Thursday, February 4, 2016

Touching Base, Part 295

07 Feb 16
Series - House On Fire! Part 2
The Stretch!

This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching in this series is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

What might be five or six words that could describe the stretch in your life these days? We all experience stress, troubled waters or challenging paths - I call this the “stretch” - experiences that challenge our resources, drain our energy and perhaps rock our faith. There are words that help express what it feels like or what the tribulation actually is.
What is it about being “in the stretch” that can cause us to lose our focus on Christ?

In part 2 of House on Fire we come to the Church in Smyrna. This was a church that is not rebuked but encouraged and instructed as they face the stretch in ways that perhaps we will never face in our lifetime.

Smyrna, a large and wealthy city 35 miles north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus, it was a seaport. In contrast to Ephesus, which today is a deserted ruin, Smyrna is still a large seaport with a present population of about 200,000. The name of the city, Smyrna, means “myrrh,” an ordinary perfume. It was also used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle, and in embalming dead bodies.

Read the text (Rev 2:8-11) and pull out the words that describe their stretch.

Note what they are presently suffering through, and what they can anticipate in suffering.

Note: 10 days

“Some have taken these words “for 10 days” as a symbolic representation of the entire persecution of the church; others think it refers to 10 persecutions under Roman rulers. “The most probable meaning is that it anticipated a limited period of time for suffering” (cf. Walvoord, Revelation, pp. 61–62).

Notice that John wants them to READ THE RECORD IN THE STRETCH. In verse 8, he makes a Christological statement and then he applies Jesus’ record to their situation.

V.8 - What is John saying about Jesus?
What was he stating about Christ’s character, identity by referring to Him as the first and last?
Note that His death and resurrection demonstrate His unique character and identity.

Now work through the text and look again at the words describing their stretch, and the encouragement John gives them in light of who Christ is.

For example – v.9 - they are experiencing tribulation and poverty ( the Greek here emphasizes extreme poverty). However, because Jesus is the first and last, because this is Jesus’ record, how does that impact how they are to truly see themselves?

Note: “that you may be tested” What is John getting at? Certainly he is not referring to a “works” kind of salvation - “Grind through this tough time and earn your way, pass the test and you will be saved.”

I think what John may be getting at is that, when we go through trials of all sorts, they can test (reveal, expose) the certainty of our faith, the maturity of our walk and our trust in our Saviour. The difficult path can expose our vulnerabilities and at the same time be a source of strengthening and growth. Only Jesus who is the first and last can take our trials, our difficult path, and use it for the greater good in our lives.

How do you keep your eyes on Christ and His record when going through tough times?

How do you process the tension of a sovereign God allowing you to go through trial?

What have you learned about God and yourself (tested) in seasons of tribulation?

Imagine a church like this, facing tribulation but allowing the record of Jesus to shape our response. Perhaps the testimony of the church, the passion of the church is most powerfully seen, not when all is well, but when life is hard, the cost is high. That’s when the world will truly see our passion, fire, and conviction! A House on Fire!

Our first Sunday (Feb 14) of Unleashed, our prayer focus, is all centered on the character of God. Not on asking, requesting, or bringing our list, but thinking and reflecting and worshiping who Christ truly is. Reading His record! It is His record that instills passion and fire into the heart of the church.

Check out and be sure to come to Unleashed, starting on February 14th at 4 pm.

Mark Kotchapaw

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