Love Is Enough

Love Is Enough

Love Is Enough

A state legislator, trying to justify raffling off an assault rifle at a fundraiser, proclaimed, “You can’t combat this kind of hatred (mass shootings) with overwhelming love. There is only one way to combat this…that’s either to remove or neutralize these individuals.”

Yet being Christians, isn’t “overwhelming love” required of us, even with our enemies?

“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. Matthew 5:43-48 (CEB)

But is love enough? In a decade of mass shootings and suicide bombers, is love a powerful defense against self-hatred turned outward?

Love was never meant to be a “defense” against evil. Love has always been an offensive action against bigotry, anger and hurt. (Double entendre intended.)

As Jesus tells us in verse 44, love is an action as much as praying for your enemies is one. It is not a weapon. It is a verb.

Love IS Enough

So what does love do?

In a moment of violence love is the mother out with her son for a night of dancing, throwing herself in front of him taking the terrorist’s bullet. In another, love is a teacher shielding her students.

But love is at its most powerful before situations have deteriorated to the point of bloodshed. It is in the act of loving people continuously that we prevent them from becoming so filled with self-hatred that it spills over into hating others.

We must love these people who seem unlovable. It is in loving that we can combat violence and hatred. Love is enough.

This type of love is not a superficial love. We are talking about a deep visceral love that makes miracles happen. Not in some magical sort of way but like the love shown at other nonviolent protests that have taken place and changed the world. The kind of love that brings people together to become the beloved community, taking care of all God’s children. This is the kind of love all of us can exhibit towards each of us. This love is enough.

We must ask ourselves how we could have loved these people before they lost sight of their divinely inspired humanity. Perhaps if we can answer that question, the need for guns will be obsolete.

Should we try?

Meditation Monday: Dream Big

Dream Big

Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us. Ephesians 3:20 (CEB)

Dream Big

We hear so much about declining membership rolls, shrinking budgets and older properties. It is at these times that we cannot get caught up in just “managing the demise” of our Church!

Now is the time for us to dream big…bigger than ever! It is time to think outside the box. It is time to hear all of God’s ideas, no matter how unusual, unorthodox, wide ranging or costly. As the writer of Ephesians reminds us, God can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. With God’s blessing our Church need not disappear by the year 2025 or 2030 or at all.

We must not think about it is as bringing God to the people but instead we need to join God where God is already present in the world. God is changing lives. Whether we are a part of that or not as The United Methodist Church is up to us and how big we can dream and truly dare to imagine the ways we can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

God, show us where You are already working in this world. Show us how we can dream as big as You do! Help us to not get caught up in the fear but to remain positive in Your presence. Let us be more like Caleb and Joshua. Amen.

Istanbul

Istanbul

Pray for Istanbul

First of all we extend our prayers to all those affected by the airport bombing in Istanbul, Turkey. My friend, Thomas Kemper, who is the General Secretary at the General Board of Global Ministries, was in the airport at the time of the terrorist attack. Praise God Thomas is ok!

We mourn with the families and friends of those who did not escape the events unleashed by a few extremists. While it is difficult to do so, we also pray for the families of those who perpetrated such horrible acts because Jesus commands us to do so.

In this time of relentless bloodshed both overseas and on our own soil, we will not be bowed by fear and hatred. We cling ever tighter to our hope and salvation, Jesus Christ and follow his example of faith over fear.

Even in the face of terror, we hold to the hope that light shall overcome darkness, love shall overcome indifference and hate, and God has already overcome all evil acts including the death of His son with resurrection power!

Amen!

Dear God, we pray during this time of anxiety and shock. Help us to remember Your great Love for us and that you call upon us to do good and not evil. Help us to pray for our enemies and not seek to repay them” an eye for an eye”. Help us Lord to follow Jesus’ lead that may seem counterintuitive but is always righteous.

Meditation Monday: Pardons Not Badges

Pardons

When we became Christians, we didn’t get badges, we received pardons.

God so loved us that He became one of us. As Jesus was dying because of us, he asked forgiveness for us. He pardoned us.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” They drew lots as a way of dividing up his clothing. Luke 23:34 (CEB)

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” Matthew 22:36-40 (CEB)

We need to love ourselves as God loves us. We need to love one another as ourselves. We need to love one another as God loves us.

God’s love shows up as grace, forgiveness, trust, excitement and righteousness. Can we do the same with one another?

God you command us to love others as ourselves. But sometimes we don’t love ourselves very well. But your first command is to love you. In loving you, we learn how to love ourselves as you love us. Help us to love each other as you love us with the perfect love you have given us. Perfection is the goal, but the journey to it is life. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Love and Trust

Love and Trust

There is so much distrust in the world. No one is given the benefit of the doubt. Intentions are selfish until proven otherwise. Everybody seems to be out for themselves. Everyone has an agenda.

This same level of distrust exists in the church as it seems to be in many institutions and organizations. People don’t trust their leaders. Leaders don’t trust their people. Evangelicals don’t trust Progressives. Progressives don’t trust Evangelicals. No one trusts the Moderates. Country churches distrust city churches. Small churches distrust larger churches.

Everyone’s motives are questionable, personal and surely not the will of God.

“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” John 13:34-35 (CEB)

Can love exist outside of trust? Can love exist inside of distrust?

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Meditation Monday: To Receive

Receive

We humans are generally “takers.” We “take” our turn. We “take” our next breath. We “take” over. We “take” charge.

“To take” is to do things alone. Taking is to get for ourselves. For example, if a person is holding out an apple to us, for us, what do we usually do? We take it from their hand. We typically grab it from above.

What if, instead of taking, we received the apple? We would place our hand below theirs. They give us the apple and we would receive it.

“To receive” is to do things in relationship. Receiving takes at least two entities.

What happens if we become “receivers?” Can we “receive” our turn? Can we “receive” our next breath as a blessing from God? Can we “receive” power from those willing to give it?

We can if we work together to be a blessing to one another, partners in love rather than enemies of opposition trying to wrest from each other what we want. Can we receive one another’s stories as we listen carefully and not take them out of context for our own needs?

What God Says About What It Means To Receive

Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22 CEB

We cannot take the Holy Spirit, only receive it.

From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” John1:16 CEB

We cannot take the grace of God, only receive it.

Let us be receivers and not takers. Let us be in relationship with one another and not solitary figures taking what we need.

God the giver of all good things, teach us how to receive and not take. Teach us how to give and also how to receive. Help us to hold each other accountable without judgment but with mercy and good intentions. All of us are learning our way to perfection. Amen.

Meditation Monday: We Are The Church

We Are The Church

We are the church. Jesus promises to be with us no matter what.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

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Meditation Monday: True Inheritance

True Inheritance

It may sound very selfish.

“I hope the church is around long enough to have my funeral.”

For many churches that find their numbers dwindling, such a sentiment is often expressed to clergy as discussion about the future of the church takes place. While the sentiment is a bit self-centered, the need it calls to is deep.

The more important inheritance is to leave a place just as comforting to the next generation as the church has been to us.

True Inheritance

Even as we draw nearer to the time of our death as an individual, our legacy is still influenced by our actions or lack of action. No matter what our age, we as individuals and as a church must continue to look toward the future for those who are following in our footsteps or who have yet to know the freedom of the gospel.

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. 2 Peter 1:12-15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Meditation Monday: New Life

New Life

 

At GCFA we have had new life brought into our midst. We have had several babies born into the GCFA family in the last couple of years.

The beginning of life is so promising. The possibilities seem endless.

As we grow older we begin to recognize the limitations and structures that bind our lives in some ways. Our bodies alone begin to inhibit us as we age.

And yet, God tells us that at any age there remain possibilities of doing the work of the kingdom.

In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap. Psalm 92:14 (NRSV)

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come. Psalm 71:17-18 (NRSV)

Then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. Luke 2:37 (NRSV)

‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Acts 2:17 (NRSV)

There is no retirement plan for Christians. There is always the next generation coming. There is always new life. How do they know Jesus if we don’t continue to witness about Him?

Babies are a good reminder to us. They can help us to realize the legacy we will be leaving them. What kind of planet? What kind of society? What kind of Church?

The answers to those questions will be their starting point. Shall we leave them as many possibilities as there can be?

Almighty God, we give you thanks for new life. Knowing that we leave a legacy for them, help us to do right so that they can grow in Your love and ministry. Amen.

Meditation Monday: Everything Changes

Everything Changes

Everything changes. And recently it seems everything likes to change at once and at a rapid pace. The church is not excluded from this natural process.

The assumption is that because God is never changing then God’s church as long as it is built upon the Rock, Jesus, it too will be never changing. Yet it is human hands that have built the church upon the unchanging foundation. As such it is imperfect and flawed. It has the greatest of intentions but it is not God.

So the church changes.

But everything changes…even the church.

Change always is distressing, but it can be influenced. It doesn’t have to be inevitable.

Why does change occur? When something becomes useful or useless, change can and usually does happen. Change can be a reaction to or action toward an outside force. People can agree to make or agree to stop changes from happening.

How do we figure out what is appropriate change? For Christians it is to Jesus we must look to weigh our options. What Jesus says and what Jesus does can shed light on a situation in flux. We must cling to Him even tighter now as change seems to push us around in its ever moving march toward some end we do not yet see clearly.

Open our hearts and minds to Your son Jesus. Reveal to us His example and spirit for our lives today. Give us a rock to stand upon as change swirls all around us. Amen.