Monthly Archives: July 2021

How Are We to Love God?

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your  mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

Jesus is describing how broad, deep and complete our love of God should be.  It should include heart, soul, mind and strength.

With our heart and soul, we love God with our non-physical and eternal nature – that part of our inner being that uniquely reflects who we are as an individual person and a creation of God.  With our mind, we love God with our physical and present nature – our intellect, thought, reason and will.  With our strength, we love God with our actions supported by our determination and perseverance.   

To help us understand how to love an unseen God, Jesus gives a human illustration in what he describes as the second commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love of self, or survival, is one of the first laws of nature.  It is instinct.  We don’t even have to think about it.  The love Jesus is calling us to embrace, however, is to overcome the instinct of putting self first.   

So how do we love like this?  Let me illustrate with a story.

I have a friend, Jack, who used to own and insurance brokerage.  His office manager was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and had surgery.  She could no longer speak clearly, which was the most important part of her job in interfacing with the firm’s customers.  She was one year from retirement and for her to stop work at this time would have resulted in  significant personal hardship.  Jack took the time to personally call all of the firm’s more than 80 customers to let them know of her condition and ask if they could work with her under the circumstances.  He also asked them for their prayers and understanding.

Jack said, “I knew they loved and respected her, but I didn’t realize how much until the cards, letters, flowers, and gifts came pouring into the office.”  Both the employees of Jack’s firm and the customers expressed a desire to work with her in spite of her disability until her retirement at age of 65. 

Here we see the kind of love that Jesus was talking about in Jack’s effort to go the extra mile on behalf of his office manager.   

Loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength starts with the little things. If we let them become a habit, then we start to love God as Jesus commands.

Think of a time when you loved another person with your whole being.  Did you realize you were loving God as well?     

Opportunists for God

“Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” (Eph. 5:15-16) 

Surely in our day, with escalating murder rates and random shootings in schools, theaters and churches, there is no less evil than what Paul saw in his day.  Nor is our need to seize opportunities to serve God and build his kingdom any less. 

The key, Paul says, is to be wise and understand God’s will.  This requires a mindset of always asking what the Lord’s will is in every situation, particularly with the people we encounter — family, work colleagues, friends and strangers. 

These opportunities are often unexpected.  Once I was at lunch with a work colleague who started to share how he was estranged from his wife.  He was feeling bad for some things he had done, but was angry over her response.  I just listened as he uncharacteristically shared his emotion over the crisis in their relationship.  Though we were in a public restaurant, I reached across the table, took hold of his arm and prayed that God would give him the courage and grace to reach out to his wife, and that they would both open their hearts to forgiveness and reconciliation. 

While I never learned the details, they did subsequently reconcile.  In reflecting on the moment, I believe God’s grace prompted me to say the prayer and use it to soften hearts and bring an end to this estrangement. 

When someone expresses a need or lets us know that they are hurting, alarm bells should go off alerting us to an opportunity to be and bring God’s presence into the situation.  As Paul suggests, our first reaction should be to understand God’s will. “What do you want me to do and say, Lord?”  

Jesus seized countless opportunities to heal a cripple, give sight to the blind, expel a demon, open the ears of the deaf and even raise the dead to demonstrate that the kingdom of God was at hand.

The Book of Acts reports that Peter and John did not pass by a crippled beggar as they entered the temple, but similarly seized the opportunity to demonstrate that the kingdom of God was at hand by commanding the beggar to stand and walk.

Do you look for opportunities to build God’s kingdom in the daily moments of your life?

The Divine Power of Truth

“For this I was born, for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)

These were Jesus’ words to Pontius Pilate as he was questioning Jesus to determine whether he should be crucified.  Ironically, Pilate’s response was, “What is truth,” when the embodiment of all truth was standing right in front of him.     

Truth, the knowledge of God, his word and work, has divine power.  It demolishes lies, deception, and all manner of error.  Since truth is from God, it is eternal and never fades or dies, in contrast to lies and deception which may last for a while, but are eventually discovered and proven false.

Truth on the other hand may lie dormant for a time, but is always discovered and demolishes the stronghold of lies.  Examples in our world today include such questions as when life begins, and what constitutes marriage.  If we discovered biological cells on Mars, the headlines would declare “Life Found on Mars!”  Yet, a human egg fertilized with a human sperm is not?  Genesis and all of nature declare that marriage is between a “male and female.” (Genesis 1:27)  But the wisdom of this world through our highest court says it is not?  Is our culture exchanging the “truth of God for a lie,” as St. Paul mentions in Romans 1:25?

History testifies to the power and lasting nature of truth. The Roman Empire oppressed and persecuted Christians for more than 300 years.  Yet, historian Will Durant, not necessarily an advocate of the Christian faith, eloquently observes:

“There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known.  Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.” (Caesar and Christ, p. 652)

In recent memory we have seen regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union seek to oppress and outlaw the truth of God, but instead the power and eternal nature of truth brought each of them crashing down.

Jesus said, “If you remain in my word…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  (John 8:31-32)

Do we appreciate the power of truth?