August 17, 2019

For all who want to end well . . .

Two novels stand out as “never again read this author” books. One ended with the entire leadership of the USA in a boat in the middle of a gigantic oil spill that was on fire. The end. No rescue, no hope. The other ended with the villain getting away with murder, moving to an island with his girlfriend and making money as the owner of a pub. No justice. The end. I hated it. Both had me doing a rewrite in my mind. To me, a satisfying ending is important. I want it to align with what I think God would do.

Ephesus was a prominent city. The church there was well-known and its people enthusiastically followed Christ. They understood the enemy’s tactics and fought for the truth. However as church history shows, they did not end well.
“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. “ ‘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. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 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. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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.’” (Revelation 2:1–7)
I’ve been thinking a great deal about my life in terms of obedience to God and ending well. For me, seeing the mistakes and disobedience is easier than focusing on what I did well and how I obeyed the Lord. I find it easier to think that I don’t love Him enough — rather than thinking I’ve been faithful to serve only Him. While the enemy is “the accuser of the brethren” I make no excuses for my thoughts. I’ve been called a ‘perfectionist’ but according to Jesus, that is not a bad thing. After words of exhortation to love my neighbor and my enemies also, He says,
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
As I read these words, the Lord whispers to me: “When is the end?” — and I realize I’m thinking only of this life, but that is not the end. Not only that, perfection is not attainable here. That is the enemy lying to me. Perfection is when I see Jesus face to face:
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. (1 John 3:2–3)
I am His child now, not a mature grown-up image of Jesus Christ — but a child. When He appears and I see Him as He is (beyond the mere glimpses I’m able to see now), I will be transformed. As these verses say, He IS pure while I am a work in progress.

The church at Ephesus serves as a warning to a church. The individuals that attend that gathering had the same promise that I have: they made mistakes, even left their first love and the church could not continue in that condition, yet God was not finished with the people in it. Even if they kept sliding backward and neglecting to perfectly purify themselves, each one would one day see Jesus face to face and be instantly changed to God’s goal for them. The ending was not the final years of their lives; it is the eternity they are spending with Jesus.

Lord God, You always hear the cries of my heart. You are also aware of how the enemy tries to sidetrack me with worries and doubts. You always come to my rescue. I am not perfect — yet I no longer live. I have been crucified with You and the life I now live is by faith in You, the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). The last years of my life may go well or not, but eternity will bring that perfection I long for.

Today’s thankful list . . .
God’s incredible promises.
God’s protection from the enemy’s lies that pull me down.
Hearing from a granddaughter who arrived safely in a foreign country for a new job.
A warm house, after heat records earlier this week and now its cold outside.
Panini sandwiches.
A son who is willing to drop in and help move furniture.
Patience to rip out a mistake and re-sew it.

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