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Friday, March 8, 2013

First Love Lost

Every church I have had the privilege of being associated with has stories of her beginnings. The people either tell the tales as they were told them if the original member no longer exist or they tell of their own stories. These stories begin with a gourp of people who wanted a Christian witness in the area where the buildings stand. A group of people rose up to begin the church. They sacrificed to see the church begin and many of them worked to see the church grow. They witnessed and gave until the church was a strong growing congregation. They rode the excitement of the new church as new people moving into the area joined the church. They looked at all they had accomplished and saw how good that it really was.

However, many of these church only tell these stories. They have no current stories to tell. They are no longer witnessing and refuse to sacrifice. The older members say that their time for service and sacrifice is over and it now belongs to the younger people. The younger people are mobile. They don't settle into a church like former generations did. They may attend more than one church in any given month. They younger people often think of church as a leisure activity which is weighed against all other leisure activities. So, they go where they can get the best deal.

Thus, many of these once vibrant churches are in decline. They do not know they are dying because their attendance receded a few people each year. No one ever figures out that losing one person a month results in sixty less in attendance in five years. Of course, many of those who are leaving the church are doing so in coffins. The members grieve but don't know what they could do to stop the bleeding.

The answer is simple but the solution is hard. They must return to their first love. They must come back to the wholehearted commitment they had when the church was started. They must not hold back anything. The answer is in knowing what to do. The solution is in doing it.

I often talk with couples who are having marital problems. They also are having problems because they have stopped doing what they did when they dated and first got married. Their solution is to start doing what they used to do.

And if the churches don't do what they first did? The Lord takes away their golden lampstand. The church will close her doors because she was unwilling to return to her first love.

Who has ears to hear this?

 Revelation 2:1-7 (ESV)
1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
   2  “ ‘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. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. 6 Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

2 comments:

high-expressions.blogspot.com said...

First love lost; many do not really understand what was meant by "you have forsaken your first love" in Scripture.

It is first of all, not necessarily referring to methods or approaches.  It goes more fundamental than that, to what was the aim, to what we are trying to achieve, and attitude or heart-condition with which we go about, doing the things we do.  

For example, what we are aiming, is to promote a product, but methods or approaches are many, and over time, some approaches are no longer relevant, but promotion is still needed. Then, there is the how we promote, for, some people can put up some gimmicks, but have no intention of sincerely honoring what is projected/held out  Some people are honest in their promotions or advertisements, some people are not.  Some people exaggerates, some people don't.  

Back in 2010, I wrote an article on that Revelation text about the first love was forsaken; then, I entitled it as, "Durian or Papaya" (perhaps, not a very good title, but I thought then, when readers peruse my listing of articles on my main blog page, curiosity might prompt them to click on the article to read).  I just re-read that article,  and decided to put an extraction from that article here (the full article link is:              ).

Extract - "... yes, we still go to church but do we really do the first things we did. What do we do when we first fell in love with Jesus in respect to church services? Did you not try to be punctual? How did you worship then? How did you sing then? I remember when I was baptized “donkey years” ago, I worshiped like there was no tomorrow, and I still can visualize that I was, perhaps, wearing a red T-shirt, waving my hands, and clapping them, most joyously; and some foreign visitors were there, and they were filming away with their video camera, it was a sight they had to capture on seeing the passion and excitement of brothers and sisters who had just publicly declared that they would follow Jesus. How do you worship today? Are you just mouthing the words of the songs just because it is the polite thing to do? Or are you thinking about the embarrassment of being seen to be just there and not singing? Or you only sing when it comes to a song you like? Or do you catch yourselves wondering when this singing part will end, because you just want to move on? Do you still embrace your singing of praises and worship as living sacrifices unto the Lord?

The other most important part of the church liturgy is of course, the sermons. Do you still feed on the Word of God passionately? Or at least try to? I suspect many of us, not only do not feast on the Word of God; we do not even try to. If a very important person, maybe your company CEO, the city mayor, or even your Senior Pastor, invites you to a meal, you will at least try to be enthusiastic about the food laid before you, and eat some, regardless the kind of food he provided or ordered, spicy, “sourish”, plain, Malay, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, or even fast-food. Jesus looks on at each weekend service, and what does he see? Are you one of those who are in the category guilty of taking for granted the food Jesus provides? 

If your spouse made you curry chicken, appreciate it and eat it. Afterwards, say, “Thank you, dear.” Just like you will not be bothered with who the chef behind the dishes, because your focus should be on the VIP in the example above, you are to focus on Jesus or God, not the speaker. It is the same, when your lover buys some beautiful roses and has it sent over to you, your focus should be on your lover because he or she is your love. Who will think about the gardener? Who will think about whether or not the gardener is a pretty woman or a handsome man before he or she will have the flowers. Or do you not want to accept the roses just because it was delivered by a crappy old man?


Cont...

high-expressions.blogspot.com said...

Cont. From above

How do you listen now, compared with how you did so, when you were first in love with the Lord? Do you let the Word of God goes in, by one ear, and goes out the other? So many of us, no longer make any effort to retain any of the Word of God heard over the pulpit; the moment we leave the door of the sanctuary, we also seem to have let the Word of God out of the door of our heart. This is surely, not the thing we did at first.

We should regularly meditate on the Lord’s chastisement given to the Ephesians brethrens; that we are not to forsake our first love for the Lord, and omit to do the things we first did. The things we first did must be taken to include the attitude thereof. The next illustration is plain enough, not easy to do, but we are still told to do it; what more when it comes to the Lord: When we are in love, before marriage, when we meet to have a meal with “the him” or “the her”, we treat such occasions as a date; but after marriage, the connotation of a date completely disappeared for many of us. Many of us, do not even, occasionally, treat such occasions as a date, not to mention, every meeting-up and meal. This is a bad tendency we have, and was the first kind of issues Jesus addressed in His message to the churches in the Book of Revelation. We still meet, we still have a meal, but the attitude, and heart condition of first love we have not, or had forsaken. With the Lord, we should also not just say, we did this, we did that, but we have to ask ourselves the attitude and the heart condition when we did those things. It is both the omission of the things done, as well as the incorrect attitude and heart condition with which we did things, that we must bear in mind.

It is more important that we do what pleases the Lord than what we think will please the Lord. Let us say, for example, your “the him” or “the her” loved to eat durians, and you did not originally quite fancy that King of fruits. But you, through eating and eating with him/her, have come to acquire the taste and love for the powerfully smelling fruit. If for some strange reason, and it happens, your partner no longer likes to eat durians, but you continue to buy the fruit and want him/her to eat with you, he/she will not be pleased, although you think he/she will be. Strangely, or not so strangely, he/she now likes to eat papaya. What do you do? Go, eat papaya with him/her because that is what he/she likes you to do with him/her. Don’t just because, now that you have grown accustomed to eating durians that you should continue to dictate that the first love thing to do, is to feast on durians. You will be surprised he/she will say to you, “If you love me like you first loved me, eat papaya with me!”


Oops, I missed putting the article link above. Here it is: http://high-expressions.blogspot.sg/2010/05/durian-or-papaya.html

Anthony Chia, high.expressions