The Revelation part three: Ephesus; All Out of Love

In this episode we look at the message to the first of the seven churches…the church at Ephesus.

The church is called and empowered to be incarnational in our culture. That means we are to be portals through which Jesus continues to live His life. When Christ lives His life in us as us, the context of all our mission is love, just as Christ is love.

Revelation- 3 Message Notes

Revelation-3 Journey Group Discussion Questions

Revelation Week 3 (podcast) from Snoqualmie Valley Alliance on Vimeo.

Things are not as they seem…

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Have you ever wondered what the mother of Barabbas thought, felt or wondered when her son was released and Jesus was condemned? If there is a universal character that represents all of us in the Good Friday story it is Barabbas…we have all been acquitted, set free from our sentence of death because Jesus went to the cross in our place…

Good Friday is the day we remember that life often has dark encounters where we are left wondering if God is real, kind, involved or aware.

Good Friday dares to combat our need to have life tied up in neat little bows…to always have happy endings…to ride off into the sunset…instead, it creates the sacred art of waiting….the holy transformation of not knowing…the necessity for all who follow Jesus to embrace the dark night of the soul where we learn the divine language of silence.

Jesus reminds us that in this world we will have trouble…He doesn’t say, “But if you believe in me I will make sure you experience zero troubles or pain!” No…he simply says ‘don’t be afraid of what you will face…trust me.’

But trusting God is hard when you are experiencing a Good Friday…”where are you God? Don’t you know what’s going on? Don’t you care?”

Like Pilate, sometimes we make choices that are pressured and forced. While we want to wash our hands of painful outcomes, we know deep inside that there is blood on them no matter how hard we try to justify our decisions…we are experiencing Good Friday.

Like Mary Magdalene…perhaps we have been helped, healed and transformed. Our life has been pulled from the gutter. Grace has invaded our world and for the first time we feel that we were valuable, needed even wanted. Our life is changing, our choices are evolving in healthier ways, our existence is becoming significant which is no small thing…and then we run into Good Friday…all seems lost…all seems hopeless…was it all a joke? Just another religious thing? The divine silence is so loud you could cut it with a knife…where are you God?…we are experiencing Good Friday.

Like Peter…perhaps we have been rescued and loved over and over again…we have received grace after grace yet we still put our foot in our mouth. When it mattered most, as someone was asking about our faith in Jesus, we froze…afraid of what they might think of us…afraid of how His name might affect our reputation or status…and in that defining moment, we deny Him, divert the conversation, bail on the one who always bails us out…and we feel the darkness of Good Friday surrounding our heart…Jesus, I’m sorry…

In different ways, by our words and by our actions our voice has joined the ancient chorus shouting crucify, crucify, crucify.

While we long to quickly jump from Good Friday to resurrection Sunday and shout “He is Risen” at the top of our lungs…Jesus asks us to stay here a while, to linger and suffer with Him…it is our own Gethsemane…but will we stay awake with Him just for a little while?

I think the images of Good Friday are flowing from the heart of the Apostle Paul as he says “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death”  (Phil 3:10)

The reason why Good Friday is so important is because we can never truly enter into the full Joy of Easter Sunday until we have embraced the absolute emptiness, and despair of Good Friday…We will never exude joy until we have encountered a necessary grace born on the dark night.

Good Friday centers me on the truth that things are never as they seem…it might be Friday…things might be confusing and dark…but God is always up to something, and Sunday is coming..

Here’s a great hymn to close out my thoughts…

Alas and Did My Savior Bleed

1. Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for sinners such as I?

2. Was it for crimes that I have done,
he groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!

3. Well might the sun in darkness hide,
and shut its glories in,
when God, the mighty maker, died
for his own creature’s sin.

4. Thus might I hide my blushing face
while his dear cross appears;
dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
and melt mine eyes to tears.

5. But drops of tears can ne’er repay
the debt of love I owe.
Here, Lord, I give myself away;
’tis all that I can do.

Incongruence

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Incongruence, Isaiah 11:6-11

 

"Life wasn't meant to be like this." I don't know how many times those words have been birthed in pain as they left my mouth. Conversations where that phrase is necessary generally have a dialog attached concerning why God allows such painful realties into our lives.

Sometimes, even though we have done all the right "Christian" things, the bottom of life still falls out, leaving us bewildered, angry and confused.

"Did I do something wrong?" "Is there some sin in my life?" The questions bounce through our minds like a pachinko ball. The reason that we are so desperate for the answer may not be because we want finality, but because we have been divinely wired by God to know that this is wrong and that we were meant to experience something different, something beautiful, something holy.

Isaiah received a glimpse of what was supposed to be, as well as what will be. Through the Messiah, the cosmos would take on a whole different orientation. Instead of a world that is me-centric, and living on the brink of destruction, the plan is for a world immersed in beauty, love and trust of a kind that seems unorthodox to our current reality, but perfectly plausible in God's economy.

In and through the Messiah, natural-born enemies become friends and fellow travelers. Those most innocent and naïve will not have to worry about deceptiveness, as deception has vanished. Here, even a child can lead in safety and trust.

Danger and evil are birthed from sin. Sin obscured the beauty that God intended. It builds walls between people. It produces labels that further separate us from each other, but life wasn't meant to be like this. Deep down we know this, so we long for God's design; yet in Christ, we have already received it.

The Incarnation unmasks the incongruence of life on earth. God shouts through the angelic host and illuminates through the One in Mary's arms that He has not forgotten us. He works among us; His kingdom is working through the cosmos, healing the distortion that sin has caused.

God's kingdom of shalom (peace) is not something we create or manage. The kingdom of shalom that Jesus invites us into exists now and will be fulfilled when He returns. It is infused within the life of Christ-followers, finding its way out to others. We become portals of God's grace by loving people when they least expect it, and least deserve it.

At the end of all conversations then, the hope that is welling up inside of us finds its fulfillment in one Word: Jesus. In Christ alone all the paradoxes of life are held together. In Him the common language of grace reminds us to be incarnational people, as Jesus continues to make his appeal through us.

Gracious God, when our world fails to make sense, we thank you for Your Son, Jesus-who is restoring and redeeming all the broken pieces of life. We come to you in his name. Amen.

Dei Gratia,

MC