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My Outward Expression of Love

Reading: Jeremiah 2-3:5

Scripture

“ ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first-fruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them,’ ” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 2:2-4 (NIV)

Observations

Israel was once enamoured by God, but their love had grown cold. This same accusation is made by Jesus in Revelation 2 to the Church of the Ephesians: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.”

Even worse, Israel had taken up with other gods, gods of stone and wood who could not help them. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13). In losing their first love, something else had taken its place, something that could not possibly satisfy.

Application

I need to hold fast to God. As in a marriage relationship, feelings of affection sometimes well up in what we call 'love'. Often, however, love consists of actions purposefully carried out as the outward expression of a commitment made. To make decisions that line up with this internal commitment, even when my feelings betray me – that is love.

Consistently choosing to act in ways that protect and value my commitment to God and my relationship with Him is my outward expression of love and my true worship. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) So love and worship go hand in hand.

Prayer

Thank you Father for reaching out to me, not as a distant and inaccessible God, but as one who is close and intimate. Help me to always act in accordance with my commitment to you, and may my love for you never grow cold, but forever burn bright and clear.

For more on this topic, you might like to read my previous post Jesus – My First Love. Same theme – completely different part of the Bible!

 

Jesus – My First Love

Reading: Revelation 1-2:7

Scripture

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. Revelation 2:4-5 (NIV)

Observations

God is interested in my love ('agape' in the Greek). Yes, my good works, my obedience, my perseverance under hardship – all these are important, if not vital. But my affection toward him is the number one thing. “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Mark 12:29-30).

My love for God is what energises my relationship. It determines how I relate to God, what I do, how I think, how I respond to things, how I spend my time. Take the love away and it becomes just a set of practices.

The love Jesus describes is not just a feeling. “Repent,” he says, “and do the things you did at first.” To repent is to “think differently i.e. reconsider, or change your mind.” To do the things you did at first implies that my love needs to be out-worked, revealing itself in my actions.

Application

It is possible for me to let my relationship with God slip, so that instead of the passionate all-consuming fervour and hunger that I once felt, it becomes just a set of religious practices, making me not much different than a Rotarian or a volunteer with an aid organisation.

What should absolutely define me is my love for God – expressed in the way I seek him, and make time with him my number one priority; expressed in my worship of him, and the conversation I have with him. And of course, expressed in my obedience to him, placing everything that I have into his hands. Love is like a fire that I need to regularly feed so that it burns strong and hot!

Prayer

Thank you Lord Jesus that not only do you know me, but you love me, and you actually value my love for you. What an incredible privilege! I choose to delight in you. Help me to draw close to you, and I pray that you would reveal yourself to me, that I might truly know you and love you.

See also: First Things First

 

The Aroma of Christ in Me

Reading: Exodus 29-30

Scripture

Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.

Then use it to anoint the Tent of Meeting, the ark of the Testimony, the table and all its articles, the lamp stand and its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the basin with its stand.

You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy. Exodus 30:25-29 (NIV)

Observations

Everything in the Tent of Meeting had an aroma, a unique aroma that was not allowed to be used anywhere else. The recipe was given directly by God, and it was to be considered holy.

I wonder what it would have been like to be the perfumer, the man who carefully followed the recipe from God to prepare this sacred anointing oil, the “aroma of God”. How careful he must have been, how diligent to ensure that all was done according to God's prescription. Though he wasn't a priest, he enjoyed an immense privilege, and was one of the team of people God chose to help represent his presence in a physical tangible way, in what people could see, hear, smell, touch and even taste.

Application

God still chooses people – men, women and children, to represent himself to mankind. God gives us the privilege of ushering others into his presence in many different ways, often according to the gifts he has given us, our personality, or the situation in which he has placed us. More than that, we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the aroma of Christ is in us.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 .

Sharing God with others, and ushering them into his presence in whatever ways I can is worthy of my time, my careful thought, and my best efforts. These are my offering and my privilege.

Prayer

Jesus, please cleanse me of anything that would distract from the purity of your aroma in me. As one who is made holy, may I be a workman who is approved by you and available for any task that you would have me do.

 

Joy, Suffering and the Fragrance of Life

Reading: Philippians 1

Scripture

For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Philippians 1:29 (NLT)

Observations

The “privilege of suffering.” The phrase could easily have been penned by poet Rupert Brooke who, during WW1, wrote idealistically of the 'glory of war'. But whereas Brooke died from infection en route to the battlefield before having faced a single day of active combat, Paul was certainly a man familiar with suffering, and even as he wrote was chained up in a Roman prison because of his faith.

Unlike Brooke, Paul doesn't speak of the 'glory' of suffering for Jesus, but rather the privilege of suffering. Elsewhere he speaks of “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil 3:10), and Peter speaks of “participating in Christ's sufferings”. (1Peter 4:13)

But Paul does say that if we share in his sufferings, we will “also share in his glory” (Romans 8:17), and Peter says, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1Peter 4:13)

Paul even goes so far as to say that he wants to know the fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings! (Phil 3:10). He has reached such a level of trust in Jesus and love for him that his greatest, most heart-felt desire is that “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

Application

When Jesus suffered for me at the Cross, his work was complete. There is nothing left still to be done to put me right with God. He died on the Cross “as me”, and I now live forever under the favour of God, a “co-heir with Christ.” But until the day when God puts all things right, I can expect to encounter suffering for being a Christian. In a sense, I am suffering “as Christ”, as his ambassador.

Prayer

Jesus, thank you that you did not turn away from suffering, but instead you let love and obedience determine your path. For the joy set before you, you “endured the Cross, scorning its shame…” I also want to walk a path of love and obedience. Please grant me courage to be your ambassador, to share you with others, to carry your love and grace to the world in which I live.

Help me Lord to be bold without being obnoxious, and sensitive without being timid. Like you did, Jesus, help me to look beyond any suffering I might face to the joy that is before me, and even now to live in that joy as I serve you, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV)

See also, To Him Who Overcomes

 

Living Passionately

Reading: Jeremiah 8:4 – 9:26

Scripture

This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)

Observations

More than anything God wants us to know him and understand him. To know him means also to know what pleases him. Here God spells out three things that please him: kindness, justice and righteousness, “… for in these I delight.” The people of Jeremiah's day would have known this, but what they knew differed from what they valued, as revealed by their actions.

What determines a person's values? In this passage, God implies that if we can but know him and understand him, our values will begin to line up with his.

Application

Values could be defined as those things that I hold as valuable, things that delight me and in which I take great pleasure. The more pleasure something brings me, or that I believe will bring me in time, the more time and energy I will likely invest in it, and the more I'll be prepared to spend or sacrifice to obtain and safeguard that thing.

I suspect that some of the things I believe to be important and good have yet to become true values for me. I'd like them to be, but my actions betray me. The passions that motivate and delight my God have yet to fully grip my own heart. But that, more than anything, is what I want – to delight consistently in the Lord, and to live a life impassioned by those values that delight and impassion him.

Prayer

Lord God, the only way for me to really understand you and know you deeply is for you to open your heart to me. Thank you that you are changing me from the inside out. Lord, those things you hold dear, I want to hold dear. Once again, I open my heart to you, and invite you to have free reign in me, that I might live a life passionately devoted to you.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

 

Serving with Devotion

Reading: Ephesians 6:5-9

Scripture

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Ephesians 6:5-9a (NIV)

Observations

My attitude toward serving is important. I can't claim to be serving God wholeheartedly unless I am serving others with that very same attitude of heart. Whether we're talking about employer or employee, family or friends, people in the community or people in the church, my attitude is to be one of devotion.

Devotion: Love, loyalty or enthusiasm for a person, activity or cause.

Application

Serving wholeheartedly as if I were serving the Lord leaves no room for showing favouritism. It would be like saying, “Lord, I love you when I'm serving this person but not when I'm serving that person.” That's just not an option. Instead, every opportunity to serve is for me an opportunity to serve God. In fact, serving wholeheartedly those who I'd rather not serve is an opportunity to express my devotion to God all the more – my love, loyalty and enthusiasm for him and his purpose.

Prayer

Lord God, let your grace flow! As I serve others, let your grace flow to me and through me. In my own strength, I don't have what it takes, but your love is “wide and long and high and deep.” Please fill me with that love and help me to serve with love and devotion.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

 

Tuning In With God

Reading: Mark 13

Scripture

Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” Mark 13:35-37 (NIV)

Observations

Jesus is clearly concerned that some of us who have committed out lives to him will somehow be lost because we have “gone to sleep”. Even Jesus doesn't know the exact time of his return, but his warning suggests it could catch us by surprise if we are not watching.

Application

There is a certain amount of self discipline I require to maintain my relationship with Jesus. I need the Holy Spirit to help me, but I need to consciously “tune in” with him as often as I can think of it.

Daniel had a habit of tuning in with God three times every day. “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10 I like this idea. I'm sure Daniel tuned in more often than three times a day, but by making these three times a part of his daily routine he safeguarded himself from “going to sleep” in his faith and remained alert, ready and available to serve his God.

How can I make purposeful “tuning in with God” a greater part of my daily routine? I already enjoy my morning 'snooze time' conversation with God before I get up. Perhaps I could tune in again when I clean my teeth, then with a 5-10 minute lunchtime walk, and in the evening with my “sneaking off with God” time. A short prayer template might be helpful to remind me to give thanks, to listen to God and to ask him for what I need.

Prayer

Jesus, I want to be ready and available to you every moment of the day and night. I know I sometimes get lost in my own thoughts, and might at times be oblivious to your Spirit prompting me, so please help me Holy Spirit to tune in. I want to truly know what it means to “Be joyful always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all circumstances, knowing that this is (your) will for me in Christ Jesus.” (from 1Thess 5:16-18)

 

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