When “Bad Things” Happen

Today is Sunday, the twenty-fifth of September, 2022, in the twenty-sixth week of Ordinary Time.

May the peace of Christ find you well and whole, today!

Day 23,572

I’ll be updating Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit after this is completed.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord our God, our Father, we look deep into your mighty Word and see the glory of the new world you will create according to your justice and truth. We thank you for giving us this joy on earth in the midst of all our toil and striving. We look deep into your Word. You make all things new. To this hope our lives are directed, to this hope you have called us, and we want to be faithful forever. Praise to your name, for you have already done great things for us! Keep us in your Word. Let many find the light, for in this light they may look to you in simple faith and constancy until the end, when throughout the world we may see your glory and your grace. Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more...And he who sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." 
(Revelation 21:1, 5 RSV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. that things went so very smoothly, yesterday, moving things from Mama’s house to our house
  2. for the two young men who helped us move the heavy stuff
  3. that Jesus Christ will make all things new and that His words are trustworthy and true
  4. that when Jesus appears, we will be like Him
  5. that I am one of God’s children

“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
(Luke 9:48 ESV)


Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. . . . We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 
And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 
(1 John 3:2-3, 11, 14-18, 23-24 ESV)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 
Before the mountains were brought forth, 
or ever you had formed the earth and the world, 
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
(Psalms 90:1-2 ESV)
So teach us to number our days 
that we may get a heart of wisdom. 
Return, O LORD! How long? 
Have pity on your servants! 
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, 
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, 
and establish the work of our hands upon us; 
yes, establish the work of our hands! 
(Psalms 90:13-14, 17 ESV)

We are all God’s children. We must receive each other in His name. Yes, Jesus was referring to a literal child, at that point, but the lesson goes beyond that. Whoever is the least will be great. Whoever is last will be first.

Why is this so hard for us to grasp? It has become apparent to me that the best measure of peoples’ understanding of this teach of Jesus is seen in the way they drive. I have seen “Christians” share things on Facebook that hurt my soul. They are meant to be funny, but they are not funny to me. “You will run over every traffic cone before I will let you in front of me,” says one meme.

That attitude violates at least two of Jesus’s teachings. 1) the last shall be first and the first shall be last, and 2) “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

I like this bit about “what we will be has not yet appeared.” It’s true. We have no real clue what we will be like when we meet Jesus, face to face, other than these statements that tell us we will be “like Him.”

And, again, John visits the subject of loving one another. As any frequent reader of this blog knows, this is something that I harp on, constantly. And for good reason, I think. It is something that the Bible harps on, especially in the New Testament. Jesus talks about it a lot. Paul talks about it. James talks about. John talks about it. Over and over and over.

You would think we would have gotten it down by now.

I believe Psalm 90 pinpoints a reason that we might struggle so much with the concept. Verse 14. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” I believe that if we are satisfied with God’s steadfast love, His chesed, we will find it much easier to love one another.


When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
(Isaiah 43:2 NLT)

This verse gives us beautiful truth; it gives us great encouragement. But part of the truth is in the word “when,” in this verse. It is necessary to notice that it does not say “if.” We are going to go through deep waters, through rivers of difficulty; we are going to walk through fire (hopefully not literally). And some of my favorite Psalm verses, which speak of God’s deliverance, tell us that He will deliver us “out of” our troubles, trials, and tribulations.

God will not keep “bad things” from happening to us. “God did not keep bad things from happening to God himself.” (Tish Harrison-Warren, Prayer in the Night) He has never made any kind of promise that indicates that He would keep bad things from happening to us. But He has promised that He would be with us during those “bad things,” and that we would not be consumed.


Father, I am thankful that I am one of Your children. I am also grateful that I have no issue at all being considered Your “child.” Help me, I pray, continue down this path of being less so that You can be more, of decreasing that You might increase. You have taught me that the last shall be first, and it has translated into other parts of my life. But the humanity within me bucks against that; everything I have seen and learned from this world would have me think the opposite, that I need to be first and make others get behind me. But this is not the teaching of my Savior.

Help me to keep getting better at love others, as well. It is not hard to love others when they are displaying their neediness, their desperation in their circumstances. It is hard to love others when they are displaying their self-confidence and their own lack of love toward others. This is a challenge for me, I confess. It is hard to love a “hater.” Help me with this, Father. It is hard for me to love someone whom I see ridiculing and mocking those with whom they do not agree. Help me with this, Father, because Jesus makes no distinction. I am to love all equally (with the exception that my love for the saints is to be even stronger, and some of those with whom I struggle are, indeed, saints).

I thank You that You are always near, and that You have promised to be with us when we walk through “rivers of difficulty,” and through the fires of oppression. Help us to see “bad things” through Your perspective, rather than strictly our own.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
(2 Corinthians 13:14 ESV)

Grace and peace, friends.

In the Watches of the Night

Today is Tuesday, the twentieth of September, 2022, in the twenty-fifth week of Ordinary Time.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,567

Only two more days until Autumn begins!! (Which, as has been duly noted, means absolutely nothing in Texas, as it is still 90 degrees outside.)

And, once again, the high temperature for yesterday was two degrees below the predicted high of 95. We are running about six degrees higher than the average for this time of year.

Today’s high is projected to be 96. The record high for this date occurred just last year, at 100 degrees.

C and Mama are currently at Mama’s doctor appointment, as she is seeing a new doctor here in Fort Worth, for the first time. I hope they like him.

I’ll be working my half-day, this evening, from 4:15-8:15, doing shelving. C will be working from home the rest of the day, after the doctor appointment, and I will probably go out and pick up Subway for lunch today.

There were only nine baseball games, yesterday, none of which involved my two favorite teams. However, the Mets, I am told, clinched a playoff berth, yesterday, when they beat the Brewers 7-2. I read that this was their first playoff appearance since 2016. Comparatively, though, six years isn’t such a long time. According to one source, the Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, and they are on track to get a Wild Card spot, this season.

The Astros clinched their division, yesterday, to be the second team that has clinched a division, this season. However, I’m confused, because Seattle has sixteen games left, and they are fifteen games out. So that “clinching” shouldn’t happen until Houston wins their next game or Seattle loses one, as Seattle’s E# is 1. If Houston has clinched, there should be an “E” next to Seattle.

Update: I’ve dug a little more deeply into that situation. If Houston lost the rest of their games (not likely) and Seattle won the rest of theirs (also not likely) they would be tied, in which case the head-to-head record would be used to determine the record. Houston beat Seattle 12-7 this season. So there you go.

The Dodgers won again, so their chance to beat the win record is still alive. They must win fifteen of their last sixteen games. They are, of course, still atop MLB with 102-44. The Nationals and Athletics both lost, so the Nats are still on the bottom, at 51-96. The Mets have a five-game win streak going, and the Pirates, Phillies, and Diamondbacks all have four-game losing streaks. The Dodgers have a run differential of +332, and the Pirates are at -214 (the Nats are at -213).

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord God, our Helper, we thank you for walking among us and for letting many experience your protection. Even when we are dying, you protect and help us so that we need not pass into death but may enter into life. So may our hearts be lifted up to you. Grant that the light in us remains undimmed, and that we may come before you in sincerity. Lord God, create good out of evil. Let light dawn in the darkness. Fulfill your promise, for our hearts are not concerned with human desires but with your promise. You will carry it out, and we will be able to say, "Our faith was not in vain, our hope was not in vain. Lord our God, you have blest us a thousandfold." Amen.
(Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; 
his greatness no one can fathom. 
One generation commends your works to another; 
they tell of your mighty acts. 
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— 
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
(Psalms 145:3-5 NIV)

Today I am grateful:

  1. for the love of family and friends
  2. for the wonderful works of God, past, present, and future
  3. for my soul that desires to meditate on the Lord in the watches of the night
  4. for the steadfast love of the Lord, which is better than life
  5. for the admonishment to “be still before the Lord”

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; 
my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, 
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
 beholding your power and glory. 
Because your steadfast love is better than life, 
my lips will praise you. 
So I will bless you as long as I live;
 in your name I will lift up my hands. 
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
 and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed, 
and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 
for you have been my help, 
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 
My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
(Psalms 63:1-8 ESV)

My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
(Psalms 119:148 ESV)

“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”
(Lamentations 2:19 ESV)

In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
(Luke 6:12 ESV)

Initially, I am drawn, once again, to the “steadfast love,” or chesed, of God. In this case, the psalmist (reported to be David) says that the steadfast love, or mercy, of God is better than life. This stands to reason, because without that steadfast love, there would likely be no life.

But then I am drawn to the middle verses of this psalm; verses 5-7.

I have been physically satisfied (even beyond satisfied) by “fat and rich food.” This is the comparison that David gives for his soul when he remembers the Lord in his bed at night. He speaks of meditating on the Lord during the “watches of the night.”

This made me remember one of the prayers for Compline from the Book of Common Prayer.

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous, and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

I remember reading a great book about that prayer, by Tish Harrison Warren, called Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.

I really want to get into the habit of practicing Compline and “examen” before I go to sleep each night. Tragically, I keep forgetting. Examen is the practice of a detailed examination of the conscience, typically done at the end of the day. As a spiritual discipline, though, it goes deeper than just checking the conscience. It examines the day; what went well, what didn’t go well? What could have been better? How did I react to certain situations?

These are the kinds of things that I think about when I consider the “night watch,” or remembering God “upon my bed.” I’ve gotten out of the habit of the “bedtime prayers” that I grew up with. It is something that I really need to get back into.


“Release yourself from the bondage of your own judgment. Love yourself without condition. Love yourself through the walls of defensiveness and the darkness of your deeds. Love yourself beyond whatever you deserve for such is the love of God.” ~ Adolfo Quezada, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin


Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!
(Psalms 37:7 ESV)

“Be still” is translated “rest” in the KJV. The Hebrew word is damam, which can be translated “to be dumb,” or “to be astonished,” but also means “cease,” “hold peace,” “quiet self,” “rest,” “be silent,” and so on.

Is this not the same sort of thing that happens when we remember the Lord upon our beds, meditating on Him during the watches of the night?

How many of us go to sleep at night worrying about current events or things that happened during the day that trouble us? And how many times do these worries cause us lack of sleep?

This is one of the purposes of Compline and Examen. To quiet the soul before trying to sleep. One thing I do every night (now that I think about this) is to turn on a meditation app that I have on my phone. It’s called “Abide.” They have great, Scripture-based sleep meditations. I have a set of headband-headphones that I put on (so that it doesn’t bother my wife), and I start one of the meditations. They allegedly last up to forty minutes, but I have yet to make it to the end of one of them.

This isn’t the same thing as purposeful examination of the conscience and the day that preceded, but it certainly can’t hurt anything to fall asleep listening to Scripture.

This verse, though, instructs us to not worry about evildoers or those who prosper. Eugene Peterson translated that verse this way:

Quiet down before GOD, be prayerful before him. Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder, who elbow their way to the top.
(Psalms 37:7 MSG)

In this, we are shown patience and endurance by the Holy Spirit. Waiting requires great patience; resting in the Lord requires great patience and faith.


Father, help me to wait and rest better. I pray for Your Holy Spirit to remind me, each night, to examine the day, to check my conscience, to see how I could have done better, and also how I could have done worse. Help me to remember You on my bed, and meditate in the watches of the night. If I have trouble going back to sleep, simply draw my thoughts and meditations toward You in prayer.

Thank You for these words of worship and wisdom, and help me to apply them to my life today.

Even so, please come quickly, Lord Jesus!


“In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.” ~ Martin Luther’s Evening Prayer

Grace and peace, friends.

Good or Best?

Today is Sunday, the twenty-first of February, the first Sunday in Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 22,991

42 days until Resurrection Sunday.

For the first time in a week, it is above freezing, this morning. It won’t be tomorrow morning, but the high today is supposed to be in the low sixties, and same tomorrow.

C was actually able to get groceries, yesterday. It was unplanned, but she had gone out to pick up S’s laptop, which had been in service at Best Buy (it’s not fixed, but that’s long story). She texted me that she was at Winco, and they had stuff, so she went ahead and got our groceries. I had tried an order from Amazon Fresh, but there were no delivery times available through tomorrow. Really, the only thing Winco didn’t have was the kind of bread we like, or milk. She found some suitable bread, and we can live without milk for a bit. We are not big consumers of milk in this house, not even for cooking.

We have our 10:15 Zoom church gathering, this morning, during which we will continue reading and discussing Psalms. We should be starting with Psalm 7 today, and will probably get through three or four chapters.

If I had gotten up a little earlier, this morning, I might have been at a local Anglican Church right now. I’m reading a book by an Anglican priest, Tish Harrison-Warren. The book is called Prayer in the Night, and is all about one of the prayers that is used for daily Compline, which is a part of the “fixed-hour” prayer liturgy. Compline is the prayer to be prayed before going to bed every night. There is a rather long order for it in the Book of Common Prayer, but the one piece that the book focuses on is as follows:

"Keep watch, dear Lord,
with those who work,
or watch,
or weep this night,
and give your angels charge
over those who sleep.
Tend the sick, Lord Christ;
give rest to the weary,
bless the dying,
soothe the suffering,
pity the afflicted,
shield the joyous;
and all for your love's sake.
Amen."

It’s a beautiful prayer, and I am quite captivated by it, as well as Ms. Harrison-Warren’s treatment of it in this book. I have also developed an interest in the Anglican Church, through reading it.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.
(The Prayer of St. Francis)

You cried to me in trouble, and I saved you; I answered out of the thundercloud and tested your faith when there was no water at Meribah.
(Psalms 81:7 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

  • For so much that I am almost literally overwhelmed.
  • That I am alive and breathing
  • That we have electricity, lights, heat, and water
  • That we have food
  • That we have resources to share, should there be a need
  • For Your love in my life, which enables me to love others
  • That there is still time for people to seek You

Scriptures and Prayers from Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year

First Sunday in Lent

INVITATION

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
(Psalms 34:18 NIV)

Take a moment to meditate on this truth. Say a prayer for those who are brokenhearted or crushed in spirit. If you are one of those, embrace the love of the Lord, this morning. Also, let me know, so that I can pray for you.

BIBLE SONG

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.
You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
(Psalms 30:1-5 NIV)

BIBLE READING

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
(Genesis 3:1-7 NIV)

DWELLING: SILENCE AND MEDITATION

The psalm expresses something that is appropriate for the season. The anger of the Lord is temporary. In fact, I believe that (and this is difficult for me to embrace) that God does not get angry at us who are in Christ. His anger was/is placated by Christ, and His favor is eternal. I love the last phrase, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

We will weep. That much is certain. But that doesn’t have to affect our joy. This is one thing that makes that Compline prayer so powerful. We ask God to dwell with those who are weeping, who are watching, during the night, and those who are working during the night. We ask for His comfort over those who are suffering, struggling, and dying. And we ask Him to shield our joy, to protect it.

One of the big statements of the book, Prayer in the Night, is that we cannot trust God to keep bad things from happening to us. I’m sure that the statement would anger some people, but only because they haven’t really stopped to consider what it really says. The reason we cannot trust God to keep bad things from happening to us is that God never promised to keep bad things from happening to us. God did not even keep bad things from happening to Himself!

What He does promise, though, is deliverance out of those bad things, and protection during them.

One thing I notice, this morning, in the ever-familiar story from Genesis 3 is the word “good” in verse 6. It has oft been pointed out that the way our enemy gets to us is through questions lies. And he does this in Genesis 3. He starts out by getting Eve to question God. “Did God really say . . .?” Then Eve quotes, pretty much verbatim, what God said. Then the lie comes. “You will not certainly die.” And, like a lot of lies, there is a shred of truth in the statement, just enough to be fatal.

Because she didn’t die. Not for a while, at least. It was not instant. But she did, eventually. And the “spiritual” death that occurred has plagued humanity ever since.

Now, back to that word in verse 6. “Good.” She saw that the fruit of the tree was “good.” It was, apparently, also quite lovely to look at. But here’s the thing. There are many things that we fall into that are “good.” And what happens, so often, is that we sacrifice the best for what is “good.” There are things that might be sinful for you or me that are not inherently bad things. They might be “good.” Sometimes, they might not even be sin, really. But they are also not the best for us.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you are starving, you think you’re starving to death. You come upon a table that has a cheeseburger and fries on it. Someone reliable has told you that there is another table in the next room with a big juicy steak, with your choice of potato and/or vegetable. But you can’t see that steak (it may even be prime rib). And there is a person next to the hamburger table who tells you that the other person is lying, and that there is no steak. (“The cake is a lie! The cake is a lie!”)

Do you eat the cheeseburger? Oh, by the way, you can’t have both. Because if you eat the cheeseburger, your hunger will be satisfied, and you won’t need the steak.

If you eat the cheeseburger, you have settled for “good,” and sacrificed the best. It was not a sin to eat the cheeseburger, but it was not the best thing available.

Now, in Eve’s case, it was sin, because God had specifically told them not to eat the fruit of that tree.

And before we go all blaming on Eve, keep reading that next verse, because it said that she gave some to her husband, “who was with her!” My brothers and sisters, Adam was right there the whole time, and never said a word! So stop blaming Eve for everything!

Father, help us to be able to discern “good” from “best” in our lives. Of course, I pray that we will hear Your voice when You speak to us, and that we will obey what we hear when we listen to You. But if we are faced with choices, give us wisdom and discernment to know which is best and that we not settle for what is simply “good.” Help us to trust You when You tell us there is “steak” waiting for us, nearby. And thank You for prayers that are available for us to read and pray; prayers that strengthen our faith and give us assistance, especially when we have no words of our own to pray.

"God of grace,
I can't go very long without sin
showing up somewhere again in my life.
It's tiring to think
that I carry this sin around with me,
in me.
It's a family curse 
that I've inherited,
like a genetic deficiency
that plagues my life
and infects my living.
Lord, be my help and my health.
Amen."
(Belgic Confession 15)

BLESSING

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:8 NIV)

But now Timothy has just returned, bringing us good news about your faith and love. He reports that you always remember our visit with joy and that you want to see us as much as we want to see you. So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence. Night and day we pray earnestly for you, asking God to let us see you again to fill the gaps in your faith. May God our Father and our Lord Jesus bring us to you very soon. And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen.
(1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 NLT)

Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers. Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
(1 Timothy 5:1-2 NLT)

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”
(Matthew 25:21 NLT)

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.”
(Revelation 2:1-7 NLT)

Ephesus, in a sense, was “the love capital of the ancient world.” Tourists were drawn to the great shrine to the goddess Artemis, who was a fertility goddess. But this wasn’t truly “love.” It was lust. “It was the manipulation of appetite and the exploitation of bodies. Artemis was false advertising. Love packaged as a commodity was the biggest business in Ephesus.”

But the Christians in Ephesus understood real love: “Love that gave. Love that accepted. Love that was sacrificial and redemptive. Love that paid its promises. Love that wasn’t out to get but out to give. Love that didn’t leave you wasted and cheapened but fulfilled and enriches.”

But, for some reason, they simply quit. It was too much. It demanded too much from them. They could still do their important church jobs, live their moral lives, and fight against evil. But Jesus calls them out in this letter from John.

“Love is what Christ still requires of us. It is what he won’t do without.” He will not lower Himself to our standards, but desires to raise us to His.

What had been the strongest virtue of the Ephesians had become “the source of their failing – they worked so hard to be right and correct that they forgot who they were being good to and how their righteousness affected others.” They had lost their “first love.”

Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT)

Jeremiah wrote these words in the Old Testament:

“Go and shout this message to Jerusalem. This is what the LORD says: “I remember how eager you were to please me as a young bride long ago, how you loved me and followed me even through the barren wilderness.”
(Jeremiah 2:2 NLT)

Jesus has examined the Ephesians and holds against them that they have abandoned their love. Can we see the same thing in today’s church? Are we more concerned with being right than we are with loving?

(From This Hallelujah Banquet, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.
(Isaiah 55:6-7 NLT)

Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.
(Ephesians 5:16 NLT)

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalms 90:12 ESV)

No one knows how long they have on this earth. Only God knows our beginning and our end. I urge anyone who reads this to do what is called for in the Isaiah passage. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Get right with God while you can. Join in, enter His kingdom, where things are far better than you could ever imagine. Yes, bad things will still happen, God never promises otherwise. But what He does promise, as well as the eternal inheritance that awaits, is so worth it.

Father, there is still time for people to seek You. The days grow fewer, though. Each passing day is one less day in which someone can seek You, in which You can be found. There will come a day when all choices become final. Help me to be a channel, Father, of Your love for humanity. Help me to display truth, but to display it in love and compassion. May I be less concerned with being right (or wanting to be right) than I am with being loving and compassionate. I feel the weight of this past week, Lord, and it is heavy. Please show us where we can render grace and spiritual or physical assistance.

Lord, I pray, this morning, for true and authentic fellowship with Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. He is “best” for me. Please keep giving me spiritual renewal and refreshment, especially during these days that we are in.

I pray for peace in our nation, peace in our world. I pray for racial injustice to end, and I pray for the pandemic to be over. Above all else, though, I pray for Your will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
(Kyrie)

Grace and peace, friends.