First of all, I'm sorry to y'all about vanishing for a couple weeks. It didn't occur to me till I was away from school that I wouldn't really have an internet connection. So again, my appologies for vanishing.
But one advantage to being away from the internet for a time, is the time it gives you to think, to pray, and to listen. The past couple weeks have been full of that, and although I got back from school on Wed, the experience was so great that I made what I suppose was a somewhat selfish move, as I have obligations to fulfill on the net (this being one of them) and remained disconnected from all but a few. However, I have now got a new idea for a bible study, that I feel God has planted in my heart. It is a seven week long one, on Revelation. Not general, but very specific. I'm not going to be predicting the rapture by 2008, or talk about how we are living in the end days. I believe we are, but people have been saying that since Jesus' time, and even before.
I will be looking specifically at the seven letters to the seven churches. Now, a little background for those who don't know. Revelation was written by John, many people believe about 60 years after Jesus death. He was in Patmos, which was a prision camp, hard labor that usually resulted in death. He had all of the visions doctumented in Revelation while there, and one of the earliest halmarks was dictation of letters for the seven churches.
This first church was in the town of Ephesus. It begins at the beginning of Revelation 2 and contiunes to Revelation 2:7. It begins introducting the authority with which this is said. "Him who holds the seven stars, and walks among the seven golden lampstands." These are the words of God Himself. And he begins, reassuringly, with words of prase. Verses two to three talk about many things the church has done right, and well. Their deeds, their hard work, their perseverance. They have tested false apostles, and found the truth. They have endured hardships, and are still working with God, as the verse says, they "have not grown weary."
These people always remind me of many church members of the day. They think they are doing great works, great things for God. Their deeds are great. They work hard, and diligently, in whatever they do, for the glory of God. They think before they believe, helping them avoid such scams as Peter Popov (I think that was the name)
However, to those people, the next part would likely be quite humbling. Because nobody is perfect, this letter has of course, things God is holding against them. They have "lost their first love", and because of this, they have fallen. He calls them to remember what they once did.
Again, a modern image, because my belief is that in the old way of writing, it doesn't mean so much to us, but when we look back with a example we understand, it makes more sense.
This example is of a boyfriend and girlfriend. They meet first semester university, and it is love at first sight. They are always togeather, holding hands, hugging, talking, enjoying each others presence. Obviously true love, and they are in for the long haul. A year passes, and a seccond, they are now in third year, and just as strongly in love as before. The boy regularly meets her outside her classes, carrying her books. He surprises her while she works with flowers, all in all, he is pulling out all the stops, woo factor at full. Then, nearing end of December, he asks her to marry him. They do, and are wed just after winter term exams. They honeymoon, and return to school. The wife is now walking back from class alone, the husband no longer surprises her at work. All in all, it seems almost as if they are no more than friends around school. The love is still there, but the husband no longer feels the need to woo the woman.
This relates to the bible an amazing amount. When we first come to the faith, we are in that "First love" period. Everything is rose colored. We can't wait to tell everyone about God and Jesus, our lives are growing, reading the bible every day, volunteering, all with a pure and holy heart. Then we begin to fall out. We begin volunteering, not because we think it is a great idea, but because we always have. It is now a habit, not a work of love. We read the Bible, but we skim it. We tell people about God and Jesus, but not with the same fervor, and are silenced more easily. God is always calling us back to that beginning. Back to when he was everything to us. When we were "woo-ing" him, so to speak. Same as a wife still wants to be made to feel special and central in her husband's life, so God does not want to be a backseat part of our lives.
The end of the paragraph holds both a concequence, and a hope. The concequence is that God will remove their lampstand from it's place. Now I'll be the first to admit, I'm not sure what this means. Many possibilities, no certianties. But one thing is sure. It isn't a good thing to do, and not something we would desire. However, the letter ends with similarly, stipulations should they follow his commands. They are promised the right to eat from the tree of life, which is most definately a good thing, especially as it is "in the paradise of God" which means, tied to the promise of the fruit, is that we will get to joing God in paradise, should we follow his command, and return to the love we once had.
Next Monday, we will look at the church of Smyrna, verses eight to eleven.