Practical Love

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? ” (1 John 3:17)

For those of you who don’t know how I plan my sermons, I usually take a day in the fall to plan out my preaching plan for the year.  This allows me to put the whole year in perspective, working up to the big days like Easter and Christmas, and along the way focusing on important themes or working through books of the Bible.  Still, it always amazes me how God’s Spirit works through such planning.

I selected I John for the beginning of the year thinking, “Let’s start the new year studying what it means to love one another so that we can become a more loving community.”  Working through 1 John we’ve seen how our assurance of salvation comes from the evidence of the new life that Christ has given us – that is, if we are saved we will follow his command to love one another (1 John 2:5).  Then we saw how, if we are walking with Christ, we must love our brother, so that there will be no cause for stumbling (1 John 2:10).  Last week we were reminded that as the children of God we are growing in the likeness of Christ (1 John 3:3).  This week we will see how our love for God is expressed in a very real and practical demonstration of love for our brother (1 John 3:17).

We cannot love God without that love being demonstrated in our love for those around us.  As John writes, if we have the world’s goods at our disposal and see our brother in need, yet we close our hearts to him, how can God’s love abide in us?  James 2:15 says, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”  When Jesus told the parable of the final judgment, he said that he would separate the sheep from the goats.  To the sheep he would say, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”  When asked when they had done this, the Lord said, “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers ,you did it to me” (Matthew 25:31-40).

Two weeks ago a powerful earthquake hit approximately 10 miles from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince.  Millions of people have been affected by this disaster and over 150,000 are reported dead.  With many of the established sources of safety and security demolished – churches, schools, hospitals, and government buildings – survivors are searching for signs of hope and help.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is responding through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).  World Mission is in contact with and providing support to current mission personnel in Haiti.  PDA is rushing an initial $100,000 from One Great Hour of Sharing and designated funds to provide immediate emergency relief to the affected people.  Funds are being sent through our ecumenical and local partners working in Haiti.

What can we do to help?  The PDA recommends we stand in the “GAP”

Give – Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR000064.  Gifts can be made online at www.pcusa.org/pda, by phone at (800)872-3283, or checks can be mailed to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

Act – Congregations and individuals can put together hygiene kits to be distributed through Church World Services.  Contact your local church to find out more about how you can help.

Pray – You can join with others in lifting up the people of Haiti and those seeking to provide aid in this critical time.

Beloved, let us love one another, and may our love for God be shown in how we love those who are in need.

Grace and peace,

SDG

I Want to Obey…

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. ” (1 John 5:2)

I want to obey, but…

Have you ever found yourself making excuses for not following Jesus’ words?  Have you ever said to yourself, “I would like to obey Him… I wish I could have a stronger faith… I wish I had more joy and peace in my life… I wish…”?  I have often found myself wondering, “why can’t I be a more loving person, or a happier person?”  I know that Jesus promised that those who would follow after Him would know peace and joy and abiding hope.  So why do I struggle so?

We could all come up with excuses for not knowing the life that Jesus calls us to.  We are very busy, overworked, overscheduled, overplayed.  We may not know enough about His word and will, or maybe we know too much, and we are left wondering what to do.

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer addresses this chasm we face between believing in God and living like we believe in Him.  If we know what we believe, but we struggle with being obedient to His word, with being more loving, more faithful, filled with a servant’s heart, the solution is simple: “You are disobedient, you are trying to keep some part of your life under your own control.  That is what is preventing you from listening to Christ and believing in his grace.  You cannot hear Christ because you are willfully disobedient.  Somewhere in your heart you are refusing to listen to his call.  You difficulty is your sins… Only those who obey can believe, and only those who believe can obey.  In the name of Christ… obey, take action, take the first step.  Tear yourself away from all other attachments, and follow him.”

If you want to know Him, take up His word and read.  If you want to follow Him, obey.  If you want to be more loving, then start by loving those around you with the love He has shown you.  If you want more joy and peace in your life, then be filled with His joy and the peace that comes from His grace.  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will fulfill the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  Or as the old Hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.” 

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. (1 John 5:2)

I want to obey, but…

Have you ever found yourself making excuses for not following Jesus’ words?  Have you ever said to yourself, “I would like to obey Him… I wish I could have a stronger faith… I wish I had more joy and peace in my life… I wish…”?  I have often found myself wondering, “why can’t I be a more loving person, or a happier person?”  I know that Jesus promised that those who would follow after Him would know peace and joy and abiding hope.  So why do I struggle so?

We could all come up with excuses for not knowing the life that Jesus calls us to.  We are very busy, overworked, overscheduled, overplayed.  We may not know enough about His word and will, or maybe we know too much, and we are left wondering what to do.

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer addresses this chasm we face between believing in God and living like we believe in Him.  If we know what we believe, but we struggle with being obedient to His word, with being more loving, more faithful, filled with a servant’s heart, the solution is simple: “You are disobedient, you are trying to keep some part of your life under your own control.  That is what is preventing you from listening to Christ and believing in his grace.  You cannot hear Christ because you are willfully disobedient.  Somewhere in your heart you are refusing to listen to his call.  You difficulty is your sins… Only those who obey can believe, and only those who believe can obey.  In the name of Christ… obey, take action, take the first step.  Tear yourself away from all other attachments, and follow him.”

If you want to know Him, take up His word and read.  If you want to follow Him, obey.  If you want to be more loving, then start by loving those around you with the love He has shown you.  If you want more joy and peace in your life, then be filled with His joy and the peace that comes from His grace.  “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will fulfill the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).  Or as the old Hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”

SDG

She’s Nothing Like the Sun

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
William Shakespeare

I know my wife doesn’t read my blog very often, but this is for her. 

At first glance, it would seem that Shakespeare doesn’t think much of his mistress, the sun shines brighter than her eyes, her skin isn’t as white as the driven snow, her breath sometimes doesn’t smell like perfume.  The truth of the matter is, though, that his love for his mistress doesn’t need to exaggerate her beauty.  Other men may have to embellish and wax elegant to make up for the emptiness of love, but not here.  He describes their love as rare and makes it clear that he doesn’t need to make false comparisons about her to know that in his heart he has tremendous love for her. Some men may utter false words, but he doesn’t need to because he accepts her as she is and is truly in love with her.

Christi and I celebrate our 15th anniversary today.  We’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve seen each other through the good and the bad.  And still our love grows stronger every day.  I am truly blessed to call her my wife and my friend.  Happy Anniversary!

Ethan