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Archive for July, 2010

I’m currently reading through 1 John.  Just a couple verses a day for lectio divina and meditation.  John speaks of one thing more prominently than anything else – in his gospel and in his epistles.  Love.  (Followed closely with belief in Jesus.)

Take one of today’s verses for example:

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

I think I read the word “love” at least once a day – even when I am only doing a verse or two!  And it’s easy, particularly easy in our current culture, to sort of pass over the word.  I mean, really, John?  Love, love, love?  Haven’t you got anything else to say?  Anything more substantial?  Love is so… well, so warm and fuzzy.  Even if we get past the feeling to the action, it still seems so… well, it seems weak.  Like a pushover.  Flimsy.  Why must you keep harping on this love thing?

Or is it that you know something we don’t?  Maybe I’m asking the wrong question here… maybe I should be asking what kind of love you are talking about… if love is so important, well, then, what does that love look like?  What did you see that changed you so much that love has become one of your defining words?

The love that John saw wasn’t a passing feeling.  It wasn’t weak or flimsy or insubstantial.

The love John saw was a God who left His heavenly throne to take on our frail human flesh.

The love John saw had concern for little things, even running out of wine at a wedding.

The love John saw had a righteous anger for the things of God.

The love John saw taught the truth, even when it was hard to understand.

The love John saw spoke hope and life to an outcast among outcasts.

The love John saw made the lame to walk.

The love John saw didn’t make the same assumptions others did, but offered healing.

The love John saw gave people food to satisfy their physical hunger.

The love John saw desired to give the people a food that would satisfy their souls.

The love John saw did not shy away from teaching hard truths, even if it made him unpopular.

The love John saw offered mercy and grace to sinful people on their knees.

The love John saw wept at his friend’s tomb.

The love John saw brought life from death.

The love John saw did a slave’s work, even serving one who would betray him.

The love John saw prayed earnestly for others.

The love John saw sacrificed himself for us.

The love John saw conquered sin, hell, death and the grave!

Yes, this was the love that John saw.

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There’s this song I’ve always loved by PFR that says, “I never want to be satisfied…”  And the song is really speaking about being stagnant and not growing.  So the more I think about it these days, the more I think the wording of the oft repeated line is off.  It shouldn’t be “I never want to be satisfied” but rather “I never want to be complacent.”

Because never being satisfied is bad.

Yes, we are told in the scriptures to hunger and thirst for righteousness and to strive to enter the narrow door and to strive together for the faith… But we are also told that Jesus is the bread of life and the living water and that no one who drinks the living water He gives will be thirsty again.  And we are told that we are to “cease striving” and know that God is God!

There is a place to yearn for God like the deer yearns for water and we certainly do not want to become complacent.  But we must also learn contentment.  To be content in God and with God.

One of the main themes that really struck me when reading C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra was the issue of contentment.  He hints at, suggests and alludes several times throughout the book that our being discontent is a result of sin.  Since sin entered the world, we seem to have these voracious appetites.  And I am not simply referring to an appetite for food.

But let’s start there.  Why can we not be content with a simple, single serving of something really delicious – like ice cream.  Why are we not satisfied with it?  Why must we always go back for more and more?  Watch people – or watch yourself – at a buffet.  The tendency is to eat more because it tastes so good – not because we need it, but because we simply think we must have more.

The same holds true for material possessions, for love, for attention, for achievement, for success, for praise… the list goes on.  After reading Lewis, I’ve begun to think that our materialistic society is not causing us to be unsatisfied and discontent so much as it is simply the end result (and also reinforcing) this sinful tendency we already have!

In reading a vastly different book this evening, another picture came to mind.  Perhaps because writing this blog on Lewis and contentment was on my mind.  Or because Lewis did have a fascinating book on what hell might be like.  Or because this new author was already referring to hungering for God and having unsatisfied (his term was roving) appetites.  In speaking of these things, this author used the illustration of a tape worm.  He had a friend who kept eating and eating but was losing weight.  Truth is, the friend could have “starved” to death while eating all the time!

But it was the word “worm” that struck the chord and brought all those notes together into a new melody for me.  Jesus referred to hell as a place where the worm does not die.  Now I’m fairly sure he was not referring to tapeworms, but doesn’t it make a good illustration?  Correlation?  Where the worm never dies? You can eat and eat and eat but never be satisfied.  Our sinful state is like a tapeworm that never allows us to be satisfied…

Just now BarlowGirl’s “Psalm 73” song came on and even as I type I can hear them singing over and over, “My God’s enough for me.”

Isn’t that the truth?  God is all we need.  God provides all we need.  We should be content in Him.

I think in part we, being sinful, are naturally prone to being discontented.  To having that tapeworm.  But, praise be to God, his sacrifice on the cross means that the chains can be broken and that sinful nature does not need to have control!  The tapeworm can be removed!

But, creatures of habit that we are, it takes us awhile to unlearn the voracious hunger that will not be satisfied.  We must learn to be content in God.

Because our God is enough.

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I didn’t get very far into reading this morning’s section of 1 John when a thought struck me.  Seemingly coming out of nowhere and hitting me upside the head, once it was there I couldn’t believe I had never thought of it before!

It would have been easy to overlook…

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

Yeah, of course, I thought, Jesus died for us and sacrificed himself and we need to do the same.  Easy peasy (mostly because I seriously doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to physically give up my life for someone else).

But it shouldn’t be that easy, another voice entered into my head.  Is merely thinking that you’d be willing to die for someone really what this is verse is saying?

Um… no?

I looked at the verse again and thought about it some more.  What does laying down one’s life mean?  Does it only refer to physical death?

Jesus physically laid down his life for us.  He took our sins and the punishment for those sins so that we could have a relationship with God.

But it didn’t start there.  Paul tells us in Philippians that Jesus “emptied himself.”  Long before Jesus actually died for our sins, he laid aside his heavenly home, the glory due him, his will (as he submitted to his Father)… Before the nails pierced his hands he arrived on earth as a baby, he walked with us and talked with us and experienced life with us.  He taught and healed and loved.

So maybe when the Bible speaks about us loving others by laying down our lives, it means more than just physically dying for someone else.  Maybe we, too, have to start earlier.

Maybe I need to lay down my wants and desires.

My time schedule and plans.

My selfishness.

Maybe laying down one’s life refers to much more than physical life.

Maybe it begins with simply putting others before ourselves.

Which is where Paul began in his letter to Philippians before he tells of Jesus’ example of both emptying himself and dying on the cross:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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