Does anybody remember flannel graf stories? This was used long before PowerPoint, videos, film strips, and slides. I remember as a little boy growing up near Detroit, MI my Mother and our assistant pastor’s wife used flannel graf to teach us young elementary children Bible stories. One such story was the parable of the Good Samaritan found in three of the four gospels. I remember watching, with rapt attention as the robbers beat the guy on the side of the road. Then, two other men went by, and while seeing the guy who was badly beaten they kept on going. Finally, a third man came by, and “he was a Samaritan!” That story stuck with me for days, I remember asking my Mother question after question about the story — and Mother was so gracious to answer everyone.
Recently, at one of our District Prayer Retreats, during a planned time of solitude, I re-read the story of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. Without going into everything in this limited space, what jumped out at me in those moments were the words of the “expert in the law” (10:25) who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus threw the question back to him and said, “what is written in the law, how do you read it?”
The expert in the law repeated what Moses gave to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:5 after giving them the Ten Commandments – Moses said, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all our soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” and then he added in what is written in Leviticus 19:18 where it says, and “love your neighbor as yourself.”
All your heart.
All your soul.
All your strength.
All your mind.
Pretty complete — and then add in “and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Prior to the prayer retreat and after, I had been reading in Revelation 2 and 3 regarding the seven churches the Apostle John was told to write to by Jesus. The first one, Ephesus, was commended for their activity, perseverance, disdain for wickedness in their culture, endurance, and even their strength. YET, Jesus said, in spite of all this, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev. 2:4-5a). Jesus said more in the rest of verses 5b-7 but those first six words just jumped off the page of my Bible – you have forsaken your first love.
Reading these things again caused me to examine my life when it comes to love: my love for Christ, for Lori, for my family, for the church, for my friends, for the people I serve with, and for the people, I run into from time to time. Some of that introspection has been very good — and some of that introspection has brought me up short to the point of needing to re-capture some of that “first love” that Jesus spoke of in some of those areas.
Through the years I graduated from flannel graf toward music. While ruminating on all these things, a song came back to me from a little more than six years ago. It’s on the Chris Tomlin project called “Never Lose Sight.” That project gave us the song “Good, Good Father” which some might remember was released as a single in late 2015. There are thirteen other songs on that project and one of them is called “First Love” that you can listen to here (I don’t endorse or know the person who put this particular video version together). The words and music speak to my heart and my need to monitor my love relationship with the Lord and others. One phrase that caught my attention, about thirty seconds in, is “you are still my anchor.” I remembered back to childhood days again to an old evangelistic “Sunday Night Hymn” as we called them in that day, “We Have An Anchor.” I won’t go through all of the song, you can look it up yourself on Google, however the first verse and chorus say,
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life, when the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain, will your anchor drift or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul, steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.
During this “love month” of February, when images of hearts abound, why not make some time to consider just where your heart is at when it comes to the Lord. Why not ask yourself, “am I so busy about the things of the Lord, that I’ve lost my first love?” Why not consider “am I striving in my own strength, and doing good things, but have I substituted doing for being with the Lord?”
The answers you gain as you seek the Lord can be enlightening and also empowering as you seek the Lord with your whole heart — and find Him!