe that?There are numerous churches, across this country, that are seeing great numbers of people become disciples of Jesus Christ. In spite of this so called post-Christian atmosphere, they believe that the door is wide open, and they go out with that conviction to invite people to know their Savior and Lord. They are not ashamed of the Gospel.I see that happening more and more here at Metropolitan. Some in this congregation have remembered the promise of God to save whoever will come to Him. So they are going out on prayer walks in the community, passing out Bibles on street corners, distributing TrueLife business cards, and sharing the Good News whenever God gives them the opportunity. As a result, we are seeing men and women come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, getting baptized and joining the Church.Like the Church in Philadelphia, our Lord Jesus has looked on Metropolitan and said, I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. We may not be the largest church in Brooklyn, but God is revealing His power among us. We are seeing people healed, families restored, the lost coming to Christ, and God is being glorified. I invite all who have been sitting on the sidelines to join in with what God is doing now. Ignore the naysayers, and join in with us to see what God will do in MBC in the coming year.

May, 2016 the Pastor's Pen  by Pastor Chris Gardner

I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive - but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don*t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. (Revelation 3:1b-3, ESV)

In our study of Isaiah, the passage for last Sunday and for this Sunday, May 1, both begin with the word “Awake.” The timing of this fifth in the series on the churches of Revelation could not have come at a more apropos time. “Wake up” was the word of our Lord Jesus to the church in Sardis, an important city in the Roman province of Asia, today’s western end of Turkey.

Sardis served as the capitol of the Lydian Empire during the time when Assyria and Babylon were the powers in the east. It controlled most of Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean Sea. After the Persians had overthrown Babylon, they turned their attention toward the Lydian Empire. When they arrived at Sardis, they could not take the city because it was high up on a hilltop. The city fell, eventually, because the guards, who were supposed to be awake and watching, fell asleep. A similar event occurred later in their history.

So Jesus’ words to them to “Awake” resonated powerfully with the people of this city, as did those final words, If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief. When Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and the armies of Sanballat and Tobiah threatened them, we are told that guards were set all around the city, and the people who slept, slept with their clothes on and their weapons at hand. That is the way to prevent being taken by surprise.

As Christians, we need to be constantly on guard. We live in an enemy territory. The god of this age, Satan, is going around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Roaring lions create panic and fear among their prey. Yet, at least when a lion is roaring, you can be prepared. It is the stalking lion that is more dangerous. We read in Scripture that we need to be on the alert because Satan comes as an angel of light, pretending to be on our side.

Therein lies the greater danger for us as Christians. It is doubtful that most Christians will fall for open blatant sin. If a college professor declares God is dead, few in this church would give in to such a blatant challenge to our faith. Yet, quite often Christians get lulled to sleep spiritually by the hypnotic influences of the media and entertainment. Our daily lives grow monotonous with work, school, and the rest of our routine, so we become complacent in the spiritual disciplines.

While that is understandable, it is also dangerous for us as believers. A failure to daily meditate on God’s Word, or to pray without ceasing, or to find joy in fellowshipping together leads to spiritual sleep. That is when the enemy takes us unaware, and we fall into sin. The people of Sardis knew about long term sieges and the danger of the guards falling asleep. As Christians, we too have seen brothers and sisters in Christ, even spiritual leaders, who have fallen spiritually.

We need to wake up. Peter told the church in his second epistle that he wrote those letters to stimulate them to wholesome thinking. In other words, First and Second Peter were written to be a cup of coffee in the morning. That is true for all the books of the Bible.

Jude claimed that he had intended to write to his audience about the joys of our salvation, but instead found it necessary to appeal to them to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. The writer of Hebrews warned, Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

If the American Church is to avoid falling into disrepair like the churches of Europe, we must be constantly on the alert. Wake up! As Jesus said to the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

April 2014 From the Pastor's Penby Pastor Chris Gardner

I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants. (Revelation 2:19-20a, ESV)

This is the fourth in the series on the churches of Revelation. The first three churches were on the coast of western Turkey. Thyatira, the church we are looking at today, was an interior church on the highway that ran through the center of the Roman province of Asia. Known for is purple dye, Thyatira was the home of Priscilla who housed Paul and his entourage in Philippi.

It is seldom that any church can receive the praise that Thyatira received from the Lord Jesus that their later works exceeded their earlier work. Generally, when a church is first planted, there is an air of excitement and the church is very active. If you became a Christian either as a teenager or an adult, you know the initial thrill that comes with being saved, and how much you wanted to be involved. Then, after a time, things tend to cool off in your spiritual life, as it does with churches as they grow older.

That is not how it was with Thyatira. They had grown stronger, more vibrant as a church. Now, perhaps thirty years after they had first started as a church, they were a thriving, vital church with active ministries. That is what every church wants to see happen. It is not just a matter of having more programs. Living, vibrant churches have people who are excited about Jesus Christ, willing to invest their lives and treasures in the expansion of God’s Kingdom.

We do not know what their works of service were. Jesus just says that He knows their works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance. Can you imagine how delighted a church like Metropolitan would be to hear the Lord say that about us? That means that they showed true love to one another, letting the Gospel become real in their inter-personal relationships. Their faith was strong, trusting the Lord with a whole hearted devotion. Perhaps miracles were happening in their midst, people were being saved, in spite of the fact that persecution was happening.

Oh, that the Lord would work such great love and faith in our church family. We want to be known as a people of love and faith. We may face increasing persecution here in the United States, a persecution some of our brothers and sisters in Christ are already enduring across this country. We need to pray for them and be ready to continue with patient endurance no matter what comes our way as believers in Jesus Christ.

With all those good things happening in Thyatira, you might think that the church was above reproach. Not so. The Lord Jesus calls them out over the issue of the prophetess Jezebel. Through all the ages of the Church, the same difficulties have faced every generation. It is not enough to be excited about your faith. While we ought to be energetic in our work for the Kingdom, the fact is, godly work is based on solid doctrine. If we do great work for the Kingdom but have no concern for what we believe, then the Lord does not accept our work and ministry.The Church in America today has the same problem that Thyatira had. For some reason, many Christians think that the only thing they have to believe is that Jesus died for them so they can go to heaven. Like the church in Thyatira, we face the danger of compromising the faith.

It is past time that true Christians get serious about growing in their understanding of the biblical truth. Jezebel was promoting a Christian religion where God loves everyone and it doesn’t matter what you believe or how you live. Sexual immorality, pre-marital sex, and other sexual sins had become accepted practice in the church. The Lord Jesus looked on His Church and had become angry with them, threatening to close their church, if they did not start taking seriously the moral integrity and the doctrinal clarity He desired.

As Christians living in the 21st century, we need to look at ourselves in light of this warning to Thyatira. If Jesus came to Metropolitan, since He knows our thoughts and our secret lives, would He bless us or warn us? We are an active church and loving for the most part. Are we doctrinally sound and morally pure, or do we have a Jezebel in our midst?

March, 2016 From the Pastor's Penby Pastor Chris Gardner

I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam. (Revelation 2:13-14a, ESV)

This is the third in the series on the churches of Revelation. Those seven churches, while being actual churches that faced the issues John wrote about, also represented the various issues every church faces. We can say that because at the end of each letter to each of the seven churches, we read, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” So the messages to one became the message to all.

This third letter was written to the church in Pergamum. Pergamum had served as the center of Roman rule from 133 BC and onward in the province of Asia. As the center of Roman rule, Pergamum was also the center of pagan and emperor worship. No wonder Jesus called it the place “where Satan’s throne is.” This cultic worship was forced upon all citizens of the kingdom.

The grave danger, however, was not just in the worship of Caesar, but in the compromise of the saints. That is what Jesus meant by “the teaching of Balaam.” Balaam was the prophet hired by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Israelites in the wilderness. Balaam refused to curse Israel, but later on, we find that Balak did something worse. He taught the Moabites how to infiltrate Israel and seduce the people into compromise.

That is the greatest danger the church is facing today. Very few Christians will bow down to Allah and Mohammed. Few will fall for the false teachings of the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses. So Satan does not waste his time on getting Bible believing Christians to fall away from the faith. What Satan does is seek to seduce Christians, to get them to participate in sin and then excuse it.

We see this in the current election cycle. The number one reason that people have for voting for the politician of their choice is because it will make their lives better. The church is filled with people who choose comfort over conscience, convenience over conviction. Promise people a better economy and they fall all over that politician.

Meanwhile, Satan has brought the church to collapse by making pre-marital sex seem normal, making divorce acceptable, and letting prejudice under the guise of immigration reform welcome. By stirring up ISIS, by bringing drugs through Mexico, by tanking the economy, Satan has taken the eyes of believers off the kingdom and on to their safety, welfare, and pleasure.

What do we do when someone takes a stand? Even in the church, we call them fanatics. What’s a little compromise going to hurt? Doesn’t the Scripture say we should be peacemakers? So why do we have to stand up to the culture? Why do we have to be different? God is love, shouldn’t we be? God is forgiving, so my sin is no big deal, right?

Jesus warns the church at Pergamum that He will turn against them with the Sword of His Mouth. His own Word, the Scriptures, will condemn them. Are we in danger of that? The answer is seen in the way Christians are voting. Professing Evangelicals, who are Democrats, have voted primarily for Bernie Sanders because he promises to give them wealth. The Evangelical Republicans are going 2 to 1 for Donald Trump because he too is promising them wealth, jobs, and security. Few are asking the deeper questions - where is the worship of God, surrender to His will, and a life of holiness and compassion - in all of this?

We need an Antipas or two who will stand against compromise, even if it means death. Like Daniel, we are facing the test of ten days; will we compromise or stand? That is the real question for the church in America today.

Februray 2016 From the Pastor's Penby Pastor Chris Gardner

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that 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 throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:9-10, ESV)

We began the year examining the first of the seven churches spoken to by the Lord Jesus Christ in Revelation 2 and 3. The Church at Ephesus was known for its great ministries, but it had grown cold in its love, its passion for the proclamation of the Gospel. When the love for the Lord grows cold, then the ministries become duties and tradition. We need to be on fire for Christ to have on fire ministries.

The second Church of the seven listed in Revelation is the one we are looking at today, the Church at Smyrna. Smyrna was the second largest city in what is today western Turkey. It had been destroyed around 700 BC and left in ruins for several hundred years before being rebuilt. Jesus makes that connection by reminding them that He too was dead and had come to life.

This Church faced persecution due to the fact that the Christians there would not bow down to the political elite. The city sponsored the first temple to the Emperor, and its citizens were required to offer sacrifices to the Emperor as a god. Due to their belief in the One, True God, the Christians refused to do so. As a result, many lost their jobs, suffered persecution, and even death.

Half a century later, the well-revered Bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp, would be martyred for his refusal to claim Caesar is Lord. His immortal words send a clarion call to all believers to remain steadfast, no matter what the cost. "Eighty and six years I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong, how then can I blaspheme my King and Savior? You threaten me with a fire that burns for a season, and after a little while is quenched; but you are ignorant of the fire of everlasting punishment that is prepared for the wicked."

As Christians, we have entered into an era in which those who are passionate for the name of Jesus Christ are considered trouble makers. Just as the Romans thought that Christians were extremists for refusing to bow to a divine Caesar, so our educational, judicial, and political leaders see us as intolerant for not accepting all viewpoints as legitimate concerning morals and religion. When we dare to say that God’s way is the only way, we are ridiculed and even punished with fines, loss of promotions, and more.

Jesus warned the Church at Smyrna that they would be tested like Daniel for ten days. The test Daniel faced in Babylon was twofold. Would he and his fellow Israelites succumb to the pleasures of Babylon and give in to the pressure to just fit in, to not make waves? Second, would they stay true to their faith and beliefs, keeping their bodies and minds focused on the eternal, even if it cost them their positions and their lives. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah counted the cost and found it worthwhile. Would the Church in Smyrna do the same?

Today, we too are being called to face the ten day Daniel test. Will we believe that the Lord God will care for His own? Will we be faithful even unto death to gain the Crown of Life? Will we stand against the wiles of the enemy, overcome the political and peer pressure to give in?

In the current politically charged atmosphere, I have heard Christian after Christian throw their support behind this person or that one, simply because they felt that individual was electable. They have even said that they made the choice to go with electability over character. Perhaps they are right, but I wonder what Daniel or Polycarp would say? I am not certain who, as a Christian, I should vote for. I am still praying about it.

However, I do know that as Christians we need to stop doing what is expedient. We need to break out of the comfort mode and begin to live out the life of Christ. If He willingly walked to the cross, can we do less?

January 2016, From the Pastor's Pen  by Pastor Chris Gardner

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. (Revelation 2:1-5a, NIV 1984)

During the past year here at Metropolitan Baptist Church, we have sought to refocus our attention on the priorities of God in prayer, serving, justice, and missions/evangelism. Our Sunday evening seminars, that began this past fall, brought those priorities to the forefront for some of our church family. Those who have not chosen to participate in any of those seminars have heard much about justice from the book of Isaiah on Sunday mornings, culminating with the message by Gary Haugen on December 27th.

With all the emphasis on the great needs of this world and the need for the church to awaken to our responsibilities as the Body of Christ and as Ambassadors of Christ*s Kingdom, we can become overwhelmed. The tendency, as Mr. Haugen implied, is to shut down, to see the job as too vast, and therefore to end up doing nothing. It is at those times that we need a new year.

The blessing of a new year is the chance to start over, to forget our past failures, to let go of our wrong priorities, and to set out on a better path for the future. In other words, the new year offers the opportunity to see the greatness of what God has done through Jesus Christ, to rejoice with the angelic hosts that a Savior was born who is Christ the Lord, and to enter into the wonder of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

Every Christian knows that at times we need a fresh start, a new look at what our priorities are. Sometimes our faith grows stale, not because God has diminished, but because we have forgotten to exercise our faith. I know that happens to us physically. The past few months, since Abby had the twins, I have hardly made it to the gym. My body feels it. I am sluggish, find myself tiring more quickly, and I am putting on weight. I know I need to exercise, but I have allowed all the changes over the past few months to distract me.

The same becomes true for our spiritual lives. With the coming of the new year, we can now start over. We can renew our love for the Lord and for His Kingdom work. It is time to rethink our priorities, to reset our internal computer, and to get on board with what God has in mind for us individually and corporately. The Apostle Paul tells us to forget what lies behind and to press on toward what lies before. The Apostle Peter said that he wrote his two epistles to stimulate us to wholesome thinking. Jude wrote that he was compelled to urge believers to contend earnestly for the faith entrusted to God*s holy people. The writer of Hebrews warned us to pay careful attention to what we have heard so that we do not drift away.

I look forward to this new year. No matter who is elected as president by the end of the year, we already know who is the head of our Kingdom: Jesus Christ. Our allegiance is to Him and to His kingdom work. Our New Year's resolutions ought to be God-centered and passionate, driven by a desire to let the glory of God be experienced throughout the world. No matter what else we have planned for the coming year, let us stir up our love that may be growing cold.

What is a New Year’s resolution anyway? Isn’t it usually an acknowledgement that what we have done in the past has not met our expectations? We look back at where we have been and understand that changes need to be made to improve our lives or the lives of those who we care about. The Bible calls this “repentance,” and that is what the Lord’s message to the Church at Ephesus challenged them to do. Repent and do the things you did at first. That is our challenge for 2016.