Remember the Thrill of Your First Love? Maybe you Should

In John’s Book of Revelation he describes one of the greatest dangers to today’s church: losing your first love… “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write…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 2:1; 3-4, NKJV)

When John wrote to the seven Churches in Asia Minor, he wrote to literal church locations. His book about the Apocalypse was carried by messenger and read aloud to each congregation, and his message was cosmic and stunning to say the least. I’m sure that the reading of John’s letters in the late first century drew crowds and created quite a buzz in the local churches!

He Quit Preaching and Went to Meddling

To each congregation he gave a compliment, a criticism, and a command that probably addressed actual contemporary events or persons in that particular church, so I’m sure that listeners had many questions about who was to blame, how things got to be that way, and what to do about it. So in some respects, it was just a normal letter, written to contemporary churches John knew about.

But many theologians also believe that the letters to the seven churches also have a historical application and that each church can be compared to an era in history that corresponds with John’s message. (For instance, the church at Ephesus symbolizes the cooling off of the Church’s first love, and the end of the Apostolic age; Smyrna represents the era of church oppression and martyrdom, Pergamos the church becoming connected to the world, and so on. It’s a stimulating study if you are interested.)

But the application that intrigues me most is the PERSONAL ONE. When you read the messages to the seven churches, what jumps out at YOU? Are there compliments you identify with? Are there criticisms that make you uncomfortable?

Remember that First Love?

As you read John’s words to Ephesus, for instance, does anything resonate in your heart of hearts? “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love…” Our Sunday school class once described the characteristics of new or first love from a romantic point of view, and here is a partial list: “You want to spend time together.” “You think about each other all the time.” “You love talking together. You love being together.”

Ever feel that way? Have you ever been caught up in the new stages of a romance that are so powerful that it commands your thoughts, your time, and your desires? Romance writers talk about it, and surely you can remember it from that time you first “fell in love”!

first love

Now think about the things you felt when you first encountered God’s love, when you learned about Grace it became real to you… what happened on the day you realized that God loved you, that Christ died for you, and you decided to grab ahold of it and love Him back? Do you remember the joy? Do you recall the comfort, relief, happiness and gratitude you felt? For me, it was like seeing the world through new eyes, and about finding a confidence that wasn’t held down by my own inadequacy or insecurity.

If you ever appropriated God’s love by faith, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a feeling of life-changing love and assurance so complete that it is both infinite and intimate. It’s a doorway to new possibilities that include spiritual awakening and eternal life! As I recall, it came with a bunch of new discoveries about life and the way the world works.

Bringing it Home

So here’s the question: do you still feel that way today? Are you walking around feeling loved, touched by grace, grateful that you can spend time with the Father? Have you left your first love? If you have, remember. Remember the early feelings you experienced when you stepped away from the deadly selfishness of the world to the selfless love of Jesus.

If you have wandered away from those emotions, reclaim them. Allow yourself to be courted by the Creator. Read some Psalms or the book of John. Go on a honeymoon with God. Serve someone else in His name, and see how you feel. It’s ok to feel romantic or smitten with God. He feels that way about you, and His first love is also His eternal one.

A Love Sonnet

Oh Lord, when there are times I, failing, doubt,
And do not seek to know Thy love and grace;
When I, in haste and worry, rush about,
And turn all inward seeking from Thy face;
When I forget that you were my first love,
And take for granted how I have been blessed;
When I, with thoughts below and not above
Am tempted, and I fail to pass the test –

When I am sore beset by worldly grief,
For having failed to put my trust in Thee,
While knowing that this trust would bring relief,
And that Thy face would never turn from me;
When our First Love’s romance, Oh Lord, I spurn,
Please call me back, and help me to return.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

There is a Cosmic Romance, and YOU are a Big Part of It

A wedding ceremony is full of romance. In these unique celebrations of love, there are flowers and music. The groom is dressed in his finest, waiting by the altar as the lovely bride approaches. He is nervous, she is blushing. She glows with beauty, and he glows with pride. There is a sense of anticipation and joy that makes a wedding day very special.

With that in mind, stop and think about this: the Bible compares the way the Almighty God of the Universe feels about YOU to the way the groom feels about his lovely bride. It says, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5, NKJV)

Weddings are amazing events, full of love and romance. When you consider the amount of time, creativity, and preparation poured into a wedding day, it has to be one of the most anticipated days of a lifetime. I was the father of two beautiful brides, (and one handsome son as well!) . Each event was significant and special, attended by hours of planning, selecting, decorating, and choosing every element so that the wedding day went just right.

The Perfect Day

At a wedding there are participants, coordinators, flowers, colors, and rehearsals. There are photographers, videographers, tuxedos, caterers, locations, churches, gifts, meals, DJ’s, music, toasts, and shoes… There are countless other things besides mere romance to consider.

When I’ve had the privilege to officiate at weddings, I have noticed that most of these details are very important to the Bride. She is not only giving herself away, she is coordinating the blending of two families to create a new one. That means, of course, that her wedding must be special. It should commemorate the occasion with all of the appropriate decorations and elements. Brides and their mothers (and perhaps their wedding planner) dream of, conceive, plan, and manage every detail of a wedding so that it will be a perfect day.

romance

Grooms… not so much. Most of the time (in my observation) Grooms leave a lot of that preparation stuff where it belongs, with the Bride and her mother. Yes, they smile and say, “Yes Dear”, or “That looks great”, but really, how much work do most grooms have to do getting ready for the wedding? So why didn’t Isaiah say, “As the bride rejoices over the wedding day, so shall your God rejoice over you”? Why did he compare God’s love for us to the groom?

Anticipation the Way it USED to Be…

I’m gonna get real for a minute. In our modern age of birth control, weddings have lost something that used to be a huge part of the anticipation and build up for the special event. Face it, most couples today have slept together already. Before birth control, you were playing Russian roulette with your future to do that, and 60+ years ago, most women weren’t willing to take that chance. I’m not being Polly Anna, and yes I know that people still did it, but not nearly as easily or as often as they do today.

Weddings before birth control still held the romance and pure physical anticipation of intimacy. Physical consummation was scary, mysterious, spiritual, sexual, and highly anticipated, particularly by the groom. He’d been mooning over his fiancé, longing for her, and doing all of the highly charged heavy petting she would let him get away with. 60 years ago a groom approached his wedding day begging for union. That was just the way things were before women engaged in the “sexual revolution”. The danger of pregnancy outside of marriage was a powerful (but not total) deterrent to sex before that special wedding day.

But Wait, There’s More

I’ll pause for a moment and say that even today, when I officiate weddings, it is always a special moment when the bridal procession starts, and I can see from up close the look in the groom’s eyes as he watches his beautiful Bride, prepared and reserved for him, coming down the aisle to be presented to him.

There is always longing, pride, affection and commitment in that look; I mean, it’s a wedding! But where physical intimacy has not yet occurred, the sense of anticipation is that much higher. The desire for intimacy brings the groom an even greater sense of urgency to the bride’s approach. It puts the RRRR in “romance”! The groom is a raging combination of love, romance, and hormones, anxious to consummate this union that he has anticipated so long…

True Intimacy

Lest you think I am obsessing over this aspect of the ceremony, picture this: Isaiah says THAT is exactly how God rejoices over us. That is why Paul quoted Moses in Ephesians 5:31-32: ““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” A man leaves his home and family to start a new one, and to become one with the woman he loves. He will find completion and comfort in her arms, and they will discover the delights and pleasures of that union together.

As a groom stands and rejoices that his bride is coming down the aisle to be his—that is how God feels about us. That is how God feels about us!
As we walk down the aisle to be His bride, can you feel His gaze upon us? It is filled with pride, affection, commitment and joy—as well as the pure longing for intimacy that has been planned since eternity past, and will bring joy for eternity to come. Be glad! You are being rejoiced over. You are at the center of the cosmic romance.

The Eternal Romance

The blushing bride is in the aisle, approaching sweet and pure;
She cannot hide her glowing smile, and yet remains demure.
Her face is like a work of art; she looks her very best–
Anticipation makes her heart beat faster in her chest!
Her steps are slow and measured as she walks into the room;
She could not be more treasured by her loving, waiting groom.

He sees her dress, her hair, her skin, the beauty waiting there within,
And drinks this lovely vision in, and knows that she’s reserved for Him!
He looks at her with perfect pride, a love that cannot be denied,
A heart that wells up deep inside with love for His eternal Bride!
Where joy is full and tears are dried, this Cosmic Romance will abide…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread