Lately I’ve been studying through the book of Mark. While reading it, I’ve had the firm impression that God wants to prepare my heart. He wants all of us who follow Him to be prepared for Him. As the church, we are His bride and He loves us, so naturally we should as a bride be prepared for our marriage with Him.
Mark 13 describes an incredible time of tribulation that Jesus knew His followers would one day face, and it describes also the final tribulation that will happen in the last days. I will not read the whole text but listen to the warning words of Jesus in Mark 13:
- Take heed that no one deceives you
- But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils…
- And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake… But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
- But woe to those who are pregnant and nursing babies in those days.
- But take heed, I have told you all things beforehand.
How will we withstand such a day? In 70 AD, Jerusalem was devoured to the point even the foundation stones of the recently completed temple were literally dug up. There was a greatly trying time then for Jesus’ followers and Jews. Women nursing babes did have to flee but this tribulation was just a foreshadowing one that gives a glimpse of the great one to come.
God is so patient, but He does keep His word. If He says this will happen, it will. Like the bride and groom sending out invitations, and preparing the guest list, we too should get prepared. He will return someday, will we be waiting for Him? Will our hearts be prepared?
Before the return, He says there will be “tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation”. Now that said, I don’t want us to get caught up like doomsday preppers trying to stockpile food, or teaching courses on editable wild greens. Those things are all great to know, and honestly I do not know if the Church will be removed from this time of tribulation or not I sure hope so, but what I do hope to focus on is the fact that Jesus thought it important enough to warn us, to prepare us. To get His bride ready to meet Him.
He said, “Take heed…”, “Watch out…”, “Woe to…”these are all warning words. Our Lord is warning us so we can be prepared. Dear Father, prepare our hearts.
Think about your desires over the past week…
Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before my God?”
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment. –Jesus said.
What is the 1st thing that comes to my mind when I ask myself,
“What is my heart’s greatest desire”?
What about our church, what is its greatest desire? Some church’s greatest desire is to have the largest congregation, the best soup kitchen, the best praise band, or the most excellent children’s programming in the whole area. Those are all great things. But what if they have that all and forget to love one another, what if they forget to love God? What if they’re doing it all out of obligation, not at all with the motive of love?
Let’s look at a church from 2000 years ago, the Church at Ephesus located in a major seaport city, “the location of the great temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. “ Think of this church like the Chrystal Cathedral or the mega-church of Joel Osteen, Lakewood or Bill Hybel’s Willowcreek. It was big, powerful, well known, and many people passed through its town and were affected by it. Yet with all their “programming” and activities they had forgotten their first love. They had forgotten the greatest command ever given. To love God.
Revelation 2:1-5 is written by Christ to this church, through the mouthpiece of John as he’s exiled on the island of Patmos near the end of the 1st century. This is what the letter says, from Christ to the church:
“These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: 2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
All this time has passed and still this message and its warning is relevant to our church today. Let’s take a personal inventory and ask, “Have we also forgotten our first love?”
Who is my “One and Only”, who is “my first love”?
What does love look like anyways?
1 Corinthians 13:1-8 says:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails.
God calls us to love Him. To love Him first. If our heart’s greatest desire is not to love God we need to desperately seek Him for help. We all have our idols, we worry about money, we lust after material objects, we have more time for our cell phone than our Bibles but Jesus is clear, we have to repent, and turn around and love Him first. This is an area we all struggle in and fail, but I’m convinced that He longs for more of us, He longs for our love, just as a husband and wife long for the love of each other. If you’re ready to take this to the next level I’m asking you to make a decision to give Him your heart 100% of your heart, give Him your love.
It’s often helpful to me to pray scripture, and memorize it. I’m challenging you, to forget all the stuff you have to do and simply ask God to prepare your heart. To clean it out and create in you a heart that loves Him. He’s faithful. If you ask Him for a heart that loves Him He will give it to you.
Memorize this, write it down, hang it on the fridge, meditate on it, pray it…
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.