Sunday, May 9, 2010

Durian or papaya?

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Rev 2:4-5)

Many of us may be rather old in our faith, but not necessarily more mature. Do we still bother with listening to, or reading the Word of God? Perhaps, you still go to church services and listen to sermons being preached by your pastors, but do you do that just as a matter of habit? Yes, going to church, to many of us, sometimes, has become so habitual, that we just go to church at the specified time; the reason being that, that is the thing to do for that time slot of the week. I am not saying that it is not the thing to do, going to church services without fail, week in, week out, but are we doing it as a matter of first love, which is the correct attitude exhorted by Jesus, through John, in the Book of Revelation, when He addressed one of the 7 churches in the province of Asia?

For the Ephesians church, Jesus said He had this against them, that they had lost touch with their first love, and no longer did the things they first did. But, you will protest, you probably think in your heart that you have been, and are still doing the things you used to do when you first knew Jesus, your love; you have been and still going to church services. Or in the first place, you might have asked what does Jesus’ words, against the old church, got to do with present day believers? Or, Wasn't the Book of Revelation about the End Time, why did Jesus talk about these 7 churches, in the first place? Isn’t it true that often, in letter writing or communication, what we write or talk about at the front part, after pleasantry, is important stuff; sometimes, even the most important, because it make sense to deal with important stuff first, before we move on, to more peripheral things? What does this indicate to us the importance of the messages Jesus left us with, in this front part of the Book of Revelation?

In the first place, the 7 churches that Jesus addressed were real churches that existed during John’s time. They were in modern day Turkey. The Patmos Island, on which, John received the revelation is still there, sitting in the Aegean Sea, and it is part of the islands of Greece. The churches no longer exist, but I believe Jesus had seen what had been happening to the churches, and He knew the tendencies of believers and the challenges of the churches. These tendencies and challenges would likely to be the same ones that we or the future generations of believers, would face. The Satan then and the Satan now and tomorrow, was, is and will be the same old Satan, the same old tricks, disguised in different shapes and forms. Man, in general, has also been the same. No wonder, the wise Solomon, said in Ecclesiastes (Eccl 1:9) that nothing is new under the sun. Jesus’ intention, I believe, then was to have these warnings, and encouragements, recorded for us, to take note, to walk in, in the faith, whether or not we live to see the End Time. Jesus merely used the 7 churches as illustrations, so that John would receive understanding by Jesus’ choice of examples. Jesus, even in His earthly ministry of some 3 years, liked to use everyday situations to teach or warn people. The Book of Revelation, therefore, minimally, should be looked at in 2 parts, the messages to the seven churches, and the visions of End Time. The former is relevant; in fact, a must for believers to understand well, take to heart, and walk in, and churches should preach them like they would preach the other so-called more relevant texts of the New Testament. This I believe is the correct frame of mind that we should have, when we look at “part 1” of the Book of Revelation.

Back to going to church services; 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?

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!”

Anthony Chia - Lord, I should not just look at not forsaking my first love for you but also see to it that my love for you will grow more and more. Lord, encourage me in my love for you.

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