Thursday, April 18, 2013

Go Down Death by James Weldon Johnson

Ill never forget the first time I heard this amazingly powerful sermon. My perspective on the death of a saint of God was forever changed. Many times I have wept as I watched Wintley Phipps' amazing recitation of this poem. Personally, I have poured over these words until I found that I had them memorized. On multiple occasions, I have used this message while I counseled and taught on the subject of death...and have literally seen it break the grip of grief over a hurting soul.

by James Weldon Johnson

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.

Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God's big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.

And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.

And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn't make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God's command.

And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She's borne the burden and heat of the day,
She's labored long in my vineyard,
And she's tired--
She's weary--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.

And Death didn't say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven's pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning's flash behind;
Straight down he came.

While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn't see;
She saw Old Death. She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn't frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I'm going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.

And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn't feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.

And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.

Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.

Click here to see Wintley Phipps at his best:

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Were you a MASH fan? I was. Moreover, with the way reruns work now a days I suppose I still am. I loved the 4077th. We are talking about some of the greatest TV characters of all time…all at the same time. It was great. The comedic quickness of Hawkeye and Hunnicutt, the innocence of Radar, and the nuttiness of Klinger…it was a nonstop joy ride.  The staff of that Korean War field hospital relied on humor and hijinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.

Most of us know that M*A*S*H officially stands for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Well, I want to turn things around a little bit and approach a few subjects from a different slant. So, for the next few minutes M*A*S*H is going to unofficially stand for Medically Analyzed Spiritual Hurdles.

Doctor Hawkeye Pierce spent his time in the trenches, analyzing potentially lethal trauma and disease in the bodies of soldiers. For the next few minutes, I would like us to spend some time in the Word, analyzing potentially lethal problems in the body of Christ…the church.

I have found that the top 5 causes of death in America today are as follows…





(1) Diseases of the heart
heart attack (mainly)
(2) Malignant neoplasms
(3) Cerebrovascular disease
(4) Chronic lower respiratory disease
emphysema, chronic bronchitis
(5) Diabetes mellitus

Not much of a surprise really, most of us have friends and family that have these health problems…or perhaps even died because of one of them. However, what if I were to ask you to give me a list of the top 5 spiritual health problems in the church. Now, lets get something straight, we are not talking about non-Christians, just the saved folks…you know, the ones who should know better! I’ll tell you what; take a few moments to jot down your thoughts. The top 5 spiritual health problems in the church…got it...go ahead…I’ll wait on you.

Okay, now that you have taken some time to consider it, let me give you my list. Here is my top 5 along with some supporting scripture…enjoy.

  1. Cirrhosis of the Giver
Money, time, talents, gifts, prayer, assistance, comfort, etc, etc, etc. Christians today are a people who have everything to give and for the most part, we offer very little. God has blessed us beyond all understanding. We deserve nothing more that punishment, yet He gave us everything instead. We know what its like to be handed the world and yet we harbor those gifts, those blessings, and our knowledge like some selfish Ebenezer Scrooge. Why? Why don’t we share what we have and what we know? Why does 20% percent of the average congregation give 80% of the tithes and do 80% of the work? Why do today’s Christians have such a hard time with giving?

Jesus told a parable in the 25th chapter of Matthew that sums it up nicely.
…for when I was hungry you gave me something to eat, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

…then the righteous answered him, “Lord when did we see you?” And the master answered, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did to the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

You see, we are EXPECTED to be channels of blessing…not stagnant pools of greed! The measure by which the Lord has blessed you should be the measure by which you bless your neighbor. A greedy church is a waist of time and space. Yes, it will cost your hard earned money. Yes, it will take your precious little time. Yes, at times you may feel almost used up. But let us not forget that Jesus gave everything He had, down to His last drop of blood and last gasp of air. Shouldn’t we be willing to do the same?

  1. Diaperbetes
Let me ask you a question: What is your spiritual age? Do you understand the question? If you consider the day of your salvation as your spiritual birthday and Christ likeness to be spiritual maturity…then what is your spiritual age? Where do you stack up at this point in your spiritual walk?

Now let me ask a more pointed question: How old should you be? Therein lies a huge set back for the Church as a whole…for the most part our “soldiers in Christ” have stunted growth. Most folks stopped growing right about the newborn baby stage. Go read the book of Acts and you get the impression that the vast majority of the members then were spiritual giants. They knew the Lord and the power He offered. They used it in their everyday life and, as a result, their world was turned upside down. Now fast forward to the church of today…we have a hard time just getting Christians to show up for services on a regular basis. Today you can find a church on every street corner and, for the most part, they are completely insignificant in there communities. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that our Pastors spend most of their time baby sitting immature Christians, instead of leading a march of warriors.

In I Corinthians 13:11, Paul writes… When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the childish ways behind me.

It’s very difficult to get the world to take the Church seriously when most of our members are still wearing diapers and drinking from the bottle. Perhaps its time for some of us to grow up in the spirit, get up off our blessed assurance and go to work for the Kingdom.

  1. Receding Care-line
Here’s an unfortunate truth. Most Christians care too much about the wrong things. Oh we have passion, don’t misunderstand me, we do care. However, we care amiss. Most of our passion and care is centered on one thing…ourselves. The problem is, when we begin focusing our fervor on “number one”, it causes us to pull it off God, our brothers and sisters, and the lost.

You know what I’m talking about. How many of us can tell the story about the Christian family that walked away from the Church because their feelings got hurt over some completely irrelevant, blown out of proportion circumstances. You see, they turned their care away from God, away from Ministry, and placed on themselves. I’ve come to believe that if you wear your feelings on your sleeve, you set yourself up to become a Devil Sandwich. Satan has you just where he wants you…and he eats you for lunch.

Paul had a very interesting thing to say about the “Feelings Factor” for us saved folks.
…I have died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.         Galatians 2:20

Dead men tell no tales, and dead mean have no feelings. Besides that, did you see what he said…”Christ lives in me.” Keep in mind that this is the same Christ that, while enduring the act of crucifixion, asked the Father to forgive his torturers. It’s a good thing that Jesus was the one crucified and not the average Christian of today…they would have probably gotten their feelings hurt and went home.

In the letter that John the Beloved dictated, Jesus had very high praise for the church of Ephesus. All accept for one glaring, blaring, declaring statement...Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love (Rev 2:4). In all the good service that the Ephesian church was performing, they had lost their focus. It's so very easy for our vision to become entangled in busy work, good work, church work....and miss the best work. Misplaced care, even with the best of intensions, is contrary to God's plan. So whether our care is just receding in general, or if it's our affection for our first love that's receding, we stand in error before our King.

  1. AIDS
First, a little clarification; I’m not talking about Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS as we know it). No, I’m referring to Acquired Integrity Deficiency Syndrome.

Ah, integrity…that’s a word you don’t hear much about these days. How bout we take it a step further; how often do you hear Preachers drilling on Christian integrity? Let’s get down to the brass tax on this one. The Bible calls us a “peculiar people”. In short, we are an oddity to the viewing world. On top of that, just look around you today. Take a strong look at how the good old USofA scrutinizes the followers of Christ. For the most part secular America is waiting, hoping that one of our finest will mess up…just once…so they can pounce on ‘em. We are under a microscope like never before. Moreover, like never before keeping our Christian integrity intact is crucial. Here’s the bottom line Christian man, Christian woman; you have one, I repeat, just one chance to get it right.

Sure, within the Church we forgive and allow our own to start over…or at least we are suppose to do it that way. However, if you blow your integrity in the eyes of the world, you will lose your chance to be effective…you will lose your chance to make a difference. Take for example some of the big time Christian leaders that have fallen in the eyes of the world, many in the world will never give them another chance. Forgiveness is impossible for the lost; it is only available through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, in many ways, the Church operates much like the world in this case. So often, we eat our own, instead of circling the wagon and doing as Paul instructed in Galatians 6:1 – Brothers and sisters, if a man be overtaken a fault, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness.

 Whether it comes from the world, or the carnal church, the sad truth is this when we lose our integrity and we lose our opportunity to be taken seriously, we lose our occasion to minister the Gospel.

Listen to Peter's warning to the Church… Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of the foolish men.
                                                                                                                            1 Peter 2: 12 and 15

 There are some things in life we can slip by with…but integrity deficiency will never be one of them!

  1. Cancer of the Commitment
Use your imagination for a moment. What do you think Jesus felt when He told His disciples…”I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me”? What do you think Jesus face looked like when he caught eyes with Peter in the courtyard as the cock crowed? I wonder if you could have heard His heart break when all those He had healed, taught, and loved screamed for His crucifixion.

From the very beginning of time, God has battled one major, heart crushing struggle with His creation...unfulfilled commitment. From Adam to you and me the story remains the same; God gives all, man takes all, and then man turns his back on God. You want to know the number one disease in the church today…the broken promise of lost commitment. You can see it from the Pastors to the pew sitters. Teachers, elders, moms, dads, long time Christians, and brand new baby Christians…it’s like a broken record in the ears of the Father. In fact, you go back and look at the four previous subjects we have discussed thus far…you can really boil it all down to this very thing, lack of loyalty.

I know what you are thinking, because I feel the same way…“I love God, I really do, I don’t mean to hurt Him, I don’t want to break my promise, I don’t want to disappoint Him.” As a matter of fact, broken commitment is the very crux of all sin. Every time we sin against God, we turn our backs on Him, we walk away, and we betray Him.

Kinda brings you down pretty low doesn’t it. Kinda sticks you right where it hurts. Well, don’t beat yourself up to bad. Let me tell you why, God knows, and somehow He loves us enough to make up the difference…its called MERCY and GRACE. It flows from Mt. Calvary. It’s the reason He came, the reason He lived and died. You see…

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not parish but have ever lasting life.              John 3:16

Notice it does not say, “that whosoever does not break their commitment with Him shall not parish.” Jesus knows that we will struggle with that one from now till heaven, so He made up the difference for us and said…”all you have to do is believe, and I’ll take care of the rest.”

I love you Jesus, thank you so much; you’re the best, the absolute best.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Living in Laodicea: The Laodicean Letter 2

The city of Laodicea was situated southwest of Philadelphia, in the Lycus River Valley. The Valley lands were fertile and the water sources were plenty and varied. The city of Colossae, for instance, was fed by ice cold springs. Hierapolis, a city close to Laodicea, drew from the hot waters of the cascades. Laodicea was a bit different. As I shared in the previous blog, they had engineered channels that brought water from an aqueduct over 4 miles away. The archeological sites at Laodicea have uncovered great fountains and a water tower that were fed by this aqueduct. It was an architectural site to behold, I’m sure. As aesthetically pleasing as these structures would have been, I’d like to make an observation; their water was a drag! Here’s what I mean, simple science can prove that the water in Laodicea, after it took a four mile trip down the sun bathed channel, and rested in the water tower, was quite tepid in temperature.  Not cold, like Colossae, and not hot, like Hierapolis. Laodicea’s water, in contrast to them both was lukewarm.

Now lukewarm water can be used, but it’s not very useful. Cold water can chill food, cool your hot brow, or make a glass of ice tea. Hot water can sooth a sore back, clean dirty clothes, and cook your dinner. However, in a functional since, lukewarm water can do none of this. Its “in-between-ness” renders it useless for most circumstances. So, when Jesus used the terminology we find in Revelation 3:15-16, it would have been understood by everyone. In fact, whether you lived in Laodicea 2000 years ago or in North East Texas today, this concept works the same. Lukewarm water is useless.

Before we look at Revelation 3, I want to pose a hypothetical question to you. I will describe 2 situations. Then, after you have considered the implications of both circumstances, I want you to answer this question: If you had to choose, which situation would you rather live in? Another way to say it is …which is the better of two evils? And by the way, answering neither is not an option. Do you understand the rules? Okay here goes…

Situation #1
You’ve been married for several years; you have 2 children, and a big problem; your partner is unfaithful. You both know the truth, and you know the other person is aware. This is the way it’s been for some time; however, to save face in the community and to keep up the front that your marriage is wonderful and healthy, you never say a thing, not even to each other. On the outside, and by societal standards, you have the perfect marriage and the perfect family. On the inside you and your spouse are hollow actors on the stage of life.

Situation #2
You’ve been in a marriage for several years; you have 2 kids, and a big problem; your partner is unfaithful. This is the way it’s been for sometime how, and it’s not going to change. You are both fully aware of the situation and have fought over it many times. You and your spouse no longer have any desire to make the marriage work; you don’t even like each other. However, for the kid’s sake, you’ve decided to stay in the same house and be parents….not partners. As soon as the kids are old enough you will do publically what you’ve already done privately…end the relationship.

Okay, now make your choice. I realize both options stink, but which is the better of 2 evils? I actually posed this question to several people a few months ago. At first, they all tried to squirm out of it. However, after holding them to the rules, they made the undesirable pick. And unanimously, the choice was to live in situation #2. Not only were the votes unanimous, but the reasons for choosing #2 were all very similar. At least in situation #2, the couple is honest about the circumstances and their feelings. In situation #1 you had to deal with the infidelity and with lying to yourself and others around. You had to pretend everything was “okay” when it obviously was not.

Now, please hear what I’m about to say, this the picture Jesus painted when He addressed the Laodicean church about being lukewarm. Let me explain. The concept of being “cold” is easily understood. We speak of having a cold heart, or being icy toward others. This paints the picture of being emotionless and uncaring. A cold person is easily detected and easily felt. Relationships are not sought after by this person. And those who would attempt to have a relationship with a cold person are rejected and denied. On the other end of the spectrum, we understand what hot denotes also. We say things like, our love is on fire, or refer to a person as very fervent or zealous, or passionate. These are “hot” emotions. These relationships have the potential of being fulfilled and exciting.

On a spiritual level, a cold person would have no desire for relationship with Christ; they are spiritually lifeless and dead. At the same time, a hot person would be warm and zealous in their love and service for the Lord. Here, I want to make a quick point, and then we will get to the next verses in the Laodicean Letter. The status of a hot and a cold person may stand in complete opposition to each other, however, they do have one thing in common that Jesus appreciates…honesty. A cold person may be rejecting Christ, but at least they are honestly rejecting Him. As terrible as open and deliberate rebellion is, as far as Jesus is concerned, it is highly preferable to the third option. Let’s take a look at the text…


“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

I don’t care who you are, those are some hard and blunt words. Jesus, with these words, has begun a swift and decisive judgment of the spiritual condition of this church in Asia. Remember He is “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, and the Beginning of the creation of God.” Consequently, He alone holds the right to judge them, and be sure, He will do it in fairness. In other words, they deserve exactly what they are about to get.

Jesus begins His no holds barred assessment of the Laodicean church by making and inarguable statement: “I know your works…” The verses following this statement lead us to the understanding that this body of believers had progressed to an unacceptable condition. They were wealthy, highly touted, and acceptable in the eyes of the community; unfortunately, the church had fallen into the trap of putting stock in that opinion, and hailing it as the measure of a successful church. This condition was the end result of a silent voyage. At some point in the past, they had begun a perilous journey down a road that the Bible warns “leads to the fall”. The vehicle they were was in was pride (Proverbs 16:18). Pride seduces you into morphing into a creature that God detests, while at the same time blinding you to the fact that you are changing. It is a magic mirror that shows you want you want to see. The Laodicean church was looking into their self-made magic mirror and they saw a top notch, prize-winning church, when in fact, they were an ugly, deformed creature in God’s eyes. They were fooling the world, they were fooling themselves, but Jesus was not fooled…”I know your works…”

After stating the fact that He could see through the façade, Jesus tells them what He sees. “…that you are neither cold nor hot.” Obviously, Jesus desires a church whose fervor for Him is on fire; hot with passion for the Gospel, and burning with love for God. Yet, at the same time, in Jesus’ illustration, there is no such thing as a cold church. Spiritually cold people would never go to church to begin with. Jesus adds insult to injury when He tells them, “I could wish you were hot or cold.”  Christ’s desire for them to be hot is obvious, but His rathering they be cold, instead of what they actually were, was a sobering slap in the face. Cold means no church at all. Jesus is basically saying since you’re not hot, I wish you were not even an operating, functioning church at all. Why Jesus? His answer comes down like and avalanche; “because you are lukewarm.”

I want you to think back to the situational illustration I gave before. Two very undesirable circumstances, but one was more detestable than the other. It was the couple that was acting as if they were a happily married, with a wonderful home life, while playing the role for the world to see. This is the view Jesus has of the Laodicean Church. They have all the markings of a house of God, but in the spiritual since, they are living a lie. Sure, this is heartbreaking for God, but it’s much more than that. The rationale is simple; the Laodicean church was making a mockery of the death of His only begotten Son. They were using the name of Jesus to build their empire, and in the meanwhile, they were refusing to give Him the love, service, and worship that He absolutely deserves. This state of operations infuriates the Father, and Jesus exemplifies the extent of His anger with His next words.

“…because you are lukewarm…I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

Listen, I want to be very honest about something, I HATE to vomit. In fact, if you somehow enjoy it, you’ve got other issues that need to be addressed. Vomiting is the body’s way of rejecting a substance that is detrimental to its health. Actually, that definition is quite sterilized. The act of vomiting is just plain awful! Throwing up is an exhausting, full body work out; you sweat, you heave, you spasm, you make un-natural sounds. The only redeeming quality is that when it’s over, you have gotten rid of the problem. This is exactly what Jesus is saying to the church in Laodicea. In essence, He is telling this church, you make me sick at my stomach, you are a detriment to my body, and therefore, I am going to endure the painful process of vomiting you up and out!
People, this is not a pretty picture by any account. The longsuffering patients of the Lord is renown throughout the Word. However, He had reached a point of no return with Laodicea’s church. Some of you may ask, “Didn’t He give them a chance to repent?” The answer is undeniable…no! I know this is true because of one easily overlooked word that Jesus used.  He said, “I WILL vomit you out of My mouth.” The deal was sealed when Jesus said the word “will”. Now, I want to make an important distinction that I will expound on in a later installment. The Laodicean church, as an entity, was finished; however, the individuals that attended the church were not.
I realize this isn’t the most uplifting 2 verses in scripture. In the proceeding verses, Jesus will explain to the church exactly what their problem is, and then, like only God can do, He will give them a way to find relationship with Him again.
Please join me next time around as we look at verses 17, 18, and 19 of the Laodicean Letter.
Until then, keep seeking the truth

Living in Laodicea: The Laodicean Letter 1

Right up front, I’d like to start with an explanation. I introduced the “Living in Laodicea” series a couple of months ago with excitement. I was excited, you were excited…then the holiday season began. As a result, I allowed myself to get busy and my writing slowed down. However, recently, as I began to consider this topic again, God laid out for me the way in which I would present it. This direction from God came in an unexpected way, and I’d like to share it as we begin.

Last November, while in Bible study, God began to deal with me about a teaching on the Laodicean Letter. While sharing my thoughts with a friend, he mentioned a song that referenced the teaching I was alluding to. The song, written by Steve Camp, is entitled, “Living in Laodicea”. I listened to it that very day, and was impressed. It was exactly in line with what God had placed on my heart. I decided then to seek the Lord about blogging/broadcasting/preaching this word. A few days later in November, I began by writing the introductory blog for the Living in Laodicea teaching series. Okay, now flash forward to last Sunday (Jan 20th). The family and I, having returned home from church, were relaxing around the house. Actually, my wife, my son Kollin, and I had just finished praying over some issues together. At that point, God reminded me of Steve Camp’s song. I decided to play it for Jennifer and Kollin, but before I did, I felt led to explain the Bible passage that the song refers to. So, we pulled out our Bibles and I briefed them on the text in Revelation 3. As I skimmed through the teaching, simply wanting to set up the song, I soon realized God was providing the perfect outline. It came quickly and unexpectedly. Isn’t that just like God? At that point, I knew it was time for me to really tie into this message.

Here’s how the Spirit has laid out this teaching in my heart. It will be divided into 3 parts:
1.       The Laodicean Letter – in today’s installment we will begin looking at the Laodicean Letter. I will, with the Spirit’s help, begin pulling apart the deeper meaning of the passage. We will key-in on the condition of the Laodicean church of John’s day. Since part 1 is the exegesis of Revelation 3:14-22, it will take multiple blogs to complete. I cannot, in good conscious, short cut this part of the process; however I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much info at one time either…so we will take part 1 in sections.

2.       The Laodicean Age – in part 2, I want to apply the truths discussed in part 1 with a different focal point. We will focus on relating them to the Church of today. As I explained in the introductory blog, the Laodicean church is a scriptural representation of the modern day Church…this should be eye opening.  

3.       The Laodicean Life – in part 3, we will examine the individual that John writes about in the letter to the Laodicean church. We will take a look at how that relates to you and me. At this point, the teaching will become personal.

Wonderful…I’m excited! I love the Word of God. I pray that His anointing will be obvious on the words and ideas placed forth. I pray that you will be receptive to the teaching…not to my ramblings, but to the ministering words of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Living in Laodicea
Part 1: The Laodicean Letter

There’s an old saying that goes something like this…the truth hurts. I’m sure we all agree and can recall times in our past when this cliché rang true. The truth is an interesting entity; it deals with us differently depending on our position to it. If we are standing in the truth, holding up the truth, and living out the truth; then the truth will support, protect, and strengthen us. On the other hand, if we begin to operate in opposition to the truth, or ignore the truth, or bend the truth; then the truth becomes a sword that cuts deeply (Heb 4:12). Now I don’t know what you think, but I tend to believe that a slashing sword would hurt! The letter to the church in Laodicea bears this thought out perfectly. They are about to receive a stern warning: The sword of truth is coming…and it’s going to hurt.

In the previous 6 letters to the churches in Asia, John had penned great, encouraging words mingled with rebukes and corrections. Some of the churches were highly praised by Jesus. Others were not so highly acknowledged, but they all had redeeming characteristics pointed out by Christ. Sadly, Laodicea cannot boast of this in any way. The name Laodicea means “judgment”, and that’s exactly what they received in this letter from the Lord.

During the time that John wrote the book of Revelation, history shows that Laodicea was a prosperous city. Archeological sites have uncovered great fountains and water ways that fed the city. It appears they had the engineering capabilities and the financial worth to channel in water from an aqueduct over four miles away (I will reference this water system again later). After reading Paul’s letter to the church, we can conclude that the Christian community of Laodicea was also sharing in this prosperous time. To most folks this fact would lead them to believe the church was blessed, we will soon see that it was not.

Not only did this church have financial resources, but they also had great spiritual resources. Several times in Paul’s writings he refers to the church in Laodicea. In fact, along with the church at Ephesus, the Laodicean church received regular correspondence and teaching from Paul. In fact, Paul sent a man, Epaphras, to Laodicea to help train and disciple them (see Colossians 1:7, 4:12-16). We learn from these verses that Paul also instructed that his Epistle to the Colossians be sent to Laodicea. Wow, can you imagine the tremendous opportunities God afforded this group of believers; handpicked ministers, Holy Spirit inspired letters and teachings, and interaction from Paul and John, themselves. Truly, Laodicea was a blessed community of believers, but, to whom much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48).

For the rest of part 1, I’m going to organize my writing as such; I will place the words of Jesus to the church in red, as it is printed in many of our Bibles. The black text following will be my thoughts and explanations regarding the scripture. Very well, let’s see what Jesus personally directed John to write to the Laodicean Church in Revelation 3:14-22.


To the angel of the church of Laodicea write:

The correct meaning of the word “angel” has been a point of disagreement for many scholars. Just what does this word refer to? Some say it refers to an angelic being that was assigned to the church. However, we have absolutely no scriptural backing that alludes to angelic oversight of any church. Others say it is referring to some sort of area wide overseer or bishop. However, the Apostles never set up the church to operate this way. Man has used this method over the centuries, but this was never God’s plan for church government. The word angel can almost always be translated “messenger”, and this is the correct translation for the word in this verse. Jesus’ letter is addressed to “the messenger of the church of Laodicea”. Obviously, the messenger of any given church is the church’s pastor. He is the man that proclaims God’s message to the believers. All 7 letters In Revelation 2 and 3 were addressed to the pastor of the church in question, who was then to share it with the people.

These things say the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.

At this point, as was true with all 7 church letters, Jesus introduces Himself to the church. Throughout the Word, there are countless names and titles given to Jesus. All of them carry an important and distinct meaning. All of them point to an awesome aspect of Christ’s character. Here, Jesus selects the exact title or description for the moment. These are not leisurely placed nicknames…no, they hold perfect meaning and consequence.
Immediately, Jesus is going to make the readers of this letter sit-up and take notice. He does not parse words, He does not begin gingerly, no, He is throwing down the hammer from the beginning. The word amen has become softened in our ears. We use it so often and casually that it is easy for us to skip past it. In this case, we must not. This word sets the tone for the entire letter and the Laodicean pastor would have recognized the tone without question. First, recall that the word “Amen” is capitalized. Jesus is not simply saying amen, He is instead proclaiming, “I AM THE AMEN!”. Okay, so what does that mean? The word amen, as Christ used it, means “he who is eminently true and faithful.” In other words, what He says is absolute truth; He is not passing out idle threats, He is handing out promises. Jesus is not just speaking the truth, He is THE TRUTH. He said it in John 14:6 and He is now proclaiming it again. The Laodicean church will soon be characterized by Jesus as “lukewarm”. Due to the fact that Jesus is the Amen, the Truth, He is perfectly qualified to look at the condition of the church and call a spade a spade. If anyone has the ability to know the truth about the condition of this church, it is “the AMEN.”
Next, Jesus adds to His introduction as He refers to Himself as “the Faithful and True Witness”. If “the AMEN” somehow escaped their attention, Jesus is now going to further explain Himself. You see, when a person has become spiritually deaf and blind because of sin, the obvious things of God can easily slip by us. Things we would see immediately, if we were in good standing with Christ, can become easily skipped over by our darkened eyes of flesh. Perhaps this is why Jesus chose drive home this point. To be sure, He did not make a mistake by repeating HHHHimself. The phrase “the Faithful and True Witness” is almost a text book definition of the word “Amen” used just prior by Jesus. Also, make sure you recognize that these words are capitalized. He is not saying “I have a faithful and true personality” for Jesus IS faithfulness, He IS truth. He doesn’t simply DO these things, He IS these things. Jesus is the Great Witness for God and the truth. He is unable to approve of anything that God does not approve of. The Laodicean church will soon understand this in fine detail.
In the final part of the introduction trilogy, Jesus pulls rank on the church in Laodicea. He wants the pastor and the people to realize in totality who they are being addressed by. The phrase “the Beginning of the creation of God” is a POWERFUL title, indeed. Some translations say “ruler” of the creation…this is a poor paraphrase. The word “Beginning” carries the entire meaning of this title. What is Jesus alluding to in this self designation? First of all, He is not referring to Himself as the creator. It is true that Jesus is the creator of the universe, scripture is implicit on this point (John 1:1-3), but this is not what Jesus is referring to here. Secondly, He’s not stating that He was the first created being. We know that Jesus, being part of the God-head, is uncreated and eternal (again refer to John 1:1-3). When Jesus calls Himself “the Beginning of the creation of God”, He is actually making a reference to His place as the Redeemer. John 17:2 says, God has given Him power “over all flesh”. John 2:8 says that all things are “put under His feet”. Ephesians 1:20-22 point out that Jesus is exalted over all things. Being “the Beginning of the creation of God” means Jesus is the once and future King…the Ruler. In this way, He is speaking with all authority to the church of Laodicea.
After reading the letter’s pointed introduction, the congregation should have easily recognized that whatever followed demanded their attention and response. Jesus was speaking to them personally, and the correct reaction was absolutely crucial.  
Okay then, with the very powerful introduction to this letter from Jesus Christ behind us, this is good place to wrap up this first installment. I will soon post the next installment as Jesus begins to judge this “lukewarm” church. You don’t want to miss it. Check back in a few days as we continue the study “Living in Laodicea”.
Keep seeking the truth,