Thursday, November 03, 2005

Church of the Tin Woodman

Warner Brothers left out some of the best parts of the original story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum written in 1900. You can read the entire book online at Chapter Five tells why the Tin Woodman wants a heart. The Woodman character came to mind as I read Revelation this morning.

Revelation 2:1-7

1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: "The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says: 2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name, and have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent. 6 Yet you do have this: you hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 "Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. I will give the victor the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Do you see that in the church today? Do you see it in yourself? Just as with the Woodman, losing your heart doesn’t happen all at once. And, based on my experience, it is a daily battle to hang on to it.

In Genesis 29, Jacob begins working for the love of his heart - Rachel. Laban, Rachel and Leah’s father, pulls a bit of deceitfulness on Jacob. Instead of giving Rachel, he gives Leah (the older daughter) to Jacob in marriage. Jacob is disturbed but realizes to get what he wants, he must submit to the authority he is currently under.

Jacob abides by Laban’s stipulations because he remembers his first love. Jacob uses the time of the agreement wisely. He implements a shrewd plan of his own. Some may see it as deceitful but I see it as an intelligent business plan.

Jacob does not allow his 14 years of work to distract him from his heart motivation.

Jesus is another example of staying true to his heart. Can you imagine having the accusations thrown at you as Jesus did in those three and a half years of ministry and not being distracted from your purpose?

We’re talking about God in the flesh of one man here. Jesus Christ could have shut up anyone he wanted. He did not need to form a protest rally or have people sign a petition against the religious or Roman rulers of that day. He could have spoken a word and changed everything in the twinkling of an eye. But he didn't.

He stayed focused on his first love – the children of God. Ah, were you expecting me to say his first love was God the father? The fullness of God was in Christ; therefore, his first love was the first love of God the father. Jesus even asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him on the cross. He loved people - God's creation - God's children.

Jesus gave two commands, love God and love others. When we love God, he gives us his Spirit.

I sometimes want to focus my love only on God and wipe out all those who spit on the name of Christ. But to be like Christ is to keep my focus on God’s first love – his children.

Matthew 18:14

In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father's will that even one of these little ones should perish.

I am so thankful for those whose heart was focused on me 17 years ago. There were plenty of Christians who belittled me with their pious comments; who fought back when I questioned their “acts of love.”

But there were two who loved me and listened to me right where I was. They did not accuse. They did not pretend to be superior in knowledge or righteousness. They did not offer a list of dos and don’ts. They simply loved me. By their love, I discovered God’s heart.

Have you lost your first love? Are you made of tin? When you look around, do you see the wrong in people? Or do you feel the tears of God’s heart? Do you recognize that God sheds tears for you in the same way he sheds tears for those you protest against?

1 John 4:7-13

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God – for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us. 13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.

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the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

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