Saturday, April 2, 2011

Are You Losing Your First Love?

A sure way to allow your love for God to grow cold is to stop being thankful. I don't think many of us realize how quickly we can let go of our gratefulness for God's great love and mercy. Gratefulness keeps us tender toward God whereas ungratefulness will make us insensitive to both God and sin. The straight facts are that everything we have and everything we are is because of the Lord. The breath we take, the food we eat, the salvation we possess, the joy we experience, the peace that guards us all belong to him.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

The psalmist tells us:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
   his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)

If we consider Israel for a moment, when that nation was freed from the bondage of Egypt, they were promised a land of their own. Talk about a people who had much to rejoice about and to give thanks daily to the God of their rescue. But instead they chose to focus on the negative all the time. They looked at their lack, or what they perceived to be their lack. They complained constantly. They had no idea what it was to be thankful. God grew tired of them quickly and Moses was forced to intervene on several occasions. That generation was left to die in the desert but generations that followed, who were in the promised land, became just as ungrateful, losing their love and eventually ending up back in bondage.

This is a good example of what happens to us so often. Our love grows cold because we let go of our thankful heart. We stop appreciating God. We stop appreciating all of his promises and blessings. It is similar to a man who starts taking his wife for granted. He stops appreciating all the things she does and he concentrates on the negatives. Soon his love has grown cold. We become negative about God when we stop being grateful. We become complainers, constantly looking at what we don't have. We start accusing him of not loving us and eventually we even begin to question whether he is real.

Maintaining a thankful attitude and a vibrant love for God is not a hard thing. We used to sing a song in the Church that would encourage us to count our blessings:

  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
    • Refrain:
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—wealth can never buy
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
    Johnson Oatman,

It is incredible our change in perspective, understanding and burden when we change our heart from complaining and bitterness, to joy and thanksgiving. Turning back to the psalmist:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; 
   his love endures forever. 
Let the redeemed of the LORD say this— 
   those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, 
those he gathered from the lands, 
   from east and west, from north and south. (Psalm 107:1-3)

Yes indeed, let the redeemed of the Lord give thanks and say that God is good because his love endures forever.  This psalmist captures the essence of why we can so easily praise our Lord with hearts of thanks giving:

Some wandered in desert wastelands, 
   finding no way to a city where they could settle. 
They were hungry and thirsty, 
   and their lives ebbed away. (vv. 4-5)

And God rescued:

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, 
   and he delivered them from their distress. 
He led them by a straight way 
   to a city where they could settle. (vv. 6-7)

And now the people respond:

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love 
   and his wonderful deeds for men, 
for he satisfies the thirsty 
   and fills the hungry with good things. (vv. 8-9)

The whole psalm is written in this fashion as a reminder of our natural condition (lost), of God's actions (rescuer), and our much needed response (thanksgiving). What a spoiled bunch of kids we are when we accept the good things from God with an ungrateful heart. The relationship is doomed to fail if we continue in this fashion. My friends, turn your heart from weeping and mourning, recognize the blessing hand of God in your life, and rejoice. Rejoice with songs of praise, with dancing, with blessing others, with giving and giving and giving. Because of all that God has done we should be givers, whether it be out of our abundance or out of our need, how can we not respond to God with all our love? Keep it fresh every day by counting the blessings of the Lord in your life. God is good and his unfailing love endures forever.

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