I have spent a good portion of the past few weeks apart from my wife. Barb has been helping her parents with their transition into an assisted living setting. Some of you are well aware that what Barb is working on can be exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally. But this is what love does naturally. Barb and I have been loved by her parents during our lifetimes, so we love them back because it is right and good. It isn’t paying back nearly as much as it is just the “back and forth nature” of healthy loving relationships.
If you are like me you crave these deep loving relationships. We want the sense of security and identity that comes in loving and being loved. This feels so right and foundational because that is just what it is. John the Apostle states very clearly why true loving relationships are so essential to our lives in I John 4:8 – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
The thing about God’s love is that it was fully instigated and played out on one side without viewing it as a waste if reciprocation didn’t happen. As much as I may want to think I am good at loving, when I consider the love of God I need to just stop – Oh my! That is a most amazing sort of love. This is a profound love of a Father giving up His Son so that His enemies can receive gifts. This is an outrageous sort of love that in the middle of the Son’s crucifixion he actually cares for the ones that nailed Him there. That is not normal – that is extraordinary to say the least.
As odd as this kind of love is – Jesus expects His followers to love like this as well. I am quite aware that we are far from perfect in this area but that doesn’t mean that we are not going to go after it. Imagine how little we would do in life if we only would do things that we could do perfectly. Take a chance and love just because you can! Go beyond your friends and family; love someone who needs your love and then love them sacrificially not only because you can but because you believe God created you to love like this. Do it because it will connect you to Jesus in a new way. Love like this because it feeds your soul!
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High…"
In Christ’s Love,
Wow, I have so much to be thankful for today!
Which brings me to an obvious question – why am I so often not experiencing a sense of gratitude? I can so easily go through the day without any deep sense of thankfulness whatsoever. I can often notice “all that is wrong” and go through the motions of the day with a ho-hum attitude instead of living joyfully with the many gifts I have been given. Oh sure, I am like most when I stop and think for a few moments I will try to convince myself “I have nothing to complain about” or “I have so much to be thankful for.” But why do I need to remind myself?
Not that long ago I went through a dark period. It was as if nothing could truly wipe out the oppressive weight that would press down on my soul each night when I was supposed to be enjoying some refreshing sleep. My mind would race and I would be consumed by deep thoughts, complex problems, sorrows and many other things that just ate away at my peace. My soul hurt and I couldn’t shake it. Without going into details; I am in a much better frame of mind today and I have so much to be thankful for.
There are a couple of things I believe I gained in this “dark night of the soul” period. The first was a sense of appreciation for others that are dealing with soul anxiety for whatever the reason. I am thankful that I can relate to a certain extent with people that have chronic issues that weigh them down and are very real. Closely tied to this new understanding was a sense of thankfulness that I am not waking up to this difficulty today. I have a sense of gratitude that I can see my context with a sense of hope and also see how good I have it on this particular front.
In desperation, I also leaned heavily on God to set me free and heal my brokenness. That is always a good spot to be but commonly we can either feel entitled or forget our need for God when our lives seem good or everything is going our way. The writer of the 45th Psalm asks a question that I asked often during the period I just shared with you. He wrote:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
I believe a soul that is downcast or one filled with ingratitude needs to go to the same place for peace and a perspective that is good and true. Here the psalmist’s solution and it is still the answer today!
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Our souls cry out to know God, to know truth and live out our days in gratitude and hope.
We all go through our lives believing certain things. Some of these things are given no real thought such as I believe that there will be air to breathe today and I believe that gravity will keep me from floating off into outer space. When I make those statements it is easy to see how we operate with a belief system that doesn’t even require any real sense of processing.
There is another level of belief that for me is almost as foundational and for which I am so thankful. I believe my family and friends will love me. They will want what is best for me and I can count on them if I need them. Now, as confident as I am about this in a broad sense, I have lived long enough to see that it is not as universally true as I wish it were. There are people that have turned from me or failed me in various ways. I have to admit I have failed people too during my life.
A final area of belief that I want to mention has to do with what I will call “developed beliefs.” As I go through the days of my life there are things that I come to believe due to evidence of one form or another. Some of these beliefs have to do with the way systems work such as how to be a good parent or how to manage people for effective productivity. In areas like this I always find myself processing new information, evidence and concepts while at the same time reconsidering my past observations. I am learning as I go and I find the need to modify some of my beliefs.
With this as my backdrop I bring you to a “set in stone belief”; a belief as it encounters the eternal things in our world. There are only a few eternal things: God, the Word of God and humanity [that is, our souls and not our bodies which will die]. With that in mind, we are invited to have eternal rock-solid beliefs in God and His ways regarding us. What do you believe regarding God? This Sunday we will be joining together in the Lord’s Supper and declaring what we believe as expressed in the Apostle’s Creed. I invite you to read it below and claim it for your day – it is really, really good stuff!
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the death; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen
To believe this is to believe that God is interested in you and He has given you all you need to live forever with Him. When we declare our belief as articulated in the above creed, we are confident that our lives matter today as we serve our God and this world.
Pastor Nick Mundis