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Love is, Jesus is, We are: Not Demanding Our Own

church at communion 2Love is, Jesus Is, We are

Not Demanding of our Way

1 Corinthians 13:5

In Jesus Name

 May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe that you walk humbly with Him, rejoicing in His presence!

Love is not 

The song we just sang, and have sung each week during Lent is a hard one for me to sing.  Simply because it calls me to admit how I feel when I look at what God expects from us when I realize how hard it is to love, to truly love someone else….

When I realize how hard it is for me to love God with everything I am, all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.  To love my neighbor as I love myself.

Especially when loving means that I don’t get what I want, that what is in my best interest, what I think is right has to be set aside.

We hear from Paul that love does not demand its way.  It is not zealous; it doesn’t put all its energy seeking what it desires, what it wants, even what it needs.  Or what it thinks is the right way to go….

And I as read this, the words to that song come to mind…

“my eyes are dry, my faith is old, my heart is hard, my prayers are cold.  And I know how I ought to be, alive to you, and dead…. To me.

I would have thought I would be better at this by this time in my life, that I wouldn’t get so riled up when I didn’t get my way, that I wouldn’t be so hurt when what I know is right is denied by bureaucracy or systems that don’t consider the effect they have on people.

There are still times where I want to shake some sense into people……

You know what I mean?  What were they thinking?  How could they be so blind, so stupid,

and then I read this passage and realize how far I’ve strayed from what God desires….

For even if I am right, even if the way I demand is right, too often in demanding it I will win the battle, but I will lose the war.

Jesus is not

When we consider any aspect of love, it helps to see it in action, and the perfect example is usually Jesus.  Okay, it is always Jesus, for only Jesus was perfect enough to love completely, and only Jesus, in that love provides the cure for when we aren’t loving.

In this case, we could look at the times when people begged for mercy, and Jesus went out of his way to provide it, to provide food for those that wouldn’t leave him alone, and followed him out into the wilderness.

Or we can look in the garden, and see Jesus asking the Father for an option to the cross.

38  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39  He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Matthew 26:38-39 (NLT)

That certainly is not demanding your way!

And it was done so that you and I could know the depth of God’s love for us, for the cup of suffering he took, included the betrayals, the beatings, the cross,

and death.

He didn’t demand his way, but as Isaiah prophesied, like a lamb, he was silent.

We are not!

So what about us?  How can we whose hearts are dry, whose faith is old, find the strength to love so sacrificially?  How can we deny ourselves and take up our cross, and be silent?

On our own, we cannot.

As God guides Paul to write these words, they are there.  This is what our confessions talk about as the describe the “New Obedience,” the way we begin to live as we trust and depend on God.

As we explore His love, as we come to realize our need and trust in God’s work, the Holy Spirit teaches us we are loved, and brings us to the point where we can love God and those around us.  He shapes us the way an artist draws, guiding our lives as we look to Jesus, as we stand in awe of His love.

The way to love is not just to study the character of Jesus, but to know His love, to look to Him for that love and be amazed, to see the depth of His care for you and those around you, understanding what He promises, and rejoicing and treasuring the hope He gives.

Loving isn’t something that happens easily, but it is something that happens as we know we are loved.

A love that leaves us so at peace, so content, that we simply lay aside everything else to enjoy it, including the way we once so zealously demanded.

That peace is beyond our understanding, but for those who know God’s love, it is our reality, for Christ guards our hearts and minds in that peace.  AMEN!

Love is, Jesus is, We are! Never Jealous, Boastful, or Proud

church at communion 2Love Is, Jesus is, We are
Never Jealous, Boastful or Proud

 In Jesus Name

 As we explore the dimensions of God the Father’s love for us, revealed clearly in Jesus, may we realize that He is not only loving us, but teaching us to love as well!


Love IS

 Last week when we defined love, we heard about the fact that love never gives up and that love always cares for others more than itself.  Which is the basic definition of the word cHesed in the Old Testament.

Those two characteristics are expanded this evening, as we look what Love is, and see that is who Jesus is, and become surprised that God is working in us, transforming us until that is who we are.

We see it take another step as we realize that love is NEVER jealous, that it is not boastful, that it is not proud.

Some interesting words there, all that are related to a heart that is self-centered that is driven by a need to have something, whether it goods, or admiration or applause. Love doesn’t need that, it is content, confident of the presence of God and the promises of God.

But how do we become so confident in where God has us, that we cease to be jealous, that we have need to boast, that we simply, humbly walk with God?

Jesus Is

The answer, as we will see throughout this Lent begins with Jesus, for you can read this passage of scri[ture and simply substitute Jesus for the word love, and nothing changes.

He wasn’t jealous, even though He left everything, every right, every possession aside when He was born of Mary, but also when He began to preach and teach, and when He went to the cross and died.

There was no need for Him to boast, instead of taking the best place, He washed feet, and ministered to the Leper, and had compassion on widows and Samaritans.

And what to be proud of?  That He could do miracles?  That He could teach thousands?  That he could confound the best and brightest by simple God-centered answers to the questions they planned to trap Him with?

What good would any of that have done.

Instead, He did what He came to do, He loved.  He was love!

We Are

So how does Jesus help us overcome our self-centeredness?  How does He help us lay aside what we desire, and our need for admiration?  How does He transform us into people that like Him, prefer to be last, and prefer to lift others up instead of themselves?

The gospels tell us that as Jesus is lifted up, He will draw all to Him.  And as they are drawn to them, as they look on and adore the Lord who delivers them from their own sin’s punishment,

As we grow in understanding that we are loved by God, our need to be self-centered can disappear, little by little.

As you understand that His love for you compels Him to care for you, to act on your behalf, so jealousy fades away, as does the need for the acclaim and applause of others.  He loves you, and that is so overwhelming that it is more than enough.    Indeed, I am not sure I can even comprehend with my mind fully to realize what that means… that God loves you and me that much.

But my mind doesn’t have to, my heart and soul do, especially while I am at the altar, and receiving the Body and Blood of Christ……

It is then I understand these words of Mary,

46 … “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48  For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49  For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50  He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51  His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
Luke 1:46-51 (NLT)

And quietly, as we are in awe of this love God shows us, the Holy Spirit is doing what the Apostle Paul described,

16  But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17  For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

That is what is happening to you my friends, as you dwell in God’s peace.  AMEN!

 

 

 

Love is, Jesus IS, We are! Sermons for Lent #1 Patient and Kind

concordia lutheran button only logo (1) - CopyLove Is; Jesus is; We are

Patient and Kind

 In Jesus Name

 As you experience the grace and mercy of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ may you see God enabling you to really love Him and others!

During this season of Lent, many people think we are to beat ourselves up for our sin.  That we give up something in order to atone for our continued sin, to show God how sorry for what we’ve done, and what we’ve failed to do.

That’s not completely accurate, though it moves us to where we need to be.

The goal of Lent is to stop us, to help us realize we aren’t who we should be, as the children of God. Not to beat us up, but to encourage us to have a life that is more like Jesus’ life.  The goal is to build in us a desire to imitate Christ, and to live like Paul, who could say, “imitate me as I imitate Christ”.

Love Is

So this Lent, we are looking at one of the best descriptions of Jesus we can find, one we hear more often at weddings.  We’ll take a couple of the descriptions each week, and this week we are looking at these two.  

Love is patient and Love is kind.

The Message translation gives us another perspective:

Love never gives up.

Love cares for others more than for self.

Can you imagine if we were so patient we never gave up?  Or if everyone was more interested in what was good for others rather than just being self-centered?

Not just within families and churches, but if everyone loved everyone. This is who we are supposed to be!

This is not just a nice idea, it is what God commands us to do, to love Him, to love our neighbors, to love those who hate us.  We know this, but I wonder if we desire it, if this is truly who we want to be.

It should be

Jesus Is

As we look at love being described by St Paul, we have to realize how it describes Jesus Christ, who was the perfect, sinless man.  If we evaluated how he loved by these words, we see it perfectly.

Not just with his patience and not giving up on the Apostles, especially Peter.  But Jesus doesn’t give up on us, He isn’t even tempted to do so.

And we see his kindness, His putting others first as He ministered to those around them, having compassion on the crowds who followed them, always being able to find the people who needed His care.  Being there for those who would give up, or struggle with their sin, and don’t know how to break it.

This is what the Apostle John meant when he said God is love, for in Jesus, they found out what that really means…we see this amazing level of patience, that God will embrace suffering a long time, for His goal is bring everyone to repentance, to transform everyone so that their lives are a picture of Christ’s love.  That is the ultimate example of kindness,

We Are

So we know this description of love should describe our life as well.  We know it doesn’t, at least as we struggle with it, so how can we desire to grow in our ability to love?

The answer is on all of your minds.  Look, you can see it on those around you.

The cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for you.  We could put a blob on your forehead, but we put a cross.  To remind you that while you have sinned, you really aren’t sinners anymore.

You have been united to Christ, and the ashes that mark you, mark you as His, just as the cross made over your head and heart at baptism did.  His sacrifice, His body and blood broken and given for you provides the answer.

It is what we need to spend contemplating.  As we think about this great love, a love that cleanses us from sin, and leaves us holy, set apart to God, set apart for God to dwell with.  The more we spend time talking to God, exploring the breadth and width, the height and depth of His love, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us, causing and enabling us to love as He does…. For we are with Him.

As the song we will sing in a moment says, where You are Lord, I am free….

Free to love.. to be patient, to be kind, to be like Christ who not only sets you free, but makes you Holy.

AMEN!

 

The Better Way to Be a Success

Devotional Thought of the day:DSCF0066

30  Do we all have the gift of healing? Do we all have the ability to speak in unknown languages? Do we all have the ability to interpret unknown languages? Of course not! 31  So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all. 1  If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 4  Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5  or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6  It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7  Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 12:30 – 13:7(NLT)

100      Charity succeeds always. Without charity nothing can be done. Love, then, is the secret of your life… Do love! Suffer gladly. Toughen up your soul. Invigorate your will. Make sure that you surrender yourself to God’s will, and efficacy will follow.

We live in a environment that is consumed with the ideas of success.  From being successful in business, to being successful parents, to crafting that special meme that gets a bazillion likes, to even being on a successful weight loss program, we lust after success.  As pastors, there are people that measure our success by how much we agree with their favorite theologian or theological system.  There are others who will measure us by whether our church grows at a certain rate.

This morning I even saw a recognition of success that was scary.  It was given to an abortion clinic by Planed Parenthood that exceeded their prior year to date tally.  I am not sure I would call that success.  For that matter most of what we call a success, I am not sure is all that successful in the long run. Wealth, prosperity, a killer hot body?  Which of those will have importance after we’ve gone?

Even more, we are driven not to fail at what we do.  We will move mountains to avoid it, to not have to confess that our plans didn’t work out the way we thought they would.  People will strive to succeed to avoid failure, and they will strive to cover up their failures, neglecting to make them valuable by learning from them.

This even happens in the church, and its been a problem for a long time.  Look at the letter to the church in Corinth, they are consumed by it!  .  I’ve done things that failed miserably.  In other things, some consider me successful. I am not sure there either.

When I feel successful, is when I hear people singing (\with conviction and heart praising God as they recognize His love for them.  (that’s true even when they sing off-key… sometimes more so!)  When they approach the altar to receive the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. When a family and friends gather around as someone is baptised, receiving all the promises of God..

Success as a human being is ultimately measured by love.  Can you love, even love your enemies?

The reason that is the measure?  It’s not because it proves you are saintly, a person of great will and wisdom. It’s not because you are more special, or gifted, or even obedient.

It’s because such loves demonstrates the work of Christ in your life, that you walk with God, that you have been given the power and the desire to do God’s work.

Success is found in knowing His love…. the love that the Holy Spirit reveals to you in the word of God, and through the sacraments.

You want to be successful?  it is simple, though as Escriva says, it is tough and requires great strength to trusts in Christ Jesus….and as the apostle Paul says, it is the better way…..

The way of Love, the way of Christ.

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 563-566). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

You must be a Theophilus (Loved/r of God before being a Theologian

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 2  I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 (TEV)

7  The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. 8  Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ 9  and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousnessPhilippians 3:7-9 (MSG) 

“You wrote to me: “To pray is to talk with God. But about what?” About what? About him, and yourself: joys, sorrows, successes and failures, great ambitions, daily worries—even your weaknesses! And acts of thanksgiving and petitions—and love and reparation. In short, to get to know him and to get to know yourself— “to get acquainted!”” (1)

For the last year or so, I have been toying with the idea of going back to school, to get a doctoral degree.  I’ve thought about which degree to get, for there are a number of fields that interest me – from worship, to sociology, to counseling, to homiletics and other pragmatic areas of ministry.  Yesterday I went back to where it all started, 30 years ago this fall, as I entered a “non-denom” Bible College – in a very accidental “God-thing” type moment.

Combine with that preparing to preach this weekend – “Trinity Sunday” we call it, a day to meditate upon how God has revealed Himself to us, as three distinct, yet …..One.  One of the greatest, most complicated theological doctrines there is, and yet, still so far out of ability to comprehend. ( Read the Athanasian Creed – an incredibly beautiful explanation of God, yet each phrase, raises more questions, leaves us more in awe.  And for a theologian, albeit an amateur one, (as all pastors are – as serving others takes precedence…always… over such deep thoguhts) I love to just sit back and plumb the depths of the minds who wrote far more comprehensively than I can think.

But then I come to St. Paul – a man who was a first rate theologian in his day, prior to His conversion, who wrote the quotes above.   It doesn’t matter how much I know, I’ve got to realize I am loved, I have to understand why Paul so desired to be embraced by Christ, why everything else took a back seat to knowing, not the details.

Which is where Theophilus – the person Luke writes his gospel for comes in.  The name in Greek is Loved by God/Lover of God. But it is that relationship that matters, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have revealed that we are the beloved, that we never walk alone, that we have been cleansed and healed and are loved.   It is starting from there, realizing the miracles our being justified and sanctified are only to deliver us, the children of the Father, the ones Jesus calls His friends, the ones who are the Home of the Holy Spirit.  We must be Theophilus, before we ever become Theologians..

English: Gergeti Trinity Church cross relief

English: Gergeti Trinity Church cross relief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would never say to not study theology, but first, come to know God, as St Josemaria says – get acquainted with Him in prayer.  Talk to Him – about everything and anything.  Listen to Him, hear Him tell you of His love, of His mercy, of His grace.  That is what matters, in a way, it is ALL that matters….. for knowledge even all the data we can generate about Trinity – without that love… is nothing….empty…worthless.

I pray for you  (and ask you to pray for me, as the apostle Paul did for the people of Ephesus…

 14  For this reason I fall on my knees before the Father, 15  from whom every family in heaven and on earth receives its true name. 16  I ask God from the wealth of his glory to give you power through his Spirit to be strong in your inner selves, 17  and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love, 18  so that you, together with all God’s people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ’s love. 19  Yes, may you come to know his love—although it can never be fully known—and so be completely filled with the very nature of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (TEV)

 

 

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 365-368). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Charity… another word that lost its meaning….

Devotioal thought of the day….

I have a few friends who talk about the superiority of the translation of the King James Version…As an pastor – I disagree for a number of reasons, one of which is that the words used in the last revision, are no longer used, or are used in a way completely foreign to our use today.  We cannot understand them without a dictionary nearby – and worse – we don’t always know that the word has changed.  Such results often in poor theology.

Occasionally though, I wish we could reclaim a word here and there – because the English word is loaded used instead has far too many meanings as well – such as the word “love”  (in Greek there are four words that translate into the word – ranging from eros ( sexual), to agape – the word for love, which is the word used when we describe God with the phrase – God is love. ( the funny thing is the KJV uses love most of the time for agape. )

In 1 Cor 13, the famous love chapter, the KJV uses a different word for love – here is the passage – and the word I wish we could restore a meaning to…

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (KJV) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling 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, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.  

This word, charity, too is often misunderstood – indeed we have changed it drastically over the years – and we think of “a” charity – the recipient of donations, which does something worthwhile with them to help those less fortunate.  We think about it almost condescendingly – that they are the place where we deposit our excess, our leftovers, our hand-me-downs. It is the place that ministers to the “least of these…” (yet do we remember the kingdom parable of the sheep and the goats, and remember who is the least of these?”

Charity is far more than that – and yes – it is loving someone beyond what they deserve – but a love that has a specific character – one of action, or of devotion, one that seeks not to give the remnants, not just what is needed desperately, but what is…the best – that which would complete the person, no matter the cost.  In order to do this – it requires a Christlike, godly character, one willing to sacrifice what is best for the other.  It is far from condecension, far from simply pity, it is the depth of a relationship – that is what agape/charity is.

It is what we are called to – as we use who God has crafted us to be (see chapter 12) to serve/minister (same word in Greek) those around us.  I love how St Josemarie Escriva describes it:

557      Saint Paul has given us a wonderful recipe for charity: alter alterius onera portate et sic adimplebitis legem Christi – bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfil the law of Christ. Is this what happens in your life? 558      Jesus Our Lord loved men so much that he became incarnate, took to himself our nature, and lived in daily contact with the poor and the rich, with the just and with sinners, with young and old, with Gentiles and Jews. He spoke constantly to everyone: to those who showed good will towards him, and to those who were only looking for a way to twist his words and condemn him. You should try to act as Our Lord did.  (1)

The second comment is included to help define the Lord’s charity/love towards us, and the way we should imitate him – and have charity towards those that twist our love and condemn us as well.

So in these last days of the year – as charities are calling asking you to give…may it become a reminder to truly depend on Jesus, truly look to Him, truly reflect His glory and  become truly one who shows charity – by going beyond, by loving without measure, by being like Christ

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2091-2099). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

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