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God’s Faithful Love! A Sermon on Lamentations 3:22-33

church at communion 2God’s Faithful Love
Lamentations 3:22-33

I.H.S.

May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bring you peace and help you to realize how faithfully He loves you!  And knowing this, may you learn to wait in hope, knowing He will never abandon you forever!

Fear of Abandonment

In that day, people had turned their back on God.  They had chosen lives filled with immorality and deceit, lives that were so perverse that they didn’t even realize how badly they were enslaved to sin.

They were beginning to reap the consequences of their action, as families were divided, as their cities were being destroyed from within and without, as they were no longer a place where refugees came for hope, but a place where they fled from, not with any plan, but they simply had to “get away.

They were a people that were broken, much like many in our community in our nation, in our world today.  There felt like they were alone – and that they were abandoned by God.  This was reinforced by the shame that what they were experiencing, shame they knew they deserved because of their sin.  They felt abandoned, without any hope…

And then a prophet spoke.

There would be healing, so that even in their grief, they would know not only that God was compassionate, they would experience that compassion.  For God has promised that His love is faithful and unending, that His mercy, His compassion, His work forgiving and restoring people will never end.

And this faithful love of God endures today.  It is why this church can be what we say it is, the place where people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.

Submitting to the yoke…together

I want to read verse 24 through 27 again,

24  I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!” 25  The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. 26  So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. 27  And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline: 28  Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands

While we look at 26 through 28 a little closer, please keep in mind the attitude expressed in 24 and 25, that we have hope, for God is our inheritance, that He is good to those who depend upon Him.

But in verse 26-28 we find some things that are… challenging, and if we think through them, disturbing.

The first is that it is good to wait quietly, (and the Hebrew includes the idea of expectantly) for God to rescue us.  Let’s get past the word salvation and realize that this is a matter of spiritual life and death we are talking about.

This word salvation, getting down to simple thoughts, is about being rescued, about being picked up from the crap that we have gotten ourselves into, the trouble we have made for ourselves, the sin we committed, that leaves us broken, frustrated, and alone.

The issue of sin is the reason Jeremiah tells us that it is better for us to submit to a yoke of discipline at an early age.  A little explanation there.  A yoke was that which was put over a team of oxen or horses’ necks so that they could be used to work.  It was a way of controlling them, but even more, a way of teaching and guiding them.  For a new ox would be paired with one who was experienced and together they would get the job done,

In the same way, it may seem hard to think of God disciplining people, but He doesn’t leave us alone, for as He disciplines us with that yoke, he is also carrying it with us, doing the work, making sure we “get” it, never leaving us alone, even though we think we can’t bear it anymore.

And that is the way it is throughout our entire life.  Even when we struggle, He is there, right beside us, working us through it, bringing us back on track.  Far better to learn this as a young person, but it is never too late!

For we find as God guides us, even if it is with a “strong hand” that we not only endure, we are blessed by His presence, even if we don’t really enjoy His strong hand, and His correction.

His Mercies begin Fresh, they never cease

But this is what it means that His love is faithful, and it never ends.  God’s love for you and it means that He will always, always do what is best for us.  That is the nature of this love, this cHesed.  It binds Him to us, His love for us demands He be faithful to us, even when that faithfulness isn’t easy, or comfortable, say for instance when it required the death of Jesus.

On the cross.

Because He loves us, and He will not ever give up on us, or abandon us.  But we live forever with Him.

In this book of lament, there is one thing that still amazes me, and brings me to tears, not of grief, sorrow or shame.

It is verse 23, “His mercies begin afresh every morning.”

Every morning.  No matter how bad I screwed up yesterday, no matter how shameful my sin, no matter how badly you think you shattered that relationship, that mercy, that bond that God has with you is there, as new and precious as it was when He cleansed you from sin in your baptism.

That is why we are told to remember our baptism every evening before we go to sleep, so that we may sleep without guilt and shame, and why we should begin every day thinking of what God promised us here, not just the forgiveness of sin, but the presence of the Holy Spirit, who will accompany you all day, guiding you, correcting you, comforting you.

That is the faithfulness that Jeremiah offered to the sin-ridden people of Israel

And it is the faithful love of God I promise you is there, for you this day.

God is with you, and because of that, you can know He will be merciful, He will forgive because He loves you.  And like Jeremiah, as He is healing you, you can reach out to others who need healing.

For you can live with Him, knowing His incredible peace, now and forever!

Let’s pray.

Awe: Love that Embraces…. Pain?

Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.   Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)

9  Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good. 10  Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another. 11  Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the Lord with a heart full of devotion. 12  Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. 13  Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. 14  Ask God to bless those who persecute you—yes, ask him to bless, not to curse. 15  Be happy with those who are happy, weep with those who weep. 16  Have the same concern for everyone. Do not be proud, but accept humble duties. Do not think of yourselves as wise.   Romans 12:9-16 (TEV)

Love has certain standard features. Sometimes we speak o love as if it were an impulse to self-satisfaction or a mere means to selfish fulfillment of one’s own personality. But that’s not love. True love means going out of oneself, giving oneself. Love brings joy, but a joy whose roots are in the shape of a cross. As long as we are on earth and have not yet arrived at the fullness of the future life, we can never have true love without sacrifice and pain. This pain becomes sweet and lovable; it is a source of interior joy. But it is an authentic pain, for it involves overcoming one’s own selfishness and taking Love as the rule of each and every thing we do.

As my son, moments after being born, was laid on my wife’s chest, I witnessed a sense of profound joy. Despite the pain, despite the discomfort, despite the complete lack of privacy, there was great joy!  (Enough so that i didn’t realize my mask was on backward and I was about to pass out from breathing my CO2!)

I thought of that scene as I read the words of St. Josemaria.  They are correct, to love people can hurt, it can disappoint, it can demand that we make sacrifices, or embrace situations where our dignity is cast aside. It is not the one who is our beloved that demands this, but love itself means we take action, we sacrifice, and we embrace the pain.

And yet, I think about the smile on my wife’s face, and realize this dear priest is right again – the pain is no less sharp, the tears no less real, and yet the joy given in the sacrifice is wonderful. .There is no one, in the midst of loving another, that would say the love isn’t worth it, that they would rather go without the one they love. ( again I remind you – the beloved does no, should not demand the sacrifice, or require the pain – that doesn’t love)

This involves us, as St. Paul notes, in the joy and tears of those we love. When one hurts, we all hurt.  When one is enjoying life, that sparks joy in us all.   In every way, the community of faith is affected alongside those who are loved by God together. Who are united in that love, and therefore begin to truly love each other.  We truly embrace the costs of loving, just as Jesus did, know the joy that comes from this love, not only in heaven, but now in reconciliation, and in sharing in the blessings of God.

It even makes those who believe they are our enemies, our beloved.  Just as Christ loves us when we were His enemies.

This is love.

While it is unmerited by the beloved, it costs the one who loves.

But the joy, in inexpressible, beautiful awe-inspiring.

You are the beloved, and because of that, you also love.

Escriva, Josemaria. Christ is Passing By (Kindle Locations 1387-1392). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

where does loving my neighbor stop…..

Devotional Thought fo the Day:
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16  And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us. God is love, and those who live in love live in union with God and God lives in union with them. 17  Love is made perfect in us in order that we may have courage on the Judgment Day; and we will have it because our life in this world is the same as Christ’s. 18  There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear. So then, love has not been made perfect in anyone who is afraid, because fear has to do with punishment. 19  We love because God first loved us. 20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:16-21 (TEV)

869      If you really loved God with all your heart, then that love for your neighbour, which you sometimes find so hard to have, would come as a necessary consequence of your Great Love. You would never feel hostility towards anyone, nor would you discriminate between people.

Your neighbor, the one that cut you off on the freeway.  Or maybe the one who was promoted over you unfairly at work, he’s your neighbor, isn’t he?  what about your old high school friend, who stabbed you in the back/  Or what about that false preacher, the guy who doesn’t agree with anyone else (or so it seems) in your denomination, is he your neighbor?

If these are those you are called to love, is there a point where you can stop loving them?

Where you can with all purity of heart wish God’s wrath to fall on them?  Where you can hope that they receive justice, and not the mercy of God?

i can perhaps come up with 50 reasons I should be able to just hate them, or dismiss them into obscurity.  Those I have heard as a pastor, and some I came up with myself.   We may not want to deal with them, we may not want them in our neighborhood, or our church, or our denomination.

Yet, we are still called to love them. To not only do what is best for them, but to do it in a loving way.  (not gritting our teeth, or just saying – this will hurt  – but its what’s best for you… )  We are still called ot be like Christ in the way we deal with them.

I had a friend who once said you don’t change anything as a pastor within your church, until you know its place so well it hurts you to change it.  If that is true for a practice, or a tradition, can you see the necessity of the same attitude towards a person?

this is the atitude of God, so clearly seen in the words from Ezekiel,

10  The LORD spoke to me. “Mortal man,” he said, “repeat to the Israelites what they are saying: ‘We are burdened with our sins and the wrongs we have done. We are wasting away. How can we live?’ 11  Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live. Israel, stop the evil you are doing. Why do you want to die?” Ezekiel 33:10-11 (TEV)

Would you cry over than neighbor’s continued lack of repentance? Or would you rejoice?  Would you carry a cross for them, for the joy set before you?  Or would you simply dismiss them as having rejected God, because they rejected you? ( And would you count on Jesus to forgive you your debts, even as you refuse to forgive them theirs?

Hard questions? Sure!

But they should cause you to run to the only place the answer can be found.  In the wounds of Christ crucified, in the eyes of the one who cries out for our forgiveness, even as He steals our sins from us.

You see, to love your neighbor like this requires only one thing…. our unity with Christ.

Nothing else will make it happen, nothing else will cause us to desire it to happen.  We will search for every lookhole, try to find every exception, Look back into our lives to every pain and challenge God saying, “You can’t mean this one Lord, the pain is too hard”

It is then we realize the depth of our need for Jesus…. and His faithfulness.

Which is what we need to know about Jesus.

May every service, every mass, every Bible study with others, every quiet time of prayer, devotion and study, reveal to us His presence… so we can know the impossible, is certainly doable….. AMEN

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3073-3075). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

What does Jesus “require” of His followers?

Devotional thought of the day:

 6 ‘With what shall I enter Yahweh’s presence and bow down before God All-high? Shall I enter with burnt offerings, with calves one year old? 7 Will he be pleased with rams by the thousand, with ten thousand streams of oil? Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong-doing, the child of my own body for my sin? 8 ‘You have already been told what is right and what Yahweh wants of you. Only this, to do what is right, to love loyalty and to walk humbly with your God.’      Micah 6:6-8 (NJB)

Nunc coepi!—now I begin! This is the cry of a soul in love which, at every moment, whether it has been faithful or lacking in generosity, renews its desire to serve—to love!—our God with a wholehearted loyalty. (1)

If you know the Bible quote above, you are probably wondering why verse 8 just doesn’t sound right, especially if you are used to the KLV, the NKJV, NIV, or other main translations.

There are at least three reasons, at least three very important ones, in my opinion.

The first is that the NJB doesn’t use the word “require”, as in “this is what the Lord requires of you”.   Of the translations in Hebrew dictionaries and lexicons, require isn’t a major term for this.  To seek with care, or simply  to seek is how they translate they translate this.  This verse describes what God desires, it is what He has worked to, and is trying to develop within us.  It is the journey Christ takes, it is the mission of God, to seek this out in us, and to do it with care…

Yet, when the word is reduced to “require”, it becomes what theologians call “law”.  One translation even uses the word “demands”.  In doing so, it makes of God and omnipotent King, a demanding despot, a God who will strike you down, for not meeting His demands.  It is, in many ways, just the opposite of what the passage is trying to communicate, for it nullifies the very work of God, as He seeks out carefully, and He nourishes and develops us into what we are, in Christ.

The second thing that might sound odd is the “loving loyalty,” as we have always heard this as loving “mercy”.  If you’ve read my blogs for a while, or heard a sermon or two, this is my favorire Hebrew word, cHesed.  It contains the thoughts of love, mercy, favor, kindness, loyalty.  As a technical term, it describes a relationship that is so bound together that those in it will constantly work to make sure the other person is not only cared for, but that they will help the person fulfill the obligations they have to the one helping.  It is loyalty above and beyond the call of duty.  It is the loyalty that is so defined in the person of God, that we can see it in His patience with Israel, His work developing the people in scripture, from Moses and Gideon and David and Peter and Paul, to the ultimate example – God wants us in a relationship with Him so much that Christ comes to do what we cannot – to make us righteous – at the cost of His body and blood….

This kind of loyalty, mercy, love, is what God seeks to develop in us.  We can’t impress Him with what we bring to the relationship – but He works within us to help us see His love, mercy, loyalty….. and we fall in love with Him because of it.  That is what He seeks.

The third thing  is the reason I love the New Jersulalem Bible.  It doesn’t replace God’s holy Name with the substitute, “Lord” like every other translation does.   Luther’s explanation of the commandment “You shall not misuse the Name of YHWH (the Lord)” works with the positive as well as the obvious negative.  I roughly  Don’t use God’s name in vain means we should use it!  We should use it to lay our burdens down before Him, We should praise Him and thank Him and adore Him, with the name He has given us to use, to call Him by.

I sort of understand this – I have people I consider friends, people I have relationships with that are not just that I am their pastor, I am their friend as well.  It’s a little awkward when they call me Pastor Parker.  I understand the level of respect they have for me as a pastor, (or more precisely for God putting me in that office)   Some I can get to call me Pastor Dt (what i prefer to be called) or Pastor Dustin.  But there are some still that this is awkward.  I think it is the same thing – people want to humbly walk with God – which means, in their mind – calling Him “Lord” or “Master” or “Gracious Father in Heaven”.  Yet walking humbly with Him means looking for what He wants – a relationship where we call Him by name – where we bring His name and the message of His love to the world He died for, because He loves, He has cHesed for us.

What does God require of us?  What does Jesus “require” of those who are His disciples?

THe question still grates on me, because if this is what He requires, we are all toast, and abject and complete failues.

What does He seek to develop in us?  What is His desire for us? What does He want to develop is us, with all the mercy, love and loyalty that is His?

The righteousness and holiness that is ours in Christ, a relationship where we come to love and adore Him because of His mercy, love, kindness, and complete loyalty that He shows to us, and that we humbly walk with Him, hearing His voice, becoming His people, and realizing what it means to have a God who is so selfless in His desire to be with us.

That is what He seeks, someone to love……

Dearest Yahweh, thank you for the mercy You show to us, each and every day….

AMEN.

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 877-879). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Challenge of Christianity…to Love

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism

StJohnsAshfield StainedGlass Baptism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

19 We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. 20 If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? 21 The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.   1 John 4:19-21 (MSG)

Jesus will enable you to have a great affection for everybody you meet, without taking away any of the affection you have for him. On the contrary, the more you love Jesus, the more room there will be for other people in your heart.  (1)

In my opinion, the greatest challenge to Christianity in America today comes down to one word:  Love.

We struggle with it, we avoid it, we avoid the very challenge of it, because it is universal.  It is not just loving those who love us.  Jesus says even the worst sinners can do that.  But it is loving people – and letting God love us when we are at our worst.

Loving others is a threat. A threat to our self-determination, a threat to our independence, a threat to our sin.  It is uncomfortable, for it demands that we sacrfice ourselves, before we realize that in that sacrifice, we find ourselves fulfilled.  Loving others is not a command of law, where our failure brings condemnation.  Loving others is a command of gospel – wherein we find the deepest levels of grace, and the greatest fulfillment.  Even so, it is difficult.

But that is where God’s love comes into play.  He doesn’t allow us to wallow in our sin, to hide in our independence, and self-determination and self centeredness.  He invades our life, calling us to a transformation that comes from being in His presence.  We can try and run from our relationship with Him, as Jonah ran from the people God called him to love- to love by sacrificing his life that they would know God’s love and mercy.  Even so, we are much better off in every way by receiving the love He invades with, the love that He invades by.

Don’t avoid His love – it will make loving the others He has brought into our lives so much easier!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3094-3096). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Eucharist: the Strength to Reveal Christ to Others…

English: The Lord's Supper. Christ standing at...

English: The Lord’s Supper. Christ standing at an Orthodox altar, giving the Eucharist to the Twelve Apostles. Frescoes in the upper church of Spaso-Preobrazhenski cathedral. Valaam Monastery Русский: Алтарная апсида верхнего храма Спасо-Преображенского собора Валаамского монастыря. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional/Discussion Thought of the Day:

This can only mean that whenever you eat this bread or drink of this cup, you are proclaiming that the Lord has died for you, and you will do that until he comes again. So that, whoever eats the bread or drinks the wine without due thought is making himself like one of those who allowed the Lord to be put to death without discerning who he was1 Corinthians 11:26 (Phillips NT)

If you don’t keep in touch with Christ in prayer and in the bread, how can you make him known to others? (1)

Though I have been in churches of many denominations and brotherhoods, the three I have spent the most time in, have had something in Common.  The weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, also known as Communion, or my preference, the Eucharist.

To be honest, it is something that I took for granted far too often.  The Eucharist was something that when I was younger I thought was a spiritual “fill-up”, an opportunity to refocus, a chance to be reminded of God’s promises, a chance to remember His grace covering my sin, as surely as His blood was poured out on the ground.

You might be saying, well Pastor Dt, that’ what it is all about – isn’t it?  That moment of refreshing, a weekly “mountain top” experience, a break and rest from the norm, and a break from the sin which haunts them.  A chance to really realize what holiness is about…

As we think about what the Eucharist results in, we slowly lose sight about it is…  the Body of Christ, given for us; the Blood of Christ, shed for us…

It is  not just about knowing God’s love – it is time with Him.  A time for His to comfort and cleanse and help us explore with Him the height and depth, breadth and width of  His love, and the Father’s love. A time not just where we are reminded of His covenant and its promises, but where He, Himself, reminds us of that promise – most specifically His loving presence.  That we are His family, called to dinner with Him as the Host…

That is why Paul can say we proclaim His death – it is ours, we who are untied to Him in His death and resurrection (our re-birth)  It is time with Him in that moment beyond time, that foretaste of the feast that will be thrown when we all have come home.   We proclaim it – not just for our benefit – but that others would join us at this incredible moment, in this incredible time with Him…celebrating out union…our being the beloved. It is from there, from that depth of intimacy with Christ, that knowing Him and being known by Him, that the kerygma – the desire to introduce others to Him springs forth.

Not from duty…

But from the passion He has for us, the unbelievable love He has for us….

And we know who we are introducing people to, not just a way to “be saved”, but the God, the incredible, majestic, glorious God who loves them, Who gives them life… and brings them into His glory.

It is where we find the answer to our plea… Lord have mercy….  and know He does that in a way beyond expression… and it is He, even more than us, the is joyous in the reunion.

Godspeed us all to this realization.

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 396-397). 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.

The Secret to Loving and Serving Others

Devotional thought for the day:

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments again he went back to the table. ‘Do you understand’, he said, ‘what I have done to you? 13 You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. 14 If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.”   John 13:12-15 (NJB) (

Consider listening to this song –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I47c29GvFY while reading this blog

The church has been designed to be a community, a place where people have learned to lay aside their wants and desires, and serve others, to nurture others, to imitate Christ’s life, and the blunt clear lessons like the one in John 13 – where he washes the cracked, dry, smelling feet of men who hadn’t learned yet to love, to be in a relationship – not just with their Lord, but with each other.  THe lesson is harsh, and convicting, how often are we willing to get down on our knees, and deal with the muck those we are called to love have walked through?

It cannot be done, not in our own strength at least.  Their burdens are too heavy, their pains too deep, the crap in their lives can, indeed cause us to turn away, spiritually and physically nauseated, disgusted.  Or we wonder why, as Michael Card sings, we have to do this day after day, after day…..

So where do we find the strength to obey?  Where do we find the power to live lives in this holy manner?

A catholic priest once wrote:
“When you start out each day to work by Christ’s side and to look after all those souls who seek him, remember that there is only one way of doing it: we must turn to the Lord. Only in prayer, and through prayer, do we learn to serve others!” (1)

That’s the answer – through prayer – through intimate conversation, through communion/fellowship – through letting Christ wash our feet,through letting him, remove our burdens, through letting Him still – clean up those parts of our lives that have gotten dry, broken, blistered, smelly….. through letting Him be God.  It is the only way, as St. Josemarie told us, to find the strength to serve, to be there for people, to bring healing and love to their lives.  We don’t have the strength

We have to let Jesus do that to us….cleanse us, heal us…

and then, the Holy Spirit will work through us to do the same for others.

And oh the joy, oh the inexpressible joy that comes from seeing others cleansed, and counted holy and righteous.

It sends you right back in prayer, to the throne of God, to praise and glorify Him!

Lord, show us Your mercy… even as You work through us to bring that mercy to those we serve around us!

 

 

 

 

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 474-476). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

Love your neighbor and your enemy, actively

Discussion/Devotional thought of the day:

5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:43-45 (ESV)

It is challenging enough to love one’s friends, one’s neighbors.  Yet Jesus calls us to love as He does – to love even our enemies – as we love ourselves.   Some may hear this as law – noting the impossibility of such love, and use that as an excuse for not fulfilling this law – or even trying to fulfill it, citing Christ’s fulfillment of the law.  They dismiss the command, and seek a cheaper form of grace – one that is reactive, not proactive.

St Paul in Romans 6 would highly disagree – noting that we shouldn’t continue in our sin, that grace would abound more.  Instead we should strive to obey and love our enemies – asking God to turn their hearts toward Him.  A challenge indeed.  I love how one of my favorite authors put it.

440    When you have finished your work, do your brother’s, helping him, for the sake of Christ, with such finesse and naturalness that no one—not even he—will realize that you are doing more than in justice you ought. This, indeed, is virtue befitting a son of God!  Escriva, Josemaria,  The Way (Kindle Locations 1083-1085). Scepter Publishers.

Love results in action, it’s not just “being nice” or feeling good about someone else.  It brings a cup of cold water to someone working, then takes their place while they work.  It goes two miles with the person who demanded (fairly or not) that you go one with them one.

Love your enemies – this will not only take the mercy of God, a true level of realizing how much you are in Christ and depend on His strength, but it will give you a new appreciation of His love for you!

Lord have mercy!  And as you do, help us show your love and mercy to our enemies and our neighbors,

( by the way – this includes those politicians you’ve been complaining about recently!)

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