To Love You More Dearly

The storm clouds gather near the park. A dad starts heading for the car with his little girl. They hurry along. The breeze blows stiffer. ‘Thunder in the distance. Lighting flashes start to ignite the sky. Dad wants to comfort his child and dampen her fears, so he leans to lift her and hold her close. He notices she’s a bit less affected than he thought. In fact, with each lightning flash she looks upward and grins widely. Hmmm. “What are you doing?” he asks. The little one says, “I’m just smiling, Daddy, ‘cause God keeps snapping my picture!” … How’d you like to love and trust God like that?! No wonder Jesus encourages us to love like the little ones. (Though no one ever emailed him a story like the one I just told you.) O, to be so in love with God! Who here wouldn’t wanna sing the song, “Day by day, O Dear Lord, three things I pray. To see you more clearly, love you more dearly, follow you more nearly; day by day.” … Last week, we shared together about seeing God more clearly. TODAY, let’s focus on loving God more dearly!

Psalms to prophets to Jesus the Christ. They all invite and teach. We FALL in love with God. We fall in love with God as we feel God falling in love with us. It is not so much a decision as a willful, joyful tumble. Off our own two feet. And into the loving arms of God in Christ. It’s an affair of the heart, uncontrolled, uncontrived. ‘A surrender we cannot seem to help or avoid. It draws us in and draws us up. And God does the drawing, out of God’s great love for us.

Do you really hear what we read and say from an ancient day (Ps. 8)?

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!  Your glory is chanted above the heavens by the mouth of babes and infants… When I look at your heavens, the moon and stars… what am I that you are mindful of me, and care for me? Yet you have made [us all] little less than You, and crown us with glory and honor. [Ed./alt.]” God goes first! Desire to love God more dearly? Then begin by feeling and knowing God drawing nearer to you. (Any lover, real or would-be, instinctively knows. It sure works better when the Other walks closer to you at the same time!)

God doesn’t draw away or run away, or play hard to get. In fact,

says our Bible, “God has blessed us in Christ HERE, with every heavenly, spiritual blessing. God chose us before the foundation of the world, that we should be [like] him. God destined us in love to be his [children] through Jesus Christ, according to his will. And all to the praise of his glorious grace.…” [Eph. 1] Wow! Wanna draw nearer, love God the dearer? Then know how near and dear you are to GOD!

If you’re old enough and been so privileged, pray God you’ve had a great love. Remember the 1st moment? Remember when to be near that soul was to have a little trouble just breathing? That’s how it’s been with God since 1st God loaned God’s breath to Adam. We take God’s breath away! How much more moving for us to know the breath we breathe, God has loaned us. It just makes you weak in the knees! ‘Fall down delirious! ‘Fall-in-love-with-God glad in your heart! Nothing to do. Just to know and be! Love God more dearly? ‘Not that hard. Stop tryin’ to stand on your own two feet. Fall over. Fall in. Fall upon God and take a deep breath. His!

Now we may not choose to fall in love. We just do, because God goes first! But we do and we must choose to stay in love with God! It turns out, love’s a verb, not a noun. Staying in love requires doing love. Jesus resurrected says so on the shores of the Galilee. A risen Jesus has guided the disciples to a great catch of fish. As many as all the kinds of fish known to the ancient sea (153). ‘Turns out, for all their effort Jesus is way ahead, with a fish-fry already on the grill. O, they dare not ask or say, but they knew it was he! Jesus came, took the bread and fish and gave it to them. When they’d finished breakfast, Jesus asked Peter, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” He said, “Lord; you know I love you.” He said, “Feed my lambs.” A second time asked and answered, Jesus said, “Tend my sheep.” A third time asked and answered And Peter said, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Wanna stay in love with God? ‘Draw nearer? Then love Christ in action, not just in emotion or in imagination. A college friend of mine (V McT) went on to law school and took up work in the civil rights arena. He asked an attorney friend’s help with a particularly difficult case. Why? Because he knew this friend as a Christian soul. But as the matter became more public, the friend backed away. He could lose his job. He explained he was willing to follow Jesus to the cross, just not get up on it! My friend Vic replied, “Then you may admire Jesus, but not love him. Lovers follow. Lovers do what lovers do!”

Jesus says, “If you love me, feed my sheep, tend my lambs.” Love does. In the doing we draw nearer to God in Jesus Christ. We won’t all be asked to lose our job or even engage the very greatest issues of our day, much less ascend the cross. But we all have moments. When you can either do right or do safely, which way do you go? When your friend’s work, reputation, or person is attacked, do you come to their defense? Do you take credit when it’s due… and even when it belongs to another? Do you take advice that makes for a better job at work, even if it might cost you a personal promotion? Do you take somebody else’s words off the internet at school and try to say it’s your own? We FALL in love, CHOOSE to STAY and DO love.

O friends, it turns out, loving God more dearly means loving God more widely, too. ‘In places and people we would not choose for ourselves. See, God has done the choosing and has said so. Once swept-off-our-feet of God, we find ourselves swept into the company of one another. Jesus didn’t let others’ treatment of him dictate his treatment of them. He showed compassion, even to his enemies and friends who let him down. In the ‘70s, anthropologist Margaret Mead was a Trustee of (MLK’s) Crozer Divinity. A seminarian asked her the earliest sign of civilization/culture. ‘Expected answer: a clay pot/a fish hook/a grinding stone. Mead’s answered: A healed thigh bone! No mended bones are found where survival of the fittest reigns supreme. A healed femur shows someone cared! ‘Enough to do the injured’s hunting/gathering until the leg healed. Jesus’ whole ministry was about givin’ every broken life a leg up. And every broken soul a nearer walk t’ward heaven. Even those at his cross, and those who refused to come. How wide is your love? About-that-dear is your God in Jesus Christ.

‘Want to love God more dearly? Are you ready to fall for him? ‘Do for him actively. ‘Reach out for him widely?

 

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