Chapter 2

Ephesus and Smyrna

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches. ~ Revelation 2:7

Present day, Windermere, FL. Monday, 9/15, 6:30 A.M.  1st of last 7 years of the end of days.

Tracy Jennings awoke with the same thought that she frequently had on a Monday, "I wonder how long it will take this week before one of them tests my patience" she thought. Tracy was a third generation teacher whose no nonsense approach to education had some of the more colorful students always testing her authority. As she rolled out of bed she felt all her forty five years. Not one to exercise regularly, she always regretted the mornings, especially Mondays. As she glanced to her left, she saw the familiar empty space where Al, her husband of twenty three years, would normally be had he not been a fastidious early riser. Al had the same habit for the twenty three year duration; shower, coffee, Bible, wait for Tracy to drag herself out of bed to join him. Al would rather read his bible first thing in the morning than any other time of day. "It don't see the sense in starting the day if it's not in The Lord first." He would always say. He thought it was the best way to prepare to deal with the world. The life of a grocery store manager wasn't glamorous, but you did deal with a lot of people of all walks of life, and without a strong start with the Lord, Al was sure he would fail.  but While Tracy considered herself a Christian, she would be the first to admit that Al put her to shame. Tracy found herself constantly telling Al she wanted to be a better Christian, only to surrender to laziness, leaving Al to have a more quiet time with The Lord than he planned. After twenty three years, it just simply became the norm. "Good morning, mom" Tracy said as she looked in the mirror. While she loved her mom, and respected her as a teacher, she didn't relish the aging process, and the fact that she looked just like her. She loved life, made the most of it, and other than the first thirty minutes of each day, actually enjoyed it all. As she bounded down the stairs, she was greeted by Al and his well worn Bible, sitting at the kitchen table with coffee for two. "What's today's study" she said. "Revelation" he said as he stood to kiss her good morning. The love and closeness was still there after all these years, Al credited The Lord, Tracy would tell you it was their compatibility and friendship first. Tracy was proud of the fact that Al loved Jesus. But, she was far from the Christian that he was. "When we get raptured, I'll be holding on to your ankles" she would always say. He never found that amusing, always stopping short of a serious conversation about her sincerity. This morning, however, he was ready. He was ready for the clever retorts. That is why he chose Revelation for his current study of choice. He knew it would stir up something inside her due to her scientific nature. Being a high school science teacher, it was an occupational hazard to get into a serious discussion when it came to the subject. And Revelation was just the book to get her scientific juices flowing.

Al, however, wouldn't get his chance this morning, as Tracy would have to leave early this morning due to a new lesson plan that she was starting today. All his preparation would be wasted on this occasion, but he said nothing as she kissed him, saying,"keep it warm, we'll start tomorrow ." And out the door she went. "I hope tomorrow is not too late" he muttered under his breath. As she drove away, Al thought for the first time in 23 years how Tracy might not actually be saved. Despite her zeal for him and The Lord, the fact that lately she was constantly putting her job ahead of not only him, which he could take, but also Jesus, which he couldn't live with.

What Al didn't want to admit was true, Tracy was not soundly saved. She had never truly loved The Lord. Her intellect always got in the way. As he dressed for work, he prayed silently that she would come to a deeper faith before it was too late. As Tracy arrived at school early, she could hardly contain her excitement, she had prepared a lesson plan on her favorite subject, evolution. It was her favorite because it coupled the two things that ran her life perfectly. God and science. It was her own created perfection. The idea that God used evolution to bring about humanity made her comfortable and allowed her to be a Christian and a science teacher. As her students filed in, her excitement grew, it was squashed, however, thirty minutes into her lecture by one of her favorite students. Tracy was not amused at his question. Sitting at her desk peering over her glasses she thought, "when did kids become so sarcastic?" Being a third generation teacher she thought, "things couldn't have been this difficult for mom or grandma." The question was simple, however, and according to the student, not sarcastic at all. High school science was after all a tough subject, but it shouldn't be this confusing. Tracy had on a few occasions mentioned God in the class, which got her into hot water with the administration on more than one occasion. She was notified that she had to be more balanced in her lectures, presenting both sides of a debate. It was perfectly fine to discuss a theory if you balance it with the opposite viewpoint for perspective. Her church pastor, for example, gave excellent sermons on the subject telling all that science and the bible blend perfectly in Gods master plan. That was the reason that the question now posed to her hit so hard. The student in question was a Christian just like her, she knew his family well. They had, however, opposing viewpoints on the subject. He and his family held the bible literally, believing the genesis account of a literal six day creation, just over six thousand years ago, according to the dates in the bible. She was about to answer his question which was, "Mrs Jennings, when Jesus spoke of the creation, was he exaggerating or did he not understand modern science?" When the bell rang to end the period. As the students left the classroom Tracy added, "we will continue this tomorrow." When the class was empty she thought,"how sad that people can't understand that the bible and science fit perfectly." Her intellect , she thought, put her ahead of those "stone age" Christians who do not understand God's plan. Tracy was very much a modern Descendant of the church at Ephesus.

     96 A.D. Island of Patmos. As John continued to write, he felt more comforted by the Lord's assessment of the church at Smyrna. They have remained faithful to The Lord and his commands despite all the persecution that they have suffered in this world at the hands of Satan. No admonishment is given to these faithful followers who hold fast through all their trials and tribulations. The second of the seven churches that John is instructed to address has no doubt pleased The Lord, and shall be rewarded for their faith despite almost insurmountable persecution in a fallen world, influenced by the evil one, down through the ages.

Present day, Windermere, FL. Monday 9/15, 8:30 A.M. 1st of the last 7 years of the end of days.

 "I'm sorry Jed, he already left." Mrs. Johnson said. Jed felt the familiar sting of his former best friend once again not keeping his word. With Jed's car in the shop, Sam, his friend down the street, promised him a ride to school for the second straight day. And for the second straight day, he left without him. It was unusually cold for Lincoln at this time of year, which left Jedediah Browne on the front walkway of Sam's house contemplating walking to school or returning home to ask his mom to go out of her way to drop him off. Jed knew how busy his mom was but knew how upset she would be if he walked all that way when she could have driven him. As he walked back home all he could think about was Sam, "what happened to him", Jed wondered. The two were Inseparable in junior high, elementary, and right up to first year high school. It all changed when Sam decided that God wasn't cool and partying was. "God's been cool to me", Jed thought. As he reached his house he once again prayed for Sam, then ran in to give his mom the news of his much needed ride. Not only was she not running around trying to corral his siblings, but she was ready for him. All the kids were dressed, fed, and ready early to head out. Jed instinctively knew that his mom had less faith in Sam than he did. But she praised him for his failed evangelical efforts. The Browne family was known throughout the town as the bible thumpers. Jesus was all that mattered to them. Bringing others to the saving grace of God was their mission. His parents Johnathan and Catherine were pillars of the community, you knew that if you were dealing with them, you were getting the best and most honest treatment people had to offer. His four siblings were a handful but all were well behaved and just as in love with The Lord as their parents were. "You can't be responsible for Sam" his mother said, "he has to make his own choices." " I know mom, it just hurts." As the 6 of them rode to their respective places, Jed reflected on the friendship Sam and him had shared through the years. Jed never could understand how Sam could always choose the things he did. Jed did not party, drink, flirt with girls, or stay out late. Not because he was afraid of his parents. Not because God would send him to hell. He simply did not want to. His good behavior was due to his salvation, not to gain favor with anyone, including God. Sam, however, seemed the opposite of what Jed had become. Sam would rather party than anything else. He was the big man on campus, Jed was the weird little bible Thumper. This threatened Sam and he more often than not stayed far away from Jed to protect his reputation. The more Jed thought of this, the more upset he became. As they pulled up to his school, he was ready to take on anyone, especially Sam.

As he kissed his mom goodbye, he saw Sam in the distance laughing and smoking with his friends, this was the opportunity he thought of the whole ride there. As he approached Sam, he noticed Sam's pained expression and gesturing which suggested that Jed not come any closer or else. It was the "or else" that Jed worried about. So he detoured to his first class without the planned confrontation he had so longed for. He would have to wait to confront Sam about his attitude toward their friendship. Jed entered Mrs. Jennings first period science class. He saw on the board that today's lesson was on evolution. "Great" he thought, "first Sam , now this." Not that Jed did not like science. He was an "A"student all around. It was the topic that flew in the face of God that he wasn't comfortable with. "Of all the days for this garbage." He thought. Feeling Uncharacteristically playful he decided that he would fly in the face of Mrs. Jennings. After all, she claimed to be a Christian, she was presenting a theory that went against God, and the bible says that Jed should call out any Christian that does such things. Sam came rolling in with the usual friends surrounding him. The eye contact alone was very uncomfortable for both of them. As Mrs Jennings started today's lesson, Jed waited for his chance to pounce. Thirty minutes into the lesson, he raised his hand. "Mrs Jennings, when Jesus spoke of the creation in the bible, was he lying or did he just not understand modern science?" Her look at him could melt lead. Not only did he interrupt a lesson that she considered her finest work, but he brought up the controversial topic of God in the classroom. Jed was considered her favorite student, so this surprised her as well. not that it should have, Jed's family was well known for their evangelism. It's just that her class should not be a testing ground for Jed's new found boldness. She was about to scold him for what she considered a sarcastic remark when the bell rang ending the period. It was obvious an answer to his question would not come today. He felt empowered, however, for at least speaking up in defense of his faith. That is, until he got outside the classroom. "Nice going bible boy" the comment came from one of Jed's classmates as he left the room. "Did you have to ruffle her feathers? She's tough enough without you stirring the pot." Another student added, "now we're really gonna get it, probably a bible quiz, thanks a lot Jed." "What's the harm in my question if it leads to the truth, isn't that better for all?" Jed said. "The truth is you better shut your mouth or I'll shut it for you." A third student chimed in. "The truth is we don't need your truth, we just want to pass so we can graduate." Said a fourth. Jed suddenly felt ganged up on. "Didn't mean to offend, just a passion of mine to get to the heart of a matter." Jed said. He didn't really mind the jokes or the names, he was use to that. Jed knew in his heart that, as his mom said, "he who is in you is stronger than he who is in the world." He just prayed that they would be a little bit more receptive to his efforts. He knew persecution was all a part of being a Christian, but watching all his classmates headed down the "wide path of destruction" as his mom called it, was not a good feeling at all. It was going to take something bigger than him to convince them that God was real. He wondered what that would be and when it would come. But even their teasing and persecution would not deter this modern representative of the church at Smyrna.

96 A.D. Island of Patmos, off the coast of Greece. As John continued to write, he felt worse, for the church at Pergamos had fallen short of the Lord's expectations. After all the teachings they had sat under regarding the temptation of the world, the flesh, and the devil, John wondered how anyone could love pleasure more than God. What was it that could take the place of a loving God who gave them the very breath in their bodies. John had enjoyed his life too, but The Lord always came first. If something was enticing enough to take his attention from God, that thing was eliminated. It came easy for John, why was it so hard for some of his brethren? This church had compromised their beliefs for the temperature things that they thought would complete them. The message for Pergamos was simple, the devil was winning. Without serious repentance, they too like Ephesus, would be eternally separated from the God that they claimed to worship.

Chapter 3