There she was, standing in my kitchen cutting up vegetables. From the moment I saw her I instantly knew she was my true love.
Now, over 53 years later, I can truthfully say that I have never doubted what I felt in that moment. Has my passion cooled at times? Have we ever experienced tension, disagreement, misunderstanding? Have the demands of raising children, work, moving across the globe… at time caused weariness—a cooler temperature to our love? Yes. Yet, every time, by mutual choice, we have forgiven each other and pushed “restart” on our tenderness.
Reminds me of Yeshua’s warning to us as believers entering the demands of the end times.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places… And because lawlessness will abound, THE LOVE OF MANY WILL GROW COLD. (Matthew 24:6,7,12)
“I Can Feel a Dullness Coming On”
Yeshua warned that during the end times chaos and iniquity, the love of many will grow cold. That’s becoming easy to picture. Even while I write this article, I can feel a dullness trying to come on me: There’s just SO much to process. Yesterday I watched a documentary about one tribe being slaughtered in Ethiopia by another. Human atrocity. Unbearable suffering. Ukrainian corpses in the streets. If that wasn’t enough, acts of terror marred Jerusalem, and multiple shooting incidents, the USA.
While the loveliness of our Lord is not one whit diminished, these times can be overwhelming, intimidating, and confusing.
Our love is confronted by the intensity of a world spiraling out of control. Even if physically we are in survival mode, our focus must be on our primary reality: Your relationship with God is THE most important thing in your life in these last days. Given the circumstances around us, it’s hard not to harden your heart. But the crucial need is for the exact opposite response.
Who’s Bringing Salvation in Ukraine?
You may have seen the photos and videos of Ukrainian believers praying and worshiping DURING deadly attacks by the Russian forces. They’re seeking God in the bomb shelters. They’re gathering to give Him praise while bombs are falling. What’s happening there right now, spiritually? Many people are coming to faith.
When the chips are down and people are suffering around me, who’s going to help them find God? Only those whose LOVE has not grown cold, only the ones who pursued God and kept the fire burning. When our fire has cooled, it’s time to blow on it, like a campfire that’s burned down to the embers. “A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out” (Leviticus 6:13).
An Urgent Message From Yeshua
The ancient city of Ephesus was the most important city in Ionian Asia Minor. A thriving port on the Aegean Sea, it was a center of trade, culture, and pagan religion. Yeshua addressed the congregation there in Revelation 2:2-5. He recognized their works, their labor, their patience, and their intolerance for evil. Albeit, they had persevered…Yet he reprimanded them, “But I have this against you: you have let go of the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4).
What Does First Love Look Like?
I began this article by recalling the moment I fell in love with Connie. Easily, I remember our early days together. It was like a dream. I could scarcely believe that I had found my true love. We couldn’t get enough of each other. I wanted to learn all that I possibly could about this Jewish “maideleh.” We were so in love that we honeymooned in a mountain cave and were happier than in a honeymoon suite on the Riviera.
Fast forward 26 years. Now we were living in Israel, planting a Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Few members had cars, so we were filling our vehicle on the way to services and taking people home afterward. Our praise and worship was in Hebrew, Russian, and English; so we copied fresh transparencies for the overhead on the way to our building. I was both worship leader and preacher – all in my broken Hebrew. I was preoccupied with creating a spiritual community from scratch. Meanwhile, my wife Connie was caring for our multi-generational family. Our children were 25, 22, 7, and 2. At times I slipped into impatience and irritation toward her, a far cry from my First Love.
Works Must Flow Out of Love
Why did Yeshua rebuke the Ephesians? Because they were like Martha, bustling about serving. There’s nothing wrong with serving. But it bugged her that Miriam just sat at the Master’s feet. He said “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41,42). Our serving must flow out of our loving to be in in His presence (Matthew 5:14).
How Can We maintain Our First Love In the Last Days?
First, I need to become an expert in receiving God’s perfect love – to remember that my very existence is the result of God’s love. And, that I am created for His pleasure. One way to renew that love is to “look up.” In describing the tribulations of the end of days, Yeshua said “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28).
Second, I need to refocus on my Savior, my Shepherd, the Lover of my soul. Why did He became one of us? Was it not to relate with and identify with us and to make God’s love utterly personal? Love in human relationships is about BEING together, spending time together, DOING things together. Why should it be any different in my relationship with Yeshua my Messiah? What causes me to drift from my first love for Him? I easily become too busy – even busy seeking to serve Him. Also, my attention veers away from my Redeemer onto myself. Ugh! That’s really the worst, because when I obsess on me (my feelings, thoughts, desires, mistakes, comfort) I lose sight of the One whom to love is life itself.
Third, it’s time to respond to God’s love with all my heart. Asked about the greatest commandment, Yeshua replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength” (Matthew 22:37). Love is an issue of the heart. Where is your heart? Where is mine? What are my fondest desires? Where am I investing my mental and emotional energy? I understand that we have jobs, bills, kids, responsibilities. But God also knows that and can empower us to walk in our love for Him while we are faithful to those depending on us. Beloved, it’s time to reflect, to ask, to pray. “Lord, what’s pleasing to you and what’s not, in my life? I want to love you better. I make you my center. I’m listening afresh for your voice. I’m fanning the embers of my heart to burn and keep burning toward you.”
This article originally appeared in Oasis newsletter, August 2022, and reposted with permission.