Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Falling in Love all Over Again

Do you remember when you first fell in love? I am not talking about your first schooldays crush. I am not talking about your first infatuation. I am not talking about the time when you saw that person and thought to yourself, “I would be happy if they were mine.” I am not referring to those moments in your life because those moments were not about love at all. Those moments were about you, and genuine love at its very core is not about you. It’s about others.

I am talking, however, about the first time you really fell in love. When you knew that you and the other person truly cared for each other. When you knew the two of you were willing to do anything for one another. When it was a joy to hear their voice on the phone and you anticipated the next time you would hear it as soon as you sadly had to say goodbye. When every song you heard reminded you of them, and when everything you read found a relationship to your relationship with them, and when every thought you had somehow included them, too. And then that love matured when you came to the point that you decided to make a lifetime commitment to this other person and become their spouse.

Marriages go through periods in which the feelings of courtship fade and the relationship needs to be renewed. Couples must keep dating. They must continue to express their feelings and love for each other in a variety of ways. Exciting new things sometimes become everyday regularities. The once unexpected blessings soon become normal and there is a danger of each person in the relationship taking the daily sacrifices of their companion for granted. But a committed relationship also leads to seasons of falling in love all over again. The more things in life you experience together, whether good or bad, the more that you realize your mate loves you. The loyalty of your spouse and their constant support and sacrificial giving will hopefully lead to you falling in love with them over and over again.

Spiritual renewal is very much the same. Inward revival is falling in love with Jesus all over again. We remember the first time the cross brought conviction and tears. We recall the overwhelming weight of our sin coupled with the unconditional love of our Father. Then we add in the suffering of the cross and the yearning of Savior for our souls and we conclude in our minds and hearts that we are in love with Jesus. Because Christianity is also a lifetime commitment, the more time we stay in the relationship the more opportunities we have to fall in love with Jesus. And His blood remains. And His blood cleanses. And we love Him all over again because of it.

Every person wants to be loved the way they were loved in the beginning. It seems natural then to conclude that God also would want the same. Every new day is an opportunity for us to look at our loved ones and be thankful for their presence in our lives. By their simply being there and loving us we can appreciate what they mean to us and fall deeper in love with them - one day at a time.

When you woke up today I hope your first though was Jesus. I hope your second thought was of a very special person here on earth who loves you. And I hope that each day that you live God will grant you the ability to keep falling in love with them over and over again.

“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’” – Jeremiah 31:3

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Part of You God Doesn't Have Yet

One hundred percent! We have made an effort for this Sunday to have all of those people in attendance who have made themselves a part of the local congregation here at Willow. This is an impossible task. Some people will be sick or shut-in. Some people will be traveling. Some people will decide not to come. Some people will be at work. Some people will somehow not know about it (they must live on Mars).  So many barriers stand between us and one hundred percent. But does this mean we should not try?

Obstacles in life can remind us that there are things that are keeping us from completely belonging to God. Even if you are a strong and faithful Christian, there is a part of you that God doesn’t have yet. Although you may argue for it, you cannot convince me that you have given God everything. Your effort may be admirable and even worthy of imitation, but your activity gives you away. Be honest with yourself. It may be your thoughts, it may be your time, it may be your love – it really could be just about anything. The most important question deals with whether or not you have been able to identify which part of yourself you have been holding back from the Lord – and whether or not you plan to give it to him.

God knows everything about us. He knows every thought in our mind. He knows what our goals are. He knows what we are doing now and what we did five minutes ago. He knows for certain what part we have been holding back from him. He not only knows about it, but he desires for us to give it to him. This truth has been exemplified throughout human history in God’s interaction with mankind. Why else ask Abraham to offer Isaac? Why else ask for daily sacrifices from Israel? Why else consider the greatest commandment of all to be to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? God wants to know if we truly love him altogether. After all, this is the way he loves us.

The Bible says, “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (Psalm 119:2). The beginning of giving God our all has to do with what we are seeking. If we have no intentions to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus, then we cannot be his disciples. Though we will always fall short of God’s glory, our Lord will be satisfied with our effort to be like him and much as possible. If we run the race with less than our very best we have missed the whole point of even running (1 Cor. 9:24).

There is something extremely exciting about unreached potential. It means we still have a purpose. It means we can still make gains. It means we can do more than we have ever done before. It means the future can be better than the past. God made us people with unlimited spiritual potential because he knew we needed hope. He created us in such a way that in the flesh we would never be perfect. God wants us striving, reaching, trying, so that one day when we have given all we can give and yet we have still failed to be just like him, he can take us home by his grace. In that moment God will know that we loved him because we gave everything we had. In that moment we will know how much he loves us because he accepted us in our weakness. In that moment there will be no more need to try, because God will have accomplished it all. In that moment we will give him all the glory and worship him in joy for eternity.

“I entreated Your favor with my whole heart; Be merciful to me according to Your word.” – Psalm 119:58