Tag Archives: God’s love

Third Sunday of Easter

Restored to Glory

Peter had betrayed the Lord Jesus, the one he loved more than anything in the world. Saul, who was truly zealous for the house of God, had betrayed the real house of God, the body of Christ. How could these men get so far off?

Peter and Saul were very dissimilar. Peter was following Jesus and Saul was persecuting Jesus. Yet they were alike in some ways. Both fell under the tyranny of an hierarchical power structure of church or state. There was little difference between these two structures. They demand that we follow them or they will punish us. Peter knew that he might be destined for punishment, maybe even tortured like Jesus. Saul was on the side of punishers. That was the best insurance policy against punishment.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”   (John 21:1-19)

Christian discipleship is not about pleasing people or the power structure. If we are receiving any opposition to our faith, then perhaps we should examine our our hearts.

The destinies of both Peter and Saul were about to change. Peter would become the leader of the true Church, the body of Christ. Saul would become Paul, the great missionary to the Gentiles, and author of two-thirds of the New Testament. Both were hit received forgiveness from God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Peter had the teaching and preparation directly from Jesus. Jesus would tell him he would no longer be in control of his life. Rather, he would feed the sheep at all costs. Saul was not have the same history. But he had a great zeal for Judaism and the interpretation of the Jewish leadership. He was a brilliant student of Torah, but he was misguided by his teachers. Jesus confronted him:

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”   (Acts 9:1-6)

Saul was physically blinded. But when his sight was restored he received his spiritual sight. Saul became Paul, the great missionary to the Gentiles, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament.

Do we live under fear of corrupt authority, often motivated by evil intentions? Jesus said:

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.   (Luke 6:26)

If that is our hope for protection from harm, must realize that these authorities do not have our best interests in mind. The psalmist wrote:

I will exalt you, O Lord,
because you have lifted me up
and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

O Lord my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.

You brought me up, O Lord, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.   (Psalm 30:1-3)

God is our source of protection. But Christians are are in a war zone. We need to put on the full protection of God:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.   (Ephesians 6:10-11)

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.   (Ephesians 6:13-17)

Tye Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy to encourage him:

7God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.   (2 Timothy 1:7)

We are not called to live in fear. In John’s First Epistle we read:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

God is our protection. He is o9r source of strength. He is the one who builds us up in love so that we may not live in fear. We no linger have to hide ourselves in falsehood and tyranny of this fleeting world. Let us lead a life hidden in Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote:

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.   (Colossians 3:1-4)

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Second Sunday of Easter

Seeing the God of Love

Jesus appeared, after his resurrection, to his disciples as they had gathered in one place. Although Jesus had taught them what would take place, they were still shocked. Thomas, who was missing, was no less prepared:

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”   (John 20:24-25)

We have heard the expression “seeing is believing.” Now let us explore “believing is seeing.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”   (John 20:26-29)

Today, God is calling us to see him. Thomas saw Jesus everyday of his earthly ministry, but did he really see Jesus? Did he understand the person and ministry of Jesus? When he saw the risen Lord, something changed for him. He declared: “My Lord and my God!” He could see, for the first time, the whole nature of Jesus.

Job was a man described by God as “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and turns away from evil.” He was blessed by God in so many ways. But when those blessings were removed he began to question God, as many of us probably would have under similar circumstances.

Job’s questioning eventually turned into a dialogue with God. Job’s attitude toward God changed. He said:

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
    and repent in dust and ashes.”   (Job 42:5-6)

Seeing God is understanding the nature of God, the character of God. Is God good? Is he good when difficulties come our way?” Job said:

Truly the thing that I fear comes upon me,
    and what I dread befalls me.
I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
    I have no rest; but trouble comes.”   (Job 3:25-26)

Difficulties did come Job’s way. He feared that they might, even when he was blessed. He equated the blessings with God. But he did not know the God who holds us in his loving arms? What changed with Job? Job knew the God who blesses. Now he wanted to be the one who blesses God. He said:

For I know that my Redeemer[a] lives,
    and that at the last he[b] will stand upon the earth;[c]
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    then in[d] my flesh I shall see God,   (Job 19:25-26)

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.   (Psalm 118:14)

“You are my God, and I will thank you;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures for ever.   (Psalm 118:28-29)

God is good. He loves us all. We know that through his Son.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.   (John 3:16)
He may test us. But he is the God who passes the test for us when we put our trust in him. He is there for us each day. He will never leave us or forsake us. From Lamentations we read:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”   (Lamentations 3:22-24)
Thomas and Job knew about God, but then they saw God. Who is the God that we see today?

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

The Spirit Is the One that Testifies

We get our news from many sources today. Which one is telling the truth is another matter. We need a source that always tell the truth. I  can think of only one. The Apostle John rights in his First Epistle:

This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.   (1 John 5:1-6)

John says the Holy Spirit is the truth. That should give us great comfort, The Spirit is always truthful. And it is the Spirit that testifies concerning Jesus. What incredibly important news the Spirit is tasked to tell, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To truly understand the Word of God and the Commandments of God, and especially the Gospel, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. This was true for the early apostles as well, as we shall see. Reading from the Book of Acts:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.   (Acts 10:44-48)

Peter had been taught directly by Jesus. He had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. He was the leader of the Early Church. Yet, Peter was missing an understanding of the Gospel. For him it was still a set of rules.

When the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius, a centurion of the Italian Cohort, and his assembled gathering, something happened. They began speaking in tongues and extolling God. Peter was not prepared for this. The Holy Spirit had fallen on Gentiles. The Spirit let Peter know that the Gospel was for everyone.  The Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. It is the Spirit that testifies to the truth.

What was missing in Peter? Perhaps this question could apply to some of us. Could it be that we misunderstand the love of God. When Jesus was questioned about the greatest commandment of God, he answered:

“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’   (Mark 12:29-30)

Do we know, by our entire being, that Jesus loves us? Head knowledge is not enough. We must also exercise our heart, soul, and even our strength to fully understand the love of God. God’s love knows no bounds. It is not tied up in a set of rules. Perhaps we need to drop some of our rules. The Spirit has been know to break some rules. Peter must have wondered, for a moment, if the Spirit had broken even God’s rules.

Jesus spoke to his disciples concerning the Spirit:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.   (John 16:13-14)

The Spirit testifies to the truth. And what is that truth? In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said:

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”   (John 15:9-17)

God’s love is the entire truth. If we love Jesus, then we must accept and love everyone as Jesus does. Only then can we testify to the Gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.   (Galatians 5:22-23)

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