Love, Revelation Series

Revelation (series) Love—Who Do You Love Most?

@JeanneTakenaka +Jeanne Takenaka

I didn’t set out to write a series based on Revelation 2-3. As I began reading the book of Revelation during my quiet times, I wanted to find truths written to the churches that apply for my life. What came from that desire to find one thing in each letter . . . is this series.

The churches to whom John wrote dealt with many of the same issues we face in an increasingly godless culture. Just as the early churches made choices about whether they would live for Jesus or themselves, so too, do we. 

We have the gift of being able to look at back at their strengths and weaknesses and learn from them.

This isn’t an in-depth theological rendering of these letters. Rather, each post reflects what God has taught me through studying both the letters and the churches. As we walk through Revelation two and three over the next seven weeks, I hope you’ll be encouraged and share your thoughts here! 

~~~~~~~

When our pastor’s wife asked me out to lunch, I was excited . . . and nervous. What would we talk about?

Through the course of our time together, she asked if I would be willing to work in our church’s women’s ministry department. The request humbled me.

She wanted me?

There was something gratifying, yet somber about the thought of taking on the mantle of women’s ministry. I prayed hard about this decision.

Thought about it.

Used the question, “If I say no and look back in five years, will I regret not doing this?”

This was a good question to ask. It gave me a measure. But it didn’t necessarily get to the heart issues.

I believe God brought this opportunity to me. I learned a ton while I worked there. But, did I say yes for the right reasons?

Was I loving God most or me most?

I had some motives in saying yes, that only God knew about. And they revolved around the chance to be affirmed by “serving in ministry.”

In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus talks to the church of Ephesus. He applauds them for all they’ve done right. They’ve worked hard, persevered through challenging situations.

They did not tolerate wicked people.

They tested apostles and kicked out those who proclaimed false teachings.

They persevered and endured hardships for Jesus’ name.

And they didn’t grow weary.

What an amazing resumé of walking faithfully with God!

. . . Or is it?

Jesus looked beyond their actions.

He looked straight to their hearts.

He said they had forsaken their first love. That they’d fallen and needed to repent.

What?

But look at all the great stuff they did! How they persevered, didn’t allow false prophets to lead their church astray.

But, they’d left their first love—Jesus.

Jesus held the church of Ephesus to account because they’d left their first love. Instead of doing all those good things with a heart of love they had other motivations. Perhaps they loved themselves more than Him?

We can do right things for the wrong reasons . . .

Obligation

People-pleasing

To get ahead

To impress someone

Because it’s “what we do.”

Our God is a relational God. More than our acts of service, our good-things-done, He wants our hearts in sync with Him.

He wants us to love Him more than we love ourselves.

Our godly actions and words can be a blessing to Him. But God looks beyond the action to the motive. What in our hearts prompted us to do this?

My prayer is that I might do and say things because I love Him first and most. 

I’m discovering I need to check my motivations. Sometimes, maybe it’s better I not do something because my motives are for me rather than for God. The person impacted may not know this. But God does.

We all do things for the wrong reason, at least sometimes. Maybe it’s time to ask God to show us if we’ve left our first love? If we do the things we do because of how much we love Him?

Even when we do things for the wrong reason, God is still gracious. What may begin as improper motivations can be transformed and used for God’s glory.

Though I may have initially said yes to our pastor’s wife with some selfish reasons, God used that season of working in women’s ministry to refine me. He brought friendships into my life that challenged me to grow closer to Him.

And, in the process He taught me how to love Him more deeply. He taught me humility. He revealed wounds within my heart that He wanted to address.

It took being in a place where I was serving others to bring me to a point of seeing my own need for Him.

What about you? How has God challenged you to keep Him as your first love? When have you seen God redeem something you did with wrong intentions?

Click to Tweet: Jesus held the church of Ephesus to account because they’d left their first love

I’m linking up with #RaRaLinkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

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34 thoughts on “Revelation (series) Love—Who Do You Love Most?”

    1. Sorry for the very cryptic comment, Jeanne; circumstances made it very hard to think.

      What I was trying to say was that Rev. 6:8 illustrates the dichotomy for me, also well-expressed in the famous quote attributed to orwell: “Good people sleep soundly in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

      This sort of sums up Revelation for me, as a ind of necessary cathartic spasm of unspeakable violence and terror that is nonetheless necessary for a world tainted by original sin to be washed clean, as so chillingly required, by blood.

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      1. Andrew, I opted to respond here since you elaborated on your earlier comment. 🙂

        I never thought about Revelation or Revelation 6:8 in that light before, but it makes sense. And, though I believe the time when the horses come will be much more drastic than we see now, it is true that there are those who fight hard to maintain the freedoms so many take for granted. Thank you for this insight, my friend.

        Praying for you.

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  1. This sounds like it will be a great series, Jeanne! I look forward to learning more from your reflections on the messages to the different churches. This is a great reminder to consider our motivations. It is very easy to do the right things and to look good to others, but for our motivation to be selfish. It’s important to be aware of this and guard against it. I’m also grateful that, as you say, even when we are not completely doing things for the right reasons that God can still work in and through us.

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    1. Lesley, I hope it will be a series that resonates and challenges us to go deeper with the Lord. 🙂 God has spoken to me many times over the years about my motivations. I’m thankful for His patience with me when I’ve chosen to do something with wrong motivations. And that He can redeem my mistakes. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jeanne,
    What a great post. I know I’ve taken positions within the church for probably the wrong reasons or at least partially for the wrong reasons. The thing is…you can’t fool God. He knows our hearts. What I HAVE learned, when I’ve taken positions that I thought I could handle in my strength, He has humbled me to HAVE to come to rely upon Him. He never does it in a “See I told you so.” kind of way, He simply reminds me that we can’t serve others (to His glory) in our own strength and ability. Let’s just say, I’ve learned to eat a lot of humble pie.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, it’s so true. We can’t fool God. He’s also used situations where I thought I could do things in my own strength as a place of humbling me, but also strengthening me as I called on Him for help. I love what you said: “He simply reminds me that we can’t serve others (to His glory) in our own strength and ability.” Thanks for this beautiful reminder, friend! xoxo

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  3. Love that you are doing the Revelation series! You brought out the fact about heart motives and they are not always easy to root out. It takes intentional work. Thanks for the beautiful reminder Jeanne!

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  4. Jeanne, this is such a great post.

    Over the weekend I had some quiet time. Chris was off working at a teen retreat. I felt…restless. Crabby. Downright angry. I pulled out my journal and scrawled across pages, things that made sense only to me and to God. By the time I was done, He had clearly illuminated some things that needed to go. Social media apps on my phone have been disabled. I paired down the list of link-ups I try to participate in each week. I deleted the “submissions” folder in my internet bookmarks. Right now, He wants me to focus on Him and on doing exactly (and only) and He leads. I can already feel my heart relaxing and expanding.

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    1. Marie, it’s always a little bit humbling when God meets us in our place of frustration and brings clarity and direction, isn’t it? I admire how you have taken decisive action to be both obedient to God and also receptive in your relationship with Him. There’s definitely freedom in obedience. I’m saying a prayer for you today as you remain in this place of seeking Him. I’m so glad you shared this here!

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  5. I love that your Bible reading in Revelation has led to this series, Jeanne. Your first question is a challenging one: “If I say no and look back in five years, will I regret not doing this?” Honestly, I don’t really want to think about this right now, but I need to! Right now, I think it’s my reasons for NOT doing something that are based in fear and not rooted in my love for Jesus. Hmmm…

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    1. Thank you, Lois. God has surprising ways of helping us frame decisions and circumstances, doesn’t He? I’m praying that He gives you clarity and courage so fear doesn’t sway you to go in a direction God doesn’t want. So thankful for your words here, friend.

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  6. This series sounds like it will be very convicting for me. You already asked such a good question and I feel like it is hanging out there for me to answer.

    I am in a leadership cohort currently that focuses on discipleship. The facilitator models language, posture, and foundational truths like living with grace and truth. She has helped me to revisit and recognize those moments where I am not putting God first. It has been very humbling not only because she is younger than me but because I think sometimes I should already know this. I love how God is teaching me about love through this cohort. He meets us right where we are.

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    1. Mary, you are truly blessed to be walking through some of life’s issues with a person to guide you into living more for the Lord. It sounds like this is a fruitful thing for you, and I would suspect, for her as well. I so appreciate you sharing transparently about what God is showing you and how He’s meeting you right where you are. Thank you for being here, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, Jesus looks straight at the heart, doesn’t He? This is such a good reminder to stay with, return to, never leave, always go back to Our First Love. 🙂 ❤ And bravo to you for writing on Revelation!

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  8. Hi Jeanne,
    I often struggle with saying yes because I feel obligated to and sometimes don’t prayerfully consider before I commit. I can appreciate your thought process and that even when we say yes for the not-so-great reason that God can bring good purposes from it to grow us. These are great words to ponder today!

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    1. Valerie, I’ve been in that place too, where I felt compelled to say “Yes.” 🙂 I’m so thankful for God’s grace when I have said yes to the wrong thing or for the wrong reason. He has amazing ways of redeeming our mistakes, doesn’t He? Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  9. Dear Jeanne

    What a great blog post.

    Sometimes it’s good when the Lord takes us towards another path than we planned ourselves, right?

    You said in the blog post we live in an increasingly godless culture.

    I agree yet another way seeing it is to say we have a lot of seekers, a lot of believers – but you’re right that most of them don’t believe in Christianity.

    Congrats on your new position in church, you deserve it.

    I like your mechanism of deciding (imagine how something feels five years from now).

    My favourite sentence of this particular blog post:
    “Jesus looked beyond their actions”.

    The plot in this blog post is excellent; it’s essential to get those motives right.

    After reading your blog post, I came to think about something I heard long time ago.

    It goes something like this:

    As Christian, we’ll always be number three in our lives. First God, then our neighbour and then we come in as number three.

    In your blog post, you ask how God has challenged me to keep Him as my first love?

    Well, that’s a tough question.

    I’m not sure whether He’s my first love, most of the time.

    But what I do know is that His love for me and anyone else is not depending on how I feel for Him.

    I like that thought.

    Thank you!
    Edna Davidsen

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    1. Edna, I like your perspective of seeing our “godless culture” as people who are seekers. You are right. They may not realize they are seeking, but we all are at one point or another, aren’t we?

      Actually the position I described was a church I worked at a few years back. It was an amazing growing experience, to be sure.

      I appreciate your honesty, Edna. If I’m honest, I don’t always live as though God is my first love either. But, as I grow with Him, I’m learning to live more in that manner.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

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  10. Jeannie, wow! This post hit home for me on lots of levels. I’d love to sit under your leadership. I love you ask the heart questions, not the surface ones. What a superb post … and a series I’m going to be following for sure.

    Valentine’s Afternoon Blessings to you …

    ;-}

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  11. I love that you’re going to do a series on these chapters in Revelations, Jeanne. I have been thinking more lately about the need for self-examination. I love your questions that prompt us to pause and consider what our motives really are. It’s so easy to do things for the wrong reasons, isn’t it? It comforts my heart that, as you say, God can still transform and use those wrong motives to His glory. Love and hugs to you!

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    1. Thank you, Trudy! Some self-examination is good for the spirit. My kids are challenging me to consider my motives . . . before I answer yes or no to them, and in other decisions I make. It is sooooo easy to do things for the wrong reasons. And yes, I’m so grateful God can use and transform our choices borne of wrong motives. 🙂 Sending you love and hugs back!

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  12. I know detaching from my own agenda can sure not be easy at times. I love how God directs us that we can ask Him to search our hearts and remove anything that is not of Him. It takes a slowing down, which being a doer, is not always easy for me either. But oh so much more peaceful than pushing in to something that may never have been meant for me in the first place. A very thought-provoking post, my friend!

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    1. Lynn, I think you and I must be similar in that we both have agendas we feel safer living by. 🙂 I’m thankful that God encourages us to search our hearts and to bring everything before Him–even wrong motives. It is hard to slow down when we thrive on “progress.”

      I so appreciate your thoughts. You always leave me thinking.

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  13. Wow. That was great. Very challenging. I want to quote a lot you said to others. Thank you. I know the answer. My wife and I are both in ministry. We have served together in a church setting 10 of the 13 years we have been married. A little over two years ago, we said yes to moving to a large church because my wife got a job there. Although, I don’t believe we were called there.

    At the time, we really didn’t seek the Lord. Since then, it has been a miserable journey. And through it, we really had lost our first love. Two months ago, we hit rock bottom in more ways than one.

    Two months ago was also the first time we really began seeking Christ together and going after our first love. We are a week away from moving out of the house we love while selling a bunch of stuff we have collected. In doing so, we are moving in with my in-laws for a few months as we are working to pay a few bills off and seeking the Lord for a new ministry direction. We have a few leads, but we are not in a hurry anymore! Why? Because we are seeking the Lord and trusting Him.

    We never thought we would be where we are at. However, God allowed it to happen because we were not focused on Him like we should have been. I’m grateful that we were broken. It brought us back to our first love. We finally see more clearly about what steps to take to be debt free, care for others, and knowing what we are called to ministry-wise. Excited for this new journey with Christ, my family, and the Church.

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    1. Nate, it sounds like you and your wife are on the brink of some transforming work. You’ve been through some hard life lessons, but you’ve learned and grown through them. I can only imagine the work God is preparing for you guys to do. What a blessing that you can live with your in-laws for a few months to save some money and figure out God’s next steps for you.

      I so appreciate you sharing a part of your story here. It is a beautiful example of how God works in our hearts.

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  14. “We can do right things for the wrong reasons . .” That is something to think deeply about. As I’m about to make a big decision, this is a question I’ll be checking my decision against. Thank Goodness we do have a relational God who cares about the deepest, nit-pickiest parts of us. Looks like this will be a great series, Jeanne.

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    1. Lisa, sometimes I feel like the poster child for doing right things for wrong reasons. That would be a series in itself. 😉 I’m praying for you tonight as you pray about your big decision. I’m with you…so glad God cares about the smallest details of us, our lives. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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  15. So sweet and beautiful, Jeanne. I love how real you are. I so often have to remove myself mentally from situations. I get so excited about good things and come to the reality that it’s all about me. Ugh. I love when we humble ourselves and God still blesses us. Above and beyond. ❤

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    1. Shelli, you are so sweet. I love your writings too. They are beautiful and tug at me. 🙂 I am still a work-in-progress in terms of not making things “all about me.” God is faithful to help me re-learn this lesson when I forget. 🙂 And yes, God still blesses, above and beyond.

      Have a beautiful weekend, my friend!

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