(First) Love

I'm still totally in awe of God since coming home from the U.P. last week.

I am "back to reality," but it's almost surreal having such a fresh memory of seeing the clear evidence of God changing people's hearts.

I feel like He was so real and His presence very near during the missions trip. I love how the thought of just how awesome He is seems stuck at the forefront of my mind. I am excited that even though I know now more than ever that I'll never be able to comprehend His love, I really want to remain "shocked" by His love and daily try to love Him more.

In a Bible study book I've been going through with one of my friends, a lesson this week pertained to believers being careful to not let serving Christ (doing things for Him) become more important than loving Christ (having a love relationship with Him). In Revelation, the church of Ephesus labors patiently and tirelessly for Christ's name's sake, but Christ rebukes them because "'you have left your first love'" (2:4). Preoccupation with service resulted in the Ephesians' "falling" from their initial passionate love for God.
. . . we mean well, we serve hard for God, but in the middle of running ourselves ragged to be all we can for Christ, we lose the most important thing--relationship!
~ Debbie Alsdorf, "He Is My All" (pgs. 27, 28)
Certainly, prioritizing one's relationship with Christ should not diminish the importance of serving Him. You don't have to look far in the New Testament to learn the importance of works:
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
~ James 2:17
Yet, just like the church at Ephesus, we can, so easily it seems, lose our love for Christ in the distraction of trying to serve Him; sometimes we even malign works so much so that they become an external, prideful display - a spiritual barometer of sorts. The actual "barometer" is deeper, only visible to God: our heart. Serving God genuinely flows out of a heart surrendered to and saturated in the love of Christ, which is why it is so important to grow in our relationship with God and not leave our "first love".
There is a difference between having sentences [from Scripture] embedded in your head and having their impact embedded in your heart. There is a difference between "doing Christianity" and being a Christian. You can memorize all the words, but if you've forgotten the music you still won't be able to sing the song.
~Tim Hansel
On the missions trip, I was reminded almost constantly of how amazing God is. I was serving Him all week, and admittedly there were many times at which I had to stop and pray for His strength to not let details distract from my focus on Him and my ability to be a light and love on the kids. I was blessed beyond belief, but I was not there to climb a few rungs on the ladder of "good Christians". It is so humbling to see how He used all of us in unbelievable ways, stretching us outside our comfort zones, as part of His plan to bring people to Christ.

We drove home from the U.P. having seen the miracles of many changed lives through faith in Christ.

Our hearts were refreshed by the immense love of God, and - praise the Lord! - ours were not the only hearts rejoicing in His immense love.

Oh, what a sweet, sweet melody!

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