Archive | Uncategorized RSS for this section

We Are Invited to Praise God

Psalm 66 invites and encourages us to praise God: “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.  Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds!  Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.  All the earth worships you; they sing praise to you, sing praises to your name.’”

We are invited and encouraged to praise God not only because God is worthy of our praise but also because praising God is good for our souls.  Praise is the deliberate act of remembering and declaring the goodness of God regardless of our circumstances.  In the process of doing this, our hearts begin to settle into the truth that God’s goodness withstands all of our hard times.  True praise is not the declaration that our situation makes us entirely happy; rather it is the declaration that we cast our hope on the goodness of God whether things are going well or poorly for us.  Praise then shifts the focus of our soul from the limitedness of our circumstances to the immeasurable love and capabilities of God.

Charles Swindoll asks a series of questions that draw out the significance of praising and worshiping God: “What comes from the Lord because it is impossible for humans to manufacture it?  Wisdom.  What comes from humans because it is impossible for the Lord to experience it?  Worry.  And what is it that brings wisdom and dispels worry?  Worship.”

Psalm 66 begins with the invitation and encouragement to all of us to praise God.  It concludes with the psalmist’s personal expression of gratitude and praise: “But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.  Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.”

May God bring to your mind awareness of things for which you can praise God so that the focus of your soul might shift from the limitedness of your circumstances to the immeasurable love and capabilities of God.

Advertisement

Be Silent to God

I love being out in nature!  I love how the beauty of God’s creation fuels my soul.  I love how mountains and valleys, and trees and flowers, and lakes and rivers, and deserts and oceans, and wildlife fill me with a mix of thrill and peace and awe.  I agree wholeheartedly with John Muir’s assessment, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”

Psalm 65 seems to have been written after spending time soaking in the wonders of nature.  It is titled, “Thanksgiving for Earth’s Bounty.”  The opening words of the psalm declare, “Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion….”  The word translated in the New Revised Standard Version as “due” comes from a Hebrew root meaning ‘to be silent.’  This opening verse is translated most literally as “Praise is silence to you.”  This suggests a kind of awe that leaves us without words.  Derek Kidner comments, “It may sometimes be the height of worship…to fall silent before God in awe of His presence and in submission to His will.”  Charles Spurgeon remarks, “Certainly, when the soul is most filled with adoring awe, she is least content with her own expressions, and feels most deeply how inadequate are all mortal songs to proclaim the divine goodness.”

Psalm 65 nudges us to put ourselves, from time to time, in places or situations where all we can do is stand in awe of God’s goodness

The final verses of Psalm 65 (verses 9-13) sound like a Thanksgiving Hymn: “You visit the earth and water it, you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide the people with grain, for so you have prepared it.  You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.  You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness.  The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy.”

In your mind, can you get a glimpse of the beauty that surrounded the psalmist?  Can you recall beauty you have beheld?  Can your soul share in the sense of awe and gratitude expressed by the psalmist?

This psalm stirs up in my soul a hymn:

               For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,

               For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,

               Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!

               For the wonder of each hour of the day and of the night,

               Hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light,

               Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!

Sleeper, Awake to a New & Better Life

In Ephesians 5:14, we find a line that seems to have belonged to an early Christian hymn: “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  Indeed, some scholars speculate that it may have been part of a baptismal hymn, sung to new followers of Christ as they come up out of the baptismal water, to stress that, in Christ now, they are entering into a new life: “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

The city of Ephesus was a port town—arguably the most important port in the province of Asia.  It was a place where sailors came ashore for leave.  Ephesus was well known as a city of self-indulgence, a city for seeking to fulfill one’s most carnal desires.  William Barclay commented that the Ephesian “found his happiness in filling himself with wine and with all the pleasures which are worldly pleasures.”

With a self-indulgent life, we think we are pursuing happiness, but actually we are reaping misery.

Many years ago I performed a funeral for a man (Gerald Richardson) who was a bit of a poet.  One of his poems addresses the limitations of self-indulgence:

“If nobody smiled and nobody cheered,

And nobody helped us along,

If each one looked after himself,

And the good things all went to the strong,

If nobody cared just a little for you,

And nobody cared for me,

And we all stood alone in the battle of life,

What a dreary world it would be.”

But this early Christian hymn called the followers of Christ to a new and better way of living.

This new and better way of living involves seeking not our own self-indulgence but the will of God.  Thus Paul challenges us in Ephesians 5:10, “Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.”  And thus he challenges us in Ephesians 5:17, “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”  It turns out that deepest personal fulfillment does not come to us through self-indulgence but by walking in the ways of God. 

And this new and better way of living involves being filled with God’s Spirit rather than being filled with wine.  Thus Paul writes in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit.” 

Charlie Steinmetz has been described as “a deformed dwarf with one of the greatest minds in the field of electricity.”  One day, Henry Ford’s generators in Dearborn, Michigan, broke down, and the plant came to a halt.  Ford brought in various mechanics, but these mechanics were not able to get the generators running again.  Finally, Ford called on Steinmetz.  Steinmetz came, seemed to putter around for a few hours, then threw the switch that put the plant back into operation.  A few days later, Henry Ford received a bill from Steinmetz for $10,000—which was a great amount of money at the time.  Ford returned the bill with a note, “Charlie, isn’t this a little high for just a few hours of tinkering around on those motors?

Steinmetz returned the bill to Ford with some modifications.  This time the bill read, “For tinkering around on the motors: $10.  For knowing where to tinker: $9,990.”

Ford paid the bill.

Paul tells us not to be filled with wine, for wine does not know how to “tinker around” effectively with our soul, but to be filled with the Spirit, for the Spirit of God knows precisely where and how to “tinker” on us so as to bring out the best in us.

A Better Choice than Vengeance

Psalm 64 is identified in Scripture as a “Prayer for Protection from Enemies.”

Enemies elicit within us a longing for vengeance. We want to get back at our enemies. We want them to suffer for the suffering they inflict upon us. But this psalm takes a different approach to the matter of enemies. Rather than pursuing his own vengeance, the psalmist commits himself to God’s care and trusts God to bring justice: “Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from the dread enemy. Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the scheming of evildoers….”

Robert Fudge comments, “It is so easy for us to think that we have to defend ourselves against those who would seek to do us harm. We feel that urge to get even with them and to see them suffer, even as we have suffered at their hand. After all, this has to be right because it is justice and God is just. So we seek our own revenge. This is not God’s way for our lives. God is just and he will repay trouble to those who trouble us, but he will do it justly, in his own time and in his own way—and that may not be according to our understanding. We may not ever see how God carried out his vengeance in our lives but we can know he will. We are to leave the revenge up to God and not try to execute it ourselves. In fact, what Jesus teaches is far from seeking our own revenge and justice. He says we are to love our enemies, pray for them and seek to do them good. We are to forgive them for whatever they have done to us, even though they do not acknowledge that they have done anything wrong. Our attitude and ensuing life is to demonstrate the love of God shown to us when he offered his forgiveness while we were still his enemies. This removes all the burden from us and leaves it all between the one who has done wrong and God.”

Verse 9 stresses that when we leave the matters of justice and vengeance with God, “Then everyone will fear; they will tell what God has brought about, and ponder what he has done.”

Ed Rea points out, “There are two Hebrew words for fear used in the Old Testament: pachad, meaning terror or dread; and yirah, meaning piety and reverence connected with love and hope, something like what children feel for their parents. David does not use the word for terror and dread here, but rather the word for reverence and love. It is difficult for our 21st century mindset to even associate the words fear and love with each other. But that is what C.S. Lewis was trying to capture in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when Mr. Beaver was describing Aslan (the king of Narnia who is a lion) to the human children who had never heard of or met him before: ‘“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver…”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”’”

Imitate Jesus

In his book How to Begin the Christian Life, George Sweeting tells this story: “In an Italian city stands a statue of a Grecian maiden with a beautiful face, a graceful figure, and a noble expression.  One day a poor little peasant girl came face to face with the statue.  She stood and stared, and then went home to wash her face and comb her hair.  The next day she came again to stand before the statue, and then to return home once more.  This time she mended her tattered clothing.  Day by day she changed, her form grew more graceful, and her face more refined, till she greatly reflected the famous statue.  She was transformed in appearance!”

The apostle Paul gives a similar challenge to us in Ephesians 5:1: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children….”

Christians are called to build into our lives the habit of imitating God.  We are called to build into our lives the habit of looking intently at Jesus then going home and determining what we can do to resemble him more, then coming back and looking intently at him again, and then considering again how we can resemble him more closely. 

An episode of the old television show Mission Impossible involved the need to sneak Gregor Antonov, a Russian chess champion and nuclear scientist, and his daughter out of the Czechoslovakia.  The Russians knew that Antonov wanted to defect, so security around him was rigorous.  To sneak Antonov and his daughter out of Czechoslovakia, one of the Mission Impossible team members would have to impersonate the Russian chess champion well enough for long enough for the rest of the team to smuggle Antonov and his daughter out of the country.  Nicholas was made up to look identical to Antonov, but looking like Antonov was not enough.  He also had to learn to play chess like him, and to talk like him, and to walk like him.  For the success of the mission, he had to learn to copy exactly all of Antonov’s movements and mannerisms.  He had to learn to copy the way Antonov interacted with various people.  This meant that Nicholas had to sit down in front of a television set and watch hour after hour of tapes of Antonov, observing and copying everything Antonov did in the way he did it.  At last, he was ready.  The two exchanged places, and Nicholas impersonated Antonov precisely until Antonov was safely out of Czechoslovakia.

This is what Paul calls us to do—to imitate what Jesus did in the ways he did it.  Particularly, this calls us to love like Jesus loved.  Thus Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

As with the episode of Mission Impossible, our ability to imitate Jesus can save a person’s life.  One day, as a woman was crossing a street at a London railway station, an old man stopped her, saying, “Excuse me, Ma’am, but I want to thank you.”

She looked at him in surprise.  “Thank me?  For what?”

He answered, “Yes, Ma’am.  You see, I used to be a ticket collector, and whenever you went by, you always gave me a cheerful smile and a friendly ‘hello.’  I knew that smile must come from inside somewhere, and not just from the surface.  I wondered what it was that put that smile within you.  Then one morning I saw a little Bible in your hand.  So I bought one for myself, and I found Jesus.  So, thank you, Ma’am.”

Because that woman imitated Jesus—because he saw in her the joy and compassionate concern of Jesus—his life was saved.    “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Re-learn how we live

Victorian vintage engraving of a cuckoo chick in another birds nest, France, 1875

When I coached high school soccer, I had to help many young women undo some bad habits they had developed while playing poorly coached youth soccer.  I had to go over basic skills with them, saying, “Don’t do that; do this, instead.”  They had to unlearn bad habits that got in the way of them playing up to their full potential.

Paul does much the same in Ephesians 4:17-32.  He spends a lot of time saying to them, “Stop doing that; do this instead:

  • Put away all falsehood; instead speak the truth to our neighbors (verse 25).
  • Thieves must give up stealing; instead let them labor and work honestly so as to have something to share with the needy (verse 28).
  • Let no evil talk come out of your mouths; instead speak what is useful for building up so that your words may give grace to those who hear (verse 29).
  • Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with malice; instead be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you (verses 31-32).

In many ways, the Christian life is a life-long challenge of unlearning bad habits in which we used to live and developing new practices that can enable us to reach our greater potential.

Stuart Briscoe offers a helpful analogy: “The famous cuckoo bird never builds its own nest.  It flies around until it sees another nest with eggs in it and no mother bird around.  The cuckoo quickly lands, lays its eggs there, and flies away.  The thrush, whose nest has been invaded, comes back.  Not being very good at arithmetic, she gets to work hatching the eggs.  What happens?  Four little thrushes hatch, but one large cuckoo hatches.  The cuckoo is two or three times the size of the thrushes.  When Mrs. Thrush brings to the nest one large, juicy worm, she finds four petite thrush mouths and one cavernous cuckoo mouth.  Guess who gets the worm?  A full-sized thrush ends up feeding a baby cuckoo that is three times as big as it is.  Over time, the cuckoo gets bigger and bigger, and the smaller thrushes get smaller and smaller.  When I was a kid, you could always find a baby cuckoo’s nest.  You walked along a hedgerow until you found dead little thrushes, which the cuckoo throws out one at a time.”

Briscoe adds, “Paul teaches…that spiritually speaking, you’ve got two natures in one nest.  The nature that you go on feeding will grow, and the nature that you go on starving will diminish.” 

The Christian faith is a life-long challenge of unlearning old ways and bad habits so that we can reach greater potential of what we can be in Christ.

Seek God and Cling to God

The introduction to Psalm 63 in our Bibles informs us that this psalm was written by David “when he was in the wilderness of Judah.”  By this we know that David wrote this psalm during one of two difficult episodes in his life: either while he was fleeing for his life from Saul (1 Samuel 22-23) or when he fled from his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15-16).  Whichever episode it was, we know that this was an anxious time for David in harsh conditions.  As David fled through the desert, he grew thirstier and thirstier, with no drinking fountain in existence, no soda machine around the corner, and no nearby convenience store.  Even the nearest stream was a long walk away.  David was thirsty—intensely thirsty.  But what David longed for even more than water that his body longed for was intimate connection with God that his soul longed for.  Thus David opens this psalm with the words, “O God, you are my God, I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Here’s the good news: Our souls thirst for God because God wants to be found!

Koshy Muthalaly shares a wonderful story: “My six-year-old son, Alex, dashed up the stairs to the bedroom, looking for me.  We were having a great time playing hide-and-seek.  Looking everywhere but not seeing me, Alex called out.  But the silence that ensued offered him no comfort.  ‘Dad!’ he called out again, to no response.  Finally, in his frustration, little Alex said, ‘Dad, if you love me, show me your face.’  I could resist no longer.  I showed myself, and Alex came to me and gave me a big hug.”

Koshy Muthalaly’s love for his son does not outdo God’s love for us.  More than Koshy delighted in showing his face to his son, God delights in sharing himself with us!

Not only did David seek God, he also clung to God.  In verse 8, he shares, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” 

The Hebrew word used here for “clings” is used in Genesis 2:24 to describe a husband leaving his father and mother and clinging to (being united with) his wife.  The word is also used in Ruth 1:14 to describe Ruth clinging to her mother-in-law Naomi, not willing to part from Naomi when Naomi decided to move back to Bethlehem.

This is what we need to know about David’s relationship with God.  As much as marriage partners devote themselves to each other, for the love and joy and stability and contentment they desire, David devoted himself to God, believing that he found in God deepest love, joy, stability and contentment.  And as fiercely as Ruth clung to Naomi, David clung to God, not willing to let the fears and frustrations and disappointments in life separate him from God.

When we seek God as though “in a dry and weary land where there is no water,” and as we cling to God, we will discover in our lives the truth of what David shares in verse 8: “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

Overcome the Divisions that Separate Us

When Charles V (a.k.a. Karl V) stepped down as the last of the Holy Roman Emperors in 1557, he retired to the Monastery of Yuste on the Iberian Peninsula.  He had six clocks there.  No matter how hard he tried, he never succeeded in getting them to chime together on the hour.  He wrote into his memoirs, “How is it possible for six different clocks to chime all at the same time?  How is it even more impossible for the six nations of the Holy Roman Empire to live in harmony?  It can’t be done.  It’s impossible, even if they call themselves Christians.”

How accurate he is!  Throughout the centuries, Christians have found it impossible to live together in unity.  We divide apart from each other over and over and over again, resulting in more than 45,000 different denominations around the world. 

Sadly, one of the elements that has divided the church has been prejudice against people according to the color of one’s skin.  The church in South Africa provides one tragic example of this…as well as a glimmer of hope. 

In 1857, while already practicing racial separation at the Lord’s Supper, the Dutch Reformed Church decided to hold separate services of worship for “white” members from “colored” members.  In 1881 they went so far as to establish an entirely separate denomination, the Dutch Reformed Mission Church, for those who were not “white.”  Not until 1978 did the two groups decide to begin to work together toward a goal of unity.  In 1982, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches declared apartheid a heresy and suspended the membership of the white Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa.  Later that same year the Dutch Reformed Mission Church met in Belhar and drafted what became known as the Confession of Belhar to advocate for unity in Christ rather than the divisiveness of apartheid. 

The second article of the Confession of Belhar begins: “We believe in one holy, universal Christian church, the communion of saints called from the entire human family.  We believe: That Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church as the community of believers who have been reconciled with God and with one another (Ephesians 2:11-22); That unity is, therefore, both a gift and an obligation for the church of Jesus Christ; that through the working of God’s Spirit it is a binding force, yet simultaneously a reality which must be earnestly pursued and sought: one which the people of God must continually be built up to attain (Ephesians 4:1-16); That this unity must become visible so that the world may believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is sin which Christ has already conquered, and accordingly that anything which threatens this unity may have no place in the church and must be resisted (John 17:20-23)….”

In 1990, President F.W. de Klerk worked with Nelson Mandela to dismantle apartheid.  In 1995, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to bring both justice and healing to the nation.  In 2016, the Presbyterian Church (to which I belong) adopted the Confession of Belhar, with its call to unity and justice, as an official confession of our denomination. 

In Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul stresses the importance of believers striving for unity in the body of Christ: “I…beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” 

As Ephesians 4 continues, Paul speaks of God giving gifts to each of his children, stressing that these gifts are “to equip the saints [you and me] for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (verse 12).  William Barclay points out that the Greek word used here for “equip,” katartismon, has the basic idea “of putting a thing or a person into the condition in which he or it ought to be” (such as repairing a broken bone or mending a torn net).  The message Scripture wants to get across to us is that whenever God breaks apart the prejudices and barriers that divide us, God is mending the church, restoring us to what we are meant to be: a community of mutual care in the bond of peace through which the world might see the goodness and grace of Christ.

Wait in Silence

A particular line begins Psalm 62 and is repeated later in the psalm with very minimal changes, so it is worth giving our attention to that line: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2).

Learning to wait on God in silence does not come naturally to us.  Perhaps that is why the psalmist felt the need to repeat the challenge to us. 

Warren Wiersbe remarks, “The ability to calm your soul and wait before God is one of the most difficult things in the Christian life.  Our old nature is restless…the world around us is frantically in a hurry.  But a restless heart usually leads to a reckless life.”  Because God does not want our lives to be reckless, God calls us to learn to be silent before him.

In an article entitled “All the Right Moves,” chess master and mentor Bruce Pandolfini speaks of the importance of silence: “My lessons consist of a lot of silence.  I listen to other teachers, and they’re always talking…. I let my students think.  If I do ask a question [‘Why are you making that move?’] and I don’t get the right answer, I’ll rephrase the question—and wait.  I never give the answer.  Most of us really don’t appreciate the power of silence.  Some of the most effective communication—between student and teacher, between master players—takes place during silent periods.”  Perhaps this explains why God is often silent with us: God is waiting for us to learn.  Perhaps this also reinforces why we should practice silence.

Indeed, C.S. Lewis offers suggestions of what we should do if we want to miss being aware of God’s presence in our lives: “Avoid silence; avoid solitude; avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track.  Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances.  Keep the radio on.  Live in a crowd.”  A lack of silence effectively keeps us away from noticing God.  Silence is essential if we want to be aware of God

“For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”

Deeper Than That!

Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen tried to measure a particularly deep part of the Arctic Ocean.  On his first attempt, he used his longest measuring line but was unable to reach the bottom.  He wrote in his log book, “The Ocean is deeper than that.”  The next day he added more line but still could not measure the depth.  Again in his record book he wrote, “Deeper than that.”  After several days of adding more and more pieces of rope and cord to his line, he had to leave that part of the ocean without learning its actual depth.  All he knew was that it was beyond his ability to measure.

That was Paul’s perspective of what God is able to do in our lives.  In Ephesians 3:20, Paul states that God “is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine!” 

Because of Paul’s confidence in God’s ability “to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine,” he was brave to ask big things from God on behalf of the Ephesians (and we should be brave enough to ask for such big things for ourselves and others).

In Ephesians 3:16, Paul prays “that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.”  He doesn’t pray for easy lives.  He prays for something bigger.  He prays that our inner being will be strengthened so that we can handle all struggles, challenges and opportunities. 

Prayer opens our souls to the gaining of such strength.  Oliver G. Wilson asserts, “Prayer fills a person’s weakness with God’s omnipotence and opens the gates to new fields of achievement.  It makes the weak strong and the simple wise.” 

If we pray merely for easy lives, we might get the ease we desire, but we will get nothing more.  But if we ask for strength, lives might be marked by miracles.  One buried in the snows of Valley Forge could become a George Washington; one raised in poverty with a multitude of setbacks could become an Abraham Lincoln; one knocked down by polio could become a Franklin Roosevelt; one stripped of her sight and hearing could become a Helen Keller; one locked in prison for sheltering Jewish neighbors could become a Corrie ten Boom; one locked in prison for protesting apartheid could become a Nelson Mandela.  A prayer for strength is the bigger and more critical prayer.

In Ephesians 3:17, Paul prays for us to be “rooted and grounded in love.” 

Before a seed bursts forth above the ground, it sends down its roots.  The roots soak up moisture and nourishment from the ground, enabling the plant to gain health and strength.  As the roots dig into the soil, they establish a strong hold for the plant to be able to withstand the winds that blow against it.  Paul’s prayer is for our roots to sink down deep into Christ’s love, soaking up the nourishment that his love provides, gaining a strong hold so that we might be able to withstand the winds that blow against us. 

Mark Labberton stresses, “We are made to live out of God’s belovedness first and primarily.  When that occurs, we have a far, far greater likelihood of coming to all else in our lives with more capacity to live and to love.”

I have a tendency to be highly critical of myself, but when I shame myself for my faults and failures, I am not living “out of God’s belovedness.  Paul’s prayer is that we be able to comprehend “the breadth and length and height and depth” of God’s love and “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” so that we might have greater “capacity to live and to love.”