We are teaching an online Bible study for 6 weeks and Thursday was our first session. We had such a precious time in the Word I don't want you to miss out- check out these notes and then join us on Zoom Thursdays at 7pm EST for the next 5 weeks.
After we served Jesus in Uganda with WGM for 9 years we came back to the USA without much certainty as to what God was up to or where He was leading us. So we sat in the grief of leaving Uganda and just waited on the Lord. And as we sought Him He met us. In our uncertainty He reminded us of the commands He had already given us- when we asked “What do you want us to do, God?” He said "Do what you already know to do. Love me with everything you’ve got and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” All too often we make it far too complicated. What if we just focused on getting this right?
As we waited on the Lord He slowly revealed His next assignment to us- one that makes us feel alive and excited in ways we haven’t felt in a while and in ways that feel sweetly similar to the ways we ministered while we lived in Uganda. In July we will be joining the Francis Asbury Society to lead their new Student Ministries initiative- cultivating deep, discipleship relationships with students at Asbury University and Asbury Seminary. FAS has been invited by the presidents at both institutions to have an active presence on campus which is a first. FAS historically has focused on publishing and sending evangelists to local churches. We are joining President Ron Smith and we are grateful for the ways Jesus has been shepherding us this year.
Like I said, Jesus reminded us last year that the best thing to do when we don’t know what to do is love Him and love others. And that is the message we want to share with the students at Asbury. Loving God with all we are- really does change everything! So lets’ dive into the word.
“Then one of the scribes came and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is this, ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” -Mark 12:29-31
We all want to please God. As believers He has saved us and we are thankful. And in response- we want to honor and obey Him. But why can’t we do it? It often feels like we are powerless to change. What’s going on at the heart of our struggle?? Alisa Keeton, founder of Revelation Wellness says this: “Unwilling hearts partnered with unrenewed minds keep people fragmented, compartmentalized and separated from their best selves- running around getting their animalistic urges met in the moment instead of training for the higher prize of a life lived in right standing with God and filled with peace and joy.” We are created in the image of God and hardwired for emotional and relational connection. He has put desires inside us that only He can fill.
The Lord our God, the Lord is one. He is the only one who can truly satisfy us. I know I am often tempted to think that my phone can satisfy my loneliness, or that food will comfort in the ache inside me- I don’t know what you run to when you are empty- but I will tell you I’ve tried lots of things and none of them fill and satisfy me the way He does. He wants us to love Him first and best. In Jeremiah 2:13 it says " “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." Take a minute and think about the things or people you run to before you run to God. And then confess that to Him and ask Him to meet you and satisfy those empty places.
So He is the one and He invites us to love Him. I can tell you "I love God" and I can know in my head that He loves me. But change comes when I experience the love of God. So take a few minutes and think about ways you express your love to God and ways you experience His love for you.
Love in this Greek text is agape… I am sure some of you know about the various Greek words translated into our one word “love” but I’ll share a few bits of the Greek definition I found on the Blue Letter Bible app: “love willing to die for his beloved, sacrificial love, unconditional love, to love dearly, when used of love for a master (God or Jesus) the word involves the idea of affectionate reverence, prompt obedience and grateful recognition of benefits received. Can also mean to take pleasure in the thing, prize it above with things, be unwilling to abandon it or do without it. Also involves desire and longing.”
Love the Lord YOUR GOD- He is yours! How sweet is that? It’s also a mutual love. He was willing to lay down His life out of love for you- are you willing to lay down your life out of love for Him?? That’s a hard question in today’s society where not many are willing to lay down their rights out of love for others. I can’t love this way in my own flesh. My heart is hard. But as I let Him love me- and feel His delight in me- when I consider the great lengths to which He went to pursue me- my heart wells up with love for Him. Amazing love, how can it be???
Take the Love Exchange challenge: Spend two minutes expressing your love to God by journaling, prayer or singing. And then spend two minutes receiving His love for you by journaling what you sense Him saying, or resting in silence. This practice was found in the book The Love Exchange by Margaret Therkelsen. Writes Therkelsen, "As this Love Exchange deepens, God can have more of you than he has ever had, and your lives will be hidden in him, freely alive and transformed in his loving presence".