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Greetings All,

This week's 'thought' comes from Alexander Strauch's recent book "Love or Die - Christ's Wake up Call to the Church." It's based in Christ's admonition to the church of Ephesus found in Rev. 2:4: "Yet this I hold against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first."

Those who have studied the passage know it is bi-directional in orientation. They have abandoned or forsaken their first love for Jesus, and the first love that they had for each other as believers. (Some even think the second aspect of our love for each other is the dominant one being addressed in the text). Strauch rightly (I believe) addresses it as speaking to both. His insights are a needed challenge to all Christians. If you can get a copy of the book it is well worth the read (and its small - less than 100 pages)! Enjoy.

"When I think of what it means to guard our love, one image that comes to mind is of an advertisement for a wedding dress. The caption read, 'Love him, but love your dress more.' I think this captures a temptation we sometimes face in our love relationship with Christ. We love him, but do we love the material possessions and blessings he gives more? Are we tempted to 'love Christ, but love our home more?' To 'love Christ, but love our money and securities more?' To 'love Christ, but love our business more?' To 'love Christ, but love our Christian ministry more?' Because of the ever-present temptation to love something else more than Christ, we must be very vigilant to guard our love for Christ.

Every true believer loves Christ because not to love him means that one is not a believer. The Holy Spirit, who regenerates and indwells us, also moves us to love Christ. As believers, however, we can act selfishly and disobediently. We can let our love grow cold. Our love for Christ can be weakened by neglect, sin, worldly distractions, or false teaching (2 Cor. 11:2-4), so we must learn to guard it well... In his classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers sets before us the only correct priority to guide and guard us: 'Jesus taught that a disciple has to make his relationship to God the dominating concentration of his life, and to be cafefully careless about everything else in comparison to that.'

[Yet] If we must jealously guard our love for Christ, we need also to guard our love for people. Just as the Holy Spirit moves us to love Christ, he motivates us to sacrificially love others... As the eighteenth-century evangelist Henry Moorehouse observed in a letter to a friend, 'Love seems in so many hearts to have gone to sleep.' When love goes to sleep, we grow cold and unfeeling toward people. We love material possessions and personal comforts more than people. We love our work more than people. We become bitter toward people because our feelings have been hurt. We become weary in serving selfish, ungrateful people and become content to show love only to those who are agreeable to us. We become lazy and complacent about love. We neglect our duty to love the unlovely and the disagreeable...

For those who have drifted far from the Christian spirit of love, Jesus says to wake up, remember from where you have fallen, repent of your sin, and do the deeds of love you once did (Rev. 2:5). In order to avoid becoming like the Ephesian Christians who needed to repent of their loss of love, heed the practical advice of Jonathan Edwards: 'A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder love to God.... If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming [to] Christians.'"

In re-reading this 'thought' for typos before sending it out, I have sensed the unpleasant sting of conviction in my own conscience. It is so easy to love the loveable, and so hard to love the unloveable. Yet, when I fall into that trap, what I need to do is pause, remember God's love toward me, and remind myself how it is "unmerited favor" (a love given to me when I was not only ungodly, but His enemy - Rom. 5:6-10).

I must call to mind how often He has showered me with grace even when I was the most ornery, contrary and unloveable, and then, being humbled, I must do what I now need to do - repent, get my priorities straight again, and do the things I did at first. Maybe you sense the need to do the same?

With prayers for God's continued blessings on your life, Pastor Jeff