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Posts Tagged ‘spiritual drift’

First Love

January 23rd, 2013

When and where love diminishes, relationships suffer.

“You have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4 NKJV.

Love is not lost easily. Real love is resilient, willing to overlook disappointment, and love is fairly tenacious, holding fast as long as hope lives. But even when love is not easily lost, love can be left – little by little and often unnoticed – until finally love is lost. Love must be monitored and guarded, necessitating initiative and guarding its growth. When first in love, no expectation is too much, no time together enough, no wait too long, or no sacrifice too great. Yet love can diminish unnoticeably, most often by inattentiveness and always through neglect. When love diminishes, relationship suffers. Love’s depreciation is more often by drift than determination.

Allow me to explore the verse from Revelation a bit more with you. “Remember the height from which you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:5 NIV. The “height” they left is the love they once held for God and the love God had for them. John, the beloved Apostle, wrote of the Lord’s corrective warning to the Church at Ephesus with these words. “You have left your first love.” Revelation 2:4 NKJV. Such a simple thing, but of prime importance to God. They became inattentive, even casual, about the spiritual intimacy they once enjoyed with God. They remained busy about good works and were commended. They were not as careful about God’s presence in their hearts. Some measure of distance had been allowed. “Remember the height . .” was God’s remedy. “Repent and do the things you did at first,” was their pathway of return. A friend observed, “The sinful negligence that caused such a fall from great heights is no equal to the heights of God’s love and grace that are reclaimed through repentance.”

Paul prayed, “That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 NKJV. God’s heart is that you personally know the highest reach of the immeasurable dimensions of the love of Christ and God’s own fullness. Allow me to recall for you the words I previously wrote on this subject: “Remember the prominence and priority of your fervent devotion and spiritual practices – when your heart was tender toward God, worship was pure and exuberant, the Word of God warmed your heart, love for one another was real, and Jesus was truly Lord of your life.” That’s what “first love” looks like. Love, as of the unrestrained nature of His own, opens your heart to Heaven’s best. Nothing less is a worthy  or fitting response to God. See Romans 5:8/1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV.

With the Christians at Corinth, Paul was also concerned with our potential for spiritual drift from their “first love.” “For I am jealous for you with Godly jealousy . . I fear, lest somehow . . your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NKJV. Your relationship with God was never meant to become complicated. We tend to complicate love with God, and one another. With loving heart, the Lord, “Who is rich in mercy,” was calling them to return to, “His great love with which He loved us” (Ephesians 2:4 NKJV), and restore the devotion of their own love who, “love Him because He first loved us.” 1 John 5:19 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you hold fast and dear your first love of God.

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Remembering

January 21st, 2013

Every attempt to turn away from sin is marginal and temporary without a Savior.

“Remember the height from which you have fallen.” Revelation 2:5 NIV.

Memory is a good thing. Memories hold special times and people in your heart when they are otherwise gone from you. But some people seem to forget things they should remember while others remember things they should forget. The memory of a poor performance can challenge you to strive harder and do better.  Memories of noteworthy accomplishments – your own and others’ – can inspire the personal discipline and further sacrifice necessary for yet greater achievement. Memory is a powerful motivator.

Both John the Baptist and Jesus began their ministries with a simple, transcending message, “Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” See Matthew 3:2/4:17 NLT. You cannot do the latter without sincerely doing the first. The Kingdom is near, and your only way into its fullness is heart-felt repentance – doing an about face. Any attempt to turn away from sin is of marginal and temporary effect unless you turn to the Savior with a whole heart. The Spirit’s clarion call to yours and my soul is the same, “Repent!” Repentance is the path to spiritual reality. In the Old Testament, God’s stern and frequent denunciation of “high places” where Israel bowed their knees to perverse gods was because Israel’s worship – and yours and mine – was to be given to Almighty God alone. Small things begin a subtle drift that lures you from that singular place where God alone is first and foremost in one’s heart.

In political exile on Patmos, John wrote of such times when spiritual vitality wanes, unnoticeably at first. Commending the church in Ephesus for their, “hard work and patient perseverance, intolerance of wicked men,” and carefulness for spiritual integrity, John then issues a challenge. “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:1-7 NIV. John calls you to remember the prominence and priority of your pure devotion and fervent spiritual practices – when your heart was tender toward God, worship was pure and exuberant, the Word of God warmed your heart, love for one another was real, and Jesus was truly Lord. The memory of those times births a heart for repentance to reclaim the passion of your “first love” from which you may have drifted.

David knew the joy of spiritual passion, “[God] makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to stand on the heights.” 2 Samuel 22:34/Psalm 18:33 NIV. God affirmed David as “a man after My own heart.” See Acts 13:22-23 NKJV. But there came a day when David stumbled badly in his walk with God. When he remembered, “the height from which [he] had fallen,” with bitter tears he repented. Read Psalm 32. Any distance from God was unthinkable for him.

God’s call remains the same: “Remember the height from which you have fallen!” Sin, of lesser or greater degree, causes your fall. Redeemed remembrance clarifies where you were in God and where your heart still longs to be. Is there a time when you walked with God in greater intimacy and fullness than you know now? “Remember [that] height,” of grace. Remembering makes you want to return there; repentance will bring you there.

The powerful act of repentance encompasses more than chagrin or regret for wrongs done. It is God’s path to reclaim where you can and should be in Christ. Paul explained the process, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” Read 2 Corinthians 7:9-11 NIV. Godly sorrow leads you upward to the Savior, not downward to your sin. See Romans 8:1-6 NIV. I leave you to further explore this liberating, Biblical truth, as I intend to do.

My prayer for you today is that you will treasure the joy of the sacred place in God’s grace.

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The Examined Life

May 22nd, 2012

“Test me, O Lord . . examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2 NIV

Refuse the false refuge of an unexamined life.

My thoughts and comments today are about an “examined life.”

It is presently the time of year when students at all academic levels face final exams and passing or failing grades. The exams are to test acquired knowledge – intellectual understanding and practical application – of required subjects. Being adequately examined according to required standards and found academically qualified determines a student’s successful promotion or graduation. For some, more than others, examinations may be cheerfully anticipated. If a student has been diligent in their studies and done well through the school year there is little concern. For those who have been careless along the way or done little to prepare, it is a day of reckoning, first at school and probably then with parents at home.

Life has many such moments or reckoning, such as: an annual employee evaluation, yearly health screening, filing of income taxes, or just balancing your check book. Probably the more pressing issue that concerns my thoughts today are the smaller tests that occur along the way. King David learned the difficulty of knowing his own heart. “Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind.” Psalm 26:2 NIV. David’s moral failure with Bathsheba must have been a sobering reality check. Before that fateful indiscretion, David must have felt twinges of conscience, God’s warnings of potential failure in smaller, gradual things that hold great importance. That’s the thing about disobedience; sin is sin whether small or large, private or public. Sin is missing the mark, failing the exam, falling short of the acceptable standard.

Jesus loved to tell stories that were true to life. He told the story of a fearful servant who took the investment entrusted to him and hid it secretly and safely in the ground. Read Matthew 25:13-29 NIV. When his master returned and asked to examine his stewardship, his failure was public. But he failed, not on the day of accountability; everyday he failed a little bit when he did not examine his motives and methods, ultimately doing nothing that he should have done. He didn’t bother to examine what he was doing in contrast with what he should have been doing.

Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” There are dimensions of spiritual life that require self-examination. “If we examine ourselves, we will not be examined by God and judged in this way.” 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NLT. Every day, humbly examine your heart before the Lord in the revealing light of His will and Word. See James 1:22-26 NIV. Failing to do so risks your remaining unchanged. “So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.” Hebrews 2:1 NLT. Drift is a gradual occurrence, often unnoticeable to you.

Honestly examine your schedule, motives, and affections; examine your heart for God. And welcome the loving scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. But far more important is a day when every person, young or old, will stand before God. “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:12 NKJV. See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NLT/Revelation 20:11-12 NIV. That is  a day on which you will not be left unexamined, a day without excuse for being unprepared. See Romans 1:20-22 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you will refuse the false refuge of an unexamined life.

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