The love of Christ is radical. Sometimes I under-estimate how distinctive the changes are for those who choose to follow Jesus. Indeed, the early Christians had a solid grasp of what constituted real faith. In a time when our world is deeply divided, we have a chance to show a different way.
Consider the following quote from Justin Martyr:
"We who formerly treasured money and possessions more than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another and did not even share our hearth with those of a different tribe because of their customs, now, after Christ’s appearance, live together and share the same table. Now we pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us unjustly so that they too may live in accordance with Christ’s wonderful teachings, that they too may enter into the expectation, that they too may receive the same good things that we will receive from God, the ruler of the universe."
I've always been a little wary of limiting something like thanksgiving to a specific weekend of the year. The Scriptures are clear again and again that we are to be thankful always.
In that light, let's keep it going with this thought from Henri Nouwen.
"Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future. It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face the painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith."
God loves you!
As we approach Easter, let's focus on our wonderful Saviour and the price he paid for us.
"The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die." ~Philip Yancey
Our hope is founded on Jesus Christ. As we approach Easter we celebrate what he has done for us. His resurrection points to our glorious future. The following quote from C.S. Lewis was an encouragement to me today, as we look forward to Spring in Manitoba, to live in anticipation of that glory.
"I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on his shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise… To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago” in the same spirit in which he says, “I saw a crocus yesterday.”
- C.S. Lewis
Here's an excerpt from Frances J. Roberts' "Come Away My Beloved", and perhaps it will encourage you if you're facing a challenge or worry. She writes in first person from God's perspective.
"You are never alone, for I am at your right hand. Never despair, for I am watching over and caring for you. Be not anxious. What seems to you to be at present a difficult situation is all part of My planning, and I am working out the details of circumstances so that I may bless you and reveal Myself to you in a new way.
As I have opened your eyes to see, so shall I open your ears to hear...and you will know Me as your dearest Friend and as your truest Comforter.
No darkness will hide the shining of My face, for I shall be to you as a bright star in the night sky. Never let your faith waver. reach out your hand, and you shall touch the hem of My garment."
Something that Jesus emphasized often is the simple call to love others. He called it a commandment. It's better to simply obey this command before we get caught up in rationalizing and defensiveness. The following quote is from Thomas Merton:
"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can."
If the cold of winter is getting to you, maybe the following quote from G.K. Chesterton will bring a little spring to your day.
As the Grandpa to three little ones, I smiled as I pictured God in this way:
"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."
- G.K. Chesterton
Gratitude is something that can be elusive sometimes, so we need to simply make it a regular part of our prayer and daily mindset.
I found these words from Henri Nouwen to be encouraging:
"To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections – that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment.…Let us not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God."
Here are some wise words from Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His words, originally spoken 150 years ago, are very applicable today.
“We wrestle not with flesh and blood. Christians are not at war with any people who walk the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the infidel people we love and pray for; we are at war with heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the death with, everything that opposes God and his truth, but towards every human being we would still endeavor to carry out the holy maxim, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” The Christian soldier has no gun and no sword, for Christians do not fight with flesh and blood. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that we fight, and with other principalities and powers than with those that sit on thrones and hold scepters in their hands."
As Christians we are called to love others genuinely, sincerely. This always involves a certain level of risk. Consider the following from C.S. Lewis, and show some love today:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one...Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell."
Pastor Ward Parkinson