So February is here. It only seems like yesterday that we were celebrating Christmas but a month in and 2018 is in full swing. When we go into the shops at this time of year we are bombarded with one thing; Love. Valentine's day is nearly upon us and everywhere you look you can see evidence of this celebration. This got me thinking about the topic of love, or more specifically, about our first love.
As Christians, our first love needs to be God. He is the one we look to above all else. It is important then that we spend time connecting with and growing with God. This is something which is vitally important for our spiritual lives, but massively overlooked by many of us, including me!! In Psalm 42, David writes about deep calling out to deep in a song to God, and I believe what he is saying is that we all have a longing within us which cries out for God. It is literally part of our very being which searches for God but often we fail to hear it and try to go through life in our own strength, and then wonder why we get burned out! We cry out for this relationship with our first love - God.
I want to challenge you, as 2018 starts to kick into full swing, to reconnect with God on a deeper level and I'd love to give you some simple tips to help you do this. The first way is prayer. Anyone who knows me will know that I am someone who loves to pray. I'm one of those ‘every moment prayers’ who will be talking to God throughout the day while I drive, while I shower, even while I'm at work sometimes! As much as this is a good thing, I believe that it is easy to fall into the trap of getting complacent with prayers. Like we will ask God for something once and then will never ask or think about it again, and then get annoyed when God doesn't answer the prayer. In reality, however, this isn't what the Bible teaches us when it comes to prayer - we are called to be persistent.
Let me use a simple analogy. When I was a child we used to play a game called Knock and Run, where we would knock on people's doors and run away as quickly as we could before they could answer (don't judge me!). Sometimes it feels like we pray in the same way. We will give God a quick prayer and then get straight back into our day-to-day life without waiting for the answer or thinking about how God may respond. I believe that it is important, however, that we are persistent in prayer. That we persevere when praying for an issue, that friend that you want to see on Alpha, that family member you want to see back in church, or that conversation you want to have in your workplace. Imagine if you spent more time praying for these things, how might that change your approach?
Jesus tells a story about a persistent widow who kept coming to a Judge asking for justice in her situation. Each time the widow would ask the judge, he would tell her to go away. The widow, however, kept coming back to him asking again and again and again until eventually the judge gave in and granted her request. Now I'm not saying that God is like this judge in terms of him being unfair or unjust, but I think God wants us to have the same attitude as the widow to persist in our prayers and be really passionate about the things we are praying for. The more time you give to praying about a situation persistently, the more you will connect with God.
This leads me on to my second tip for reconnecting with your first love - time. I'm so excited about Terry Virgo joining us later in the year. I listened to a podcast of one of his talks a couple of days ago and he was challenging people to find time to spend in God's presence. He said that everyone needs to have a time, a place where they go to spend time with God, and we need to make no secret about it. Our children and our spouses should know that a certain place in the house or a certain time of day is the time when you are with God.
In the busyness of life, this is vitally important. We need to spend time just enjoying God. Not constantly asking for things, not constantly crying out to him but actually enjoying his presence. Taking time out of our day to just reconnect with God. Imagine how much God will speak to you if you actually take the time to listen, if you actually put time aside. It could even start with 15 minutes a day. I spend longer than that scrolling down my Facebook timeline!
My final tip for reconnecting with our first love is worship. God absolutely loves it when we bring praise to him because we are literally made to worship God. Spending time singing praises to him and telling him how amazing he is will result in a much better relationship with him. Take that time during your prayer time to just worship him. Often we can rush into asking for different things or even thanking God for things without taking the time to tell God just how amazing he is.
Give it a go this month, try to think about God's characteristics and why you love him. What is it that made you fall in love with God in the first place? - Is it kindness, faithfulness, grace, provision. ….?
Let's be people who fall in love with God all over again this month - after all February is the season of love!!
I couldn’t possibly write an Elders’ letter this month without at least making reference to that amazing night in Madrid on June 1st and Liverpool FC’s historic sixth Champions League trophy. Non-football fans…please don’t switch off!