I have been in the process of transitioning to a new ministry role. Look for more posts being this week.
THIS WEEK –LOVE
Love – A state of feeling with regard to a person which manifests itself in concern for the person’s welfare, pleasure in his or her presents and often also a desire for his or her approval.
Four Types of Love
Today, love is overused and undervalued at the same time. We love everything from various foods to cars, from movies to retailers, from people to God himself. We may not consciously distinguish one use of love from another in part because our speech is becoming more and more informal, but it is important to be intentional about the differences. As we know, Scripture tells us that love is the highest attribute. So, let’s look at the four types of love found in the Bible that Lewis helps to draw out in The Four Loves, published in 1960.
I Corinthians 13:1-3 says, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
This type of love covers a lot of different circumstances of love. All mothers, human and otherwise, possess a natural affection toward their offspring. Affection intermingles in many of our relationships. We are kindly affectioned toward our spouses and our coworkers. Affection walks in step with the other loves and often is an outgrowth of another. It is not possible to maintain a romantic or friendship love with someone and never feel some level of affection towards them. Affection for the people around us on a daily basis is very natural.
Friendship love is often dismissed by our culture. “To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves,” says Lewis, “the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.” Why is that so? Perhaps it is because true friendship is time consuming and rarely celebrated. Romance leads to conception and families, Affection makes us feel accepted and cared for, and charity (God love) leads to redemption. We develop this love when we spend quality time with people who mean a great deal to us.
Lewis says that romantic lovers are absorbed with each other. One thinks that the absence of the other means the end of their lives. The romantic bond of two people is the most fulfilling love that you can experience. Lewis says, “The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory.” This type makes us whole. The bond between two people in marriage has been celebrated from Genesis onward and is a picture of God’s love towards us. This love is far greater than the drivel that is promoted by our culture.
Charity (agape) -God’s Love
This is the chief aim of our lives – to be loved by God, to love him and to share that love with the world. The other three loves, according to Lewis, are training ground for the love of God to grow. We are created to love and desire to be loved. We must lay ourselves out, just as Jesus did, and take the chance that we will be rejected. It is in that rejection that we come to understand the love of God. His love is ultimately shown by His death on the cross.
There is no safe investment. All love is costly, perilous, and risky. To love is to be vulnerable and exposed. Love anything and your heart will be taxed and possibly broken. If you want to be safe you must give yourself to no one, not even an animal. You can wrap yourself safely in the things you do, the fun you experience and work you pursue. Doing this is almost like placing yourself in a coffin of selfishness. You will never be broken hearted, because you have developed a heart of stone. If we protect ourselves by never loving, do we know and experience the love of God?
When we give ourselves and our children to be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and promise to make disciples of all nations, we are committing to love in every way.
Let us ask God to awaken such an abandoned and reckless love to come alive in us.
~~~Thérèse of Lisieux
One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.
The supreme happiness of life consists in the conviction that one is loved.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
~~~Martin Luther King Jr.
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.
~~~Alfred Lord Tennyson
When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.
We love the things we love for what they are.
The spiritual meaning of love is measured by what it can do. Love is meant to heal. Love is meant to renew. Love is meant to bring us closer to God.
To see the universal and all pervading Spirit of Truth face to face, one must be able to love the meanest of all creation as oneself.
Your giving and searching for ways to give is love in action. This is the evidence of Spirit at work.
~~~Marshall Vian Summers
You can never love another person unless you are equally involved in the beautiful but difficult spiritual work of learning to love yourself.
~~~1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning,
for in you I put my trust.
Teach me the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
~~~1 John 4:12
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life and honor.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping’,
your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up.
~~~ Psalm 94:18
Lord, Help me to be able to love in all the ways that you have revealed to me. Give me the courage and understanding to learn to love and be loved in risky and outlandish ways. Give me the opportunity to share God’s love with others today, not simply a love that saves but a love that sustains and guides every day. Our world is crying for love that only you can give.
Devotion – the fact or quality of being devoted to a divine being : worship service; reverence, devoutness. Religious observance, divine worship; A form or prayer or worship directed to a special object or for private use.
Devotion is a powerful concept which can change everything. Our foremost objective as Christ followers is to be devoted to him and his ways. As we become devoted to him, we find the strength to live in ways previously out of our reach and serve in ways beyond our strength. I would ask, what does it mean to be a fully devoted follower of Christ and how does it change us?
We must begin with the first Christ followers – the first century disciples. In the preface to Thomas Merton’s Course in Desert Spirituality he asks this question, “If for some reason it were necessary for you to drink a pint of water taken out of the Mississippi River and you could choose where it was to be drawn out of the river—would you take a pint from the source of the river in Minnesota or from the estuary at New Orleans?” The answer is obvious, we would want to go to the source before it was polluted and changed by the great journey. I would propose we start at the beginning of the church to see what devotion meant to them.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42) Luke, author of Acts, gives us four foundations to living the devoted life: teachings of the Apostles, fellowship(community), breaking of the bread, and prayer.
Teachings of the Apostles
This was vitally important in the time of the writing of the Book of Acts, because the disciples were eyewitnesses to the work of Jesus. They knew him. The apostles could give personal recollections of the work and teachings of Jesus. This was before the body of material was written into our New Testament. Out of these early teachings would come the teachings of the church. Today we have those teachings in our written word. We are to devote ourselves to the study of the word and all the traditions which have sprung forth from it. By study of the word, we are receiving the teachings of the apostles. It is no accident that study of the word is many times called devotions.
Perhaps this was first about the apostles but very quickly spread to mean the whole community of Christ followers. These people were and are a group of companions who share a common life. We know that the early church lived a communal life sharing all things in common. That is no longer true, but we still share the unique belief in a resurrected Lord, and that is certainly something to bring us together. I believe that fellowship around the table with meals together is an important part of the Christian life. All churches should take some time to fellowship together.
Breaking of the Bread
This is likely more that simply eating meals together. It is the communion of the body of Christ which I;s ultimately manifested in the Eucharistic celebration where we share in the sacrifice of Christ by sharing in the taking of the bread and the wine. By taking this bread and wine we become present with him in a mystical and real way. He plainly instructs us to partake of his body and blood and become one with him. The frequent observance of the Sacrament of Holy Communion is a vital part of the life of a fully devoted follower of Christ.
The Apostles devoted themselves to prayer. They still attended the Temple and participated in the regular meetings of the synagogue. Today we are not to forsake the assembly of ourselves for prayer and sacrament. Prayer goes further than the corporate prayer of the church. Each devoted follower of Christ must have times of individual prayer. Prayer is observed by words and silence. Words that come from our heart and lead us to God silence; that allows God to speak to us by his spirit. The prayer life of the Christ followers is vital.
As Christians we can live a fully devoted spiritual life by exercising these four foundational principles.
The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at best know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Every hand and every hour should be devoted to rescue the world from its insanity of guilt, and to assuage the pangs of human hearts with balm and anodyne. To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is Godlike.
It is rather for us here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.
Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.
~~~H. L. Mencken
Discipline says, ‘I need to.’ Duty says, ‘I ought to.’ Devotion says, ‘I want to.’
The heart can think of no devotion greater than being shore to the ocean-holding the curve of one position, counting an endless repetition.
Hide yourself in God, so when a man wants to find you he will have to go there first.
~~~Shannon L. Alder
We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
To devote a portion of one’s leisure to doing something for someone else is one of the highest forms of recreation.
~~~Gerald B. Fitzgerald
I know the price of success: dedication, hard work and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.
~~~Frank Lloyd Wright
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.
According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Whether then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
~~~1 Corinthians 10:31
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
~~~2 Timothy 2:15
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Lord, It is my greatest desire that I can become fully devoted to you and your will and way. Help me this day to learn of you so that I may know how serve you and those that you send my way. May my devotion to you light the way for others to find and follow you. Let your spirit dwell within me this day and every day.
Contentment– The action of satisfying; pleasure, delight, gratification. A source of pleasure ,delight or a condition or quality of being tranquil and happy.
Contentment is an elusive goal in the United States today. More than 16% of Americans have experienced a bout of significant depression in 2019. I am sure even more have suffered a bout of depression during this pandemic. We all strive to have a life of contentment. Many seek peace and harmony by buying lots of stuff or working extremely hard and others by being daring or adventurous. Unfortunately, these endeavors fall short. Perhaps we should consider ways that is counterintuitive to our culture.
Greek philosopher Plato said,” The greatest wealth is to live content with little.” That would be a very novel idea for most of our world. To be content in the 21st century is to have many things. Contentment is found in the next promotion, winning an athletic competition, or reaching a savings goal. These things drive us, and the more of them we grasp, the more we want. There seems to be no end to our discontentment with what we have and our drive to have more. Those of us who proclaim to be followers of Christ know that he, like Plato, taught that wealth was in having less. Wealth is found in scarcity of the world ‘s goods. How do we achieve Christian contentment?
Christian contentment puts others first. We are willing to give up our seat at the table for another. Christians ask themselves if they really need that new car or another set of clothes. We learn to live with less so that we might have more. Our wealth and thus our contentment comes from learning to live with what we already possess. That opens the way for generosity and joy.
We also gain contentment by living a life of consistency and stability. Our lives are disciplined and ordered. A contented person knows what they will do each day. They do not demand to have a new novelty in their lives daily. Contented people enjoy the small things of life. They notice the blessings that God gives them every day. They are content to eat the food that is being provided and the work that lies ahead of them. Contented people stay put and make things work.
Contented people understand they are loved by God and the love of God is greater and deeper than any misfortune we may face. No matter what, God is there, and he will carry us through. Contentment is the acceptance of God’s love and care.
May we achieve Christian contentment today.
I have learned that to be with those I like is enough
― Walt Whitman
For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I am content; that is a blessing greater than riches; and he to whom that is given need ask no more.
― Henry Fielding
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
― Lao Tzu
He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.
Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.
― Eleanor Roosevelt
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.
We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.
― Immanuel Kant
At some point, you gotta let go, and sit still, and allow contentment to come to you.
― Elizabeth Gilbert
Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.
The greatest wealth is to live content with little.
For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it;
~~~1 Timothy 6:6-7
And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’
Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on the destruction of the wicked.
~~~ Luke 12:15
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have.
Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on the destruction of the wicked.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live;
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Lord, I ask that you allow me to find the path of contentment found in Jesus Christ. May I follow his way and be led by his light. Help me to discern that in Jesus all things are found. Wipe away the doubt and hesitation that robs me of the joy I receive through you. In the absence of hesitation and doubt there is true contentment. Hear us Lord.
Illumination- an instance of spiritual enlightenment; And inspiration, a revelation.
Illumination simply means to bring light. We turn on a light as we enter a dark room so we may see. The lighted room makes it possible for us to avoid stumbling over an obstacle that may be in front of us. As Christians we are taught that Jesus is the light of the world. The prologue of the Gospel of John says, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” That is spiritual illumination, and it brings the presence of God into our lives and guides us so as not to stumble over the hindrances of worldly life. Jesus is the Word and the Word lives with us and his illuminating spirit changes everything .
Spiritual illumination is at the center of our spiritual journey. It begs the questions:
Spiritual illumination is the real presence of God in our lives as is manifested by the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. At our Baptism we are baptized into the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of baptism bestows upon us the presence of God. The community that witnesses the baptism pledges itself to be the supporters of the life of the one who is baptized. At baptism we are given the light of God and the uplifting of the faith community. In the Wesleyan tradition, we experience “means of grace.” The sacrament of baptism and the participation in conferencing (community) are two of them.
Once we recognize the illumination of God in our lives, we are compelled to live a life that is worthy of such grace and love. That means that we begin to practice some of the other means of grace such as, Bible Study, doing good works, seeking justice and so many more. Divine illumination may change the things we do, the places we go, the people we associate with and the way we conduct our daily lives.
The Christian life demands that we go the second mile by always doing more than is expected of us. Christians are to be the first to help, the first to forgive, the first to pray and more than anything are to be the salt of the earth. The life of divine illumination is a heavy calling and a serious responsibility, but it is a life of great reward.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
~~~John of the Cross
Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.
It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.
~~~Jonathan Safran Foer
Most people use statistics like a drunk man uses a lamppost, more for support than illumination.
When we shine our light,
We help others through the darkness.
When we show them their own light,
We begin to illuminate the world.
Speak kindly, love deeply, have faith.”
It is in moments of shadow that illumination happens.
Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.
While some men see ordinary happenings, others see divine light and guidance.
We are kept from the experience of Spirit because our inner world is cluttered with past traumas. As we begin to clear away this clutter, the energy of divine light and love begins to flow through our being.”
~~~ Thomas Keating
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
~~~1 Corinthians 4:5
Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
~~~ John 8:12
LORD, Guide us by your Word and Spirit,
that in your light we may see light,
in your truth find wisdom,
and in your will discover your peace,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On this Tuesday of Holy Week, I call your attention John Wesley. He was a great preacher and founder of the Methodist movement. John Wesley had but one goal, and it was to bring the message of the grace of God to all people. He was an Oxford Don and an Anglican priest who gave his long and productive life to that cause. I will share some quotes from Mr. Wesley that communicate his calling.
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.
Give me one hundred preachers (Christians)who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on Earth.
Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.
I continue to dream and pray about a revival of holiness in our day that moves forth in mission and creates authentic community in which each person can be unleashed through the empowerment of the Spirit to fulfill God’s creational intentions.
When I was young I was sure of everything; in a few years, having been mistaken a thousand times, I was not half so sure of most things as I was before; at present, I am hardly sure of anything but what God has revealed to me.
Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three: That of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account, as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third, religion itself.
A PRAYER FROM JOHN WESLEY
O merciful Father, do not consider what we have done against you;
but what our blessed Savior has done for us.
Don’t consider what we have made of ourselves,
but what He is making of us for you our God.
O that Christ may be “wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption”
to every one of our souls.
May His precious blood cleanse us from all our sins,
and your Holy Spirit renew and sanctify our souls.
May He crucify our flesh with its passion and lusts,
and cleanse all our brothers and sisters in Christ across the earth.
On this Monday of Holy Week, I call your attention to those Monks who chose to escape the temptation and hardships that beset them when they lived in the cities. Their escape to the desert was the way that they chose to pursue the calling as Christians. I have chosen a few quotes that will set the stage for their way of life. Read and pray on these and God will lead you in the right direction.
Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes, whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”
~~~Anthony of Egypt
A brother questioned Abba Poemen saying, ‘I have committed a great sin and I want to do penance for three years.’ The old man said to him, ‘That is a lot.’ The brother said, ‘For one year?’ The old man said again, ‘That is a lot.’ Those who were present said, ‘For forty days?’ He said again, ‘That is a lot.’ He added, ‘I myself say that if a man repents with his whole heart and does not intend to commit the sin any more, God will accept him after only three days.’
For quite some time I have been learning great lessons from the men and women of the desert monastic movement. Their commitment to living a Christ honoring life was given number one priority in their lives. Many of them abandoned influence, wealth, and families to live for Christ. They were the mentors of numerous leaders of early Christianity. Their attitudes and actions drew people to them for inspiration. I have shared some quotes from their teaching today. I will expand on those in the words that follow.
In our first saying we see the age-old question, “What must I do to please God?” That is the most important request that anyone can make. Anthony’s reply is simple. He is saying that it all has to do with focus. He says to begin with your personal life. The Christian must always have God before him. Too many believers make it habit to compartmentalize their lives. When we have a box for God, a box for work and separate boxes for each part of life, we lose sight of what should be our primary focus. Christians should always have God in front of their eyes and all else will come into focus. Anthony then turns his attention to the scripture and tells us that we should look for its testimony. The Holy Scriptures are given to us by God as a guide for life and work. We should consult with them and live in them for everything we do. Anthony’s next stop is where we live. If we establish stability of place, we will not spend our lives searching for the next adventure or excitement of life. Focus on God, Holy Scriptures and stability of place, and God will bring you great peace and salvation.
Abba Poeman warns us against excessive guilt and self-loathing. Many people suffer through much in life because they never forgive themselves for some grievance that they have committed. Somehow, they always feel a sense of guilt and never really accept the grace of God. Such an attitude leads to self-loathing and ultimately to destructive behavior. The monk communicates to the brother that God will accept the repentant heart without excessive penance. The message is that we do not earn God’s forgiveness, it is given to the penitent heart. When Christians accept and live out that truth, they are free.
During Holy Week we journey towards the cross. It is a cross of suffering and salvation. Abba Anthony gives us some ways that we can focus our lives. Abba Poeman offers us a way that we can accept forgiveness and move on with life. These two concepts will perhaps give you a vision of how to apply Christ’s suffering and salvation to your life.
Lord, As I experience Holy Week lead me to prepare my heart to receive the sacrifice of Jesus with a penitent heart. Let me keep my focus toward Him and His grace.