Til by Turning, Turning, We Return to Our First Love

1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: … “I know your works … and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers … I also know that you are … bearing up for the sake of my name, and that you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first  Repent Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.

There’s a line in here that I love. It speaks to our call to be light in this season worldly anxiety. Jesus says to John, to the church in Ephesus, and really to all of us …

I …know that you are …

bearing up for the sake

of my name

I thought of doing a spiritual check-up based on today’s passage. On a scale of one to ten …

  • How is your “patient endurance”?
  • How are you at not compromising, not flirting with ungoldly practices, and “not tolerat[ing] evildoers”?
  • How are you “bearing up for the sake of [Christ’s] name?”
  • How is your spiritual strength vs. your emotional “wear[iness]”?
  • How is your exuberance in faith? Are you on fire like you once were? Are you on a plateau – neither really high nor low, but in a frustratingly average place? Or are you kind of “abandon[ing] the love you had at first”?

Now that I’ve depressed 80% of you, that was what I was going to do! Here’s what I am going to do. I’m going to tell you that your God loves you, and he doesn’t want to leave you in places of spiritual mediocrity or discouragement. As you surely know, a spiritual uplift always begins with a yearning, a wanting to get back to the “love [joy, peace, hope, and devotion] you had at first.

If you want to get back and be lifted up, it starts with “repenting” (see verse 5). But here this: Yes, repentance surely involves turning away from sin; but that’s only part of it. Part two is second powerful part. Repentance isn’t just turning away from, it is turning toward something too. It’s turning to God! It’s embracing His ways! It’s discovering His blessings … again!

One of my favorite images is a choir singing a cappella. Gradually their singing grows flat. They need an occasionally pitch pipe to remind them of the true note they’re supposed to be on. When you did that “spiritual check-up” above, have you noticed that the note of your faith has maybe grown a little flat? This letter in Revelation is a pitch pipe. It’s a call to rediscover the love, joy, peace, and notes that we’re truly able to sing!

I go to a retreat sometimes, and the question that they ask people is, “Do you like to sing?!” That’s are question today: “Do you want your heart to sing? Do you want to your spirit to rise? Do you want your faith to soar? Do you want more of the ‘love [joy, peace] you had at first?”

How do we get it? Look at that last question, that yearning for love, joy, and peace. Love, joy, and peace [along with patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control] are not fruits of Ed. I can’t truly produce them – no matter how hard I try, or no matter how hard I look for cheap substitutes in the world. Love, joy, and peace are fruits of the Spirit. And so if I want more patience, kindness, and generosity, then I simply need to align myself more with Holy Spirit who gives this fruit (instead of working at cross-purposes with God and his ways).

In other words, I surely need to turn away from some things, but I also turning toward somethings too – God and his ways. I need to “rejoice in the Lord always,” I need to let my “gentleness be known to everyone,” I need to “not [dwell on] worry about … but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving[, I need to] let [my] requests be made known to God, and [then] the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

A few of you are working harder than ever because of current shutdown. You probably need peace. Others of you have more free time than you’re accustomed to! In this season we’re called to be salt and light, “bearing up in [Christ’s] name.” How many of us have lamented being so busy. This is your chance to slow down … and turn.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s heart turns with

the old hymn Simple Gifts:

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free

Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be

And we find ourselves in the place just right

Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning

we come ’round right.

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