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A Lesson Observed, watching a 13-year-old learn to love and serve…

Williams and Kay at food bank.jpg

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. 2  Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG) 

Are you told to distribute to the poor? Do it, not because charity is a burden which you dare not shirk, but because Jesus teaches, “Give to him that asketh of thee.” Does the Word say, “Love God with all your heart”? Look at the commandment and reply, “Ah! commandment, Christ hath fulfilled thee already—I have no need, therefore, to fulfil thee for my salvation, but I rejoice to yield obedience to thee because God is my Father now and he has a claim upon me, which I would not dispute.” May the Holy Ghost make your heart obedient to the constraining power of Christ’s love, that your prayer may be, “Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” Grace is the mother and nurse of holiness, and not the apologist of sin.

This brings up a second popular misunderstanding, closely related to the first. It is easy to have love for humanity, but it is hard to have it for one’s neighbor. For the mass of humanity is not here on my doorstep, my neighbor is. Humanity never surprises you, never disappoints you, never bugs you. Humanity is as safe as a picture in a museum. It is just that: a mental picture in the museum of the mind.
Jesus never once told us to love humanity. If preachers tell you that he did, they are serving up their own recipe instead of Jesus’. The only Jesus we know, the Jesus of the Gospels, told us to love as he did; that is, to touch and serve the specific individuals we meet. Jesus did not come to earth for the sake of humanity. He came for you and for me.

I didn’t do my devotional reading earlier this morning, because I was watching my son, and truly amazed at what he experienced.

At the invitation of a brother of a friend, 7 people from my church went about 30-40 minutes up the freeway to go help distribute food at a food bank. And while I worked on one table, William was coordinating the food at another table.

His reaction to help some 240 households have food for a week?  “Dad, can we come back next week, no every week?” He was even willing to get up early and ride his bike if need be. ( I don’t think he understands what a forty-mile ride would be like!

It didn’t matter! Putting faces to people he was helping, helping them know what they could have, talking them into healthy choices, that was his entire desire!

That’s the kind of love that Kreeft (purple letters) is talking about.  Not living humanity, but loving individual humans.  Touching and serving specific individuals.  Even the ones who bug you, disappoint you, even shock you.  Even those you have to lovingly remind that there are limits to the food.

Love them.. each of them.

Spurgeon also knew some of what my son learned. He was indifferent about going, or maybe just tired.  He learned to love what he was doing, and that is the desire to go back.  Not to impress me, not to impress God, but because loving people is actually something you can enjoy.  It shows the “claim of God” on us, and that is why obeying the command is so energizing, so enjoyable, so fulfilling. (Even when it isn’t, it is!)

Which brings us back to scripture. I am pretty sure my son wasn’t planning on getting something back when he was enjoying himself. That wasn’t his intent. But he did… something more valuable than much of anything else he could have gotten today. In the same way, God’s true love isn’t self-seeking, yet His love instills and compels us to love in return.  To love Him, and to love people we interact with.

And that is contagious!  Ask my son!

Heavenly Father, continue to show us how to love those around us…and to help them see that You love them.  In Jesus’ name, we pray!  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), 54.

 

That’s an odd word….

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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.

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

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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.

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