The church at Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17) received a mixed report from Jesus. Like much of the church today, and like many of the congregations that believers fellowship in, there were some good things about their mission, but enough of a deficiency to receive a stern warning from the Lord.
The church at Pergamum had held fast to the name of Christ, even though their circumstances were oppressive. The hostility they faced was such that Jesus described them as living “where Satan’s throne is.” These believers hadn’t insulated themselves behind protective walls, or in the better neighborhoods, in order to avoid contact with “sinners.” Instead, they stayed put and relied on Jesus, even when one of their fellowship was martyred for the name of Christ.
Would believers today receive this commendation? Or do we make every effort to avoid unbelievers and the suffering that witnessing Christ brings?
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Donald J. Trump
was eager to stump.
He seemed to be everywhere,
and was best known for his hair.
Mr Colonel Sanders
wants no bystanders.
Whole crowds he entices
with eleven herbs and spices.
Confinement in tight spaces for long spans with other humans is, at the same time, most definitely not what God envisioned for the race and very instructive.
Instructive at least in the sense that you learn much about yourself: what annoys you, what smells are most offensive, which family member breaks first in tight spaces for long spans.
But, if you’re observant, you can learn some other things, too.
Northern Illinois is full of corn fields and wind turbine farms, responsible, one must presume, for much human ocular boredom syndrome (H.O.B.S. — “there’s not much to look at, here…”), for droves of farmers aimlessly shuffling through the infinite stalks of corn after having been rendered catatonic by the ultra-low-frequency electrical hum of sky-scraping wind turbines, for scores of formerly living birds who happened into the path of a truck-length turbine blade, and for minivans full of frazzled families thwarted by agrarian vistas in their attempts to distract one another with the “ABC Game.”
After several hours of driving, I envied the birds, in a sense, who at least were not confined in tight spaces with anything for any length of time.
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The Rule of Bristling Submission
Our confidence in the ability to detect incompetence in others is directly related to how much we are subject to their authority.
Some say that the Beast of Revelation 13 represents godless society, the cultures of men built without reference to God. Throughout history many worship this beast (Rev 13:8), which would mean that the Beast represents earthly power, and the desire of men to possess it, and to use it against one another. It calls to mind what Nietzsche called the “will to power.”
What greater power can one man exert over another than to take his life because he does not conform to a standard?
Babylon, also called the Harlot (Rev 17:5; 18), is said to represent the pleasures of the earth, including materialism, hedonism, and autonomy.
Together the Beast and Babylon attempt to keep men away from God, or to lure them away from Him, by powering them away through intimidation or persecution, or by pleasuring them away by appealing to base desires. They are counterfeit versions of the real thing, in which the Lion (Jesus Christ) reigns in righteous power, and the true Bride (His church) will experience true delights with him forevermore.
Today, the Beast roars, and the Harlot lures.
Soon, the Lion comes.
It’s a familiar situation: a single person who attends one church becomes romantically interested in a person who doesn’t attend that church.
Once this happens, the woman starts attending the man’s church more frequently, or the man stops participating as much in his church, or the teen’s parents consider changing churches so junior can be closer to his girlfriend.
There are many variations on the theme, of course, and many factors contributing to the phenomena, but the fundamental question that all of them raise is this: To what degree should a believer’s participation in church life change due to dating?
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The Backslider (Birmingham AL: Solid Ground, 1801, 2005)
Andrew Fuller wrote about backsliding in 1801, but he might as well have been writing to many in the church today.
Listen to some of these gems from J.A. James’ Introduction:
…the symptom of declension [backsliding] were but too evident, in a diminished interest on the subject of religion, and in less frequent attendance on its public ordinances, till at length, nothing but the form of godliness remained, and even that so mutilated or wasted, as to have lost all its symmetry as well as its vitality.
Living in an age of commercial and political excitement, and acted upon by surrounding scenes, they have little time and less inclination for those exercises of devotion, self-examination, and watchfulness, which at all times are necessary, and especially so in the present, for maintaining ore regaining the vitality of religion; and thus they slide down into a lukewarm state, and settle at length in a confirmed departure from God.
Diminished interest, declining attendance, and lack of attention to devotion, self-examination and watchfulness. Was he a time traveler?