Tag Archives: Revelation

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Revelation 3:2 – “Watch and Strengthen”)

“Watch and Strengthen”

Revelation 3:2, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”

This morning, what commands our minds? One of the main components of the devil’s devices is to capture our main attention. Any attention he can divert to his desire is attention that we do not pay to truly important matters. His devices prey upon fear, torment, sorrow, and discouragement. For the worldly-minded child of God today, there is much to fear, and for the good-hearted child of God today, there is much to discourage. However, what should command our foremost attention is the fact that nothing that happens to us or around us changes one single promise that God has made unto us. Nothing happens to make Him leave or forsake us, and no event of human history is great enough to separate us from His love.

Most of our writings in segments like these speak in general tones with a few specific illustrations, but from time to time, our mind is impressed to speak more pointedly and plainly than is usual. This morning is such a time. Please kind reader, cast a mantle of charity over these thoughts if you feel they are too plain. Hopefully this writing will show that our intention is to encourage rather than discourage God’s dear children as we soldier together in the desert of life. Many of my observations about spirituality among the family of God and particularly the household of faith are shared by ministers across the land. As I converse with other ministers about what we see, things seem almost identical no matter the geographical locality. Worldliness is way up, spirituality is way down, and dependence upon God is lacking in so many minds across this country. This should not come as a surprise as prosperity has always hampered an elect’s spirituality, while persecution and hard times serve to draw us closer to God than before.

Our study verse is part of the address to the church at Sardis. Sardis’ situation is very reminiscent of today’s culture. It was the capital city of Lydia, and was considered perhaps one of the most luxurious cities of that day. They did not lack for creature comforts, and today, the only thing that remains of that once great and luxurious place is a heap of ruins. Our culture today is perhaps the most luxurious it has ever been. Indeed, the poor are still with us, but by and large, this time is one of the most – if not the most – luxurious times history has ever seen. Just as Christ said it was hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, so is it hard for comfortable people to find comfort in the gospel of God’s kingdom. Man’s riches can prevent him from pressing into the kingdom as he should, and man’s comforts can prevent him from experiencing the kingdom as he should. Truly, I must confess that I have been hampered and hindered repeatedly in my spiritual walk due to the “good life” that we have in a natural way.

On the other hand, great care should be taken to prevent ideas and messages like this from becoming all “doom and gloom.” There have been well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning people down through the years that took ideas like this and brow beat people into a “do this or die” mindset. Brow beating is not the answer. Softness is not the answer either. So what is? John’s statement to the angel at the church in Sardis is the answer. Be watchful and strengthen. When a caretaker, gardener, etc. is engaged in nurturing greenery, there are times when things wilt over. They are ready to die, but they are not dead. Big difference. When someone has died – whether naturally or to the fellowship of spiritual things – they are beyond man’s reach to encourage. If someone has drifted away into the form of death from Hebrews 6:4-6, we cannot reach them. However, if someone is wilted over spiritually from the luxury of life, we need to watch for these things and strengthen them as we can.

Currently, there is nothing living in my garden. What had been planted there for the winter got drowned by excessive rainfall, thereby preventing me from trying to nurture it. However, in the next few months, more things will be planted that hopefully will be strengthened and not die. There are things we have lost in our lives that cannot be salvaged. Time – once lost – is never regained. Youth – once faded – is never replaced. However, there are many things in our lives and churches that can be strengthened as they have not died. Some may be ready to die, but they are not dead.

Strengthening wilting spirituality comes through diligent prayer, studious execution of God’s word, and faithful declaration of God’s goodness. For the good-hearted but discouraged lamb, they need to be reminded that God is still on the throne and still perfect in all His doings. For the worldly minded and fearful sheep, they need to be reminded that God still loves them in spite of all that we see. There is not a situation in life that is not a good opportunity to extoll the greatness of a mighty God to weak and wretched sinners. There is not a situation in life that cannot be improved from its current state as we can always do better than we are doing right now. A message of God’s perfect care coupled with what should be our improving walk is how we strengthen the wilting.

I freely admit that there are times that “throwing up our hands” in a form of dismay, discouragement, and/or disgust may seem preferable. However, I have to be reminded again that God still loves me in spite of all this. I have to be reminded that God will have us without fail. I have to remind myself that He is in control. Praise the Lord! My simple charge is to watch and strengthen. Now, when plants are wilted, they may have to go through some pain and distress before they “get well.” We may have to experience some hard times before growing as we should. A retired vinedresser told me years ago that grapes do not really get sweet unless they struggle through the growing process. Sometimes we have to struggle through our growing process to produce the truly sweet fruit that is pleasing in our Master’s sight.

The message today is not doom and gloom. The message today is not fire and brimstone. The message today is “Look up friends!” Our help is not of this world. Our strength does not come from this world. We ourselves are not of this world, as He has made us something this world is not worthy of. Is it discouraging to see lambs and sheep hurting themselves through repeated periods of spiritual waning? Yes indeed. Is it fearful sometimes to consider what we will likely see before our lives end and what our children will have to experience? Surely it is. However, things are not dead. They may be ready to die, but let us watch and strengthen if so be that we may see the miraculous hand of God with us. Revival is still possible, and we should be availing ourselves of every effort that we can to keep death away from the things we love.

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Revelation 1:3 – “Blessed Condition”)

“Blessed Condition”

Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”

This morning, we frail mortals fail to consider what great blessings are afforded to us.  Man’s nature consistently desires more than he currently possesses, and as a result, fails to be thankful for the plentitude that he has.  Many years ago, I heard a minister comment on the “unseen thanks” through what we are thankful for.  One of his examples hit me squarely, “We hear about people being thankful for a good night’s rest, and we should be.  But, when was the last time you thanked God for a bed to get that good night’s rest in?”  Though we should be thankful for daily bread, do we thank Him for a table to eat it on?  Having a good job to provide for our families, do we thank Him for a comfortable vehicle to drive to and from said employment?  So, often we thank God for salvation and redemption, but how often are we contemplative to thank Him for our “place” in knowing that?

In opening the book of Revelation, John sets many foundational principles in place, and one of them is a blessed condition to those who have the opportunity to employ it.  This opportunity has been afforded to me, and if it applies to you, dear reader, then we have every reason for supreme thanks to God for His untold goodness to us.  The condition that John describes is such that not every heir of grace will have such opportunity to be so blessed.  While their salvation and redemption is secure in Jesus Christ, their condition here on earth could be more blessed with the description that John gives.

The first principle of this condition is “Blessed is he that readeth.”  Following the sentence structure of the verse, the reading under consideration is the words of this prophecy.  Someone who has access to these words to read is blessed beyond the condition of someone who does not.  The words of the book have the ability to transform our lives through the gleaned information within the pages.  Years ago, I remember my natural father saying, “I’m really glad we’re blessed to read, for if it took full understanding, then I would be left out.  But friends, I can be blessed in the reading, whether I fully understand everything or not.”  Consider our state today.  Currently, I have a Bible in just about every room of my house.  Of my four children, the two oldest are already in possession of their own copy of Holy Writ.  How blessed we are!

Looking through the accounts of church history, many of the saints of old were forbidden from owning Scriptures or even had to share them due to their poor and destitute condition.  Today we have ready access to the blessed word, and by opening and reading, we are blessed to grow in knowledge of the workings of our Lord for and to us.  Notice for a moment what it does not say.  Not only does it not say that blessedness comes from understanding, it also does not say that blessedness comes from possessing the words.  Though I have a Bible in most rooms of my house, that ownership does not transform me into the blessed condition without the actual reading of it.

The next phrase “they that hear the words of this prophecy” shows one of those subtle shifts of focus in Scripture.  The first phrase focused on the individual, but the second phrase focuses on a group.  We can read and learn while by ourselves, but John furthers the discussion on the blessed condition by describing a group activity of hearing the words of this prophecy declared.  As Paul said about this activity in I Corinthians 1:18, it is the “power of God” for those that are saved.  For the child of God, nothing in this world compares to hearing the words of this prophecy declared with gospel authority for the comfort and edification of the soul.

The setting of the preaching of the gospel or declaring of these words occurs within the context of the “they” rather than the “he.”  However, notice the order, which I do not believe is arbitrary.  The reading precedes the hearing, and the benefit of the gospel always expands when we have been putting forth due diligence beforehand as individuals.  A fervent brother told me recently, “Every sermon you’re preaching lately is touching on things that I’ve been reading.”  My reply was rather obvious, “The more you read, the more likely that is to happen.”  While my reply is a statistical probability, the reality is that the more prepared we are for the heralding of the gospel, the more we will rejoice and get out of it.

Just like I have possession of so many Bibles, I was brought up all my life going to church and listening to the truth of the gospel declared.  Sometimes I feel rather ashamed that I had to work so little to find the church and hunt for the truth as it was laid before me over and over.  However, I try now to be thankful that God has been so good to me to present such an opportunity as I have had in my life to be so blessed.  I could not number up the amount of gospel sermons that I have heard, nor could I begin to fathom the depths of benefit that it has given me that I would not have otherwise.  Truly, I have been supremely favored to have these opportunities that so very many in the family of Almighty God have not ever been exposed to.

Lastly, John finishes by showing the end product of reading as individuals and hearing as congregations with “keep those things which are written therein.”  So often, we get shortsighted about the impact of our reading and hearing.  The goal is not to say, “Well, I have read my Bible, and I went to church this week.  Check!”  The goal in our reading and hearing is to then keep those things which we are exposed to.  It starts with David’s declaration in Psalm 119:11.  We keep these commands when we hide the Lord’s word in our heart.  The end result?  So that we would not sin against Him.  With our reading, we should treasure and keep those things close, and by so doing, we will find ourselves better informed to deal with the situations that life throws at us.  By keeping in memory what is preached, we will save (deliver) ourselves from a myriad of problems. (I Corinthians 15:4)

Coupled with this last condition of blessedness is the statement about the time being at hand.  Without getting bogged down about what the time at hand is not about, what is John describing in the context?  John’s thrust at the outset of the book is to declare that this book is about Jesus Christ, and what John saw pertains to Him.  In conjunction with the book being about Christ, we are blessed if we have been exposed to these things through reading, preaching, and keeping – particularly keeping.  Part of the zeal we experience in keeping these things is that the time is at hand.  Notice how the statements of John line up Paul and Hosea.  In Romans 13:11 and Hosea 10:12, both writers encourage their readers in much the same way that John does.

The time we have before us is to seek the Lord.  Do we know how to do that?  If we have read, heard, and strive to keep, then yes we do know how to do that.  Is that blessed?  Absolutely!  Not only does our conscience bear witness to these things, but we have a plethora of knowledge to corroborate what our conscience tells us between right and wrong.  Have we read or heard lately?  It is time!  Have we been keeping?  It is time!  So much of my life mirrors the old songwriter of that wonderful hymn “Thus Far the Lord Has Led Me On.”  He said, “Much of my time has run to waste, and I perhaps am near my home.  But He forgives my follies past and gives me strength for days to come.”  The fact that we still have breath and life means that we should seek to redeem what we have rather than consistently throw it to waste.  Others have not the opportunity to read the words of this prophecy.  Let us who own these words read them faithfully and regularly.  Others have not the opportunity to assemble with the saints to hear the gospel proclaimed.  Let us who know the joyful sound be instant to appear in His courts when the doors are open.  And, let us who have been blessed with these truths of knowledge seek the Lord in the keeping of His word.  Shall we seize these opportunities?  It is time…

In Hope,
Bro Philip