My First Love

first love

Do you remember falling in love for the first time? Do you remember the excitement? The butterflies in your stomach? The anticipation of seeing or hearing from that special person? Do you remember the way your thoughts became consumed with that person? Do you recall spending time thinking about and preparing for special events like birthdays and Christmas by searching for the perfect gift or planning a surprise date night out together? Maybe you haven’t experienced a first love yet. Maybe you are experiencing it right now. Maybe you remember how much it hurt when that first love ended. Maybe instead of a romantic love you can relate those emotions to when you first met your best friend or fell in love with a passion God has given you. Perhaps you fell in love with art or creating beautiful music. Perhaps you come alive when you study science and God’s creation.

I’ve been reading the book of Revelation lately and I was struck by what Jesus tells the church in Ephesus. He tells them that they have abandoned their first love. Revelation 2:4 says, “However, I have this against you: you have abandoned your first love.”

Regardless of your current experience of a “first love,” one thing seems to be almost certain, we all tend to abandon our first love at some point. The butterflies fade, our thoughts drift back to the activities of each day and we think less often of that special person, and our actions become less and less intentional. We abandon our first love. Going out of our way to bless a friend becomes an inconvenience.  Creating art or practicing an instrument becomes a chore. Finding that perfect gift or card that says, “I love you” becomes a drag. And all the things we once found adorable and endearing now begin to drive us nuts. We abandon our first loves.

And here Jesus tells his church that they have abandoned their first love, they have abandoned him. Do you remember the moment you fell in love with Jesus? Do you remember the tears that flowed down your face? Do you remember the excitement of your first Bible? Do you remember making promises of having quiet time with Jesus every day? Remember wanting to tell everyone you knew or met about Jesus and what His love had done in your life? And if you’re like me, after two or three weeks, the Bible passages grew shorter and you began falling asleep during prayer time before bed. If you’re like me, your conversations with others quickly drifted away from Jesus and back to where the best sales were, what happened on Pretty Little Liars last week and the latest gossip. And if you’re like me, soon you’ve abandoned your first love.

There’s good news though. Jesus hasn’t abandoned you! You are still His first love. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” Thank God that my relationship with Him is not based on my commitment to and love for Him but His love for and commitment to me. He still gets butterflies whenever I choose to spend time with Him. No matter how long it has been, He still hangs on every word with anticipation and longing to hear more. No matter how little I’ve thought of Him throughout the day, His thoughts remain consumed with me. No matter how little I make time for Him, He always has time for me. And He always knows exactly what gifts to give, what needs to meet, and what words to say, even when I withhold the only gift He longs for – my heart.

And when I stop and think of what Jesus’ love for me cost Him – truly stop and consider – a funny thing begins to happen. The butterflies come back! My thoughts become consumed with thanks and praise for the King of Kings who died to make me His daughter and to save me from the death I deserved. And suddenly spending time with Him is all I ever want to do. May we all fall harder and more deeply in love with our first love, Jesus.

Perhaps you’ve noticed my love for music. Music speaks deeply to me and this past weekend I attended a concert where God showed up and made His love so clear. More on that later this week, but here’s a little preview.

Learning to Boast

I grew up in the Midwest, but I moved to California to attend graduate school. I have to admit that it was quite a culture shock to go from cornfields to concrete, from rolling hills to mountains and beaches, from blue skies to smog, and from 2 lane country roads to 12 lane highways – with traffic stopped in both directions! But there was another more subtle difference, one that I didn’t pick up on right away. Students begin to compete for practicum placements in the second year of my graduate program. During these interviews, I noticed how bold many of the students were in answering questions. They had no hesitation in proclaiming their many accomplishments. It seemed brash at best and arrogant at worst. I was more subtle in my answers and often downplayed my accomplishments. This was what I was taught to do. I’d walk away believing I had interviewed well but would rarely get the placement. Thankfully, one of my professors, who was also a transplant from the Midwest, took note. She pulled me aside and explained that I was experiencing a major cultural difference. In the Midwest, humility is highly valued and appearing proud is avoided at all costs. She explained that this is not so on the West Coast. What I was interpreting as brash, was really students advocating for themselves. She challenged me to step out of my comfort zone and to do the same.

It seems like when it comes to accepting our identity in Christ, it can feel a little like bragging or boasting. It can feel selfish and prideful to even begin to think of ourselves as anything but horribly sinful people. It’s so easy to forget that God created us and called us very good. Therefore, if you do not love and accept yourself, you are actually in disagreement with God because He loves and accepts you! It is so important to accept God’s love and in doing so learn to love yourself, not in a selfish way but in a way that simply affirms God’s creation (you) as good and right and beautiful. Just like my interviewers couldn’t know about my real talents and abilities until I told them, a hurting world can’t know of God’s love until you tell them through the way you love others. And you cannot give away love that you haven’t truly accepted for yourself. See, our confidence does not come from our own abilities or achievements. No, our confidence comes from our identity in Christ and what God does through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And one last thought… anytime we don’t shine as brightly as God intended us to, we are robbing Him of glory due Him. Any shine we have is simply a reflection of His glory. So let’s learn to shine brightly and boast, not about our own abilities, but about God’s grace and goodness. Let’s accept how much God loves each and everyone of us and confident share that love with others!

Accept your Acceptance

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Accept your acceptance.

It’s a phrase I heard at a youth retreat I was working several months ago. I’m sure I’ve heard it before but somehow it struck me like a bolt of lightning this time.

Accept your acceptance. Within this simple three word phrase are so many truths that I find so difficult to grasp.

Accept your acceptance. I was struck by the implication that I am already accepted.

Accept your acceptance. Not earn your acceptance, simply accept that you’ve already been accepted.

I’m accepted. What does that mean? There are two definitions. First, acceptance means the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable. I’m received as adequate or suitable. By who? Is it really possible that God sees me as adequate and suitable? I’m so messed up! I’m so sinful! Doesn’t He know what I’ve done and who I am deep down inside? Because if He did He certainly wouldn’t want me. He’d certainly reject me. And what would He see me suitable and adequate to do? Doesn’t He know what a failure I am? Doesn’t He know how ordinary I am? I don’t have any special talents! What can I possibly do for God? And yet, He does know the depths of my brokenness and He finds me adequate and suitable anyway. And He does have a task for me and He’s the one who gave me the gifts and talents necessary to complete it, even if I can’t recognize it yet. And that brings me to the second definition.

Second, acceptance means the action of consenting to receive something offered. God is waiting to receive something from me. What do I have that He could possibly want? He wants me. He wants what He has deemed adequate and suitable. He wants what He gave me to begin with – gifts and talents that make me unique and special, adequate and suitable. He wants me. All of me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He created me and only wants back what rightfully belongs to Him.

Accept your acceptance. God has accepted me. He has accepted you. He has found you and me adequate and suitable. He wants to receive what He has created you and me to be – and He will receive us just as we are. But we have something to do as well. We have to accept that. I have to accept my acceptance. And so do you.

1 Peter 2:9-10 …For you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. ‘Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.’

What keeps you from accepting your acceptance?

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