First Love

first-love

Revelation 2:2-4 (NLT) “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!”

Have you ever fallen in love before? Have you ever taken that love for granted? As long as they do what they do and you do what you do…it’s all good right? You know I love you, honey. Well, that may work for a while but in the end it will burn out quickly. Love is hard work. It requires investments. It is messy. To love the way that Jesus loves us is just about dang near impossible. People are difficult, stubborn and downright hurtful sometimes. I was looking at some t-shirts for this month. I am really loving the ones that say, “Thankful.” What are you thankful for today? I know the proverbial list that falls from our lips in the form of thoughtless words. The rhetoric of thankfulness. What does thankfulness have to do with love, you may be thinking?

Gratefulness is to express our gratitude. In life, it is human nature to focus on what we want and desire rather than the very things that we have been given. It is also our nature to put ourselves first even when trying to put others first. Spouses and parents forget about anything and everyone else to slave for except their family. You are no longer a slave. The servitude position that you have assumed is comfortable and complacent. An excuse not to engage beyond the four walls of a comfort zone. God wants to change the way we think. His Ways are not our ways. His Thoughts are not our thoughts. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? My husband and I have been married for a very long time. We may do a lot of the same things. Our routine may be established. I am committed to our marriage just as much as he is – we are both 100% in. But if we do not continually tend to the fire, passion, and express our love to one another – our marriage will suffer tremendously and one day fall apart. I can do everything that he wants me to do to make him happy but without love what’s the difference between me and the mechanic who fixes the car, barista who prepares coffee, cook who can make a good meal, or the cleaners who can wash and fold clothes. These things that we do are not love but so often we depend on them to express our love to others.

“I know all the things you do.” As I read these words today, I am struck with the thought that so often we “do” things for the Lord hoping to please Him. When we came to Jesus – we didn’t know what to do, how to act, how to live but then He gave us His Love, Grace, and Forgiveness so something changed in us. He promised a future with a hope and promised us His Glory so we engaged in a relationship with Him. Now could it be that our relationship has turned into comfortable religion? Are we going through the motions of love but forgotten our first love today? It is easy to do. Routine gives way to mundane schedules. The blessing of God in our life as believers is perpetual. The smallest act of obedience gives way to more than thought possible in this ordinary life. Do I take God’s Love for granted? Have I become complacent in my comfort? Am I speaking God’s Love Language today? His Language is always love. Let’s dig a little deeper today.

I heard a preacher on the radio ask the question, “Who do we hate enough to keep the Gospel of Love and eternal life from?” I don’t hate anyone. Or at least, I don’t think I do. I do not withhold the Gospel of Jesus Christ, do I? For three days, this thought has overtaken me causing me to evaluate the relationships in my life both close and distant. There have been couples in the past that announced a “separation” or pending “divorce” that others found shocking. They seemed so in love. Everyone is surprised except the couple who lived together. What if we think our relationship with Jesus is good, but in truth we have lost our first love? What does that mean exactly? What if I have been doing all these “things” that were good and noble in obedience to His Word, Will and Way but forgot to love Him or others as I should?

I Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT) If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

What if I get the do as I do? Say what I say? Go where I go? What if I follow Jesus closely, but do not love others. What have I gained? Our love for other people cannot be comfortable and get the message across. We cannot shout it from our comfort zone. We cannot tell others we love them and do nothing about it. It is just not possible. We can do it all but without love – I think it makes us imposters rather than true disciples. What is love?

I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT) Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

It doesn’t matter what I do or even do well in life if I do not grasp the concept of love as Christ has defined it. Every time I read these verses comparing them to the love in my life – I am challenged by the parameters and borders that I place around my love for others. The walls built around human hearts must come down completely in order for us to experience the Love of God for us completely. The kind that is wider, longer, higher and deeper than one can ever truly comprehend. To love others with the intensity that does not allow anything to separate us from our love for other people. Love is patient. Love is kind…to everyone. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud so say goodbye to pride. It is not rude. Love does not demand its own way and expect it all of the time. Love is not irritable so give it a rest grumpy butt. Love keeps no record of being wronged. LOVE KEEPS NO RECORD OF BEING WRONGED. Love forgives. Love forgives again. Love forgives seventy times seven which is figuratively way more than the actual number implies. Love does not rejoice in injustice. Love rejoices in truth especially when it wins. Love never gives up. Love never loses faith in other people. Love is always hopeful. Our hope is Jesus. Love endures ever circumstance.

Love endures every circumstance. I know that not everyone is lovable. I know that I am not lovable sometimes or perhaps a lot of times. I know that I choose not to forgive sometimes even though God is challenging me to do so. To love God means loving other people. All other people. All of the time. If you have arrived at such a place, if not you are with me today. I need you Lord to search my heart for the places that do not honor our love as it should and make me like you full of kindness, compassion and love for other people…all other people. To love them like Jesus not the way that I want to.

Philippians 2:1-2 (NLT) Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

Each day I go to work giving eight or more hours of my day to my employer in exchange for a paycheck each month. Twice a year, he graciously gives bonuses based on the amount of business my performance has yielded. We have a professional relationship. God has ordained sowing and reaping which is basically what I do when I go to the office each day. I sow my time and reap a monetary benefit. If I am obedient to the Word of God and do what it says, I will be blessed in this lifetime even if I never learn to love Jesus beyond a working relationship. I can serve Him and be blessed more than I ever thought possible … in this life. Because this is how many of our relationships in life operate, it is easy to become comfortable and even somewhat assuming that God is pleased with me and Jesus knows me because I am doing what He says to do. I am obeying His Commandments.

Is it possible to have a “working” relationship with the Lord and never a loving one? Absolutely. It is called religion. When we become committed to the performance and not the person of Jesus Christ. Our motivation is program based not Presence based. Our actions are of service not sacrifice. When every investment is for a certain yield our expectation is in us and not the Lord. To return to my first love means going all the way back to the day that I came to Christ with nothing to give but a messed up life and sinful heart to accept His Unfailing Love and Glorious Grace. It is in this place that I remember that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain in that moment. It is humbling to realize that you are no different today in this regard than yesterday. The first sin was the fatal one. Our flesh battles our spirit every single day. God doesn’t care what I do. He desires my love. He doesn’t care if go to church or even serve there faithfully – He wants me to discover His Love and let it lead my life. Sin is not desirable once we experience the Love of God found in His Presence. Though we continue to battle sin, we no longer want it but just want His Love. Is this what we are sharing with the world?

Hey Martha, this is the Mary inside of you calling out to put down the tools and vessels of service for a moment. I like to do nice things for other people. I love to give gifts. I love serving God in church and “doing” ministry. But there are days that I have discovered that maybe I forgot love that day. To withhold love and grace from others is a form of hate in God’s Eyes. We love because Jesus first loved us. (I John 4:19) He is my source of life and love. I have no excuse to withhold my love from another simply because it does not belong to me in the first place. It is given to me by God.

Would you watch someone wander in to harm’s way or warn them? Wouldn’t you try to wake those sleeping in a burning house? Surely you would pull a toddler away from a busy roadway? Yet day after day Christians hold back the love that changed everything. Guilty as charged. Lord, teach me to love others with the love that I have found in You. Teach me to share love first and “do” later. Nothing I do today is more important than sharing life with a dying person. Help me to remember it’s all about love. Show me the way to love You and others as I did at first!

Philippians 1:9-10 (NLT) I pray that your love will overflowed more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

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