Posted in church, encouragement, ephesus, revelation

Stay strong true believers! We may be few in number but we have All Might behind us!

Does it feel like there are only a few obviously Christian believers at your local church? Does it feel like we puny humans are trying to stem the tide or heresy that is coming in a tsunami? It must have felt that way to the Ephesians, too.

“‘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. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” (Revelation 2:2-3).

The first century church at Ephesus was planted by Paul, who was its pastor. Ephesus was a cosmopolitan city, sophisticated and beautiful. It was at the terminus of several major thoroughfares, was located on a gulf for a healthy seafaring export-import trade, and was a major commercial center. Its population was approximately a quarter of a million people.

In addition to being a major commercial center it was also a major religious center. Though many gods were worshiped there in addition to the emperors of Rome, the temple of Artemis was the main attraction. The temple was three times the size of the Athenian Parthenon, and held 25,000 people. It was in Ephesus that the Sons of Sceva were overcome by devils whom the sons had tried to cast out, demonstrating clearly the difference between false idols and the true God. Here was where Paul’s two- year, three month church planting effort and teaching bore fruit when the new Christians burned their idols and books equivalent to 50,000 pieces of silver. It was here that the reaction to the encroachment of Christianity on a pagan culture sparked a two-hour riot at the temple of Artemis. (Acts 19:23-20:1).

The worshipers at the church at Ephesus must have felt hemmed in by heresy and surrounded by pagans, especially by the time the letter in Revelation was sent, a generation later. It was a letter sent to a struggling church, weary of being the bulwark against sin and heresy.

But remember Elijah who thought he was the last believer left. The LORD said ‘I have reserved yet 7,000 who believe’. (1 Kings 19:18). We are not alone! We might be tiny in number in one location but the Body is large, and thriving.

Also, in the latter days, there will be terrible times, Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. There are many warnings regarding the latter days about people following myths, man-made schemes, building fortresses of their own philosophies! (1 Timothy 1:4, 2 Timothy 4:4, Titus 1:14). He said it would happen and it is happening. We take comfort in even the seemingly ‘bad’ events because if His word is true for the bad then it is all the more so for the good! His word is true and He knows who are His and He knows whom to call to account.

We do not have to worry about results. We only have to proclaim. As the LORD said to Ezekiel in Ez 2:3-5

“I am sending you to the Israelites and the rebellious nations who have rebelled against me. The Israelites and their ancestors have transgressed against Me to this day. Their children are obstinate and hard-hearted. I am sending you to them, and you must say to them: this is what the LORD God says. Whether they listen or refuse to listen- for they are a rebellious house- they will know that a prophet has been among them.”

We are not prophets nor is the church Israel, but we take the point, in speaking the truth no matter the outcome the LORD is glorified because while some will repent when we speak His word, others who refuse, when they stand before Him trying to defend their actions, He will say ‘I sent you ministers and lay people to speak the truth and you refused to listen.’ They will know they have no excuse.

Just as He knew each Ephesian and who had not grown weary in the biblical day, in our day the Lord Jesus as Head of our church knows and sees the hearts of those who cannot tolerate evil and those who persist in the doing of good. We must not lose our love for Him, for each other, for the wayward ones, and for the work. We are in a battle, but the victory is His. I praise Him for this opportunity to speak the truth in love, speak His words and stand on His name.

Posted in ephesus, ice, love grown cold, love Jesus, prophecy, revelation

Encased in ice

Yesterday I wrote about Love Gone Cold. I am still thinking about love gone cold among those in the church, and thinking further still of just how cold that will be when the prophecy Jesus pronounced in Matthew 24:12 comes to full fruition in the Tribulation.

Of course, the weather in these parts (Georgia) is the basis for the thinking- it’s cold. It’s icy. We had an ice storm Tuesday which knocked out power for anywhere from a few minutes to two days. Mine was out for 12 hours. We had a winter storm warning two days after that, threatening a quarter inch of ice build-up, power outages, and sleet driven snow and rain. Fortunately that storm just nicked us as it took a sudden northerly turn. The sleet we did receive amounted to no damage and was quickly gone. Thank you Lord.

On Tuesday after the first predicted ice storm did hit, I went out and took lots of ice photos in my yard. We lost some limbs, the man next door lost a tree. All the grass, trees, and bushes were encased in ice. I looked in the bible and in poetry and online for uses of the word encased, and I found so little after so much looking I became at first frustrated, then amazed. Encased is not such an archaic word, after all. I liked my photo of the holly bush outside encased in ice. It seemed to me that the branches were veins of a living body, the blood flowing slower and slower as the ice built up on the outside, reflecting the slow drain of love away from the heart. Love gone cold.

Anyway I settled on a Robert Frost poem. We know from the bible that the world WILL end in fire (2 Peter 3:10) but prior to that, the Matthew 24:12 verse will make the world seem like it is encased in ice. The unbeliever of the Tribulation will not love. The believers will have love initially, but “the many” believers will grow increasingly cold, as the prophecy says.

It’s interesting that Frost makes the comparison of hate with ice. Just as I mentioned, we think of love being warm or hot, but hate is cold. “Revenge is a dish best served cold” … “a cold and icy stare”… “cold as ice” … “break the ice”… “put the project on ice” …

It makes me all the more grateful for the warm envelopment of grace and love the Lord bestows upon us daily. I pray my own love for Him and my love for other believers who have Him in them does not grow cold, dim, wane, or diminish in any way, as Jesus charged the church members at Ephesus-

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. (Revelation 2:4)

Let this be ever on my mind and heart:

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

EPrata photo

Posted in art, church, ephesus, laodicea, philadelphia, revelation, sardis, smyrna, thyatira

A pictorial representation of the churches of Revelation

This is a creative, artistic rendering of my view of the 7 churches in Revelation. The original photo, which I took, is of an abandoned church in the area in which I live. Photographic manipulation and imagination did the rest.

In the first century, there were 7 churches Jesus caused John to write messages for. These were actual churches with actual congregations, doing and saying actual things. Jesus told apostle John, exiled at Patmos, what to write to these congregations. Jesus spoke commendations, criticisms, and instructions. Not all 7 churches were commended. Not all 7 churches were criticized. All had an instruction, though.

The church at Smyrna and the church at Philadelphia were not criticized. The church at Laodicea was not commended. The rest had both.

The churches were: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.

Can you imagine being assembled on Sunday, hearing a knock on the church door, a messenger arriving and handing a scroll to your pastor, and the pastor reads a letter from the head of the Church, Jesus Christ Himself? Jesus is very much alive and in charge of His global body of worshipers, AKA His bride. He was directly involved then, and He is directly involved now.

Each of the seven churches was not only an actual church but is also a type of church dealing with a problem mentioned in the letters. The problem is not unique to that church for that time. There are always the same kind of systemic problems many churches deal with and have been recurring throughout the centuries. Always, there is a church somewhere that is busy but not alive. Always, somewhere, is a church that is indifferent and lukewarm. On this earth, there is a collection of churches gracefully enduring suffering, or being persecuted. And so on.

Please read Revelation 1-3, it is not hard. Those chapters offer the reader plain language and it’s not heavily symbolic. Meanwhile here are my renderings of the churches in Revelation with their pictorial representation of the problem (or commendation) they had. Below the photo essay is a short artist’s statement of how the interpretation came about.

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Artist statement:

Ephesus: I was struck by the fact they had abandoned their fervent love for Jesus. I imagined how hearing this, John might have felt like he had ashes in his mouth and ears. “Nothing cold as ashes, after the fire is gone.” (Loretta Lynn). The photo is as if ashes were smeared on it.

Smyrna: No criticism. Only light, the crown of life in heaven, and joy. The bubbles are angels surrounding the church Jesus commends in love and encouragement.

Pergamos: Compromise was their problem. Anyone who ever had a house built knows that if the contractor compromises on the concrete foundation, cracks appear at the first frost-freeze-thaw cycle. Nothing cracks a structure or an organization faster than compromise. Hence, the cracked door and walls.

Thyatira: This church had a problem with a seductress teaching sexual immorality and the people tolerated it. It is a harlot church, literally. Hence the lipstick on the walls and the hearts and fireworks and pink.

Sardis: Revelation has a change in tone here. Sardis is dead. I used tombstone engraving font for the verse.

Philadelphia: No criticism. This church is loved eternally from above. Its door will never close. Hence the sunburst coming out, the eternal stars above to indicate they will be taken before the wrath, and the font in script like a love letter. This church is beloved in heaven.

Laodicea: Indifferent. Jesus hates that worst of all. He excoriates it with a lengthy invective no other church received in their message. He will vomit this church from His mouth. Hence the bilious green splat from heaven.

(I never said I was THAT imaginative.)