9/20 Love Does series.....Follow Me: Love vs. Self-Centeredness Matthew 16:24-28
There is this invisible tug-of-war we all can relate too, love vs. self-centeredness. A constant emotion tugging at our hearts and lives. We desire to be all that we can be to ourselves and to others. Can we ever get complete satisfaction in who we are and what we do? I must look after me, right? If I don’t who will? I just need a little time…a little money…a little space….whatever that little bit of might be, then once I feel like I’m getting it all together, then I will have it/time/?? to give to you. In the meantime, again, there’s a need out there, a call for help, something else that needs me... ugh...again? Can you call a different friend? Can’t you handle this yourself? Why do you need me again? I’m thinking somebody else just needs to get involved right? Lord, help me!
This is the final message in the Love Does series on what Love Does when we want to love like Jesus. We’ve learned that our actions of love are a way that we say to Jesus thank you for what you did for me. I’m forgiven and redeemed because of your love for me. We now know it is in our failures we learn our most important life lessons. I failed, but I’m not a failure. Learn from it and move on. Then there are those times we make God’s love visible to others. It comes out of us naturally, this joy, a peace, a happiness that explodes because I’m loving what I do. Yet we also learned that we are to love in those not so peaceful, not so happy times too. When our fears take over, it is because we’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus. You and I are no longer who we used to be. Now standing on the promises of God we can shout it out “I am in Christ”. Jesus takes our shame and anxiety and fears and helps us to overcome them. We are His, we now live in His love for us alone. In the series this week Jesus is saying, Follow Me. Sounds easy until we realize just where he wants us to follow sometimes. From the Love Does video this week, “Jesus says let’s go and do stuff and we’ll find out Who I Am, and who you are along the way”. What a journey that could be. Love Does says, take the next step, do something audacious, anywhere the hurting are is the place to jump in. Do something with my love, says Jesus. Bob Goff adds that God wants to blow our minds with how good He is! So, what holds you back? Could it be you? Could it be that it doesn’t fit into your timing right now? Could it be that it just seems so big what difference could I make anyway? John 3:30 says “He must increase, I must decrease”. Who or what is first in your life? Going from selfishness to humility? Lord help me!
During Children’s time this week Pastor George talked on Following Jesus and how we can take our selfishness and turn it into giving, serving, loving, in the lives of others, just like Jesus. The Scripture passage in Matthew 16:24 says “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”” To deny oneself is wrestling with a feeling of self-centeredness, says Pastor George. He stated that to deny yourself and Follow Me….in this we will discover our full potential, following in the footsteps of Jesus. He also read Philippians 2:3 “…but in humility count others more significant than yourself.” It’s our decrease, doing for Him in love, we humble ourselves, we lift them up, we esteem them. We sang that old hymn, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. To do so is to create a change in us when willingly we follow, in faith, says Pastor George. Once decided to be all in for Jesus we affirm there is no turning back and we follow His ways, His teachings, His love, we are to be all in, because of His grace and mercy.
Lee Parrott in his series in Right Now Media titled Love Like That says to truly love at the highest level, is to love like Jesus. In his series he discussed barriers we carry. He says to be mindful of your own agenda. We have an agenda about everything that keeps us focused on ourselves. To love like Jesus, you gotta see what others don’t. It’s right there before your eyes. To see from His eyes and not mine. We need to be approachable. To love like Him you can’t be exclusive. Lee says, you can’t limit your love to who deserves it and who doesn’t. Instead of judgementalism consider an unconditional positive regard for people you meet. Quit tearing down others to build oneself up. Receive God’s grace so that you can give it to others. In Love Like That we learned about not living behind a mask for acceptance, but boldly speak truth in love. Spiritual maturity is an inside job, mature and firm in faith. In boldness give authentic love, as He does. Our self-giving requires something deep down in our nature, the maturity, the capacity to empty ourselves for someone else, is self-giving love. To go the extra mile, to walk in someone else’s shoes and feel the hurt and step in, that’s when you really begin to love like Jesus.
Another series this week was Becoming a Women whose God is Enough by Cynthia Heald. She is an author on Women’s Bible studies, but the content is for all. We heard again of idols, those things that are more important than God. Pride, that keeps us full of ourselves. And when we are full of ourselves, we cannot be full of the Spirit says Cynthia. She affirms that we can never really be sure of the paths he will lead us to, but wherever, we are to follow, there He will be. We go in faith. Much of her studies include quotes from notable people. She shared this from Mike Mason, “To have faith is to have trust in the faithfulness of God knowing that faithfulness is first and foremost not a human but a divine attribute. Our God is faithful, do we trust Him, in all things, that’s our faith in our God who is faithful.” And another she shared from Oswald Chambers, “If you are living the life of faith you will exercise your right to waive your rights, and let God choose for you.” When we say “I” will take – then God cannot say I will give, says Cynthia. We are to always be in the center of His will. We are to Follow. From Andrew Murray she shared “Joy is the sign that God is everything to you.” To love like Jesus is to love God. God is enough. In Divine Fellowship Cynthia shares this, “I am at your command, what do you want your servant to do?” It’s a bowing of the heart and a bending of the will to His will for our lives, there we are to live.
So how are we to let go and let God? How do we exercise this kind of love? Both Lee Parrott and Cynthia Heald said that the Holy Spirit was sent to empower us to love like Jesus. Let the Holy Spirit work through you, loving like Jesus is an internal quest says Lee Parrott. It’s not a doing and done kind of thing, but a being – love like Jesus when we allow Jesus to live through us. In John 16: 12-15 we read that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will guide you. A friend in us – be an extension of Christ.
Lord help us. May we find that complete satisfaction that we long for in you. May our actions of love reflect yours. In our failures and fears we know that you are there. Keep our eyes fixed on you as we follow you. Holy Spirit come dwell within each of us as you guide and empower us to love, Amen.
Larry and Darlene
9/12 Love Does Series “Bursting the Bubble of Shame & Anxiety” Matthew 14: 22-33
Bursting the Bubble of Shame & Anxiety, don’t we all wish it would just take a pin? Well guess what? This situation takes more than a pin – it takes a nail! Read on…….
What shall I do with shame? What shall I do with anxiety? Those questions were posed to us during Sunday’s message. Pastor George went on the say that shame keeps us from living a life of love. It’s like an anchor that keeps pulling us under, he said. In the Love Does series this week we viewed Session 4 on Be Not Afraid. Fear keeps you locked up inside, says Bob Goff. It’s that anxiety that keeps you from acting and chasing after what Jesus is calling you to do. We learned in this series that fears, their hiddenness, fuels all sorts of shame and humiliation in our lives and drives us to make bad decisions because we are afraid.
Sunday’s scripture passage in Matthew gives the account of when Jesus walks on water. Jesus sent the disciples away by boat, by evening the wind had picked up causing the boat to be beaten by the waves. As they were a ways out on the sea, Jesus came to them walking on the water. Thinking they were seeing a ghost they cried out in fear! In vs. 27 we read “But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, “Take heart it is I. Do not be afraid.” When we do a search in the Bible on the words afraid, anxious, fear, there are many passages to read and learn from, to handle our emotions when we get caught up in those snares, and the comfort in knowing that Jesus is always with us, helping us out. Pastor George gave us a lesson using Peter’s doubt. In verse 28 Peter said, “If it’s you Lord command me to come to you on the water” Jesus invited Peter to “Come”. Peter got out of the boat during a raging storm, and keeping his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water. When Peter’s eyes diverted off of Jesus, focusing instead on the storm going on he started to sink and cried out “Lord Save Me”. Jesus took hold of Peter saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus bad things happened.
In our Right Now Media study this week From the Garden to the Savior by Robert Cheong, he states that all humanity has faced trials throughout life. No one remains unstained by the effects of suffering. But God has reconciled us to a hope that transcends our present struggles. Jesus’ death and resurrection reconciles us to God and frees us from the burden of our struggles. It takes the nails of Jesus Christ, that’s where we can find our freedom.
Unashamed by Christine Caine is another series we watched in Right Now Media this week. Christine states that Shame has no place in our destiny God has for us. God sees you as having infinite value. The enemy uses shame to keep us away. God runs towards us with unconditional love, grace, and acceptance. Nothing can separate that. Shame steels your joy. The lie that keeps you shackled. We’re not designed to live in slavery – but in freedom, she says. Our freedom is found in Christ and what he has done for us. Christine knows firsthand just how hard it is to break free from the hurt and pain she too lived through. It isn’t easy she says, to let go of yesterday’s memories, what if’s, to move past your past. It takes courage, it’s a decision you make, it isn’t easy, but liberating. Christine says this, the degree to which you are willing to embrace the pain of recovery is the degree to which you will recover. She teaches that God wants you to move forward but it will take true faith, forgiveness, and a love that only God can give. Robert Cheong, in From the Garden to the Savior, said that when we set our eyes on Him, we fix our hope on a savior who exists beyond our circumstances. He says to grow in your trust that Jesus is sufficient hope for your struggles, grow mature in your faith, and allow someone to walk with you through the process. Live in the promises of scripture.
Pastor George gave three keys to bursting the bubble of shame & anxiety: 1. We SPEAK it – tell others about it. There is a release within by letting it out. Tell a trusted person who will listen. 2. WRITE about it, journaling, put it into words what’s causing you pain, shame, rejection. 3. PRAY it, cry out to God, Jesus says come – come to me.
God will give you the strength. Christine Caine referenced the passage in 2 Corinthians 4:7 “…this all surpassing power is from God” and not us. We as clay pots are easily broken, God will take our brokenness, our pieces, and put them back together again, in time, with our faith and trust in Him to do it. She says we are to declare out loud that YOU ARE IN CHRIST! You are not who you used to be. She gives these declarations we are to hold to:
Declarations in Christ
FORGIVEN – God has removed my debt
JUSTIFIED – God has changed my state
REGENERATED – God has transformed my heart
RECONCILED – God has become my friend
ADOPTED – God has changed my family
REDEEMED – God has changed my ownership
SANCTIFIED – God has changed my behavior
God is our hero. His grace – in Jesus name – in this your greatest days are ahead.
Sunday’s lesson is that like Peter, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, don’t let doubt nor diverting eyes cause you to start to sink again. Jesus is our focus, what you focus on – you will achieve, says Pastor George. It takes the nails of Jesus Christ to burst the bubble that traps us.
Larry and Darlene
9/6 Series: Love Does…...Loving What You Do John 13: 31-35
Regardless of age, gender, abilities, when we see someone really doing what they love, be it in their work, play, for someone or some purpose, there is a joy within them, a peace in their heart, they are smiling, because what they are doing isn’t a struggle at all, they love doing it! Pastor George says that Loving What You Do comes naturally out of you and your skills, gifts, abilities that drive you. Well then how come I’m stuck in a job I don’t like, a relationship that hurts, a battle that’s taking its toll on me? I’m trying my best in all of it. Maybe it’s times like those that we need to rethink Loving what you do. In that, whatever it is that you do, there is love. In both, the loving what you do times and those not so loving times, it is God’s love for us that keeps us doing. Pastor George reminded us that it’s not what is happening around me or you, but what Jesus has done and is doing within me and you. We do whatever because we are loved. In the scripture passage from John 13:34 we read, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Our motivation, says Pastor George, is Love because I have already been loved.
This week’s study in Right Now Media was Love-First by Don McLaughlin. It addresses that very subject of God’s Love. A verse that we all can memorize and one that we need to impress upon our heart is from 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us”. Don McLaughlin challenged our thinking in that: are we loving the idea of God? The one who created, the one who provides, the one who saves, on and on the attributes of God can be listed, instead of loving God. To emphasize our love for God in the right way, as a husband/wife or parent/child kind of love relationship. It’s how in the Bible where Jesus talks about how much He loves His bride – a love that never grows tired or is completely finished finding ways to fully express itself. We learn that God’s love is unconditional. There is no condition of our life that God would stop loving us. He is Love. Are we connecting with the loving God, asks Don, and do we live seriously the conditions of God’s love? He is referencing Matthew Chapter 12 where Jesus says, “First, love God with all your heart, mind, and strength.” It’s the first and greatest command, the command on which every other command is based upon.
McLaughlin states that the Creeds share the gospel, but in each creed, the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Athanasian Creed, something was missing, the word love was not mentioned once. He shared that God’s love is assumed through these creeds. We as believers live by what these Creeds say, as our Statement of Faith. In the Creed does it start with Love God and Love Your Neighbor, or is that assumed? Don McLaughlin’s First-Love is on a mission, driving for a personal revolution to love God first, for all believers to be living affectionately for God.
This is his Love-First Creed (that comes right out of scripture)
I BELIEVE – that God is Love. (1 John 4 vs. 7-8)
I BELIEVE – that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. (John 3:16)
I BELIEVE – that God loved me when I was an enemy, I was sinful, I was ungodly. (Romans 5 vs. 6-11)
I BELIEVE – that the first and greatest commandment is that I would love God with all I am and
I BELIEVE – that the second commandment is liken to it, that I would love my neighbor as myself
I BELIEVE – that I must love my enemies and the ungrateful, and the wicked (Matthew 5 and Luke 6)
I BELIEVE – that if I claim to love God but do not love others, I am a liar and the truth is not in me (1 John 4)
I BELIEVE – that when I see my brothers and sisters in need, I must help them with my material possessions, or the love of God is not in me. (1 John 3)
Love-First teaches that you don’t just think about love, you are called into the conditions of love. Living effectively is living with the Father, and with fellow man. It’s ending hate say McLaughlin before it’s too late. He referenced 1 Corinthians 13:13 “… without love you gain nothing, and you are nothing.” He shared that we need something above the world to face what is in the world, to face the problems of the world. Love is not the first thing, love is the only thing, and we know love from God.
This is week three in our Love Does series where we are looking at Audacious Love. Bob Goff teaches that it’s something beautiful when you are so caught up in it. It’s expressing what’s going on inside of you. That joy, the peace, a happiness that explodes. It’s a kind of love that God has. The God of the universe is in love with you, he keeps coming back over and over again into our lives with his love for us. Bob asks, how does our love for one another make God visible? In loving another is it unconditional, continuous, active, it’s a new way of thinking about love, says Bob. It’s courage to act in spite of fear, to act creatively for and with God, to get involved in bringing heaven to earth. It’s our life being a presence in another’s as it continues to weave itself into the tapestry of every great story. It’s Loving What You Do regardless of how menial the task, said Pastor George. It’s a contagious enthusiasm, that’s the way love rolls – it multiplies!
As we heard in this week’s sermon message, we are God’s ambassadors. Pastor George stated a quote from Bob Goff’s book Love Does, “I was once afraid to fail at the things that really matter to me, now I’m afraid to succeed at things that don’t really matter at all.” What really matters in life? That’s a call to step outside of yourself, says Pastor George, to respond with the strength God gives to go and do, in love for others. We also heard that God’s love is a choice to make, an attitude, a behavior, a joy on the inside that is expressed on the outside as we Love One Another. This will bring God joy! Every relationship in love blesses us, says Don McLaughlin. He shared that Love IS patient, and Love IS kind, these position you with the power to do good. Our love position needs to model His love, put it into the center of all your relationships, God moved into the neighborhood through us, says Don.
Wherever you find yourself as you read this, Loving What You Do, or questioning how life is right now, Don McLaughlin offered these insights in closing out his series on Love-First: Love always trusts, trust that God can still work, that He is still engaged; Love always hopes, God’s glory is worth it, people are worth it, the planet is worth it, we’re not going to give up. Love always perseveres, God’s vision for the church is God’s love living in and through His church, the people of God, to transform the world. What in the world are we doing in the world? Loving What You Do, loving in what you do! Be the hands and feet and listening ear with God. Loving What You Do, Love-First, Love Does….it’s a choice that we make. How is your tapestry looking? We really won’t know until the other side of heaven. Keep threading love through the lives of others because you are not finished threading your life with others, the tapestry is still a work in progress.
Larry and Darlene
8/30 Love Does series: How to Fail Forward John 18: 15-18; 25-27
Fail – that is a word that no one every wants to hear or admit to. Webster defines it as: to fall short of success or achievement in something expected, attempted, desired, or approved. We all have failed. At least, once right? Okay a few more times than one. And every time we were left feeling … well as a failure. So how is it that “How to Fail Forward” is a lesson in our current series of Love Does? Pastor George talked with the young people of Turning Failure into Something Good. And that takes love.
Everyone fails, it doesn’t escape any of us. It’s how we react to our own failure and also the failure of another. This week’s scripture passage from John is the account of Simon Peter’s failure of not admitting that he was a disciple of Jesus, not only once, but three times. Jesus predicted to Peter that he would do such an act before the rooster crowed. Peter earlier had said to Jesus in John 13:37 “… I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.” We read in John 18:27 “Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” Peter right there and then knew that he failed Jesus. Imagine the emotion going through Peter, we’ve probably felt a similar pain and hurt of letting a loved one, a friend, a person or purpose we care about, and Jesus too, down.
For certain we will fail again. It’s being human. So how can we learn to fail forward? Pastor George encouraged us by saying , ‘Don’t stop after failure’. We may have failed in an attempt, but we are not a failure, there is a big difference. He says we should ask ourselves two things: 1.What went well? There is something good in the fail, look for the positive. 2.What could be improved? Mistakes happen. Don’t ignore it, learn from it. If our mistake causes us to sin, we know our sin is covered, claim forgiveness that Christ offers. Jesus has hopes and dreams for us that are good and not evil. Pastor George also said, it’s who we are in Christ, forgiven, loved, given a plan to live out, because we are the Lords. Trust Jesus and try again.
In this week’s Right Now Media we watched a training video Learning from Failure by Cheryl Bachelder where she says that we learn very little from our successes. Our failures drive us, keep them going. Say what? Yes, we learn our most important life lessons from failure if we don’t let them define who we are. Cheryl goes on to say, failure leaves us feeling hopeless, yet they teach us the best lessons for our future. Regard success as service and failure as opportunity. In failures our lives begin to shift into a fertile ground for spiritual development and growth, she says. Bob Goff in the Love Does series suggests that God fashions the people he loves the most, as if he leads them into failure so that we understand our absolute need for Him. He says, we are not defined by our successes but on our need for Christ. We are no longer defined by our failures. We are defined by Christ. Bob goes on to explain that it’s God telling us I don’t see you for your failure, but who you are becoming. Bob Goff says our failures teaches us 1. Of our character and who we want to be. 2. Jesus and who he wants us to be, to see whose we are becoming. In life a thing or two is going to go wrong, we are not dejected by God but defined by God. Another training video we watched was The Courage to Risk Failure by Wil Haughey. He too says, consider failure and the good that comes from it. God is in control of the outcome, trusting God for whatever outcome he desires. God is sovereign, take risks, fight for it. We’re in the business of taking risks. Fight to make yourself available to God’s call on your life and trust Him with the outcomes. Wil says, bear the mark of Christ as we go about our work. Whether the risk is in our jobs, our church work, or in life itself, show the love and compassion of Christ in serving other people, take the risk, we are free to fail. In Strategies for Handling Adversity by Workmasters in Right Now Media, we heard Donnie Smith tell us to ‘Bloom Where You Are Planted’. In wherever God is leading you he will use that to teach us things. He referenced Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV) “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Donnie added that God uses that obedience to train, to give us skills. That obedience gives us courage to go on in other instances also. It was in this series that Cheryl Backelder also shared that almost all of our learning comes from some version of trial, tribulation, or outright failure. She says to be very intentional about learning from our mistakes. Use a difficult learning experience from failure to be a better version of yourself in the next opportunity.
Jesus, after his death and before his Ascension into heaven, appeared to seven Disciples. Reading in part from John 21, just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore of the sea, preparing breakfast for them. After they were finished eating Jesus questions Peter three times saying, do you love me? Peter’s final answer, he said, ‘Lord, you know all; you know that I love you.’ Through this encounter, Peter has restoration with Jesus, Jesus takes Peter back as a disciple. Peter is not a failure. Peter is the name he had been given by Jesus. In Matthew 16 :18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Peter has work to do for Jesus. His new nickname, Peter, was not based on who he used to be but on who he was becoming. What makes a good “Jesus nickname” for you? It’s when we begin turning failure into something good. When we learn from our mistakes, and take the step to fail forward, that we grow into becoming who we are born to be. Christ Follower, Chosen, are a couple great nicknames to name a few.
Pastor George asked us to repeat this saying: I have failed. I am not a failure. There is a big difference.
The big difference is that we are loved. Loved by Jesus. Loved by God who wants to do a good work through his followers. Loved by God who wants us to become who he created us to be.
Start today, to look at failure through the Master’s eyes!
Larry and Darlene