Tuesday, August 22, 2017

From Strength to Strength...First Love

 “This is love…”  2 John 6

For only God’s reasons, I have had a fascination these last months with John, the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ.  It is believed that he was but a teenager when the Lord called him and his older brother James, (Sons of Thunder) to follow Him.  They were fishermen by trade and worked closely…perhaps business partners, perhaps even cousins …with the brothers, Peter and Andrew.

I’ve caught glimpses in the Gospels of John’s growth during his years with Jesus, especially as seen in the Book he penned.  I’ve pondered how he must have become a man overnight at Calvary, and how he received Mary into his home and care.  I’ve been fascinated by the challenges he must have faced as Peter’s side-kick through the first chapters of Acts.  Ah yes, and my heart has been warmed and warned by the admonishments of his three pastoral letters.

Now this month, my focus has turned to John as the last surviving apostle of Jesus’ original twelve.  Tradition has it that this bishop and overseer of the church at Ephesus, had been brutally manhandled and then exiled with a life sentence of hard labor on Patmos.  Yet this John, now an old man, was in worship on the Lord’s day. 

I remember my reaction as I began reading Revelation, now totally immersed in the life and heart of this man.  I remember literally sitting up straighter as I “connected the dots” that John’s own church at Ephesus was the first one being addressed in the second chapter of Revelation. 

I tried to picture John on his face before the Lord.  I tried to picture what it might have felt like to have the right Hand of God placed on him.  Then I tried to picture John with a stylus in his shaking hands writing these words being dictated by “…One like the Son of Man, clothed with a long garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band…”   (Revelation 1:13).

“To the angel of the church of EPHESUS write…I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and found them liars.  And you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake, and you have not become weary” (Revelation 2:2-3). 

But then I tried to picture John writing, “Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Now my hands are shaking.  There are many insights concerning the seven churches in Revelation. Yet they were seven actual churches in Asia at the time.  The church at Ephesus was John’s church. 

This was John, the one who spoke of himself as the disciple Jesus loved and as the one “…leaning on Jesus’ bosom…” at the last supper (John 13:23)!   This church was John’s responsibility, and these were his people whom he had addressed as “dear friends” and “little children.”  This was John on Patmos, having faced death for Jesus!!  Yet, he was hearing the word from the Lord, “nevertheless...”

I was undone. 

What about my first love?  What about those I’m responsible for, those I’m influencing?   What about you, dear readers?  What about your first love?

Summer is drawing to a close.  Take some time to just stop, repent if necessary, and ask the Lord to re-ignite the flame of your first love.   

Remember…“We love Him because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:19 
Tradition has it that John ultimately was released from Patmos and returned to his flock at Ephesus. I feel certain he returned having regained the passion of his first love.  How about you?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

From Strength to Strength...Consider the Lilies

 “… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”   Matthew 6:28-29

It’s August and the summer days are waning. If you’re anything like me, you are still hanging onto the season…feasting your eyes (when you can) on the beautiful lush landscapes…and still enjoying the long daylight hours.  As I’m writing this I’m sitting outside and also smiling at the sounds of neighborhood children playing a crazy game of kickball next door.  There are a couple squirrels running along the back fence and a brazen little rabbit, is poised in the yard, taunting my golden retriever.   The birds are chirping their evening melody and I’m still noticing the faint aroma of someone’s charcoal grill…and evening meal, nearby. 

My senses are taking in all the peace and it becomes a prayer. 

Some have called this a prayer of considerationone in which we purposefully raise our minds and hearts to God, while still steeped in the concrete circumstances of our world.  It’s a prayer of awareness, acknowledging what we are experiencing and sharing it with our God, Who is within and around us.
Jesus did this a lot as He used His awareness for object lessons in His teaching.  Here He contrasts the magnificent beauty of field lilies, wild flowers much akin to our colorful anemones…with our needless worry over daily provision. 

What are you seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling right now?  How about earlier today or during your morning run or walk…or even your drive into work? 

I have a dear friend who worships many mornings at the magnificent sunrises she experiences on her way to the office.  She then snaps phone photos of them.  What a wonderful reminder later, during a low point in her day, as she’s able to once again gaze upon the images she had captured that morning. 

What simple ways can you incorporate prayers of consideration into the concrete circumstances of your world?  They’re all around you. 

 “Consider the lilies…”