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Thank you so much for taking a moment to let me share with you what not only rescued and renewed my walk with the Lord personally, but also made life and ministry with him so much more joyful and rewarding. Twenty-seven years ago, the Lord spoke 1 John 4:19 directly to my heart: “Mark, you love because I first love you.” He continued, “Come to me who is love (1 John 4:8, 16) and let me love you first and then you will love.”
He reinforced the need to be loved first through his “new” command: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34; 15:12). Imagine for a moment that you are standing beside me and your spouse is standing beside you. I turn to you and ask: “Pastor, would you please love your spouse as I, Mark Fee have loved you.” What would you do? Nothing! You would be unable to love your spouse as I have loved you—unable to heed the command—until you experienced love from me first in a tangible way. Then, and only then, would you be able to love “as” I have loved you. Likewise, only by experiencing Jesus loving us first can we love “as he has loved us.”
Initially, these words were so radical to me because they were so different from what I was practicing. I read the Bible daily to be “taught, rebuked, corrected and trained” not to be loved by him. Next, I offered up “requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving” to him but rarely if ever expected him to talk to me, especially to love me. Finally I would repent for the ways I had failed to measure up, sins of omission or commission, and then go into the world, determined to try harder and to do better. It’s as if the new command was: “As you read in the Bible how I loved Israel and the disciples so you must try to love.”
The “First Loved” program trains believers in practices that invite them to be loved by Jesus and the Father, by the Spirit, through words and actions (1 John 3:18). We like to say: “God’s love up close and personal like the disciples experienced through Jesus.” The training also helps participants discover and begin to eradicate some common barriers to receiving and sharing his love.
Our Saturday Workshop provides participants with an initial “taste” to one of these practices, and of the Father / Jesus loving them with words through the Bible and the Spirit through teaching, training, alone time, and small group. For those who wish to go deeper, a more immersive experience is available on our weekend retreats providing an overview of all the practices with trained facilitators.
If you have questions or would like to set up a meeting time (either in person, via phone or video conference), I welcome the opportunity to do so.
For His glory and our joy,
Rev. Mark Gordon Fee, president