2) My Journey Through Revelation: The Church in Ephesus

“The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lamp-stands is this:  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lamp-stands are the seven churches.”  (Rev. 1:20)

My journey through Revelation began with Jesus literally illuminating His authority.  In chapter one, John says Jesus’ eyes were blazing fire and a sharp double-edged sword protruded out of His mouth.  Jesus wanted it to be known His message was to be heeded and obeyed.

I used to tell my mom that she could look at me from across a busy room and just by her look, I knew I’d better stop doing what was making her unhappy.  She might as well have had a double-edged sword coming out of her mouth because just by her look, I heeded and obeyed.  Jesus had more than a look.  Every part of His body was described from His hair (white like wool) to His feet (bronze glowing in a furnace), so we should probably listen carefully to what He has to say.

In chapter two, Jesus gets right to the point.  The number seven signifies perfection, and I don’t think it was by any accident that there are seven original churches (lamp-stands) by which Christianity was spread throughout the world.  The seven lamp-stands represent each church and the seven stars represent the angels of each of the churches.  The Greek word angelos means “messenger,” but it is not clear exactly who is the messenger of the church.  The messenger could be an actual angel (not exactly sure why a letter would have to be written to an angel.  Wouldn’t they just know what Jesus wanted?), the leaders in the church, or anyone who read and relayed the message to the congregation.  I’ve read various articles and everyone is in agreement that no one is sure.  This is where our need to know isn’t necessarily important.  It’s the content of the letter we are privy to that is described with such clarity that should be the focus of our attention.  We, along with the church in Ephesus, need to take heed of their message.

I just love how Jesus starts out with a positive.  That’s how I teach my students:

“Let’s talk about what you are doing right.  Great job!  Keep that up!”

Then we focus on the areas we need to strengthen.  If I just focused on my student’s areas of strength, the weight of their areas of weakness would eventually frustrate and bring down what is working well.  Growth will cease unless they are challenged to grow in every area—not just what comes easily.

This is what the church in Ephesus was doing right:

  • Good deeds, hard work, perseverance
  • Not tolerating wicked men
  • Testing those who claimed to be apostles and proving their falsehood
  • Enduring hardships in the name of Jesus without showing weariness.
  • Hating the practices of the Nicolaitans (people who ate food sacrificed to idols and sexually sinned as a form of their church doctrine).

This is what the church in Ephesus was doing wrong:

“Yet I hold this against you:” (Rev. 2:4)

  • They have forsaken their first love
  • They have fallen from the heights of this love into a place unacceptable by Jesus

If they do not repent and turn back to their first love, Jesus will remove their lamp-stand.

The first thing that struck me was man, that’s harsh!  Look at all of the great things they were doing.  Then I realized what I was saying to myself.  It’s that works belief again.  We can’t earn salvation by what we do.  They were doing great things and persevering through hardships, but where was the love?  Without love, the drive will eventually fizzle out and the works will end.  Their ability to be a light will fade and 2000 years later I may not be writing about my love for Jesus.  It would be more like, “Jesus who?”  They needed to return to their first love and remember what all of their efforts are for.  A car driving 70 mph with the oil running low will eventually burn out the engine.  Works without love is eventually going to die.  Our future salvation depends on knowing about our great Savior!  Thank you, Jesus, for being harsh and honest and demanding more from Ephesus.

Now, it’s easy to say, “Yeah!  Works without love don’t really matter, Ephesus!  Get with the program!” but what about our time today?  How many churches have the heart beating just a little slower, the congregation too busy doing God’s work to notice the hurting member sitting right next to them, or tallying up the good deed’s points and forgetting it’s in His name we do these things?  How many lamp-stands are facing the threat of being snuffed out right under their noses?

When I think of God referring to the churches as lamp-stands, the obvious reference is to spreading light.  Lamp-stands cast light beyond their original source while exposing all within the proximity of its circumference.  The more lamps, the more light can be spread.

During the time of Ephesus, there was much darkness.  The truth of Jesus’ life and sacrifice hadn’t spread across the globe, yet.  It was only illuminated within the circumference of their lamp-stand.  Jesus message and truths were only concentrated among these seven lamp-stands who were attempting to shine and expose the dark within their circle of reach.  Jesus is giving them instruction because through these churches, the truth will eventually spread.  Without these churches, it would scatter into history as another legend or dissipate like a vapor in the wind.  Our salvation depends upon these churches thriving and burning brightly.

I can’t help but to compare the then to the now.  The seven churches’ purpose was to light other wicks so the truth message would spread. One by one lights have been lit, re-lit, and shared until His message found me and you in our lifetime.  That was the then—a forward spreading of the flame of His Word.

In the now, it seems like our lamps are wavering and flickering.  There is less oxygen to keep the flames strong and bright.  Our wicks are getting smaller and our lights are getting dimmer.  Instead of spreading light, we are going in the opposite direction and one by one our lamps are being extinguished.  Where once the light was spreading, it’s now getting darker one puff of air at a time, one wick shortened from broken faith, one cracked globe from stepping away from our original love, one sin that is now acceptable.  We are snuffing out light after light and reversing ourselves back into a time before Jesus’ life and message mattered.  For a forward moving world, we are sitting in the dark and not even knowing it.

We have a lot to learn from the message in Ephesus.  When Jesus said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7), I don’t think it was only their ears He was referring to.  If that were so, what would be the purpose of us knowing the content of their letter?

Jesus ends with, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).  Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden because God did not want them to eat from the tree of life.  Here we are given an open invitation to come and taste if we are only willing to heed and obey.

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1) My Journey Through Revelation

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Rev. 1:3)

I am not a theologian, and I don’t play one on TV.  I never went to Bible school or claimed to have an in-depth understanding of the totality of the Bible.  I am a sinner saved by Grace.  Those are my only qualifications.  We are asked to read the Bible because it is God’s voice speaking to us, and we are told that those who read will be blessed and fed by the Holy Word of God.  His Word is active and alive and it’s only when we open its pages will we feel the closest to our Holy Father.

That being said, how many of us wanted to shave off Revelation from the end of the book because man, it seems complicated!  John saw things his mind could only comprehend in the Spirit and attempted to use layman terms to describe what He saw.  It is probably similar to us trying to use age-appropriate vocabulary to explain to a two-year-old the gist of quantum physics.  At least that is how I feel when I read Revelation.  The above scripture, however, didn’t say “Blessed is the Bible scholar” or “Blessed is the theologian,” it says, “Blessed is the ONE” (emphasis mine).

Lately, God has been stirring in me to read His Word and specifically the book of Revelation.  He has given me a peace to enter into its pages and not stress about what my human brain can’t fully comprehend.  You and I are asked to read it anyway.  I am going to blog my journey through Revelation, and I would love to hear your insights and thoughts to your understanding of this Book.  My heart is eager to learn what my mind is trying to understand.

When I opened to the first chapter, I felt for John.  I imagined how scared, exhilarated, and bewildered John must have felt when Jesus called upon him.  Being exiled to the island of Patmos, John was probably  finding his “new normal” and going about his business.  Without warning,  John instantly transitioned into the Spirit.  Turning around, he saw his Savior unlike any other time he saw him before: hair like white wool, eyes blazing fire, bronze feet glowing in a furnace, voice like rushing waters, and a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth (Rev. 1:14-16).  No wonder John fell to the ground at his feet.

Jesus doesn’t mince words, either; He gets right to the point.  John is asked to write down what he hears and sees (thank you, John, for trying your best so we can better understand) and his first entry targeted the seven churches.

I read through Jesus’ encouragement and admonishment of what these seven churches excelled and failed to do and determined Jesus really needed these churches to shape up or ship out, so to speak.  After my third time reading through the letters, I realized He was also speaking to US!  Our Bible’s practicality reaches far past the copy-write date, and this is no exception.

I heard a scary statistic at church a few weeks ago.  We are one generation away from our churches closing their doors because as our children exit Sunday service with their backs to the front door, that is where they are remaining.  We have an exodus of people leaving the physical building of the church and its people.  How could this be?

If Jesus called someone else into the Spirit today and had them write letters to us, I have a feeling they would sound very similar to what was spoken in the letters to the seven churches.  I am going to read through each letter slowly, and pray for God’s wisdom and understanding.

And so my journey continues…

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Thoughts of Him

I’ve discovered the meme generator and found a new outlet to add to my desire to praise and worship our amazing God.  It’s another creative expression whereby I can choose pictures to capture the words on my heart.  I am entitling all of my generated memes, “Thoughts of Him.”

I’ve been feeling led lately to read and study Revelation.  I normally would run from this book, but I’ve always known it was said all who read will be blessed.  I need to hear what God is speaking to me through His Word.  That is how this meme came to be:

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Thoughts of Him

How often have we put God in a corner and told Him, “Not now!  My life is falling apart and you can’t help me.”  Instead of running away from our storms, we should be running to our God.  He is our refuge and strength.  He will never let the righteous be shaken, so give it all to Him.  He’s got this!

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Thoughts of Him

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Penciling in God

I pencil God in on Sundays,

10:15 is when I’m bringing my crew.

I pencil God in on Holidays,

It’s the right Christian thing to do.

I pencil God in at bedtime,

Falling asleep before finishing my prayers.

I pencil God in the next morning,

To finish telling Him my worries and cares.

I pencil God in when my life,

Brings me crashing down to my knees.

And my mirror breaks into a million shards,

No longer reflecting a life full of peace.

I pencil God in when I’m concerned,

And control no longer seems mine.

I pencil God in when I’m pleased,

And life seems to be going just fine.

I pencil God in when I’m driving,

And a song reaches into my soul.

I belt out and sing of His praises,

My voice wavering out of control.

I pencil God in when it’s convenient,

Or when my mind wanders over to Him.

But my God’s pencil is broken,

His thoughts of me never a whim.

He carries no lead or eraser,

His calendar cleared open and wide.

Waiting for me to turn and see Him,

But my schedule makes me push Him aside.

My pencil is fervently writing,

All that I am required to do.

And time is just too precious,

To sit quietly and listen to His truths.

So the day my pencil slows to a stand still,

And my life is nearer to the end,

Will the moments I scheduled be remembered,

Or the times I introduced Christ to a friend?

Will the deadlines be oh so important,

Or the marks I made when they were complete?

Or the times when I faced my Savior,

While I sat and listened at His feet?

It’s time that I broke my pencil,

Making it look exactly like God’s.

No eraser or lead to speak of,

No appointment getting all of my nods.

I need to look up to my Savior,

Every minute of every day.

And put my life on the path He has chosen,

And throw my calendar away.

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Is Your Life a Pinterest Fail?

hedgehog-cake-pinterest-fail

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness ” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

It used to be only commercials, magazines, movie stars and the occasional neighbor that made us take a look at our lives and wonder why we couldn’t harness the same perfection that seemingly oozes from their pores.

Now we have social media, and anyone can create the illusion that their life is that amazing.  A friend posted about a trip they were planning, and I thought to myself, “Isn’t that their third vacation this year?”  It instantly made me revert to the memory of us taking our six kids on vacation a few years back.  Our destination was an amusement park in Ohio.  We stopped for breakfast and to our horror, the lady from the Waffle House apparently was so proud of the waffle she had just made that she patted it before turning to us and serving it.  When we checked into our hotel the night before and headed to our rooms,  we walked through tumble weeds of dirt, dust, and debris in the hallway and were greeted with forgotten medication on the floor next to our bed from the previous occupants.  Yeah, none of that went on Facebook.

I can’t figure out how people have this much money and time to have so much fun.  I feel like I’m dredging along through my work day, running kids to their activities, pretending the dinners I serve on the fly actually do have some nutritional value, and collapsing to watch TV when I should be sleeping because I desperately need some mind numbing time to myself.  My beautifully puckered lips or perfect hair day never lands on my social media because frankly, those moments never exist for me.  I did post a video of my guinea pig in the pocket of my sweatshirt eating his carrot.   I don’t think too many people viewed that post and thought, “Man I wish my life could be like hers,” though.

The thing is, my life is perfect.  It’s not perfectly polished without hair-blowing moments or untarnished days, but it’s made perfect through my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus isn’t asking us to be like our neighbor.  He is asking us to be like Him and love our neighbor.

I can celebrate with my friend for going on her fifth vacation in six months because Jesus saved me.  I can look at pictures of someone’s freshly installed new wood floors as I scrub the contents of my cats sensitive stomach staining my carpet for the hundredth time because Jesus’ perfection isn’t defined by my flooring.  I can walk through a house that has so many stories it reminds me of a wedding cake as I lie my head on my pillow in my small ranch because Jesus says one day, I will be in His house.  Jesus doesn’t care about the bow we try to put on our lives to make us look perfect. He only cares about our willingness to humble ourselves and admit that we aren’t perfect by asking for His perfection to cover us.  When we see glimmering and shining lives, He sees the real us with our real hurts and issues and no matter how much we cover them, He is there to love us through them.

Perfection is the opposite of what Christ asks us to be.  It’s no surprise to Him that we carry dings and bruises, yet how many people avoid church, decide against praying, or won’t talk to that Christian because they feel they are supposed to be “perfect” in order to belong.  I remember after falling away from God for a while, I desperately wanted to come back to Him but felt He wouldn’t want me mucking up His church with the sin dripping from my body.  I remember during this time period avoiding my Christian friends because I didn’t want to feel their judgmental stares.  My life had become a Pinterest fail, and I morphed into Eve hiding in the Garden pretending God couldn’t see me and believing my friends wouldn’t want me.  Silly girl.

The enemy uses so many devices, and His greatest weapon is our own desire to be perfect.  When we fall from the bar we set for ourselves, he is right there letting us know we will always fall short and God can’t stand losers and failures.  He tries to convince us that our unworthiness is now a branded letter on our foreheads and all of the good people can see us coming for miles and miles.  We view ourselves as damaged goods and need to be returned to the manufacturer.

The truth is we are all damaged goods.  Our DNA was damaged the second the fall occurred and yes, we do need to be returned.  We need to have a “return to sender” stamped on us because He is the only one who can fix us!  We need to voluntarily put ourselves in that cart behind the counter of Wal-Mart labeled “damaged” because we will be wheeled back to our manufacturer, and we should be grabbing all of the other damaged customers to take along with us.  Basically, that would be the whole store but by His supernatural power, we will all fit in the same cart.  Some will jump in with us, but some will prefer we just wheel on by them.

The next time the fiery dart of envy tries to aim at your heart just remember, we are made perfect in Christ, and it’s only with Him we should be mirroring our comparison.  Our perfection has nothing to do with the beach pictures or perfectly prepared meals we could never fix.  I own that my life is a Pinterest fail.  That’s what makes me His.


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