Not Our Love for God

ccdotcomic

 

Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:24-30
1 John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

 

Love is everywhere today. We love movies, pizza, cars, ipads, Say Yes To The Dress and we even love people. Yet, we should know that none of that is love. John said it best in his letter. Here is what love is: not that we have loved God, but that he loved usCJB

Love can only begin with God.

The Greeks used six words that we translate as love. Sadly, Eros is generally the love of others. I eros that woman. It is sexual passion, but love of objects like cars can also be eros.

Philia is the second order of love. It is deep friendship and should form at least a large part of the bond within marriage.

Ludus is playful and generally accounts for the long list of objects we associate with the word love . I ludus pizza.

Pragma is longstanding love, and should make up part of that marriage bond.

Philautia is love of self. There has been a great deal of that in the US of late. I’m OK, You’re OK. Many experts and non-experts have insisted that I must love myself. That can be useful for surviving this world, but it does not help us get closer to God.

The Greeks considered Agape a vague love of everyone, but the New Testament writers changed the meaning. For followers of the Messiah, Agape is that love John wrote about, the Love that God has for us. In the hands of God/Son, Agape has no relationship with the other five; makes the other five subservient to Agape.

Yes, that is a contradiction; no, that is not a contradiction. If I allow the Love of God to take over my life and remake me in the image of Jesus, I will love myself, my wife, and everyone else. The church has been guilty of trying to eliminate eros from our lives. What we really need to do is make sure that our eros, our erotica, is in line with God’s Love, His Agape.

If it does not begin with God, it is not love.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Change of Heart

photo by Mcgill, canstockphoto.com
photo by Mcgill, canstockphoto.com

 

Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

 

Jesus was sacrificed in much the same way that the Passover lambs were sacrificed, and on the same day. He was dead in the grave at the beginning of the week of the Feast of Unleavened Bread when no bread made with yeast was to be eaten; it was dead. Jesus came out of the grave on the first day of the week, on the very day of the First Fruits; the day when the first barley was harvested and made into bread in the Temple.

We tend of think only of Passover in association with Easter, but there were (and are) actually three separate holy days, and Jesus fulfilled the symbols of each of the three. Further, the next holy day came fifty days later, Shavuot, or Pentecost, the Feast of the First Fruits of the wheat harvest. On that day the Holy Spirit baptized the faithful followers of Jesus.

Peter and John were among those faithful and received the power of the Holy Spirit. We read last week that Jesus blew his breath on them, giving them the Spirit of God. The difference between the two: at Pentecost they received Power; they were made whole and complete Apostles.

In today’s passage from Acts we read about the reaction to the healing of the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple. Peter then responded to the babble by telling them about Jesus, concluding with:

Then he opened their minds so that they could understand the scriptures, and added, “That is how it was written, and that is why it was inevitable that Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead on the third day. So must the change of heart which leads to the forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning at JerusalemPhillips

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

In Union With One Another

from Unsplash Photos
from Unsplash Photos

 

Acts 4:32-35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1-2:2
John 20:19-31

 

In the words of David: How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like brothersNJB Acts describes that condition of the early church, every believer sharing completely in all they have. John explains in his letter that, If we live our lives in the light, as he is in the light, we are in union with one anotherNJB

Americans tend to find these statements discomforting because we are rugged individuals with pride in our own abilities. The American standard is anti-Christian.

Instead of the American standard, we need to take on the Jesus/Messiah standard. This is the human Jesus who spent his entire life giving himself to others. He did not consider his own life to be of any particular value. He surrounded himself with twelve men of low means, except one; men who often did the socially unacceptable, especially the one; men who never seemed to be in tune with him. Jesus would be a terrible American.

His life is the life we are called to. It is, above all, a life where we will strive to live together like brothers. When Jesus returned to the ten Apostles, as described by John, he said, As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy SpiritNJB

Why did Jesus breathe on them and what did it mean? Every man in that room, and every Jew who heard about the breath, understood instantly that God had done to them what he did to Adam at the Creation, he gave them life.

We Christians maintain an impossible position, that Jesus/Messiah was 100% human while never giving up his role as 100% God, or Son of God which is the same from our view. It is a major stumbling block for millions in the world today. It is impossible to be both.

Impossible when we forget that God is in the business of doing the impossible. Only God could be both God and human.

But back to the breath, that is always the image for the Holy Spirit, even in Genesis. We read that God personally got his hands dirty when he made Adam from Adamah (earth or dust). The Hebrew word for Adam means red earth. It is also no accident that dam is Hebrew for blood. Humans are made of earth and blood in the image of God.

But we decided that being like God was not good enough, we wanted to be rugged individuals. That has not turned out so well. We must get back to being like God, but we cannot do that on our own, we must receive the Breath of Life anew. We must absorb God into our beings.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Remove the Disgrace

Easter Sunday in Haiti in 2010
Easter Sunday in Haiti in 2010

Easter

 

Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
John 20:1-18

 

On this mountain Adonai-Tzva’ot
will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food and superb wines,
delicious, rich food and superb, elegant wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil which covers the face of all peoples,
the veil enshrouding all the nations.
He will swallow up death forever.
Adonai Elohim will wipe away
the tears from every face,
and he will remove from all the earth
the disgrace his people suffer.
For Adonai has spoken.

On that day they will say,
“See! This is our God!
We waited for him to save us.
This is Adonai ; we put our hope in him.
We are full of joy, so glad he saved us!”
 CJB

 

John 1:2 names Peter and the one Jesus loved. We can never be sure who the second man was, but I subscribe to the belief that it was the author of the Gospel, John himself. As a historian, I know there are other possibilities, but I will hold to John as the one Jesus loved. John wrote the expression some sixty years after the events occurred when all the other Twelve had died. We might forgive an old man a certain wistfulness.

What is easy to see in the text is the extent of detail John provides. John outran Peter but did not enter. Peter rushed in as he generally did. John followed. They saw the temporary burial linen strips and the head wrap neatly folded. Only one who stood in the tomb could describe the details as John does.

Yes, the account differs from the other three, but let me say, again as a historian, that such differences are typical. They are different in details but not in the story. We know for sure that Mark and Luke did not see the tomb (OK, Mark may have had a chance, but not likely) and there is no indication that Matthew did either. None of them write with such a personal touch about the details. I believe John wrote about what he remembered seeing sixty years earlier. I have no doubt he and Peter talked about it many times. There is little chance his memory failed regarding the single most important day of his long life.

With Paul, we must agree. Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you—believing anything else will not lead to anythingNJB

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence