In Jesus’ name

Last night, we read that Jesus calls us to be like Him.  He calls us to love.  But He doesn’t stop there.  Not only must we love, but we are called to do God’s works.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.  And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

John 14:10-14

Jesus tells us that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.  His words and His works are done by the Father who lives within Him.  Jesus tells us: “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”   “And will do greater ones than these!”  WOW!  Jesus calls us to live in Him and to allow God to live within us.  When we do, Jesus will continue to carry out God’s works through us.   If we ask anything of Jesus in His name, He will do it.  Really?  Anything?

Yes!  Of course, this isn’t a free for all.  We have to BELIEVE in Jesus and DO the works that Jesus does and ASK in Jesus’ name.  And when we are centered in that way, our asks will be good asks.  Anything that we truly seek in Jesus’ name, He will do.

Jesus,

I believe in you.  I believe that you are in God and God is in you.  Thank you for coming to earth and showing us God’s love and God’s works.  Help me to do works that glorify you.  Help me to do your will, to follow your plan.  You know that I struggle. Help me to stay on course.   Help me to see you in others, to love others even when I feel rejected or disagree with them, and to help others love.  Help me to be a reflection of you rather than trying to shine on my own.   I ask this in your name.  Amen.

I Wanna Be Like Christ

Remember the Gatorade commercials “I wanna be like Mike”?  In the commercials, kids try to emulate Michael Jordan while singing:

Sometimes I dream
That he is me
You’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be
I dream I move, I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike

Again I try
Just need to fly
For just one day if I could
Be that way
I dream I move
I dream I groove
Like Mike
If I could Be Like Mike
I wanna be, I wanna be
Like Mike
Oh, if I could Be Like Mike

Today, as the NBA finals are being played kids are probably dreaming of being like LeBron James or Steph Curry.

Today the Bible opened to John and the reminder that we are called to be like Christ (not Mike).  Jesus tells us:

“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

This is how all will know that we are disciples of Christ — if we have love for one another — if we be like Christ and love no matter what.  Jesus says these words right after sending Judas off from the Last Supper to betray Him.  A reminder that we have to love even those who hurt us, who frustrate us, who challenge us, who don’t love us back.  That is how all will know that we are disciples of Christ — not by the cross around our neck or our appearance at Church on Sunday — but by our love — by our actions.

Maybe we could change the words to the song:

Again I try
Just need to fly
For just one day if I could
Be that way
I dream I love
Like  God above
Like Christ
If I could Be Like Christ
I wanna be, I wanna be
Like Christ
Oh, if I could Be Like Christ

 

Christmas Light

It is 4 days until Christmas.  Christmas trees are lit and decorated.  Houses are outlined in Christmas lights.  The shopping malls are bustling and promising to leave the lights on later than usual  (some stores are leaving the lights on for 24 hours a day until Christmas eve).  Do we know how to celebrate the Light of the World or what!?

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.  I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.  And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.  Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.  And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

John 12:44-50

More than 2000 years ago Jesus came into the world. He came as light.  Not an LED light that flashes and changes colors.  Not a spotlight that produces stars or snowflakes on an otherwise ordinary house wall.  But LIGHT, so that everyone who believes in Him might not remain in darkness.

There is a lot of darkness in the world.  Active shooters, drivers who plow through crowds, hate and fear.  And we all experience personal darkness.  Sometimes more often than we would like.   Hate, fear, depression and anxiety — darkness.  If you watch the news, it feels like the darkness in our world is increasing.  Perhaps there is a correlation between the increased darkness around us and the way that our society seems to push God out of the way.  Perhaps.

Jesus came to save the world.  To save us from our own darkness.  Whoever believes in Him, might not remain in darkness.  Is it really that easy?   I have noticed that when I read the Bible, when I spend time praying or talking to God, I feel lighter.  I feel like the shadows of the world disappear and become more manageable.  Maybe it is that easy.

This Christmas celebrate the light.  When you look at the lights on the trees or the houses, remember that the Light of the World came to the earth to take away our darkness.  Go toward the light.  Listen to His word.  Believe.

Jesus,

You are my light!  You remove darkness around me.  Thank you for coming into the world.  Thank you for loving me.  I love you!  Help me to understand your word and to follow you.

Fruit of the Vine

Today I did not need to open up the bible to find the verse.  Instead, while I was driving to work this morning, out of nowhere these words came to me: “I am the vine, you are my branches.”  And the words took hold.  So tonight, I opened the Bible to John:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.   Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

John 15:1-10

I have heard this verse it seems a million times, but today as I was driving to work it started to make more sense.  God has connected us to Him.  We are connected just like a branch is to a vine.  A branch by itself is meaningless.  It is dead with out its source of life (as are we without God).   But when we stay connected, we can grow.  Sometimes we may try to grow too far away from the vine, but as long as we keep our connection to God, he won’t let us go.  If we remain connected, we will bear fruit.  God’s love flows to us, just as the water and nutrients necessary for a branch to bear fruit flows to it.  And just as a gardener sometimes has to prune or cut back a branch in order to allow it to bear better fruit, so too, God sometimes needs to prune us — to cut us back.  He does that with His word, and we can help others by sharing that word — by bearing God’s fruit.  And sometimes, maybe, God has to prune us back a little more sharply.  And sometimes it feels like it cuts deep.  But out of those dark times, if we stay connected, we bloom forward even more beautiful than before and we strengthen our connection to God.

Dear God,

I want my connection to you to grow stronger.  I don’t want to be connected by just a little twig.  I want a wide base — fill me with your love and your word so that I can bear fruit pleasing to you.  I want to remain in you forever.

 

Love in Deed

Remember the Whitney Houston song “How will I know”?  Today’s bible passage reminds me of the refrain: how will I know if he really loves me.

Do not be amazed, [then,] brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?  Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:13-18

How do we know that God loves us?  He gave his life for us.  He gave us life.  Look around. The world is a beautiful place.

How will others know that we love them? Words are not enough.  We must love in deed and truth. God shows us His love.  Do we show others ours?

We doubt God’s love, despite everything He does for us.  Yet we sometimes expect others to accept our words.

Lord, thank you for showing me your love. Help me to to share your love with others. Help me to love in deed.

 

 

Love is all you need

Love.  A simple 4 letter word.  But it is the answer to everything.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, [then] what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

John 14:15-23

Love.   My heart swells when I read this passage.  My Father will give me an Advocate who will be with me always.  Jesus will not leave me.  He will come to me. I will live. I will be loved.   Jesus will reveal himself to me.  And God will make his dwelling with me.

What more could I ask?

All He asks from us is to love Him.  And if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  Love God first.  Keeping the commandments will naturally follow.

God loves us.  He wants us to love Him.  That is our purpose.  To love.  To love God and to love each other.  Love.

I love you, Lord!  I am working on loving others (some are easier than others).  I need your help.  Help me to know true love. Help me to show true love.

Bread of Life

Basic human needs are food and water.  We cannot survive without them.  Four hours out in the sun and I feel like I am dying without water.  One bottle is not enough.

Today the Bible opened here:

All you who are thirsty, come to the water!  You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost!  Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy?  Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.  Pay attention and come to me; listen, that you may have life.  I will make with you an everlasting covenant, the steadfast loyalty promised to David.  As I made him a witness to peoples, a leader and commander of peoples,  So shall you summon a nation you knew not, and a nation that knew you not shall run to you, Because of the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.

Isaiah 55:1-5

As I read these words, I am reminded of Jesus’ words:

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

John 6:35

We know our hunger and thirst for food and water.  If we are able, we satisfy that hunger and thirst.  Many of us, at least I do, over-satisfy that hunger.  We satisfy this human need.  But that greater need, we often leave still thirsting.  We sometimes ignore our hunger and thirst for God.  We need food and water daily.  I know there is not a day that goes by that I do not receive both, in more quantities than I need.  I cannot say the same thing about the living bread and water.

We participate in can food drives for the hungry, serve meals in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, deliver food and water to hurricane and other disaster victims.  We help satisfy the human needs of our neighbors and friends, but what are we doing for their spiritual needs.  What are we doing to help them come to the water?

God reminds us repeatedly throughout the Bible that just like the bread and water that we need for life on earth, we need the living bread and water that only comes through God for eternal life.  We go through life hungry for it and unsatisfied, and often we do not even know that that is the emptiness we feel.  We spend money on all the things that the TV ads tell us will make us happy, will satisfy our every need, but no material thing ever does.  Instead we continue to suffer from depression and anxiety — a dissatisfaction with life.

Let us come to the water!

Dear Lord,

You know our every need.  Please help all who are thirsty and hungry to find the food and drink that they nee.  Help them to recognize what they truly hunger for.  I know I thirst and hunger for more of you.  Help me to help others find and satisfy their basic needs.

God lifts us up for the slam dunk

This morning, I woke up early and decided to open the Bible while I ate some Frosted Mini-Wheats.  The Bible fell open to John chapter 8.  In John 8, Jesus saves the woman from being stoned and reminds her would be assailants:

“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

I have always found this passage very easy to grasp. People in glass houses should not throw stones.  None of us have any room to talk.  Or are righteous enough to judge others.  Easy to grasp, not always easy to live up to.  But today I read further:

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.”

John 8: 31-36

I read this passage over several times, particularly the last three sentences:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.  A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.” At first it was very troubling to me.  And I was filled with this feeling of hopelessness.  “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.”  Well, we all know that we are all sinners.  So we are all slaves.  “A slave does not remain in a household forever.”  What does that mean?  We don’t remain on earth?  We don’t remain alive?  Of course both of these are true.  We don’t remain in God’s household?  We are not truly part of His house, His kingdom?  This is where, the feeling of hopelessness set in.  Because I know I am a sinner.  I also understand that all humans are sinners and that we really cannot opt out of being a sinner here on earth.  So is it hopeless?  I want to be able to not be a slave to sin.  I want to remain in God’s household forever.  But from everything I read and hear and understand, I cannot choose to do that — I will always sin — so isn’t it hopeless and why do we try not to sin, if we know we will fail?  Is anyone else feeling hopeless with me, now?

So I put the Bible down and thought — maybe I will try to open it again later and it will be a happier place.

Then as I was driving to church, I had a moment of clarity, or at least I think it was. My hopelessness came, because I was thinking only of myself, and my pride was getting in the way saying if I cannot fix it, then it is hopeless.  If I cannot not sin, then  I am a failure.  I was totally missing the last sentence: “So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.”  Jesus frees us.  Jesus is our hope. I was putting myself ahead of God.  I was thinking like a child: if I can’t do it on my own, then I don’t want it.  I am not able to do it on my own, but God is.  I just need to be humble enough to accept it.  And I need to be humble enough to ask for God’s grace and mercy — to ask Him to free me.

Ok, starting to feel a lot better.  But I was still struggling with a question that has haunted me before.  Why should we keep trying not to sin, even if we know we will fail and continue to sin.  Because God asks us to try.   By trying we show our love for Him. (This time some clarity came from basketball.)  We all root for the under dog.  (I am watching #11 seed Xavier University trying to beat #1 seed Gonzaga right now in the NCAA Elite Eight.)  Why do we like the under dog?  Because they don’t give up — they keep trying even when the odds are against them.  Why do they keep trying?  Because they love the game, they love their team.  God wants us to try.  And understand that when we try, and when we accept our failure and turn to Him, he will lift us up to the rim, so we can finish with the slam dunk.

Jesus,

I love you!  I do not want to sin.  I want to live in your household forever.  I need your help.  I need your grace and your mercy.  Forgive me for my sins.  Break the chains that bind me.  I know that when you lift me up, I will truly be free.  Lord, Lift me up!

Amen

St. Patrick and the Good Shepherd

I had no idea that St. Patrick worked as a shepherd for a period of time.  It is true you learn something new everyday and that is what I learned today.

I say that only because of the coincidence of where the Bible opened today.  Today I opened the Bible to Jesus’ description of the Good Shepherd in the Gospel of John:

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

John 10: 14-16

I have read or heard this part of the Gospel many times before.  But what I heard today was: we are all one.  Too often it seems we try to split up into teams, sides or folds.  We focus on our differences.  There are so many today who may not feel like they are in the fold.  I suppose we all feel like that at times.  But Jesus’s words are clear.  Whether you belong to the fold or not, He came here for you.  Regardless of your country, your race, your preferences, your religion, we are all one flock.  And Jesus came to shepherd us all.  To lead us to our Father.  To lay down His life for each and every one of His sheep — even when we feel completely lost and left out of the fold. Even when the world tries to separate us.

St. Patrick  found sheep who weren’t in the fold and brought them to God.  He helped Ireland hear God’s voice.

Lord, help me be like Patrick.  Help me reach out to those who may feel outside the fold. Help me to ignore the differences between others and me (all of which truly are minor),  and to not get caught up in the divisions that differences create.  And finally help me listen to You!  Shepherd me O Lord!