Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Being Gentle with Ourselves

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Trying softer isn’t about knowing or doing the right thing; it’s about being gentle with ourselves in the face of pain that is keeping us stuck. Because no matter how hard we try, we can’t hate or shame ourselves into change. Only love can move us toward true growth. This is the love given to us by a gentle, kind, compassionate, good God — and the love we are invited to give ourselves too.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 193-194

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 13, 2020

Soul Stuff

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Real love is contagious. It is infectious. When something is purely of God, it can’t be contained within the walls we fashion for it. This kind of love always yields a fruit that can’t be managed or manufactured or scheduled. Jesus said this was the expectation-defying, unpredictable activity of the Spirit that would characterize his people (John 3:8). This was the movement of the early Church, a movement that grew exponentially in a way that modern churches all want to replicate but rarely can because we’re all trying to engineer man-made miracles. We craft baptism events, we schedule worship nights, we plan revivals. We so love to talk about following the Spirit’s leading, but in practice we really want to run the show and get God to work for us. One of the most freeing lessons I ever learned as a pastor is that I cannot do spiritual things; I can only do physical things. I can only respond in flesh and blood to what I believe God is saying, and then rest in the results. God is the only One who can do soul stuff. My most pressing job as a pastor is often to get out of the way — and it ain’t easy.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 153

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999

Dearly Loved By God

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

The more I’ve studied the doctrine of Universal Reconciliation, the more I’ve started to notice something about those who embrace the view: they tend to be more loving and accepting of those who are unlike them.

Maybe it’s because when you realize that everyone is equally loved by God and that God is really intending to bring everyone to repentance, and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will gladly confess that jesus Christ is Lord, well, you kind of relax and enjoy being alive.

See, instead of seeing people as “saved” or “lost,” and grouping everyone you meet into the “Christian” or “non-Christian” category, you may start to see people as simply people.

Not only that, but you also begin to see them as God sees them. You slowly recognize that everyone you meet — regardless of their beliefs or spiritual condition — is someone who is dearly loved by God. You also start to understand that everyone you meet is indeed your brother or sister, and you realize that we all have the same Heavenly Father.

This really starts to change the way you treat other people. It starts to bear good fruit in your life. It even makes it easier to love others as Christ has loved you, without conditions or strings attached.

Eventually, you begin to recognize that God loves everyone much more than you could ever love them; even your own family members who may be far from faith in Christ as the moment. You start to realize that God has a grand design in motion to draw everyone to Himself, eventually. We get to take part in that, if we can learn to abide in Christ and collaborate with the Holy Spirit in the process. But, we can also enjoy a newfound sense of ease with this process. Because now we’re not fighting the clock or worried about closing the sale. Instead, we’re trusting in God’s ultimate victory which is inevitable and unstoppable.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 155-156

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, December 2, 2020

Our Needs Matter

Saturday, November 28th, 2020

Because our brains are shaped around what we notice, self-attunement helps us become better and more effective at listening to the heartbeat of our own humanity. And here’s what I truly love about the way we are designed: As we do our own internal work, we quite literally develop the capacity to listen to and love others more fully than before. Now it’s worth saying that we don’t do our work only so we will love others better — although it’s a beautiful benefit. Nope, we are invited to connect to and respond to our internal world because we are deeply valuable and loved by God; and because that is true, we can rest in the fact that our needs matter.

— Aundi Kolber, Try Softer, p. 133

Photo: Chateau de Chillon, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, November 2000

The Father

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

The overall testimony of scripture is that God is the Father of all humanity. God’s love for everyone is expressed in the sending of Christ who told us that God is like the prodigal son’s father who never stopped loving his child, even when he lived a life of rebellion and tried to run as far away from him as possible.

God never disowns us. God never stops being our Father. We never stop being children of God. Even on our worst day, God’s love for us is based on who God is, not on who we are, or what we do.

Yes, we can reflect our sonship or daughterhood more clearly whenever we love others, serve others or forgive others. But, even if we fail to do this, it doesn’t change the fact that God is our Father, and that we are loved and forgiven. Based on our behavior, it may appear that our father is the devil, at times. But this is not the reality. It is a perversion of the reality. God is our Father, and we are all His children. If we reflect the character of Christ, then we are starting to look like our Father more and more. This is the way it’s supposed to work.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 8, 2020

Restorative Justice

Sunday, November 1st, 2020

It is not God who is violent. We are.
It is not that God demands suffering of humans. We do.
God does not need or want suffering — neither in Jesus nor in us.

Most of us are still programmed to read the Scriptures according to the common laws of jurisprudence, which are hardly ever based on restorative justice. (Even the term was not common till recently.) Restorative justice was the amazing discovery of the Jewish prophets, in which Yahweh punished Israel by loving them even more! (Ezekiel 16:53ff.). Jurisprudence has its important place in human society, but it cannot be transferred to the divine mind. It cannot guide us inside the realm of infinite love or infinite anything. A worldview of weighing and counting is utterly insufficient once you fall into the ocean of mercy.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 146-147

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 30, 2018

Friend of Sinners

Sunday, October 25th, 2020

What do we notice about Jesus? Does He, as God in the flesh, avert his gaze when surrounded by sinners? Is Jesus too holy to look upon sin or to be in the presence of sinners? Hardly! Instead, those sinners are his closest friends. He spends so much time with them that the religious elite — who, by the way, were too holy to spend time with sinners — openly criticized him for it.

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Luke 7:34)

So, is God really “too holy to look on our sin”? Absolutely not! In fact, if God was too holy to look upon our sins, then God would never be able to look at anyone or see anything. Instead, we see time and again that God’s eyes are always upon us, and that we cannot go anywhere to escape God’s presence, even if we were to descend into the depths of hell (Sheol) itself.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 79-80

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 24, 2020

Like God

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020

In fact, Jesus tells his disciples to turn the other cheek and to love their enemies specifically because this is what God does to His own enemies. So, when we love our enemies, we are like God who sends the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. (See Matt. 5:45)

Jesus also shows us an “Abba” who, like the father of the prodigal son, goes out of his way to seek out his children; to embrace them, forgive them, and extend mercy to them, and who does not require punishment before extending this love to us.

Taking these facts into account, I find it highly unlikely that Jesus would have accepted the new teaching of Eternal Suffering, as the Pharisees had done. It seems far outside of his character to have embraced such a doctrine, especially in light of the merciful, patient, and loving God he revealed to us.

— Keith Giles, Jesus Undefeated, p. 77-78

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, October 2, 2020.

Restorative Justice

Monday, September 7th, 2020

It’s time for Christianity to rediscover the deeper biblical theme of restorative justice, which focuses on rehabilitation and reconciliation and not punishment. (Read Ezekiel 16 for a supreme example of this.) We could call Jesus’ story line the “myth of redemptive suffering” — not as in “paying a price” but as in offering the self for the other. Or “at-one-ment” instead of atonement!

Restorative justice, of course, comes to its full demonstration in the constant healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus represents the real and deeper level of teaching of the Jewish Prophets. Jesus never punished anybody! Yes, he challenged people, but always for the sake of insight, healing, and restoration of people and situations to their divine origin and source. Once a person recognizes that Jesus’s mission (obvious in all four Gospels) was to heal people, not punish them, the dominant theories of retributive justice begin to lose their appeal and their authority.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 142

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, September 7, 2020

The Blood of Jesus

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

The blood of Jesus does not purchase forgiveness for us, pay the penalty for sin, or appease the wrath of God. God didn’t need the blood of Jesus as any sort of payment or appeasement. God does not desire blood and death. The blood of Jesus has nothing to do with any of those things.

No, the blood of Jesus is the solution to the problem of human sin because it both exposes the true nature of our sin to us, and then calls us to no longer participate in these practices. The blood of Jesus calls us away from scapegoating and violence, toward love and forgiveness. In this way, the blood of Jesus truly does save the world from sin. It saves us, not because it buys redemption and reconciliation from God, but because it reveals to us the truth about our sin and calls us to live toward others as God has always lived toward us: with nothing but love, grace, mercy and forgiveness. When we live this way, all the world will know that we have been saved from sin.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 259-260

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, August 30, 2020