Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Talk Tuesday-Remember Your First Love (Series): Pt. II

The title for the series, 'Remember Your First Love,' came from the depths of my own journey with the LORD. Last week, I shared about my road to salvation and what it looked like when I made that personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ. When I first 'got saved' there was such an unyielding passion to honour God in what I read, how I dressed, what I did, what I said, what I thought and how I spent my time. Do you remember the Apostle Paul? When he had his 'Damascus Road conversion' (read Acts chapter 9), he eventually declared, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me,” Galatians 2:20. Well...that basically sums it up for the rest of us who follow Christ. We no longer live for ourselves, but for the One who saved us.

So, what led to the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart from Revelation 2:1-7 those times that He did? Busyness, distraction and complacency. I mean, when I began to read Revelation 2, I started feeling...well...good about myself, “...you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary,” Revelation 2:3. Then I read verse 4, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Huh? Wasn't I part of various ministries serving God's people inside and outside of the church? Didn't I read my Bible daily? Yet, the truth is that the embers of my passion had truly dimmed. I wasn't rushing home to spend quiet time with the Lord. I wasn't taking up my guitar as often as I used to so that I could sing songs of praise and worship to the One who gave me abundant life. I had become careless in what I read, did, said, thought and how I spent my time.

Have any of you ever fell in love? Do you remember what it was like at first? You couldn't stop thinking about the person, talking about them, wanting to spend time with them...until you either got married or broke up. If you got married, then chances are you started taking them, and the relationship, for granted. Or, then kids came along, life happened, and busyness just crowded into your one on one time. If you broke up...well...you know the rest! I mean, what keeps a marriage interesting, fresh and exciting? Spending time with that person, loving on them in meaningful ways and keeping those fires burning! It is the same with the LORD.

Do you know what the Bible calls the church? The Bride of Christ! After his conversion, the Apostle Paul, who began ministering to the various churches, said to the church in Corinth, "For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ," 2 Corinthians 11:2. Revelation 19:7-10 says, “'7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.' 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, 'Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!''And he said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God.'” 

So, let us ask ourselves this question. Do we still have the passion of our first love?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Talk Tuesday-Remember Your First Love (Series): Pt. I

Although I grew up in a Christian home, I was not always a committed Christian. I mean, I attended church, I observed all my religious duties-I even learned to recite my prayers regularly. As a family we prayed together. Then, in my mid teens, I observed my family members each come into a personal and intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ. They changed quite a bit. They experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in a deep way. Our family tradition of rote prayers morphed into corporate praise and worship, and personal prayers that flowed from the reality of an intimate relationship with the LORD. Suddenly everything changed. They were passionate about GOD! They found joy, peace, purpose and love in their 'new found' faith. I didn't understand it at all! I was frustrated and...to be honest, a little disgusted with them. Until it happened to me...at the ripe age of 23.

I had friends, a great job, an education, but something was missing. As I began to read the Bible, Jesus' words challenged me. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain,” John 12:24. I struggled with the reality that I wanted to be the master of my own ship. I wanted GOD to be a compartment in my life-but not the focus of my whole life! Then, as the darkness started closing in on me, I realized that everything I put my faith in was transitory. I began to experience death in my extended family. I arrived at a crossroads. Who or what was I going to live for? “37 Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment,'” Matthew 22:37-38. I made a life changing decision then. I surrendered my life fully to GOD-choosing to live for Him instead of living for myself. I invited Jesus Christ to be LORD over my heart. That was the day I fell in love! It was passionate and magical!!! All I wanted to do was spend my time in His presence, listen to worship music, read the Bible, fellowship with other like-minded believers. He was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing at the end of the day. I no longer enjoyed the things I used to, and wanted to please Him in every way. I couldn't stop talking about Him or thinking about His great love.

Fast forward to almost 20 years later. I am still committed to Him. Yet, the Holy Spirit has had to gently bring Revelation 2:1-7 to the forefront of my heart quite a few times:

“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 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; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. 6 But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.' '7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’

 Join us next week for Part II.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Talk Tuesday-Be Blessed and Stay The Course

The story of King Saul in the Biblical Book of 1 Samuel is fascinating. It highlights the importance of our obedience to God.

1 Samuel takes place after the Israelites were brought out of slavery in Egypt and firmly established in the Promised Land of Canaan. Once led by judges and prophets of the LORD, they demanded a king of their own, so they could be like the surrounding nations. GOD sent the prophet Samuel to anoint Saul as King. At his coronation, he and the people are warned about the importance of obedience.

Two years into his reign Saul disobeyed GOD by offering an 'unlawful sacrifice' before the people (1 Samuel 13). He disobeyed GOD again in the matter concerning the Amalekites whom the LORD had directed him to utterly destroy (as result of how they treated the Israelites en route from Egypt to Canann; see Exodus 17:8-16). “But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed,”1 Samuel 15:9. The prophet Samuel, brokenhearted, spoke words that have often caused me to search my own heart during my personal journey with the LORD:

“22 So Samuel said: 'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.'” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

I truly had not intended to write about this again, but I felt a burning in my heart that I could not ignore. GOD loves us. He requires our full obedience, not our partial obedience. There are so many dissenting voices in today's society that are alluring, demanding and challenging. Turn away from indulging the flesh, feed the spirit. “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God,” James 4:4. If your friends disown you, society mocks you, and you suffer for it, remember you are 'Blessed', (see Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:10). Stand firm in your faith upon the Word of God. Let the Holy Spirit guide and teach you. Abide in Jesus Christ, for therein your power lies. And remember Jesus' words, “21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him,” John 14:21. Be Blessed and Stay The Course!!!!