What remains?

bumper sticker

A few weeks ago, a couple of bumper stickers caught my attention. And I was disturbed. One, I didn’t agree with what was written. But more than that, I felt provoked. Because these were displayed on the window of the left side of the car. They were strategically placed so that when I turned to the right, there they were, staring right back at me. To me, it felt as if the driver was saying, “In your face!” And her messages… “Don’t believe in God? Join the club,” and “Good without God.” And so, as I sat there, I felt my anger rise. But not because of her belief – or unbelief – rather, because I felt attacked by the placement of those stickers. Because of their prominent position, I felt like the driver drew the line in the sand. To me, she came across as divisive and offensive. Simply put, I felt hate and not love. And when you stop and think about it, isn’t that what a lot of bumper stickers promote? Divisiveness and hate.

I have to admit, though, one sticker gave me cause to pause. The slogan Good without God settled on my heart for a week or two. Because in reality, there is good out there. And not just by Christians. Atheists and people of every religion do good things. So what about that, I wondered. That’s when I came across a letter written to the church of Sardis.

“I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent.”  Revelation 3:1-3

This is a letter written to Christians… believers in the message of the Gospel. And oddly enough, I believe they were practicing just what that bumper sticker proudly declared… Good without God. And so, today, I have to question myself and my actions. See, it’s a fact that I can do good things. And not just me, but every other being on the planet can do good things. However, personally, I just have to ask, “If God isn’t in it, then should I be doing it?” And what is God? God is love (1 John 4:8). In essence, if what I’m doing is not motivated by love (or God), then is it a God thing? If love (or God) isn’t driving me, then perhaps what I’m doing is no different than the empty works performed by the church of Sardis. Basically, if I find myself mindlessly doing things for God, but love is absent, then they’re incomplete.

Jesus said to “strengthen what remains,” and to “remember therefore what you have received.” And so, I remember… I received His word (James 1:21). And it’s the very words given to me that remain, for God says, “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever!” Isaiah 40:8. God’s word remains. His word is what lasts. And what does His everlasting word tell me, but…

Love never ends.
But as for prophecies,
they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
 For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
 But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10

Works without love are incomplete… fragmented… partial. Like a bumper sticker placed on a window to provoke rather than uplift. Works without love can so easily fall apart. But, love is the bond of perfection which holds these deeds together. Love is constant and never fails. And as I sit here and contemplate the truth about God & me, I think it’s pretty clear what I lack. I’m pretty sure love has been absent from my life as evidenced by the bad feelings I harbor towards a complete stranger who was simply exercising her freedom of speech. She’s the very one I should love. And on top of that, I see that some of the works I have accomplished in my own strength – devoid of love (or God) – are empty and incomplete in His eyes. These loveless works of mine will not remain.

You know… the church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive. From the outside, they looked good because they were doing good things. But Jesus said they were dead. Incomplete. And you know what I think? I think love was missing. I think that perhaps they were very busy people, but their works were futile. I think they were simply doing good without God. And I don’t want that. I want what I do here to matter… to remain. And so, clearly, love (or God) is what’s required to bring the work to completion. I believe there cannot be any lasting work… without God. There can be no true good that remains… without God.

As for me… I’m waiting for “the perfect to come.” And the good news is, He already has. His name was Jesus, and He was perfect. Through Him the law was fulfilled… completed. Because of Him, there’s really only one thing we need to do… love. We love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might. How do we know we love Him? We follow His commands. And what is His command? That we love our neighbor as ourselves (John 13:34-35). That we serve one another through love (Galatians 5:13-14). That we exercise our faith through love (Galatians 5:6). That we walk in love (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Oh, yes. We’re to serve Him and to have faith in Him and to walk with Him. But in love and through love. For it’s love that completes and fulfills and remains. And God is love. And it’s the One who remains that tells us to love. And we can do so because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in Him. In this, love is perfected in us…” 1 John 4:16-17

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=This+one+thing+remains&FORM=VIRE3#view=detail&mid=44ECC31EFF153E07363B44ECC31EFF153E07363B

Finding Your Voice

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I’m just a singer of simple songs
I’m not a real political man
I watch CNN but I’m not sure I can tell
You the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love… Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?                                     Alan Jackson, Country Music Singer

It was in November of 2001 when I first heard the song, Where were you (When the World Stopped Turning). It was during a program… some sort of country music awards… and if I’m not mistaken, Alan Jackson humbly took the stage, hesitant to sing his song. And I’m pretty sure it was the first time anyone heard those lyrics. Today, I was prompted to look up the story behind the song. Through Wikipedia, I learn that Alan Jackson didn’t want to do a patriotic song, nor a vengeful song. And the last thing he wanted to do was to capitalize on such a tragedy. He simply wanted to convey his thoughts and emotions, but words didn’t come immediately. It was on October 28, 2001 that he woke up at 4 a.m. with the melody and opening lines and a chorus going through his mind. And so, still in his underwear, he arose to sing them into a hand-held recorder so he wouldn’t forget them. It was later that morning, after his wife and children went off to Sunday School, that he completed the lyrics. This songwriter didn’t find his voice immediately after the tragedy of 9/11. It was about a month and a half later when the words made their presence known in his heart and mind. And although they delayed in coming to him, it took only one morning to write down what he felt. This singer/songwriter had a voice and he used it. And through it, he has touched countless lives.

You know, in reflecting on that tragic day, another song comes to mind. It’s called One Last Time by Dusty Drake. I was sitting in my cubicle at The Pantry Inc., located in Sanford, NC, and I started humming along mindlessly as I worked. I thought the song was about a man leaving his wife. But then, a line cut through my work induced haze… “as the pilot tried to pull out of the dive. One last time.” That’s when I understood. This song wasn’t about a domestic argument, but rather, the song depicted a man who risked everything on United Airlines Flight 93. The song was about the plane that crashed in a field on 9/11. And there, in my cubicle, I was reduced to tears.

See, there’s power in words. And what a gift these songwriters have. How amazing to put together words with music to convey a feeling, an event, or even a tragedy. A songwriter can touch a soul and move someone to want to be different. A songwriter has a voice. And that voice can be easily heard.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

You know… there’s another type of voice. And it’s one that speaks just as loudly, and just as clearly, as the lyrics we hear on the radio. And the voice I’m referring to is action. In truth, actions speak much louder than our words ever will. I’ll give you an example. My friend told me about her mother’s weekly grocery store visits, which fall on Thursdays. That’s her routine, and so inevitably, she encounters the same people at the grocery store. And recently, during one of her routine shopping trips, she was approached by one of the employees working there. The employee asked, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” When my friend’s mother said that she was, the worker asked her to please pray for someone. And so, because my friend’s mother conducts herself in such a way, it was evident to those around her that she was a Christian. She didn’t have to say a word, or yell out, “I’m a Christian,” for her very nature and disposition flew her Christian flag for her. The actions of my friend’s mother must speak very loudly in that grocery store.  And today, I am inspired by that. Today, this is the kind of voice I want to find within me.

In First Corinthians 12:7, we find that God’s Spirit equips us for different gifts, different ministries and different activities. And the purpose of God’s gifting is to produce what’s beneficial. God’s Spirit dwells within us, prompting us to action, for the “common good.” And after this passage, which breaks down those gifts, Paul uses his voice to show the Corinthians a more excellent way. Because although God’s gifts are necessary and good, if that most excellent way is not part of us, then all the works we do are useless. Our voices become loud and unedifying and brassy.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

It sounds simple. Too simple. But today, of all days, may we all find our voices within the language of love. May love, which is heard through action, cry out above the clanging cymbals of hatred and unforgivingness, which surround us. And today, in honor of those who have fallen, may we never forget that more excellent way. Paul used his voice to advance it, and Alan Jackson reiterates Paul’s words trough song. When we hear their voices, may we remember…

…faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us. And the greatest is love…

Love speaks loudly. Can you hear her?

http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=9119BCNU

The Lampstand

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“Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it to be put on a lampstand? For nothing is concealed except to be revealed, and nothing hidden except to come to light. Mark 4:21-22

My sister-in-law had a pastor who used to say, if you’re not doing anything for the cause, then take down your Christian flag. I understand what he means here. He’s saying that if the way you live your life doesn’t align with Christ, then don’t fly your flag. Don’t proclaim that you’re His if what you do brings dishonor to His name. Because your testimony will leave an impression on someone. Good or bad. How we decide to conduct ourselves will touch another’s life in some form or fashion. Each action we take through the course of our lives makes up our testimony. Our lives are our witness.

And there have been several times that I’ve questioned what I’m doing here. See, I am a woman. And I am overly sensitive (my husband can attest to that). I will take what someone says to me, and analyze it, and stew on it… and if it doesn’t jibe right – then I let it get me down. If I take a remark as criticism, I begin to doubt what I’m doing. And so, today, I wonder… Am I doing the right thing here? Because if you were to read through all the posts I’ve written, quite a few pertain to struggle. And I wonder – does that honor my Lord? Or, am I bringing dishonor to His name. Am I His credible witness? Or should I take down my Christian flag because my life just doesn’t align with His. I wonder…

I’ve titled this spot “The truth about God & me.” And I think in the very beginning, there may have been some “fluff.” I’d have to go back and read to be certain, but you know, there are some places you just don’t want to go. Some things may be better left alone… skimmed over or ignored. Because as a Christian, shouldn’t your life reflect nothing but light and glory and victory and peace and goodness and love? As a Christian, shouldn’t your light be shining bright to point out all the good there is in following Christ? As a Christian, shouldn’t your life be chock full of the fruits of the Spirit? But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22

The truth is, there should be. As a child of God, I should be loving and joyful and peaceful and patient and kind and all that other stuff. But you know what… I’m not there yet! I emphasize yet. I believe this is the whole point of my blogging. See, I’ve heard some phenomenal testimonies in my time. I have heard stories of those who found Jesus, and they did a complete 180, and they haven’t been the same since. And that’s wonderful. But sadly, this is not so with me. I am a Christian woman, I have no doubt. But the truth is, I hold to my old stuff. For the flesh is hard to overcome. My testimony is one of struggle, for I battle idols and hatred and strife and jealousy and selfish ambitions and factions among many other things. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Romans 7:19.

There’s a line from a movie that I like… there sits a man in the witness stand and an attorney hammers him, demanding the truth. Jack Nicholson’s voice rings out, “You can’t handle the truth!” Truth. It’s what we all want, right? Truth. It’s what can set one free. Truth. It’s what God demands of His people, for He desires truth in inward parts. Psalm 51:6. The 100% truth about God & me is that I struggle. And there are places that I cannot go yet in writing about Him. For I haven’t made it there yet.

A brother in Christ exhorts me to get the Bride mentality. But I can’t yet. Because the head knowledge has not made it to my heart yet. At least with regard to my being loved and cherished as a precious bride. I know He loves me, for His word tells me so. But for now… today… I have experienced God in other ways. He is my Heavenly Father, and He provides for me. I’ve experienced this. He is my wonderful Counselor and He guides me. I have experienced this. He is the still voice and speaks, for I have experienced this. He has a plan for my life. I know. I’ve experienced His hand maneuvering the seconds and minutes of my day. But cherished… by God? My head says yes, but my heart registers it not.

Another truth? I fancy myself a prophet. Because I love to proclaim God’s word and I want to encourage others. And for the longest time, I thought my mission was to proclaim freedom. But through the course of blogging, I had the shocking realization that I cannot do this! For how can one enslaved proclaim freedom? How can I help free captives when I am not free myself. Imprisoned by bars of my own making. Thus, I don’t feel free! And no doubt, I am not the only one. I am not the only one. I am not the only one. There are others… Christians… who have not experienced the freedom that is available to us through Christ. Why is that?

The truth about God & me, is I have far to go. And I am not the only one. Why fly this Christian flag of mine? Because I want women like me to know… there’s hope. I know my God is real. He speaks to me. He leads me. He provides for me. And I have no doubt that He’s leading me to that elusive freedom. He’s taking me by the hand and trying to convey to me how much he loves me. He’s been trying to show me this whole time. He wants me to know the truth. I can handle the truth. And the truth is, I’ve been bound. I am held by traditions and by rules and by regulations that were set forth by man long ago. I have been trying to adhere to all the things I think I should be doing… but Galatians 5 is clear. Christ has liberated us into freedom. Do not submit again to the yoke of slavery, for you are called to freedom!

The truth about God & me is that I am bound to law. But according to Galatians 5:14, the law can be fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. And I’ve read that love covers a multitude of sin. Love and freedom. That’s what I want. I’m seeking it with all my heart, but for some reason, it eludes me. And from what I understand, it’s there for the taking. It’s free. This is part of my struggle. But you know what? I found something precious through God’s word not long ago… it gives me great hope.

The boy Samuel served the LORD in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the LORD was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. One day Eli, whose eyesight was failing, was lying in his room. Before the lamp of God had gone out, Samuel was lying down in the tabernacle where the ark of God was located. Then the LORD called Samuel, and he answered, “Here I am.” 1 Samuel 3:1-3

Samuel served the LORD, but at first, he never had a personal word from God. See, his mother had prayed for that boy, and she promised that if she gave birth, she’d give that boy to God. And so, Samuel was committed to the LORD before he even really knew Him. He began to serve because that’s what he was brought up to do. And as he lie near the ark of God, he heard a voice. It was God, but Samuel didn’t even recognize who was calling. Here is a boy who had been in service of the LORD, but he didn’t even know God’s voice when it came. But God didn’t stop after one time…

To me, this is a picture of us today. I think we begin doing and serving before we even know why we’re doing what we do. I think we take on tasks that we perhaps are not even meant to do. Because we haven’t heard from the LORD yet. We haven’t heard His call. And because we can become so distracted by busyness, we further alienate ourselves from Him. We bypass relationship with our Creator because we just get too busy. And His voice is a still, small voice. In our noisy lives, can we hear Him when He calls? Will we even recognize His voice amidst the clamor we encounter every day…

Why do I fly my flag if I’m so flawed? Maybe it’s because of the passage of 1 Samuel. Because within those verses, I see light. I see hope. There’s power in those words… Before the lamp of God had gone out. See, the lamp was still lit when God called to Samuel. And if we’re His, we have God’s lamp inside. It’s lit. There are those who have encountered the fullness of God’s love and their blaze is burning bright. And there are those who have broken free of the prison of their own making, and their flame beckons others to follow. But for some… there may only be a pilot light. And the good news is, the lamp of God has not gone out. There’s still time. And in my walk with God, I think this is me. There may only be a pilot light burning right now, but the truth is… it’s still on.  No, I am nowhere near where I should be. But I am on my way. I am on my way. That’s why I fly my flag. Because… I am not the only one. No, I am not the only one. And that’s encouraging to me. I am not the only one…

We have his light in us. Some shine more brightly than others. But in a dark world, just a spark will do.

… and her lamp never goes out a night. Proverbs 31:18

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=light+of+mine+&qpvt=light+of+mine+&FORM=VDRE#view=detail&mid=7AEE361A71CF83429B977AEE361A71CF83429B97

The love of a mother…

You know, to be quite honest, there are times that I just don’t understand the love of God. I cannot fathom how much He loves me. I know what His word says… I know that He loves me so much that He gave His only begotten Son to die in my place. This is what I know to be true… in my head. But for the life of me, I just cannot get it! And I try to! I want to! I pray to God to reveal to me the love He has for me. Because I want to more than know it… I want to feel it. I want to feel love from Him and for Him. And I want to feel it for those He tells me to love… my neighbors. And yet, after all these years… I still don’t get it.

I’m learning so much about God, and who He is to me. Most apparent is that He is my Creator, King, Master, and Savior… but here recently, I’ve learned that He is also Husband to me (Isaiah 54:5). And I’ve found that He is friend to me (Exodus 33:11). More often than not though, I think of Him as Father. Because I am a child of God. But quite surprisingly, what I’m finding out this week is that He can also be Mother to me. And I think it’s through this role that I will know just how much He loves me. I think it is through mothering my own child that I will finally grasp the depth of His love for me. Because I know how I feel about my own son. I love him with a love that’s unending.

It was yesterday that my son had to be disciplined. He got in trouble two times at school for talking when he should have been quiet. So after school, I didn’t allow him access to his games or TV as normal. I let him know that we’d have to discuss it with Daddy that evening. Well, with doom on the horizon, He became pretty quiet and was just not himself. I found him laying in his bed under the covers. And so, rather than make him get up and accept the consequences of his actions, I did what any mother would have done. I laid down beside him as close as I could and peered into his eyes. As we snuggled, I told him to tell me the truth about what happened. And my heart ached as he talked, because I knew we would have to punish him for what he had done. For a short while, we snuggled… and it was later when he received his spanking from Daddy’s firm hand. Afterward, he just looked so sad and defeated with his downcast face. I squatted down to his level and pulled him to me. I cupped his cheeks and made him face me as I said, “No matter what you do… no matter if you’re in trouble… I will always love you. You will never lose my love.” It was moments later that a light kind of came on. I thought, “This is how God feels about me.” No matter what I do, He will love me unconditionally. And so, I realize that this is how I can begin to understand how God loves me. God can reveal His love for me through the love of a mother.

You know, there’s a passage of Scripture I have read many times including within the past week. And yet, it wasn’t until I read it this morning that I saw something I somehow overlooked in every other reading of it! In the tenth chapter of Mark we read about a rich young ruler who asked how to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him what the commandments were, and the ruler answered that he observed them all from his youth. But alas, Jesus told him there was one thing missing. He said, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But, the young ruler was sad and went away grieved because he had great possessions. It was just too hard to walk away from all that he owned to follow Jesus. And you know, I think the disciples were disheartened by this because they asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” This may seem an unlikely passage of Scripture to reference here, but what I saw this morning caught my eye. Honestly, I don’t know how I missed it all these years. It’s in verse 21 that I find this nugget of truth: Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and told him to sell all he had.

Do you see? Jesus is all knowing and He knew beforehand what the young man would do. Jesus knew that rich young ruler would choose his riches rather than choose to do what Jesus said to do. And yet, Jesus loved him anyway. Just like I love my son. I know he will get into trouble again and again. And yet, I love him all the more. This is exactly how Jesus loves me. This is exactly how God loves me.

Later last night, my son was snuggled up on a cozy chair when he asked me for a drink. I’m trying to not do as much for him, as I feel he should take care of his own needs when he’s able to. But last night, there was something about the way he looked and the way he asked… or perhaps it was something about the way he had been disciplined earlier… or more simply… it was something about the love of a mother that caused me to sit beside him instead. I told him that although I would normally ask him to get his own water, I just wanted him to know how much I love him. And so, I gave him a kiss and was happy to get him his drink last night. And it’s this… this right here… this is just how much God loves me. As a mother loves her child. As a mother who wants to give her child a drink of water. As a mother who wants to offer comfort where she can. This is how much I love my son. And it’s amazing to think… God loves me just the same.

For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” Isaiah 66:12 

The Engagement Period

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:6-9

I remember the days before my wedding. A lot of preparation and excitement and eager anticipation. And the day of, I wanted to look my best because I was soon to be joined to the one I love… as one flesh. In the early days, before we were even engaged, he was the one I wanted to be with. ALL THE TIME. At work, I thought about Him. As soon as I got home, I’d call him and arrange a time to meet. I’d shower and prep and fly to him and not leave him until I had to. We talked about everything and I would hold his hand. I would shower him with kisses, and hug him as tight as I could. I clung to him afraid to let go. See, I held fast to the one I loved.

Then came the wedding, and days of bliss followed. But then, reality set in. I realized that a relationship with the one I love took a little work. It was not all sunshine and roses. In fact, many days were like thunderstorms and thorns. We had to adjust to each other. And honestly, there was a time or two that I didn’t know if we would make it. But thankfully, we’re together today… our bond stronger than ever. Our relationship has endured the test of time, and I cannot imagine being apart from him. For He’s my husband… we are as one.

So… what about God? He tells me that He is my Husband. Can I honestly say I have felt the same about Him? And what about Jesus? The church is the bride of Christ, which makes Him the Bridegroom. So have I eagerly run to Jesus in the same manner I flew to my earthly mate? Have I wholly devoted myself to Him, as I have done with my tangible husband? As I burned for my fiancé so many years back, have I been overtaken by an all consuming fire for Jesus? Because the reality is, this is our engagement period and I should be consumed by Him. This is the time for getting to know Him. And until that glorious Day when He returns, it will continue to be the time for getting to know Him. I should be pursuing Him every bit as much as I pursued my husband if not more so. Because I made a commitment to Him when I received Him into my heart. For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I committed to Him until that Day (2 Timothy 1:12).

You know, Jesus is there waiting for me to turn to Him. The fact is He is my first Love, but over time my heart grew cold. Because I allowed myself to be seduced by the world and all she has to offer. See, the world beckons to her lovers every day and if we’re not careful, we’ll be unfaithful to the One we’re betrothed to. Because the lure of status, the demands of self, the desire for material gain, and the cravings for earthly pleasures are hard to resist. “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” 2 Timothy 3:2-4.

God demands our loyalty and undivided love. We should love Him with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. But is all of our heart available to offer Him? The fact is, most of us have been wooed away by other lovers. Most of us are actively committing adultery against the One who loves us the most. That means we’re harlots. And God has stern words of warning for harlots. However, His mercies are new every morning. Each day we have another chance to be faithful to the One who is Faithful and True. We simply must choose to nurture our relationship with Him by giving Him the attention He so deserves. This is the only way we can get to know Him… the relationship.

For quite some time now, I’ve been on a mission to know God and what He requires and expects of me. But now I see that I’ve been going about it all wrong. Because I’ve been trying to work out a formula to follow God’s commands. So dogmatic have I been about my regimen, I’ve left no room for the spontaneity of a relationship with Him. And because I’ve forgotten the simplicity of relationship, walking and talking and listening, I’ve bypassed His love! Because I’ve been focused on the routine. And you know, love should be the foundation of our relationship. And it is on His part for I know He loves me. Christ is the proof of His love. But what about my love? How can I love Him with all my heart, and all my soul and all my mind when my love is limited, having been doled out on other lovers?

We’ve all heard, “If you love something set it free; if it returns its yours forever, if not, it was never meant to be.” You know, it’s kind of like that with God, because He leaves it up to us as to whether or not we’ll return to our first Love. The decision is ours to make. Will we return to Him? Or will we doggedly pursue other lovers… false lovers… lovers who offer unspeakable pleasures…. lovers we seek relentlessly and passionately, but never lay claim to. Although it’s our nature to turn from Him, we’re fortunate in that it’s His nature to call us back. Throughout the pages of Scripture He calls out, “Return to me…” And He does the same today. See, no matter what we do, God will always love us and He’ll always quietly call us back to Him. Although He sets us free in that He allows us to make our own choices, He will never utterly let us go. Because He remains faithful to the unfaithful. Because He loves us more than we could possibly imagine.

And so, I will rest in the prayer of Jesus. His prayer was that He would be in us, and the Father in Him… complete unity… like a marriage. My prayer is that I will forsake my false lovers, so that I may return to Him with my whole heart. My prayer is that through a real relationship with God, I will come to know Him. And in knowing Him, I will love Him… my Betrothed. With all my heart, and with all my soul and with all my mind. And today is the day to get to know Him… for it’s our engagement period.

I in them and you in meso that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” John 17:23-26

 

First Love

As some of you may know, I’m reviewing my old journals. Last week, it became apparent to me that I am to scrutinize the journals looking for God moments (to be recorded into their own special book). I later realized I am to examine my heart along the way. And I sure hope someone else is doing this along with me. Anyway, I cannot seem to move beyond the first three pages of my first journal. I’m stuck there!! Because those first three pages are completely telling. I can see exactly what I was focused on, simply by the titles of the two books I read. On 4/5/10 I read The Prayer of Jabez, and on 4/13/10 I read A Life God Rewards. Both of these are wonderful books. However, with what I’m learning about me, I’m seeing something ugly. I told you, this blog should be called “the ugly truth about God & me!”

I’m sure a lot of you are familiar with what Jabez prayed. Basically, he asked God to bless him. And there’s nothing wrong with that. However, because I followed up with a book about reward, I think it’s pretty obvious where my heart lay just under three years ago. “Bless me, Oh Lord,” and “Reward me, Oh Lord.” That’s where I was almost three years ago, and I just have to ask myself today, have I moved on from that state of mind? Or, am I camped out at blessing and reward for me, just as I’m camped out over the first three pages of my old journal? If I am camped out at blessing and reward for me, and I believe I am, then what’s missing from my life? What do I lack? Because I can assure you, I have been striving to know God. I have been striving to please Him. I have been striving to serve Him. And you know what, I believe that’s my answer right there. I’ve been striving, and I’ve been laboring. And so, from a letter that John penned to the church of Ephesus, I think it’s clear what’s missing from my life…

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Revelation 2:2-4.

Where’s the love? Apparently, I’ve left my first love… God. Because if I really loved God, wouldn’t I be concerned with what He’s concerned with. Don’t we care about what our loved ones care about? And since God cares for people, shouldn’t I? You know, this past year, I have been praying to know God’s love. Not just to have it for other people, but that I would know how very much He loves me. See, I have that knowledge in my head, but for the life of me, I cannot seem to feel His love. Not for me, and not for those in need around me. I can’t say that I’ve truly experienced the love of God. I know, I know, wise Christians will tell me that I can’t base my salvation or relationship with God on my feelings. Feelings are fickle, and I’m only human. But, doesn’t God want me to feel His love? What prohibits me from feeling it? Well, Revelation 2:5 tells me, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works…”

So, from where have I fallen, and what are those first works? Well, it began in February of 1997. That’s when I became His. That’s when I realized how much God loves me, because He gave His only begotten Son for me. That’s when He became my first, true love. Because He is True and He is Love. But, it wasn’t long before I fell away from Him. He is from where I have fallen… and those first works? What does Jesus tell us? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And He says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And again, “You’ve neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith,” and again, “But go and learn what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” All of this begins with love, and love covers a multitude of sins. And if we can simply remember how much He loves us, to death, then we should be able to love Him wholeheartedly and sincerely. So much so, that we naturally do all those things He commands us to do.

You know, it was two and a half years ago I purposed to know God. It began with knowledge. I wanted to know about God, and the things He required of me. And so, the knowledge of God soon turned to a true desire to spend time with Him. And I believe this blog is the fruit of that prayer. Because through the blog, I realized I was to go through my journals again. And through the search of my old notes, God is ushering me straight into the light and warmth of His love. It’s through this journal review that God is showing me just how much He loves me. He was my first true love, but over time, I forgot. But He reminds me of my first love… He reminds me of Himself.

And so, for this reason I shall bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. I pray that I, and that those reading this, will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height- that we all may know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that we may all be filled with the fullness of God (taken from Ephesians 3:14-19).

See, I started by gaining knowledge. But the love of Christ surpasses that knowledge. And when the truth of how very deeply God really loves me settles in my heart, I will have no trouble doing the first works. Because when I return to Him, my first love, my heart will begin to resemble His. And He loves people. Perhaps as the days go on, my outlook will be more about blessing them than about blessing me.