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How Do You Love God?

DSCF1421Discussion and Devotional Thought of the Day
15  After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
John 21:15 (NLT)

499      We men don’t know how to show Jesus the gentle refinements of love that some poor, rough fellows—Christians all the same—show daily to some pitiful little creature (their wife, their child, their friend) who is as poor as they are. This truth should serve as a salutary shock to make us react.  (1)

If we know this scene well, we know what preceded it was Simon diving out of a boat to go see Jesus.  He’s seen him several times since the cross, in groups and at least one on one.  Even so, in excitement, in a desire to be close to his Friend, his master, he dives out of the boat and swims to shore.  Once again he leaves everything behind to be with Jesus.

The question will be repeated, without the tag phrase “more than these”.  But that is what we need to think about this morning.

Do we love Jesus more than those in our life that we care for deeply?

Escriva mentions we know how to show that love to others around us, sinners just like us.  We know how to show that love to our wives, our children, our parents, other family members, and friends.

But do you love Jesus more than them? And if you claim to love Him more, are you able to demonstrate it?

(just as a side note – you aren’t doing so to save yourself, or to prove you are saved..)

Or do we need to be shocked by this truth, that we can show our love for people, but struggle to show how deep our love is for Jesus.

Peter didn’t think he could. He struggled with this question, He struggled to move on from it.  Jesus kept asking him, and he kept answering,  Each time Peter uses a different word for love than Jesus.  One that still is love, but not as intimate, not a love that abandons all.  Peter is careful, perhaps because of his failure, his denial of Jesus.

Just like we deny Him, just like we struggle to show Him, love, just like we fail, and find ourselves broken by sin.  We love God, but we know we should love Him more, deeper, with more commitment, fully abandoning ourselves into His care.

We need to hear Jesus’ reply, each time to Peter – as Jesus accepts Peter, as Jesus loves Peter, as Jesus shares His ministry, His reason for being here.

Care for my sheep.  DO what matters to me most!

You see, Jesus could see Peter’s heart, we can as well.  Peter three times in his life left the boats behind.

The first time, when Jesus told him he would make him a fisher of men

The second time,, to walk on water to Jesus, when all others were afraid.  Peter asked to come, was told to, and did…

This time, when he realized it was Jesus on the shore…

He knew in his soul how to love Jesus.  You do as well.

Run to Him as you need, allow Him to guide your walk through life, and care for the sheep He shares with you…..

You love Him because He loves you… and gives you life.   AMEN!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1907-1910). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Can You Hear Him Now?

Devotional Thought of the Day:Featured image

24  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26  But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT)

364      When are you going to make up your mind! Many people around you live a life of sacrifice simply for human reasons. These poor people forget they are children of God and act the way they do perhaps only out of pride, or to excel, or to be more comfortably off later on in life. They give up all kinds of things! And you, who carry the sweet burden of the Church, of your family, your colleagues and friends, motives for which it is worthwhile sacrificing yourself, what are you doing about it? With what sense of responsibility are you reacting?

Maybe it is helping that guy who is begging, not just giving him five bucks, but actually offering real help, and the respect that befits a child of God.  Maybe it is going out of your way to bring someone to church, or staying for the Bible study, so they can as well.  Maybe it is giving up a saturday morning, or some event you were hoping for, or stepping aside so someone else can do that which you love to do. Maybe it is opening up your house to a missionary who needs a place to stay while in the states, or to someone you know – who can’t live where they did.

Maybe it is forgiving that person who hurt you last week, or 20 years ago.  Deciding to let God judge the situation, rather than seek revenge, or hold in that resentment.

Maybe it is simple, sacrificing a meal, or a movie a week or a month, and sending the money to help a missionary in Papua New Guinea, or a Syrrian or Iraqi refugee in Turkey, or a kid in Kosovo learn about Jesus, while learning to play baseball.  (btw – I know how to make all those happen – contact me if they strike a nerve) Maybe it is going on the mission field youself, or taking your family on the field for a year or 10.

May it is humbling yourself to go to that person you offended, giving up your pride, asking for forgiveness, intent on seeing one thing happen.  Reconciliation.

If you listen to Jesus’ call to follow Him, you will hear a call to sacrifice, a call to humility, a call to go beyond just going to church a sunday a month, or maybe a bible study.  You will hear a call to go, a call to be there as He calls people to faith (even at your work, or at a doctor’s office, or at Walmart, or in the Philippines)  You will look for people in need, and your heart will break, even as Christ’s broke when he saw the widow mourn the loss of her son, or as he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.

What are you willing to sacrifice?  That isn’t the question.

What is worth hanging onto, when Jesus is calling you to hear His word?  Will you hear Him calling, when He asks if you love him, not more than things, but with everything you are?  Will you hear Him, see Him, loving you that way?

Look to the cross…. hear, see, know His love…..

For as that happens, all you are, will become something you can demonstrate your love to Him with, as you love those around you….

Can you hear Him?  Listen…. and Love

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1434-1439). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

How Do People See You?

Devotional THought of the day:The Good Shepherd, carrying His own.

34  I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. 35  It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognise you as my disciples. John 13:34-35 (NJB)

95      Think what would happen if we Christians chose not to behave as such… and then rectify your behaviour.  (1)

As I read this verse this morning, and came across the words in my devotional book, the Forge, I couldn’t help but wonder if those who don’t know I am a believer in Christ, would recognize me as such.

It’s a sobering thought.

Note what is not said.

I am not recognised as a believer because of my expertise in theology.  (some might question that anyway)

I am not recognised as a believer because I have a “Rev.” in front of my name.

I am not recognised as a believer because I am a member of the best congregation in all of California.

I am not to be recognised as a believer because of anything I am, save that there is a miracle that has occured in my life.

I have been made able to love others, I have been given the desire to as well, even those I struggle to love.

It isn’t easy, it isn’t natural to me prior to Christ, and I struggle with it now.

But we are recognised as Christ’s brothers, sisters, friends, as children of God, simply because we can love one another.  Because that means we know He loves us.

We are encouraged to rectify our behavior, but that doesn’t come because we force our will to, our behavior changes as we think about Chirst, as we receive His love, as we let the Holy Spirit transform us as 2 Corinthians 3 discusses.

We don’t love because we are great people.  We love because we are loved.

So let God love you… really love you….

Then, humbly realise when people say somethings hanged, that it has happened because of God’s work.

Go in peace!  

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 551-552). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Loving Your Neighbors…Does it Look Like This?

Devotional Thought of the Day:God, who am I?

 I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the holy Spirit in bearing me witness 2  that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. 3  For I could wish that I myself were accursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh. Romans 9:1-3 (NAB)

436 Experience, great knowledge of the world, being able to read between the lines, an exaggerated sharpness, a critical spirit… All those things, in your business and social relations, have led you too far, to such an extent that you have become a bit cynical. All that “excessive realism”, which is a lack of supernatural spirit, has even invaded your interior life. Through failing to be simple, you have become at times cold and unfeeling.  (1)

Most of realize that the great commandments are to love God with everything, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Though we all struggle with this, I sometimes wonder if we know what it means to love them.  It’s not just giving them a hug as we greet them during the peace,  Or giving them a high five when we see them, hearing that they made a hole in one. It even goes beyond cooking a meal for them when they are recovering from a hospital stay, or helping them when they are short of cash.  Loving goes a lot more.  Too often, St. Josemaria has it right, the very lives we live, the successes we have in our “real world” leave us cold, and unfeeling.  To be honest, sometimes we are un-loving.  This Catholic priest/pastor has it right – our realism leaves us dried out spiritually.

But we are called to love, to love supernaturally, and we have a great example,

Do we feel like St Paul does, when he writes to the Romans, explaining that he desires that he would be able to give up his life, his eternal life, be completely separated from Christ,  that those who were His brothers could know Jesus.  

Two things about this passage need to be noted

First, what Paul wants for his people more than anything is that they would know Christ, that the power of His resurrection would be theirs, that they would walk with God, as they (and all of us) are meant to do.  Nothing else matches that priority. For nothing, absolutely nothing, in life compares to the peace we have, knowing God lives in us,  This love of God which compels us to love in return, the depth of that love, the height, the width and the breadth – to even glimpse of God’s love for us, leaves us in awe.

He wants that experience for them more than anything, and truly loving someone else means not just wanting them to have good, but to have the best.

Which leads us to the second thing – that he desires this so much for them, that he would desire this so much, that he is willing to give up his own place in Christ, if it meant that they would be there.  He won’t just die for them, he would be willing to give all up for them. Including eternity, including Christ.  (yes I know, and Paul knows that this is impossible… )  Still his desire that they know God, intimately relate and communicate and love God, he is willing to sacrifice all for that to happen.  Are we?  Can we trust in God to the point where God’s desire becomes more and more the dominant desire in us?   Can we see our families, our neighbor’s need, their brokenness, their desperation to be loved completely, to be freed from guilt and shame, to be able not to be anxious or fear, to live in peace?  Would we die on a spiritual grenade for them?   Would we endure some discomfort?  Would we confront them in love, showing them their need for Him?

Love you neighbor, Jesus said……….

Here is an example.

Lord, pour out your mercy on Your people.  AMEn!..
Oh…. One last though in passing….Jesus also said love your enemies…

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1944-1947). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

You should never have enemies? If you are obeying God, this is true.

The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God.  May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

The Pantheon, a place once dedicated to worship of idols but reborn to host the worship of God. May our lives tell a similar story as we realize what God does to us in baptism!

Discussion Thought of the Day:

4  I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. 5  But now, Lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. 6  For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as you heard from the beginning, in which you should walk. 2 John 1:4-6 (NAB)

431  You should always be well-mannered towards everybody, especially towards those who present themselves as your adversaries (you should never have enemies) when you are trying to let them see their mistake. (1)

I started composing this blog this morning, based on the Bible passage above, from my devotional readings.  It’s been a thought on my mind for a while, this idea that we cannot separate loving God from being obedient to Him.  We can’t say we love Him, and then live a life that rebels against the way He has revealed for us to life.

Then I came across the words of St. Josemaria, this morning, and it is the words that are in parenthesis that stunned me.  What does it mean that we shouldn’t have enemies?  Is there such a great difference between enemies and adversaries?

Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us.  He’s saying the same thing – for in loving our enemies, they are not enemies anymore.  They may work against, us, frustrate us, even ignore us, but if we love them, if we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, they aren’t our enemies any longer.  They are those we are willing to make sacrifices for, that we desire the best (which is knowing God’s love) , that we are willing to die for, to become martyrs, those who death testifies of Jesus Christ, and His love.

Adversaries can be convinced, not by carefully planned arguments, but by those who love them and sacrifice for them.  We in turn are changed as we pray for them, as we unite our hearts with God’s heart, as we ask Him to bless them.  As we sacrifice our right to be resentful, angry, our plans of revenge and retribution, as we simply pray, and learn to love them.

This is easy to say as I sit in my church office in California, No one is pointing a gun at me, or throwing me in jail.  Yet if I look at the lives of the martyr’s throughout history, I am not so sure I have it easier.  There was a level of trust, a level of faith, an awareness of the presence of God that was beyond anything I can even imagine.  Oddly enough, I find myself desiring it, being a little envious of their stories, of their ability to love their enemies.

This is the way we, who trust in Jesus, are supposed to walk.  Loving all, confronting their errors for sure, but loving them in that.  We have to realize that our job isn’t to convict them, but to shepherd them into Christ’s love, into His truth. We can do that with adversaries, we cannot with enemies. Of course, they may still see us as enemies, but it is not their perspective that matters.  It is ours.

We are called, commissioned, commanded to love them, even as that demonstrates our love and trust in God.  Even as it screams that we are walking in Christ’s steps, united to His death, and to the life which we are raised with Him to live.  This is how we are God’s masterpiece, as Paul tells the Ephesians, re-created in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He has planned for us, from before time.  The good work of loving others, bearing witness in that supernatural love, to the love of Christ.

Lord, have mercy on us, and teach us how to love as You do!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1925-1927). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Love Them, Love Them, Love Them: Discipleship lessons from the gym…and Coach C

The 100-Meter Run

The 100-Meter Run (Photo credit: Government Press Office (GPO))

Devotional THought of the Day:

13  We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. 14  And we have seen and tell others that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15  If we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, we live in union with God and God lives in union with us. 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 4:13-21 (TEV) 

7  It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. 8  But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! 9  By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! 10  We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! 11  But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends.  Romans 5:7-11 (TEV) 

194         You have to be a live ember that sets fire to whatever it touches. And, when your surroundings are incapable of catching fire, you have to raise their spiritual temperature. If not, you are wasting time miserably, and wasting the time of those around you. (1)

I was at the gym this morning, working out when I thought of one of my PE coaches from high school.  As we used to work out, he would “encourage” us with a constant mantra…. LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT!.

It pumped us up – enabled us to run a bit farther, lift a little more, grind it out.  But I don’t think many of us loved it.  Matter of fact, a few of us didn’t like it or Coach Carter (during class) all that much. But the results across a semester in the weight room and on the track showed us the benefit of being trained and “encouraged.”  And because Coach Carter had been there before himself – he knew how to discipline those willing.   I am leaning on those lessons a lot as I return to working out.  With a genetic disorder that affects my heart and spine.  For my heart it has resulted in two heart valves being replaced and internal defibrillators, and a limited lifestyle – so starting to work out again is a challenge.

Yesterday, there was a discussion online about our enemies, about those who verbally attacked a Roman Catholic Cardinal who seems to be a pretty good guy.  My response was, knowing of him, he was probably praying for those attacking him.  One lady didn’t quite get that – and over a number of posts told me to mind my own business, and not talk to her about the concepts of self-defense and faith.  I didn’t, but I’ve thought and prayed for a bit since then.  Wondering what issues prompted a response that wasn’t where I was going at all.  I thought as well about our attitude towards those people who are the thorns in our life, those who are incredibly difficult to love and forgive. Those who test our ability to live life trusting in God, like that extra 20 pounds tested my endurance on the calf press this morning – and that .2 of mph faster made the difference on the treadmill.

These people, hopefully, are a burden we will embrace – or as Coach C would say – LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!

For in doing so, we have to that which is extremely difficult, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and walk with Jesus.  We have to have no fear (for love casts out such fear – see above) and even if our lives are sacrificed as martyrs… (which few of us will face) we must love them anyway.   (Many, many saints serve as great examples of this.)

Whether we realize it or not, these people can be those in our life that help our dependence on God, our faith and trust in Him grow the most. And in loving them, wholeheartedly, even as they are our enemies, we begin to see how great God’s love is for us.   We find the strength in Him, in HIs cross, which we are united to, to love them, to be patient with them because we want them to be transformed by God and not perish, to be our brothers and sisters in Christ, feasting together at God’s table.  As St. Josemaria noted – sometimes we have to turn up the heat — sometimes we need the heat turned up on us…

It’s not easy.  It is significantly harder than getting up an hour earlier to get to the gym, or being embarrassed by realizing how weak we’ve become over the years.

Even so, as John said, we are loved…so Lord in your mercy, help us to

LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM, LOVE THEM!!!!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1022-1025). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Sacramental Life, one of Transformation

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1 Jesus again used parables in talking to the people. 2 “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who prepared a wedding feast for his son. 3 He sent his servants to tell the invited guests to come to the feast, but they did not want to come. 4 So he sent other servants with this message for the guests: ‘My feast is ready now; my steers and prize calves have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!’ 5 But the invited guests paid no attention and went about their business: one went to his farm, another to his store, 6 while others grabbed the servants, beat them, and killed them. 7 The king was very angry; so he sent his soldiers, who killed those murderers and burned down their city. 8 Then he called his servants and said to them, ‘My wedding feast is ready, but the people I invited did not deserve it. 9 Now go to the main streets and invite to the feast as many people as you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, good and bad alike; and the wedding hall was filled with people. 11 “The king went in to look at the guests and saw a man who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ the king asked him. But the man said nothing. 13 Then the king told the servants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him outside in the dark. There he will cry and gnash his teeth.’ ” 14 And Jesus concluded, “Many are invited, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:1-14 (TEV) 

In a radically converted, evangelically Catholic life, the love of Christ has transformed the disciple and brought him or her into an earthly experience of the love shared by the Holy Trinity— an experience of atonement, of being “at one” with God, made possible by the Paschal Mystery and the gift of the Holy Spirit. 29 That experience changes everything. It is the driving force behind the deep reform of the Church. (1)

In just a week, we come to Maunday Thursday, the day in which the church remembers the Last Supper, (even though some of us do every week, and some have the opportunity and blessing to do so daily.)

As a child, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic Feast was what I loved the most about church, and it didn’t matter which parish I was at.   St Joseph’s, which was our home parish, a more modern stone facility, or the dark and damp St Francis, where I went to school.  Or the Maronite church, or the Christian Formation Center – each place, each priest that celebrated it, whether the people communed at an all altar rail, or simply processing toward the priest and then returning to their seats, this was the highlight of the mass.

Now as a Lutheran Pastor – it still is.  My sermons, my homilies, are hopefully something that strengthens the trust that people have in God, and the reading of God’s word is promised never to be without return – without a gain.  But there is something incredible, as I see people receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  There  are bodies that visibly sigh, and relax, as burdens are taken, and peace descends upon them.  There are others, who realizing the great love of God, are moved to tears.  There are those who struggle with sin, that… struggle and squirm a little there, for they know, even if only intuitively, that they have hurt and pained the heart of God – who so desires them to come to repentance…to the transformation that is theirs, because Jesus was crucified for them.

The Body and Blood of Christ, given and shed for YOU.  O how I love to point that out!  O that all people would realize the depth of God’s love, the love in which we abide.

It is what comforts our soul, this love beyond measure, it is that love – that as Wiegel says above – transforms us, and bring us into the love that exists within the Trinity itself. As we dance and celebrate with great joy the fellowship, the communion, the love of God that changes us.

3rd quarter of 16th century

3rd quarter of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And it not only transforms us, it will transform the church, our parishes our families.  It assures the sinner of forgiveness, of love – of a welcome home.

May we be like the bad and good  on the street – who once we are invited, come in to the feast…. the incredible feast….

and realize,,,

The Lord is with us!

 

 

Weigel, George (2013-02-05). Evangelical Catholicism (p. 48). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Challenged to Love?

Discussion/Devotional thought for this day…

We each have them, people in our lives who are challenging to be around, yet we are not just called to be around them, but to love as well.

Matter of fact, we would consider it down-right impossible to love, and when we get to the part of the Lord’s prayer that says. forgive us our sins as we forgive… our hearts and throats get a lump in them. Never mind when the pastor quotes 1 John 4 in a sermon,

4:20 Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since whoever does not love the brother whom he can see cannot love God whom he has not seen.  1 John 4:20 (NJB)

The strength to love these, who are often the least of, (not that they think they are.. but as those unloved.. they are!) has to be something that is generated by supernatural means, our own hearts are too fragile, our wills to weak.  One of my favorite authors puts it this way… it will take sacrifice, it will take.. incredible love.. the kind that we barely even know, the will to sacrifice we’ve only begun to comprehend…

One of my favorite authors puts it this way…

“Haven’t you gone against your own preference, your whims, some time, in something? You must realise that the One who asks you is nailed to a Cross, suffering in all his senses and faculties, with a crown of thorns on his head… for you.”  (Escriva,)

We all, at sometime in our lives, have found the discipline, the will to accomplish something – a school project, a athletic  endeavor, an attempt to learn something new..

This will take more concentration though, and concentration on the One who asks you to love, to love as completely as He does… and did.  For we know the result.. the blessing isn’t just peace between your adversary and yourself, but within the family of God.  It is looking to Him, finding our inspiration, our power, the love we need….
then, transformed by His love…

you can love… even the unlovable…

for they aren’t you know – the one who loved you from the cross… loves them as well!

Lord Have mercy we cry… and we know.. He has!

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