Do you love me?

Theater-Fiddler-on-th_Horo
Last week I made reference to the movie/musical  Fiddler on the Roof.
I drew attention to the scene where Tevye is asking his wife Golde if she loves him.  They had been married the traditional way, by a matchmaker. They never saw each other until their wedding day.  His parents had told Tevye that they would grow to love each other.  He hadn’t thought about that much until it was time for his daughters to be wed.  They had each fallen in love and did not want to be married to someone chosen by the village matchmaker.  They were breaking tradition because of the love in their hearts for someone else. Tevye gives in to their request, but now he is wondering, does his wife love him. Tevye : “Golde, Do you love me? Golde responds: “Do I love you? With our daughters getting married,and this trouble in the town you're upset, you're worn out.  Go inside, go lie down!  Maybe it's indigestion.” Tevye persists with his question: “Do you love me?” Golde responds to his persistence:  “Do I love you?  For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow, after twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?” Tevye   wants an answer, “Do you love me?” Golde,  speaking to herself: “Do I love him?  For twenty-five years I've lived with him, fought with him, starved with him, twenty-five years my bed is his.   If that's not love, what is?”
Tevye jumps at his chance: “Then you love me?”
Golde   “I suppose I do”
Tevye  “And I suppose I love you too.”
They both seem quite satisfied to know, & then they sing together:  “It doesn't change a thing, but even so,  after twenty-five years it's nice to know.”
Yes, it is nice to know.  We all need to be loved & to give love in return.  Jesus summarizes the whole of the law of the Old Testament with 2 great commands in Mark 12:28-31
quoting Deuteronomy 6, the Shema.
28      …“what commandment is the foremost of all?” 29      Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; 30      AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31      “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” I have a good handle on what it means to love others.  Not that it is all that easy.  Some are easier to love than others.  That is not so much a judgment on them as it is me.  My love needs to do a lot of growing here.
But the 1
st 
command, to love God with all my heart, all my soul, my mind, and my strength, now that is where I have a problem.  I have no issue loving my wife, my kids and my grandkids like this.  But to be honest, I struggle emoting those kinds of feelings towards God.
After the resurrection Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee (John 21:15-17) where Jesus asks Peter three times in a row, “Do you love Me?” Each time John responds in the affirmative, & each time Jesus tells him to “take care of Jesus’ sheep”.   I take this to mean that our love for Jesus is shown to Jesus when we do what he wants us to do. He says as much in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” And then in John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” In John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” And then Jesus closes out this section by saying in John 14:25 25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Based on what Jesus has taught in these verses, then I can say with Golde when God asks me if I love Him, “Yes, I suppose I do.” My answer does not come from my emotions, it comes from my actions, living my life in obedience.  I gave up my dreams for my life & accepted God’s will for me to preach and teach His Word, and to tend His flock by feeding them. Although I must say I have struggled to bring them in from the field. Sheep are a stubborn lot, and many prefer to just stay out in the world for whatever reason.  But for those who come I have tried my best to feed them not only the milk, but the meat of the Word of God.  And I also believe that at Pathway we have done a good job in fulfilling His greatest commission by leading His sheep into the uttermost parts of the world in order to love people and share the life changing Gospel, the good news of salvation to all who would receive. Not everyone has the same calling.  Some are called to do other things than the things that I have done.  It makes them no less or more important than me.  We are all children of God, on equal footing, seeking to be faithful to serving God’s particular call upon our lives.  The trick is in discerning what God’s will is.  What is God calling you to do? Have you been obedient to all that God has asked of you?  I can’t say that I have.  I know that I have messed up quite a bit.  But I do keep trying.  I need to lean a little more on the “teacher” “my Helper”, the Holy Spirit of God.  (John 14:26) I still struggle with the emotional part of this.  Some followers of Jesus seem to have this incredible deep “feeling” of love for God.  I wish I could experience that.  Maybe it’s my personality.  I’m just not an emotional kind of guy.  I don’t have the answer.  But I do know that I am hungering for more of Him. Mike Samarkand 1024x768
“That all may Love Him”
Pastor Mike


“Regrets? I’ve had a few”

You might recognize those words from one of Frank Sinatra’s hits,
“I did it my way”. I’ve always disliked that song. I thought it was egotistical, an affront to the Face of God, and just plain arrogant.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

If you are like me, you have had some regrets in your life. I have had more than a few, and more than I care to admit. There are a couple of things that I have learned about regrets in life:
First of all, you cannot go back in time and fix it. It is far too late for that. The decisions that you made back then, that felt so good and right at the time, turn out to be something that you will never fully recover from. You can seek forgiveness, and that will help with the healing. But some choices we make, we are bound to live with and that can remain a very hurtful part of your life, for the rest of your days on this earth. It is true in relationships, careers, moral choices, and the list can go on and on.
Secondly, I have discovered that the biggest hurts of all come from the ones you love the most. I have counseled many people in the course of my career, and it is unbelievable how much pain we cause for the ones that mean the most to us. Why is this so true? Why do we hurt the ones we love so deeply? The answer to those questions vary from hurt to hurt. Most of the time it comes from our childish immaturity. We want it our way. And we are willing to do just about anything to have it our way.
As I look at my life, the end is very near. Every day now, I hear of people dying of this or that, who are far younger than I am. And as I perform my duties as a pastor, laying them to rest, I can’t help but contemplate my own life. Because of my great insecurity, I always turn to the things that I messed up. The things I could have done differently or at the very least, better. You see, unlike the song, my regrets are “far too numerous to mention”. I could write a book about my own failures and lack of accomplishment. Too often, I see myself before God, feeling ashamed, trying to hide my face from the One who sees everything.

It is much more difficult to see my successes. They seem so small, so few, and so far in-between. That is what happens to us when we just have to do it our way. It is the oldest trick in God’s book, having it our way. It comes from the pride of the serpent, feeding Eve the great lie of life, “You can have it all, your way.” You get to be God.

It reminds me of a story I once heard:
A young, enterprising store clerk convinced his boss that a ten-cent sale would be a great way to reduce the overflowing inventory. The boss agreed, and the sale was a tremendous success.
This gave the young man an idea: He would open his own store stocking nickel and dime merchandise! So the young man approached his boss and asked him to invest in his idea for a portion of the profits.
The boss said no. He thought the idea was ridiculous, and told the young man, "Honestly, where would you find enough merchandise to sell for a mere nickel or dime?"
The determined young clerk went ahead with his plans anyway.
And eventually, F.W. Woolworth had stores all over the country!
Later, his former boss said with regret, "As far as I can figure out, every word I used to turn Woolworth down cost me about a million dollars."

Do you have some things in your past that you regret? Perhaps it's losing contact with someone you love or holding a grudge. Or losing a relationship that meant all the world to you. Or being unforgiving. The good news of Jesus Christ is that every day is a new day for His followers! His blood has cleansed us from all of our sins and Jesus gives us the amazing opportunity to start anew every day! That's the power of His Amazing Grace!

Thank God for the cleansing power of the cross to erase all your sins.
And then you ask Him to help you with any past regrets you might have.
By His grace you can start anew one day at a time It won’t feel that way at first, but if you are persistent, it can happen. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” --2 Corinthians 5:17 Perdonare Per Diem  - Pastor Mike



The Suffering of Jesus

resurrection morning

It was just after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave.  People were excited.  Certainly this man was the Messiah who would restore Israel.

The Pharisee’s were angry and fearful that Jesus might cause a rebellion in which the Romans would flatten them.  They decided that Jesus must die and on that day He became public enemy number one.  He had to hide out for a few days.  If He was going to die, He would be the one to orchestrate that whole narrative, not the Pharisees.  Six days before the Passover, Jesus comes back to Bethany to have a last Sabbath dinner with His good friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  The “cat was out of the bag”.  People flocked to Bethany to see Jesus & also Lazarus who was giving testimony about his coming back from the grave.

     The next day, the 1st day of the week (Sunday), the day we refer to as the triumphal entry, Jesus, the “outlaw”, came out and openly entered Jerusalem with a crowd of Jubilant Israelites welcoming their King.

“Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” (John 12:13) They were convinced that Jesus was about to re-establish the Davidic Kingdom and remove the Roman domination.

(That great welcome would swing 180 degrees a few days later when Jesus didn’t deliver what they wanted)  The Pharisees were powerless to stop Him, he was much too popular on that Sunday.

John records the events of the next few days, but strangely “omits” what took place on Wednesday.  Sometime on Tuesday Jesus says

John 12:27,28

27     “Now My soul has become troubled;

and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’?

But for this purpose I came to this hour.

28     “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven:

“I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

Soon it is Passover night, the moon is full.  Jesus celebrates His last earthly Seder with His disciples.  Afterwards, they cross the brook Kidron and head up to the Mount of Olives where Jesus would spend His final free hours in prayer and in agony.  He had prayed here many times before, but we often don’t hear the content of His prayers.  Luke 22:39-44 tells us that He was in so much agony that his sweat “became like drops of blood” Modern medicine surmises that under extreme conditions of duress, capillaries in the head burst forth drops of blood literally pouring out of the skin like perspiration.

It was while being in this state of agony, thinking forward to the excruciating pain (literally “out of the cross pain”) that was waiting for Him that He was praying so fervently.

What was so agonizing for Jesus?  The pain that He was about to undergo?  The disciples asleep and soon to be forsaking Him?  Maybe He was focusing on the sin of the entire world (from the beginning of creation to the end of time).  He was about to pay the ultimate price for all of that sin.

Our sin would be placed on Him, so that we might receive His Glory.

     Whatever the reason for His agony, we see that Jesus who is fully God,

is at the same time fully man.  Here, His humanity is on full display.

In Matthew 26:38-39 we see more of His nightmare into which He is freely walking. He didn’t have to do this. It was the Father’s will, but it was His choice.

“I am deeply grieved, to the point of death.

Then he prays to God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;

yet not as I will, but your will be done”

Pause to reflect on Jesus suffering and how he handled it.  His suffering was not pointless nor was it needless.  Neither is ours.  Each of us has our own “Via Dolorosa” (the way of suffering).  And just as Jesus was the Son of God, we too are His children (though obviously not like Jesus, the 2nd person of the Divine Trinity).  But none the less, we are God’s family.   He does not cause our suffering.  That is the business of the evil one.  But when He does allow us to suffer you can be sure that it is not needless or pointless.

As author Kim Reisman has noted, “The truth is that the Jesus way isn’t about God taking pain away from God’s people; it’s about God providing us with strength, courage, and meaning, with abundant life, often in the midst of pain.”(1)

         In American culture there is a different perspective on suffering. In our pursuit of happiness and pleasure, it should never happen.

When it comes we are quick to categorize it as an accident, just a bit of bad luck.  It could have happened to anyone, but unfortunately for you, your number came up.  It is simply the order of nature.  There is no rhyme or reason to it.  Richard Dawkins and his ilk tell us that life is empty, pointless, futile, a desert of meaninglessness and insignificance.  Just like the rest of the world, (“red in tooth and claw”), our suffering is a part of the evolutionary process.  Tough luck, too bad, so sad!

         Thank God for Jesus Christ!  He tells us and shows us that suffering can and does have purpose and meaning.  Ultimately God is on the Throne and He will have the last word.  In the end, Jesus is resurrected to sit at the right hand of God. But His suffering and death, far from meaningless, provides our way out of sin and death.  He reunites us (the prodigals) with the Father.  He walked the Via Dolorosa, and so must we take up our cross.

I wonder what the purpose and plan for our pain might be.

Surely God knows, and that is enough.

         Coram Deo – Pastor Mike

(1) Kimberly Dunnam Reisman, Following At a Distance

(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005), 75