First Love

In chapters 2 and 3 of the Book of Revelation, The apostle John quotes Jesus’ observations and commands from the Spirit toward seven churches.  The first of the seven is to the Church in Ephesus. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4). Jesus says in this message (Revelation 2:1-7) that He knows their deeds of toil, perseverance, the intolerance of evil, the vetting of the veracity of those calling themselves apostles and yet, have not grown weary. These activities, at least outwardly, would seem to be indicative  of men on the right path, walking closely with their Lord with legitimate Christian motives and actions in service to Christ.  Perhaps they were even involved in the ministry of men, evangelism of the lost and edification of the believers.  Perhaps they are leaders and are respected by men seeking the things of God. But Jesus says they left their first love. He has that against them. Obviously He is referring to the relationship with Jesus Christ.  He is addressing the believer who is perhaps finding his significance in his works over his dependence on God.  Or possibly looking to the approval and glory from men:  “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not see the glory that is from the one and only God?” (John 5:44). Whatever the motive, He says they left.  This implies an intention to leave, maybe out of neglect or embracing the things of the world, but not something that was imposed upon them.  It also implies that a decision of repentance...

Are You Listening?

Listening seems to be a simple enough concept.  We have ears to facilitate one of our senses — we use them regularly.  We know all about it.  Hear and respond with our mouth.  It is important in our everyday activity.  We converse with others and realize that without hearing our ability to communicate is severely diminished.  So it is with God. But the scripture takes us to a different understanding.  James writes, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). God said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”  (Luke 9:35). The relationship with God is rooted in listening to Him through His Word. Listening is a significant concept in the scriptures.  As a verb, “hearing” or “listening” appears over 1600 times in the Bible! It means to receive or hear and understand a reported noise.  It implies a silence and stillness in order to hear.   It has a responsibility component, implying obedience to what is understood. So, how to listen?  The Psalmist writes:  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10). Listening is the quiet, still activity of intent fully slowing ourselves down, closing off the outside distractions and pressures and being still before God and His word and then applying. The culture values business, action and running.  But listening requires silence and stillness.  How?  It must be intentful.  Jesus went to a quiet place to pray and listen in the morning to get perspective.  He provides the example worth emulating. Men in the marketplace, caught up in the pace of life, in order to survive the chaos and gain the perspective only the...

Is Your Path Narrow Enough?

The men referenced in Matthew 7:21-24 had selected too wide a path to enter the Kingdom.  The path is narrow to enter; too wide a path leads to destruction (v13).  They seemed to think that their chosen path was narrow enough, but Jesus said, “I never knew you, depart from me you evil doers.” (v23) What a terrifying thought.  To make a choice so important as what it means to follow God, to expect to be approved by the Judge Jesus Christ, to expect an eternity in Heaven and then be rejected by God.  To their horror, they had misconstrued the expectation, misjudged the target or worse, they willfully followed Him on their own terms, resulting in payment of an unimaginable, devastating  price. He termed their path as one of “lawlessness” (v23).  According to the apostle John in 1 John 3:4, lawlessness is defined as sin or work of iniquity.  It is the defection from God’s law, His standard and command on how we are to do things. God’s law means He gets to choose the path-what it looks like, how narrow or wide we walk in it and what is the expectation for obedience. At the least, it seems that despite the fact that God had seemingly used these men for His purposes, and had even performed miracles through them, they wanted to relate to God on their own terms, not His. Those men misjudged His Word or willfully disobeyed and drew a path too wide, to their demise. So, how narrow of a path is needed?  We need not figure that out.  The pressure is off because...

Prayer Day?

I recently went to a local outdoor park with some men and had a half day of prayer on a Saturday morning.  We met at 7:30, had coffee and bagels, enjoyed some fellowship and received the instructions for our morning.   We used a prayer guide called “Making Time for Prayer” which can be purchased at MIMbooks.com. Before going into the time, I had rehearsed the issues, “the what” that I was going to bring up before God.  Relationships, my to-do list and schedule, health, finances and other complaints—the normal typical issues most of us carry around.  I know I needed this time as it had been awhile since I spent three-plus uninterrupted hours with Him.  I related to David in Psalm 25:27, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged.” Interesting, I found my issues were grown large by my lack of perspective.  I didn’t realize this until well into the time—that I had a perspective problem.  My view of the issues were enlarged because it had been too long since I took extended time with Jesus.   I also didn’t realize how much I needed this extended time with Him until afterward. Most of the time was quiet/listening time and waiting on God.  The prayer guide did the work of maneuvering me through my issues, the appropriate scriptures and doing my business with Him. And this is what I discovered:  I was missing the target.  The target was not the “whats”  that I was wanting to be solved but the “Who” that needed to be addressed. Jeremiah writes: “If you return, then I will restore you—before Me you will stand;...

Death and Hope

We have a hope to live; a hope for life and a hope to never experience death.  We loath the thought of death. Death is the ultimate enemy of hope.  Death is final.  It extinguishes hope.  In death, hope ceases. Death, its process and the inevitable coming experience on the other side of death is out of our control. Perhaps that is why we tend to shy away from discussing death. And we are aware that it extinguishes our hope. But does it? For sure, death seems to end our temporal hopes.  All of it ends and eventually burns.  However, we are encouraged to migrate to and embrace an eternal hope, one that transcends the temporal, that which we see. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Accordingly, in properly understanding death, the outcome results in hope. For in the case of physical death, which is guaranteed, as our soul lives on into eternity, our physical bodies get replaced by new ones. 1Corinthians 15:38: “But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own.” So Glory to God, the suffering in the decay of our current bodies...