Category Archives: Peter Kreeft

What Should Make Christianity…. different?

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:

I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 44 Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had. Now she doesn’t have a cent to live on.  Mark 12:43-44 CEV

By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification. The words are multum in parro: indeed, here is all mercy in one word. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but he is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but he is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of his name to bend the knee before him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.”

The pagan knew the fact that our hearts are restless, but he did not know the reason. Christianity supplies the reason, the key to the lock, the answer to the puzzle pondered by the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, even by Qoheleth in the book of Ecclesiastes. All these thinkers believed in a God, but they were not happy because they did not know God was love. Socrates worshipped the unknown God whom he would not name and knew he did not know. Plato’s God was impersonal truth and goodness. Aristotle’s God was a cosmic first mover who could be known and loved but who did not know or love us. Cicero’s God was only a vague object of “piety”. And the God of Ecclesiastes sat unmoving and unknown in Heaven while man’s life on earth remained “vanity of vanities, all is vanity”

172 Augustine says very clearly, “All the commandments of God are kept when what is not kept is forgiven.”1 Therefore even in good works he requires our faith that for Christ’s sake we please God and that the works in themselves do not have the value to please God.
173 Against the Pelagians, Jerome writes, “We are righteous, therefore, when we confess that we are sinners; and our righteousness does not consist in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.”

The novel Christian reality is this: Christ’s Resurrection enables man genuinely to rejoice. All history until Christ has been a fruitless search for this joy. That is why the Christian liturgy—Eucharist—is, of its essence, the Feast of the Resurrection, Mysterium Paschae. As such it bears within it the mystery of the Cross, which is the inner presupposition of the Resurrection.

This morning I came across some very powerful quotes in my reading.  I love them, whether it is from a soon to be pope (Ratzinger), an incredible philosopher (Kreeft), a group of rebels (the early Lutherans), or a British pastor who was perhaps, the first mega-church pastor.

They all point to one thing, the fact that Christianity is different. Philosophers tried to point to him, but they couldn’t understand God. That the Eucharist does, more clearly perhaps than anything else, for we encounter and experience Jesus there.  In the mercy of God which makes our broken lives perfect as God grants to us repentance and sanctification – as He completely saves us.

What an incredible concept, this salvation.

But do we really comprehend this blessing, this gift?

I do not think we do, at least not always.

How about this explanation.  We (the church) are like children at Christmas, more interested in playing with the box our present came in than actually enjoying the present.

Salvation, the complete work of God is so large a gift, we cannot understand it. But we can experience it, and it does more than change us. Jesus does more than give us life, He is that life. That is what makes Christianity different, it is the religion that is more than a relationship, for a relationship cannot begin to express what living in Christ is like.

The old lady with the two pennies experienced it. She wasn’t impressed with the box, she simply enjoyed walking with God, and gave what she had that others would as well.

We don’t even know her name, and she could care less.

She was with God, and among His people, as broken, as misdirected, as….unfocused on what she knew and responded to…

May we be more like her….. and enjoy living in Christ, as the children the Father loves.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 39–40.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 130–131.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 65.

The Mystery that Underlies Worship, and Makes it Worth It!

10649504_10152396630845878_3341349315020260479_n

Devotional Thought of the day:

7  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began.
1 Corinthians 2:7 (NLT2)

Christianity is both. It is full of mysteries like the Trinity, creation, the Incarnation, atonement, providence, and eschatology. In fact, it is the most mysterious religion in the world. It is not at all obvious, not what we would expect. That is what all the heresies have been: what the human mind naturally expected. Yet Christianity is also supremely simple. John was right. There is, in the last analysis, only one thing: the love of God.

Here is common ground for a discussion of the structure of liturgy. Strictly speaking we should say that liturgy, of its nature, has a festal character.2 If we can agree on this starting point, the issue then becomes: What makes a feast a feast? Evidently, for the view in question, the festal quality is guaranteed by the concrete “community” experience of a group of people who have grown together into this community.

As much as I hate the idea of worship wars, or the ability of both sides to ignore the blessings of their perceived antagonists, I love to talk about worship. Even more, I love worshipping God, with his people.  It can be done with choirs and pipe organs, it can be done with a band and people facilitating the singing of the congregation, it is done with a half dozen people and a guitar.  Or people singing acapella.

There is no need for worship wars, not when there is so much to celebrate, as the people of God are gathered together.

This is the point that Pope Benedict speaks of, this moment where the community is formed. The feast is not because of the many incredible mysteries we fail to completely understand.  Those mysteries, which Kreeft lists, are mere supplements to the true mystery, the truth that binds us all together.

What one thing Peter Kreeft says is the only thing. the love of God! (for us!)

This is our ultimate glory, this is our ultimate joy, this is what we celebrate, for as it is revealed, as the truth of it sets up inside our souls, worship and celebration is the result.

If we are more focused on the realization that God loves us, this staggering, beyond the experience of being truly loved, then worship is empowered to be something more than a pattern, a habit, a time set aside to make sure we are good with God.

It becomes a dance… it becomes a life-giving time of restoration and healing. It becomes the core of our worship, more important than being liturgical or contemporary. More important than being perfect, for all that falls aside with this thought.

“we are loved!”

Heavenly Father, as You gather us together, help us to remember this glorious truth.  All we shall hear, say, sing, pray, and even our silence, Lord, may we realize that You love us.  AMEN!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 35.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 62–63.

That’s an odd word….

clydes-cross-2

Devotional Thought of the Day:
17  My strength, I will make music for you, for my stronghold is God, the God who loves me faithfully.   Psalm 59:17 (NJB)

what more canst thou hope for than the fulfillment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love.

It is Karl Barth’s answer to the questioner who asked him, “Professor Barth, you have written dozens of great books, and many of us think you are the greatest theologian in the world. Of all your many ideas, what is the most profound thought you have ever had?” Without a second’s hesitation, the great theologian replied, “Jesus loves me.”

It is refreshing to read words of pastors from other eras in the church.  Especially when those words haven’t been translated, and even cleansed in recent decades.  Even so, sometimes how things are said are shocking, they set us back, and cause us to process what we read.

Such an occurrence took place as I was reading from Spurgeon this morning.

Ravished?

That seems such an odd word to use regarding the love of God.  Whether it is used in the sense of carrying someone away (after pillaging their village) or causing an incredible level of intense delight (https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/ravish ), it just doesn’t seem right or maybe a better word, considering Spurgeon’s roots – proper.

But maybe that is precisely what is missing from Christianity today. We are missing a sense of the incredible idea of being raptured ( a synonym), not in the sense of eschatology. Instead, in the sense that as we realize we are loved by God, everything else is left behind, that the delight, the joy, the wonder of being loved transform where we are, and it is no longer the place we thought we were.

You see that kind of sentiment in the great preachers and saints throughout history.  John Chrysostom, Pascal, Saint Theresa, St Josemaria, Luther, all expressed that kind of experience, as they experienced the love of God. It is what mystics search after, these moments of transcendence, these moments of uncontrollable, heavenly bliss.

It is only from dwelling in that love that we can minister to others.  It is the only hope we have when we have been broken by the sin of the world and shattered by our own sin.  To let our soul be ravished by the love of God, as He takes us out of the brokenness, transforming us and giving us a new perspective on the world in which we dwell.

The world we dwell in, as we live in Him, and He in us. Completely loved and adored, beyond our imagination, beyond our understanding. Rather than trying to figure it out, perhaps it is better to acknowledge it, and the peace we gain from His presence. The Lord loves you! And even as you find delight in that, the realization should hit you, He delights in it as well!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.

Stop Defending Yourself!!!

man holding snowball

Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

But if we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away.  1 John 1:9 CEV

We need not worry about success because our love is guaranteed success, even if it does not move our neighbor to respond. For if we are one with Christ as members of His body, then our love is part of Christ’s love. It is not just an imitation from afar but a participation from within. And Christ’s love is guaranteed success, even though it was crucified in us and often continues to be crucified by the world. It is guaranteed success not because of its intentions or goals, but because of where it comes from: the Son’s perfect obedience to the Father.

671    “Jesus remains silent.”—Iesus autem tacebat. Why do you speak, to console yourself or to explain yourself? Say nothing. Seek joy in contempt: you’ll always receive less than you deserve. Can you, by any chance, ask: Quid enim mali feci?—“What evil have I done?”

Defending ourselves has become a national past-time it seems.

Some of us do so by going on the offensive and pointing out the flaws in others. Unless we are brave, we do this by social media. That way we add another layer of defensive offense to our armored position.

Others of us just back to the old ways, and attempt to rationalize and justify whatever it is we have done wrong. To explain why it was better to do it “our” way.  We might even blame it on God, projecting some command, twisting it, to make us look better.  After all, we were just obeying orders!

Maybe we fear that taking the silent approach simply confirms our guilt and the shame that goes along with it.  But surely, we aren’t that concerned with what “they” think?

Escriva notes that we will earn less contempt than we deserve, and I believe that is true. Kreeft points us to the fact that if we are crucified for being wrong, let it be crucified for loving others. Hard concepts to act upon, and yet, that is what we do.

This is completely logical!  If we are accused of anything else but loving God and those around us, we deserve the scorn.  If we are accused of doing that which is truly loving, then we are in the same situation as Jesus, and are assured that HIs sacrifice was used by the Father, so would ours be. He wins when that happens, and because we dwell in Him, so we win as well!

Either way, defending ourselves is worth so little…

So what if we are guilty, what if they are right? What if we are the ones who have done wrong?

1 John says it is simple to take care of that…

Let God absolve you, go to your pastor or priest, and let them tell you what you need to hear, what devours the guilt and shame, leaving behind joy and freedom.  And the ability to know the same love that nourishes our very soul, which enables us to love sacrificially.  Even if the sacrifice is our very lives.

So either we are loving as we should, proving God is with us, or we are corrected by our error and absolved to love as we should.

Either way, defending ourselves would simply get in the way…

Rejoce, the Lord is with you, and He will take care of the situation!

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 26.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Why I Don’t Care How Fast Your Church is Growing (or Shrinking)

IMAG0406

The church, is always in the midst of a storm… but safe in Him

Devotional Thought of the Day:

27  I will live there with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 28  When I place my Temple there to be among them forever, then the nations will know that I, the LORD, have chosen Israel to be my own people.” Ezekiel 37:27-28 (TEV)

I want you to know that God has never yet punished the world more harshly than by allowing blind and ignorant leaders to exist, who destroy us by withholding the Word of God and our bread. Let the Turks be Turks. This plague surpasses them. Woe unto us for not realizing this and praying for it to cease!
On the other hand, God has never been more gracious to the world than when he granted it well-informed and devoted spiritual leaders, who supplied this Word daily and abundantly. Christendom, and every Christian soul, is born in and through the Word of God.

The whole point of justification by faith is God’s scandalous, crazy, and wonderful gift of love.

Luther’s words are scathing, brutal, and today are as true as they ever have been.

O sure, we have more pastors with higher education perhaps, more and more of my friends are getting Doctor of Ministry and Ph.D./Th.D  degrees. I am going for one myself.

So why am I saying that we are in a period where church leaders are blind and ignorant?

I think it is because we are spending most of our time on things besides the gospel. We are trying to find the answers to the declining church attendance, the aging church, how to fight the decline in morality, the sociological and political jungles out there.  We hear the latest Barna report,, the latest Pew Research Study, the latest from our favorite religious blogger/vlogger/podcast and we treat our parishioners to our newfound wisdom, our conservative theological acumen, or our theory on how to get our churches to grow and be relevant while staying confessionally centered.

We might even wax eloquently on the core doctrine of Justification by Faith!

Yet we forget the point of justification is to return us to God, to cause us to walk in the presence of God. To realize, using Dr. Kreeft’s words, that God is scandalous, and crazy, as He loves us!

I don’t care if your church is growing 40 percent a year, or declining as you weed out the refuse. If pastors and church leaders aren’t revealing to people the wonderful, crazy, scandalous love of God for them, their work is a curse!  Whether the church is 2000 people on Sunday morning, or 24 faithful, confessional, traditional people.

We have to get back to preaching about God’s love for us broken people. It has to be our message.  We have to reveal to them that love as we preach and teach, as we give voice to God’s forgiving them (a wonderful, crazy, scandalous thing on its own,) as we give them the Body and Blood to eat and drink.

Pastors, do these things – we know they bring life to our people.  People, pray for your pastors, ask them to focus on revealing God’s love for you, constantly.  You are in this all together, and you are not alone.  For the scandalous, crazy, wonderful God who loves you, is with you!  AMEN!

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 55–56.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 25.

Last Blog of the Year: Is it time to finally grow up?

 

District photoDevotional Thought of the decade

11  When I was a little child I talked and felt and thought like a little child. Now that I am a man my childish speech and feeling and thought have no further significance for me. 12  At present we are men looking at puzzling reflections in a mirror. The time will come when we shall see reality whole and face to face! At present all I know is a little fraction of the truth, but the time will come when I shall know it as fully as God now knows me! 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (Phillips NT)4

1  You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. 2  Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. 3  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4  Your real life is Christ and when he appears, then you too will appear with him and share his glory! Colossians 3:1-4 (TEV)

All my life I search for this unique, individual self—my true self—and yet I never fully find it. Only God knows it fully, for He designed it. And only God can give it to me because He created it and is creating it right now, sculpting it with all the tools of heredity and environment that make up my life. None of us knows who we really are once we stop fooling ourselves. That knowledge and that destiny await us in our home. Our home is in Heaven because our true identity as individuals is waiting for us there. The character’s identity is found in the author’s mind and nowhere else.

While I have no need for my childish speech, feelings, and thoughts, this passage from 1 Corinthians 13 also makes it clear that I am not capable of the kind of understanding I would expect of someone who is more.. mature.  My ability to know reality and what is true is limited, and it will be until Jesus comes for us.

I struggle with that limitation, as much as I did as a 12-16-year-old when I thought I knew everything, or at least was making progress towards that audacious goal!  Like Peter Kreeft, I wanted to know who I was, and there were a lot of struggles on the way.

To be honest, I am not sure who I am… I could define myself as a musician, a pastor, a husband, a father, a son, and someone who suffers with Marfan’s Syndrome and probably am on the Asperger’s Spectrum as well.

None of those things really define me, and I can’t yet know who I am, only God knows. He is, as Kreeft acknowledges, still working on me, crafter me as a master craftsman only can.  (He is doing the same for YOU, by the way!)

Before I became a precocious teenager, I was far more content with not knowing everything, I was content with just learning, just experiencing, and I need to do that more in the next year. I need to be satisfied with less control, with having less wisdom than I think I need, to simply walking and living with God.  That is where I am truly content anyway.

Content playing the keyboard, content with my head in a book, learning what I can.  Content teaching people what I really know well, that “the Lord is with YOU!” Really content as I put in people’s hands the Body of Christ. Content as I see these things have an impact that only God can be responsible for, as He brings them to maturity, as they learn to depend on Him.

That’s is something I can’t control, I can’t plan for it to happen.  I can work on the opportunities, but it is something that I have to trust in God to make happen.  To trust Him as a child does, and perhaps like a much older person, who has wisdom.

God is with you…

and in 2020, come share in His feast!

and let us sing His praises together…

the rest will work itself out.

God’s peace from 2019…

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 22–23.

A Brutal but Blessed Truth…

DSCN0014

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you and formed your nation. Israel, don’t be afraid. I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. 2  When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won’t drown. When you walk through fire, you won’t be burned or scorched by the flames. 3  I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, the God who saves you. . Isaiah 43:1-3a (CEV)

A godly man often grows best when his worldly circumstances decay

I had always believed in God’s love and God’s omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together, saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), and applied this truth to my life, I could never again see the world the same way. If God is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then everything that happens is our spiritual food; and we should thank Him for it.

I am not sure I would use the phrase “godly man” to describe myself. Others might, assuming since I am a pastor, I must be.  But I know the difference, and so does God.

But I can say, I desire to be a Godly man, and that expresses my broken and sinful heart.  I desire it and know how deeply I fall short of it.  That God guarantees that I will be, that I am in His eyes because of Jesus is a great theological and often academic exercise, but there are days where theology doesn’t serve, and where my academic strengths fail.

It is then that I realize that even for who would desire godliness, the times of failure can be blessings.  Spurgeon is right, even for those like me. Kreeft says it even better – everything that happens to me, whether I am in control of it, or am not, is a result of God’s omnipotence, and more importantly, His love.

That’s hard to say when faced with disease and genetic disorders.  It is hard to face for those who suffer from mental illness, and for those who have been affected by the evil of others, or by their own, this is a brutal truth, and one that it is hard to comprehend, and harder to accept.

Even so, as I desire godliness, I must grow to trust, even when I struggle ot accept, that this is true. Even more so, I need to grow in trusting and sensing His presence when the deep waters come, and I feel like I am drowning.  Even more so when life feels like Dante is right about the inferno. When the pain and anguish seem to overwhelm, I need ot remember the promise of my baptism, and the discovery that I have made at the altar, that God is with us is not just words, it is a truth that is the purest of blessings, even when faced with the brutality of this world. Even when I am too tired to see it.

He is with us, He calls us by name, for we are His.

Even in the midst of “it”

Lord, help us to know Your presence in our lives, to experience the love that is beyond explanation, the peace which is beyond understanding.  Help us not to praise You because You rescued us, but because you made us Yours.  Lord, until you let the waters recede, and the fire be quenched, sustain us, and help us to be thankful for Your presence.. AMEN!

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 19.

The Problem of “Free Will” is we don’t want it freed….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Devotional Thought of the Day:

Jesus heard them and answered, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.”  Mark 2:17

You may say, “Well, did God not endow us with a free will?”19 I reply: To be sure, he gave you a free will. But why do you want to make it your own will? Why not let it remain free? If you do with it whatever you will, it is not a free will, but your own will. God did not give you or anyone else a will of your own. Your own will comes from the devil and from Adam, who transformed the free will received from God into his own. A free will does not want its own way but looks only to God’s will for direction. By so doing it then also remains free, untrammeled and unshackled.

The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ: “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”11 And they invite people of every era to enter into the joy of their communion with Christ:

I had perceived—via God’s grace, not my own wit, surely—that since God is love, we must therefore love God and love whatever God loves; that if we turn to the divine Conductor and follow the wise and loving baton that is His will, His Word, then the music of our life will be a symphony.

Over the years, I have heard people argue over the concept of free will.  Some would say we have it, others would simply say we don’t, that God is not only responsible for all of our actions, but He chooses what we will do, in every moment.  I’ve heard it blamed for our sinful choices, and for the temptations that we tried to avoid, but gave into and sinned.  Somehow people think because God gave us the ability to decide to wreck out lives, He is responsible for their breaking.

Until reading Luther this morning, I never conceived of the idea that free will could mean that it is not “our will”; not “my will” or “your will”, but the ability to simply have a will that is free, and therefore can be influenced by God,  A will that Kreeft describes himself realizing that God is love, and therefore we should resonate with His love, and love what He loves.  The power of free will then, is not aligning it to our own desires, but letting it be guided, let it resonate with the will of God.

After all, isn’t that the invitation Jesus came to deliver?  That those of us who are sinners, will be freed from sin, able to walk with Him?

That is why we train people in the faith; why we make disciples, not converts; why we catechize, answering the real questions of faith, rather than indoctrinate.

It’s not to force one’s will to be Christ’s, it is to help people see that their will, their Spirit, once clean of all sin of all injustice, resonates with Jesus.  For we were made in God’s image, and the Spirit causes us to realize this, as we realize the love of God.

This resonance is why salvation, realizing God has removed dampen and distort our lives, is so joyous. A guitar or violin string doesn’t have to be forced to sound, a similar string resonating brings its movement and sound.  Just as the word of God resonates with a truly “free will” creating joy where it resounds.

Heavenly Father, please, once again, send the Holy Spirit to remove all that would distort and dampen the will the Holy Spirit has restored.  In Jesus’ name!  Amen!

 

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 48

Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997), 107..

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 16.

The LIGHT Streams Into Our Lives: a sermon based on John 1:10-14

The Light Streams in Our Lives
John 1:10-14

In Jesus Name

May the grace, mercy, and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ shock you!

  • Kreeft and Love

I just started a new book, one I didn’t know a favorite author named Peter Kreeft wrote. In the introduction, he writes something quite startling,

“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.
[1]

Even as I encountered this in my readings this week, It took me a moment to think about it.  Do we know what love is? Do we really know understand it, have we experienced it?

Does it shock you when I tell you that God loves you enough that Jesus died, for you! For you Tom, for you Sandy, for you Missy, even for you who are watching this…

God loves you…

Does it still shock you, this love, when you hear the words I speak at Jesus’ command, “Your sins are forgiven you!”

Or when, into your hand, or on your tongue I place the Body of Christ, and the deacon gives you the cup containing His blood?  Are you startled then?

If you aren’t, I apologize.

I haven’t revealed to you clearly enough what it means that God is love… and that love is aimed at you.

  • Would we recognize Him today? Or would we reject Him?

In the St. John’s gospel, there is something as staggering to hear,

10  He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11  He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

I still don’t understand this, how in the world could they miss Him with the way he taught, so different from all the others.  He who brought healing into their lives, He who dared to forgive the vilest of sins.

He who had compassion on the most broken, those haunted by their sin, those possessed by demons, those who couldn’t be faithful to Him, like Peter and James and John…who even doubted when they saw Him risen from the dead and about to ascend to heaven.

How could they not recognize Him? Consider what Peter would write, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Yet they did not recognize Him, and I am not sure we do either when we encounter Him in the lives of the people He so dearly loves.  And even if we realize it from a theological perspective, that doesn’t mean we realize His love for us.

We need to have Jesus revealed to us, through Word and Sacrament, we have to be reminded of His presence and His love.

His love streams among us

So what does it mean when John’s gospel and Peter’s epistle say that saw His glory, His majestic splendor.  What is that they saw, when Jesus came and made His home with them, with us?

Simply put, it is the fact that God is love.  And that He loves us- this is what they saw… God, in Christ, had compassion on them, he was charitable towards them. He loved them, just as He loves us.

From Peter Kreeft again (did I start the right week to read this, or what?_

Jesus does not merely give us advice about agape. He gives us agape. He exchanges selves with us: we are put in Him, and He is put in us. He is the Love that “does not insist on its own way”. First Corinthians 13 is a description of Christ. His love can be in us only because He is in us. We attain agape not by trying a little harder but by faith, by believing and thus receiving (Jn 1:12), by letting Him in, letting Him invade us, possess us, haunt us.[2]

This is it, we can love because He loves us.

We are loved.  How much?  Look at the cross, see what He experienced there, so you can experience His love.  Look at the font, where He brings you into Himself, fuses your life to His own. Come to the altar…. And realize how much love it takes to forgive every single sin you have committed.  No, how much it cost to forgive just that sin.

All this stuff about Christmas, the gifts, the tree, the flowers, the manger, it is all there to convince you of this.

So that you can believe in Him, trust in Him, and know that you have become the children of God. Shocking isn’t it… You are loved.

God loves you. He wants you with Him, now and forever

I can’t explain it any clearer than that.

God loves you… and always will.  AMEN!

[1] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.

[2] Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 85.

I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means!

This word... princess pride

Devotional Thoughts for the Day:
16  God is wonderful and glorious. I pray that his Spirit will make you become strong followers 17  and that Christ will live in your hearts because of your faith. Stand firm and be deeply rooted in his love. 18  I pray that you and all of God’s people will understand what is called wide or long or high or deep. 19  I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. Ephesians 3:16-19 (CEV)

How sweet amidst all the uncertainties of life, to know that “the foundation of the Lord standeth sure,” and to have God’s own promise, “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.” Like dying David, I will sing of this, even though my house be not so with God as my heart desireth.

“God loves you”—isn’t that the most well-worn of clichés? It’s just standard filler for the laziest, most obvious and repetitive homilies. Smile. Yawn. Everybody knows that by now, at least everybody who has ever been in a church or read a Bible.
No. Exactly the opposite. It is not familiar. It is shattering. It changes everything. And most Christians do not realize it.

If hearing God is love doesn’t cause you to step back in shock, and in awe, then perhaps you don’t know who He is, or you don’t understand what love means.

That claim of Peter Kreeft is pretty shocking, and the more I think about it, the more certain I am that he is right.

I wish I knew why we don’t understand that God is love, and that He loves you and me.

The more I think about it, that would be my one desire in life, to be able to make people understand this word “love’ and how it binds God’s heart and soul to ours, how it should become our reason for existence.

For it is how we live, and why we live… …

Think about it.

Not I mean it – for a few minutes.

It should shatter us, it should make us weep, it should make us question why, knowing the depth our sin, and how much we, as Spurgeon wrote, don’t have our house with God as much as we desire.

Yet He still loves us.

We need to explore that, savor that, let it rock us to the very foundations of our lives.

It should shock us, this desire of God to care for us, to be devoted to us, to know us so well, to love us.

Take time each day to think that through, each morning, and evening, and every moment in between that you have a moment.

God is love…and that Love is directed to you.  AMEN!

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 11.

%d bloggers like this: