The Duffer crew is not attending worship this morning. My youngest has been asleep for 19 hours straight. She is fighting the flu and I’m hoping the sleep is helping in that fight. The boys are fighting bronchitis. And I’m fighting discouragement.
I wrote a post last night in a panicked, fearful state of mind. Usually when I do this, I end up removing it later. But today I’m leaving it up, because God did grant peace, His presence and sleep around 2 AM, and I slept very well between 2 and 6. For that I am grateful.
But the discouragement remains this morning, not to the degree of sheer panic of last night at all, but more like a grey pallor that will not lift. I want to make so much progress in 2013. I want to run forward, push forward, fast. I want to be used by God. I want to parent well, and watch my children continue to grow and thrive. I, like C.S. Lewis, crave joy.
So this morning, in place of corporate worship, which I am sad to have missed, I will do real scripture work for my soul. And then I will push forward with this day to get much accomplished, to be prepared for the intense week of work and school ahead.
I’ve never known quite what to think about the book of Revelation. And I still don’t. I know it was written by John. John had been exiled to the 24 sq. mile island of Patmos under the rule of Domitian. So, as the way my mind works and questions all things, I wonder if he was there alone. I wonder if he was hallucinating. I wonder if he was in the process of dying. I wonder how all of this was written down, how it was transferred back to the mainland, and how it came to be included in the canon. The literature is so different. It is difficult to understand, being full of symbolism and complicated analogies. But even though I have all of these questions that raise doubts in my mind, I do not doubt that it is scripture, it did not come to be scripture by accident, and therefore there is much we need to learn from the words within this book.
The first few chapters of Revelation contain words spoken to John by Jesus, whether through a dream, directly or some other type of revelation, we are not told. And why did Jesus decide to reveal these things to exiled John? If I continue down this road, I’ll question all day long. Instead, I must focus on the scripture instead of these questions.
These words spoken by Jesus are messages to the early churches. They are fascinating, because they contain evaluations, exhortations, affirmations and corrections and rebukes. Reading through all of the messages in one setting reveals that our churches today, as well as our individual selves, have much to learn and gain from Christ’s words in this strange section of scripture. If you have an ESV study Bible, there is a well-done chart concerning all the messages to the churches.
In my work this morning, I have focused on the first message, to the church of Ephesus. The “meat” of the message seems to be in verses 2-4, located below:
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.
Wow. What if Jesus were to right this minute, walk into my house and proceed to give an honest evaluation of where I am at? Or what if He were to walk into my church, whom I love deeply, and proclaim from the pulpit a true and honest picture of where Seaford Baptist Church is at in their Christianity and their mission for God?
And what do these words mean for me, for you? What does Jesus expect; affirm? For one thing, He sees. “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance.” He would not know these things, if he was not a God who observes, who watches, who sees. If he knows my works, what does He see? Does He see me toiling hard and with joy? Or does He see me making excuses and not working for His kingdom? Does He see patient endurance? O, how impatient I am. How small my endurance. These are the things that the Ephesians were getting right. I want my God to be able to look at me and acknowledge that I, too am enduring patiently, and most importantly, bearing up for His Name’s sake. I have grown weary. I whined about my weariness in my post last night. What does it look like to not grow weary? That God would please grant me energy that I am lacking in. I want to not grow weary in well-doing. In parenting. In ministry. In this year that lies before us.
But after Jesus’ honest affirmations of the church, building them up and encouraging them, he also honestly points out what He has against them: They have lost their first love. What a painful thing to have to hear from Jesus, who should be the object of our first love. Above all else. And what do I see when I examine my own soul–have I lost my first love? What is the honest answer to such a question?
Looking at these 3 verses, and the verses to come that are written to the other churches, one thing is clear. We do need to be willing to allow Christ to give us an honest evaluation of the state of souls. A “State of Your Soul” address, but not one that is politically curtailing to the current winds that are blowing, but rather a stripping, honest, baring evaluation of both our souls and our minds. Without allowing Him to do this, how would we ever grow and change? How easy it would be to live in a delusional state of mind, with no real call or reason to repent?
Because repentance is key. Confession is key. Jesus says in verse 5:
God is a God of forgiveness. He calls us to repent, and to return to what we know is right. We often forget this step in our prayers, either because we are too arrogant to realize that we need forgiveness, or we are too afraid to truly examine our motives, our actions, our words, our inner souls and mind–afraid of what we might find.
Am I willing to allow God to give an honest evaluation of the state of my soul and mind? I don’t know. A huge part of me says, sure–but not right now. Let me get myself together first. Let me clean up my act first. Let me work out of this cloud of discouragement and back into doing the disciplines that I know I should do, back into ministering to others like I know I should do. Let me read through the rest of these messages to the churches and correct first what I am doing wrong. But to do all of that, is to work off of a works-based salvation, minus the repentance. It’s to run away from God, not run to Him. Am I willing to allow God to give an honest evaluation of the state of my soul and mind as it is right this minute? I don’t know. I am afraid of what He might find. I’m afraid of what I might find.
But I also must believe that God is a God of love–a hard thing for me to grasp at times–and that allowing and listening to His honest examination of my soul is also an act of Love. Because if He didn’t love me, my soul would be of no concern to Him.