Taking the Epistle

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Lessons from the Ephesians – Don’t lose your first love!!!! – Revelation 2:1-7

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Lessons from the Ephesians – Don’t lose your first love!!!! – Revelation 2:1-7 – 06/28/2016

It has been a while huh? I bet most of you haven’t noticed but I haven’t put out a blog in nearly 6 weeks and I think that is some sort of record for me. In that time I have not been idle, I have been doing some reassessing and looking at myself and as the church at whole introspectively. This blog article is not dedicated to any particular group of Christians but to Christianity as a whole. The verses I want to look at today are a well-known passage in Revelation…

Revelation 2:1 (ESV) “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

I want to go to this church!

When I look at what the Ephesians had together I am amazed I would want to go to this church!!! They had …

  • Works
  • Toil
  • Endurance
  • Patience
  • A hunger for holiness
  • Enough doctrine to test what was good (They remembered the warning in Acts 20:17-31)
  • Judgment to call those false who were false
  • They were okay to endure for the name of the Lord/They were known as Christians
  • They did not grow weary/remained hopeful despite trials

Sounds like a solid bunch huh? I know from experience when I have been assessing churches to make sure that my wife and I are serving where we are called to be at this time by the Lord I have a list of “must haves” a list of “nice to haves” and a list that are “cosmetic purposes only” and this was from advice from a Pastor I trust that asked me once “what is your deal breakers?”.

Warning to the new church seeker

I say this because there maybe that guy or girl at the moment who is contemplating switching churches, perhaps for a good reason, perhaps not but I would encourage you to watch out for the Ephesian church, they may be the one with the biggest youth ministry, the best programs, the largest congregation, the best sounding worship, the best light display but outside the Sunday meeting they may be a group who never interacts with each other and are strangers apart from a warm handshake and a bunch of promises to meet (which never materialize).

They may have none of those things and may tick all of your intellectual boxes, they may not have worship down, children’s ministry sometimes happens and sometimes does not but the Pastor teaches some of the most intellectually profound, right on doctrine that flexes your spiritual muscles on a weekly basis, the exegesis and hermeneutics are phenomenal and the teaching is at college level theological seminary and new believers learn a lot of spiritual language but is light on application and you see quickly that apart from the weekly lecture, there is no mentoring, no feeding into one another and loving on one another apart from maybe one or two individuals but the culture of love is not present and you know that a year down the line you won’t know these people any better than today.

Those are two extremes of course and the church you are looking at will most probably be somewhere in the middle of those but what they have in common is that while each opposite have vital components that will get people through the door if they are Ephesian in nature and forgotten their first love then all else is in vain. As Shakespeare would say “it is all for nought”.

Beware of the Pharisee Christian

Let’s look at those vitals that are alive in this Ephesian church…

  • Works
  • Toil
  • Endurance
  • Patience
  • A hunger for holiness
  • Enough doctrine to test what was good
  • Judgment to call those false who were false
  • They were okay to endure for the name of the Lord/They were known as Christians
  • They did not grow weary/remained hopeful despite trials

However…you can fall victim to the human nature that thinks that as you progress as a Christian you become “too good” for the things you did as a baby Christian (or the basics) but I would remind you that you would not build a structure without a foundation and even if you become a master builder and have built many fine buildings, imagine turning up a new job and stating to the works foreman that we “would not bother with the foundation as this building will be great because I am the builder”. All you are setting yourself up for is a building that will fall and a reputation ruined… How is your relationship building with Jesus? Is the foundation sure?

Jesus had a lot to say to the Pharisees in the Gospels because they were the ones who know the doctrine, they were the ones who should have known better and they should have been rejoicing at the Messiah, the Pharisees had the works, had the doctrine, they were known as the holy ones, they were supposed to toil, have endurance and patience and many did but some did not… (see a pattern here?)

This I have against you…

God is not saying do not have these things in place but there is an important foundation to have in verse 4 and 5…

“V4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

The word “abandoned” is telling here, it is not like losing your keys, they had made decisions to leave their first love, that to me is the saddest part of the passage and even although internally they were like whitewashed tombs (Matthew 23:25-28) They had left the love of God and the love for one another, they no longer had that first love of Jesus, like a marriage that both parties have allowed to become stale they no longer have that new romance spark and they did not allow it to mature so they have a broken relationship.

They are prodigals or wayward sons that have still got to come to that afternoon in the pigpen eating swill and realizing that they could have it much better as the lowest servant in their father’s house. Like the father in that account in Luke (Luke 15:11-32) when they returned to the love of the father there was much celebration, forgiveness and absolution of the sin that cause the son to go so low.

Exhortation and application

We are all sinners and the Ephesian church did not always have it together, read the epistle to Ephesians if you do not believe me. We all need repentance; we all need forgiveness whether your sins are few or many and we all could do with being closer to Jesus and I commend you all to learn the lessons of the Ephesians, take the good in what they do and in the spirit of application we need to do the basics, repent, find our first love and then follow Gods plan!

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

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Unless the LORD Builds the House – Psalms 127

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Unless the LORD Builds the House – Psalms 127 – 04/23/2016

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Psalms 127:1 (ESV) Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. 3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Thanks for looking at our Psalms Saturday article; I plan to go through this Psalm verse by verse starting in verse one…

V1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

How many times have you done this on a personal level as a Christian? You receive confirmation that you are called to a certain ministry and rather than waiting for God to fully open all the doors you try to force the issue on your own and start to do what the Psalmist said, you quite literally “labor in vain” and even if you are doing “things FOR God” you can run up against a brick wall because you are not doing it IN God then it is just blind effort.

If we use gimmicks, finance programs or man made deals that promote “ministry growth” that exclude the Lord and the Holy Spirit, then it is just blank numbers and not exactly moving in the spirit of God. We may have success in the short term and may even “look the part” but there will always be something missing.

The point of what I am saying is that God has a better plan for you and knows what is best for you way more than you do, he has seen the blueprint for your life and knows what would happen in any set of given circumstances. So when we labor and struggle and worry in our own effort then it is futile, sometimes it may work and sometimes it may not but would it not be far better to trust the Lord?

V2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

We have this culture that “the early bird catches the worm” and that if we do everything with haste and cram more and more into our lives then we will somehow manage to get enough boxes checked to give us an enormous sense of wellbeing. We get up way to early, go to sleep way too late and do not rest and wonder why we fail more than we succeed. That is not God’s plan for your life! We are not supposed to eat the bread of anxious toil! If you are stretched beyond what you can handle then take it to the Lord in prayer.

I am not saying to be lazy but I am saying that we are given a rest that we do not use often enough and I am not saying just sleep or taking frequent naps. I am talking about being so stressed that we cannot fulfil our mission that God has given us. That stress comes not from God and you can be rest assured that if it is pulling you away from what God has planned for you then it is not from God. It is from the other guy! I don’t know about you but I do not want him having victory in any part of my life!

V3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.

This is a hard one to comment on because my wife and I have had issues in this area so I will obviously tread carefully as I am aware readers may also be sensitive to this subject. I am tremendously grateful for my beautiful daughter and it took so long for us to get her and it does sting a little I have not been able to give her a sibling but I am remaining blessed in what the Lord has done for me and the prayers he has chosen to answer and I pray that if you have struggles in this area then your prayers are answered. Obviously I am not saying that they will be answered or a “thus sayeth the LORD” but please know I do know what you are going through.

Children are a heritage, that much is true and there are no stronger ties than family. When I got married I assumed wrongly that my wife would be the only girl that was to hold my heart, I of course was quite wrong and I have a kid that truly is the apple of my eye and from the moment she first cried in that delivery room I was sold. My daughter truly had me at hello. Don’t get me wrong there are times where she has attitude like any other child but she is a living breathing human with her own thoughts, her own personalities and sometimes they will do things that are contrary to what you would have them do, but they are still yours and sometimes they display like a mini-mirror qualities that you would rather not look at in yourself! The fruit of the womb is truly a reward and sometimes a way for God to teach you.

V4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.

The Psalmist uses the picture of a warrior and arrows in his hand. That true joy will be found in the relationships that God has us in. God ordained in Genesis 2 the idea of a marriage and shortly afterwards along came children. From Cain and Abel we saw that God’s plan all along was to have us in relationships and I have found true happiness in the arms of the two folks that love me for me with no agenda and with the purest form love. You will find your true value when you are embraced by a loving child who has been waiting all day for you to walk through the door. My advice (and it is advice I have not heeded myself) is to make sure that they are your priority until they want to go play. Yes you may have 100 tasks to complete by the end of the night but you will never get today back again and your child will never be this age again!

V5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Like this warrior in this account we are in a battle for our kids, whether we are like me and have one, or whether we are like Jim Duggar and have 19, you are blessed when you have children and like that warrior going to battle he would much rather go into battle with a full quiver with that back up than go our empty handed. That is not to say that the amount of children you have is a measure of your faithfulness, I have no explanation why God opens and closes wombs when he does but I trust in his plan, whether it is to my benefit or not!

Lord willing, in our next article in the book of Psalms 1 where we look at the friends we keep and having delight in the law of the LORD. I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG