A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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CARITAS

When God tells us he’ll never leave us or betray us, we need to pay attention.

Jesus says we’re to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength. If we love God like that, we won’t have any love left over for anything or anyone else. What we’ll have instead is caritas, which is the cup-runneth-over kind of love. Caritas enables you to be kind to everyone, regardless of how they are to you, and to treat others as you want to be treated. In other words, caritas enables us to keep the Commandments, including the one Jesus gave us to love our enemies.

Caritas is the by-product of receiving God’s love in return for loving him. When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, so much of his love pours back onto you that you can’t contain it. That’s where caritas comes from. This overflow love is then meant for you to pour onto others.

The notion of caritas has been bastardized by the world and by the blind to refer to an obligatory form of giving (charity), but real caritas is God’s love overflowing you. You can give caritas to anyone indiscriminately, regardless of whether you know them or not and regardless of whether they hate you or not. God’s love fills you so much that you don’t require love from other people. If everyone in the world hates you but you know God loves you and you feel his love, you have more than enough love for yourself and to share.

When we love God the way scripture invites us to love him, we have no need to look for love in anyone or anything else. People who don’t love God are constantly looking for God-love substitutes, usually in other people, though sometimes also in material things or pursuits. But God made us to love him; we’re hardwired to love him; so if we try to rewire ourselves or override the wiring, we fail. We were built to fail if we try to find love in anything or anyone other than God. This is the failsafe that both drives us toward and brings us back to God, even if we don’t believe he exists.

As an atheist, I believed in love and I believed in truth, but I didn’t believe in God. I thought if I kept looking for love and truth, someday I would find them, though not necessarily in the same place. What I didn’t realize as an atheist is that God is Love and God is Truth, so the desire that drove me to find love and truth was actually the inborn desire for God that was hardwired into me by God himself.

God will never leave us or betray us. These are huge promises. No-one and nothing on Earth can give us these promises and keep them. Only God can. People will always leave you and betray you, just as you will always leave and betray them. You may look the other way and pretend they’re not leaving or betraying you, but you’re only fooling yourself.

Women are very good at this, fooling themselves. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of women I know who haven’t looked the other way while their significant other betrayed them. Most women would rather be betrayed and look the other way than lose their man, and that is just sad.

God will never betray us. HE WILL NEVER BETRAY US. He will neither leave us nor betray us. Imagine the enormity of such promises, and yet you don’t have to imagine, because these promises are real and unbreakable. God cannot break his promise to us. When he says he’ll never leave us or betray us, he won’t. When he invites us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we should. The rewards of loving God are infinite and nothing on Earth compares to them.

God is standing there with his heart on his sleeve saying “I love you, and I’ve made you to love me.” He’s not begging you; he’s reminding you that he loves you and that he’s made you to want to love him. The desire you feel to give and receive love is at heart the desire to love God and receive his love in return. You have been hardwired to love God and to receive his love.

In loving God and only in loving God can you find your peace and fulfillment. You’ll have no desire to look for love in others or to expect love from others.

In loving God and only in loving God can you truly give caritas.

HEAVEN SIX

Look up

If you had any idea how much God loves you and how much he does for you every second of every day, you’d never get off the floor, you’d be crying so much, face down, in total gratitude.

But God doesn’t want you on your face crying. He wants you looking up and laughing and running around and playing and listening to him and hugging him and sitting on his lap. He wants you to pay attention to your big brother, Jesus, and to follow his example in everything you do. And he likes it when you think of him every so often, not as an obligation, but just to say “hi”. In fact, he loves it when you drop by in prayer for no other reason than to say “Hi, Dad”. That means everything to him, just like it does to earthly parents. He doesn’t want anything from you. He just wants you to make the right choices for your own benefit, not for his.

He just wants you to come home.

PSALM 91

notes

Last week, I woke up singing the first line of Psalm 91 over and over again. I’d never learned it as a song, but it came to me as a song, anyway.

“He who dwells in the secret place of the most High

will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”

Here’s the whole psalm. It’s one of David’s.

As born-agains, we live in that secret place of the most High, under God’s shadow.

Psalm 91 is about us.

David wrote the psalm so that we’ll know how greatly God is protecting us, both spiritually and physically.

God’s not protecting us because he loves us, he’s protecting us because we love him.

Let me say that again: God is not protecting us because he loves us, he’s protecting us because we love him.

Our love enables God to protect us. Our love gives him permission to protect us.

God works through our love to protect us.

God loves everyone and to a certain extent also protects everyone. I know that’s true because even as an atheist, I was miraculously rescued too many times to count (although I didn’t know until after I was born again that it was God who’d done the rescuing).

This psalm isn’t about God’s everyday protection of everyone, both believers and unbelievers. This psalm is about God’s special protection that he can give to those who love him.

God doesn’t give us born-agains special protection because we’re special in any way; he gives us special protection because we allow him to, through our love for him.

Everyone can have access to God’s special protection. All they have to do is love God and follow Jesus.

But so few do.

In Matthew, Jesus talked about how God had wanted for so long for his people to hide under his “wings”, but they refused to.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…. How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”

 

Psalm 91 also gives us the same image:

 

“He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust.”

Have you ever seen chicks running to hide under the mother hen’s wings? The chicks ‘disappear’; you can’t see them anymore. There’s no safer place for them than under their mother’s wings.

But we shouldn’t use God’s special protection as a reason to be foolhardy. Satan tempted Jesus in the desert by quoting from Psalm 91 and (as usual) misapplying it.

Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,

And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

The devil wanted to trick Jesus into being a ‘daredevil’ by jumping off the top of the temple and assuming that God would protect him. Jesus didn’t fall for it. He knew scripture.

Even better, he knew and loved God as his Dad.

God gives us special protection, but we’re not to abuse it. If we knowingly put ourselves into danger assuming that we can do anything we want because God will protect us, chances are pretty good he won’t protect us. If we assume that God will protect us no matter what we do, we’re taking a position of pride. You can’t be proud (rebellious) and humble (obedient) at the same time.

Loving God means giving yourself over to him wholly, constantly, and unquestioningly, like Jesus did. Then God can help you.

“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him.”

                              Psalm 91