Time to Celebrate “Love”

The month of February elicits strong, emotional responses out of many people. Not only is it the month of the Super Bowl (and this game always seems to bring about passion from even the most uninterested people), but it is also the month where we celebrate “love”. Some people absolutely love to celebrate Valentine’s Day. They will wear pink or red all day, send flowers or cards to their special valentines, head to the store to make sure they pick up the heart-shaped Russell Stover box of chocolates, and express love in countless other ways. While some people are very excited about celebrating Valentine’s Day, others come together and celebrate their disdain for the holiday. Regardless of which side of the debate you’re on, we in fact do celebrate love. 

I like to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. But one thing I know and long to impart to my family and loved ones is that we need to have an accurate view of love to fully appreciate and celebrate love. There is no better place than Scripture to find the definition of love, and today I want to take you to 1 Corinthians 13: The Love Chapter. In here we see Paul give an amazing discourse on love. Most of us know the passage: love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, and the list continues. This is what love is! As we celebrate true love this year, let me draw you to a couple of points about celebrating Love. 

  • True Love Originates in Jesus Christ—1 John 4:19 states that “we love because He first loved us.” All love begins with God. He’s the source of love. He’s love perfected. He loves perfectly. There is no way that we can be loved any more than what He already pours out on us. We celebrate love because we are loved by Jesus Christ. This love then pours out of us onto others. This is real love. 
  • Jesus’ Love is Described in 1 Corinthians 13. Instead of simply hearing that love is patient and kind, instead hear it as Jesus’ love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy or boast, isn’t proud or rude, isn’t self-seeking, doesn’t keep records of wrongs, always hopes, perseveres, never fails. And these words don’t fully encapsulate Jesus’ love for us—it is much greater! 
  • Love is a Choice—will you choose to allow the love of Jesus to flow from you to those around you? Will you choose to love your spouse with Jesus’ love? Your children? Your church family? Your coworkers? Your classmates? There are times when people around us will seem unlovable. If we try to love on our own, it will be an impossible task to love them. But with the love of Jesus, all things are possible. We must love. 

What an amazing display of love we see! 

My prayer and encouragement for you is that you would celebrate “love”. Celebrate Jesus’ love for you. Celebrate the love He gives you to pour into others. Don’t withhold the celebration—love is worth it! 

Love One Another

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It seems to me that when the month of February comes around each year there is a change in our behaviors. There is a spike in flower and chocolate sales, it is difficult to get a reservation at your favorite restaurants, and jewelry salesmen have a smile beaming from their faces because of the increase in sales. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that elicits some pretty powerful emotions by a wide variety of people—some thinking that it is one of the greatest days of the year while some think that it is simply a fake holiday created by Hallmark. Regardless of your feelings about the day or the change in our habits, at the very least, February gets us all thinking about how we love one another.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the topic of love lately, and much of it has come out in our latest message series from Romans. We’ve been reminded of the great love that God has for us and His desire for relationship with us. We’ve learned that at the very core of God’s love for us must be a genuine love for our brothers and sisters. We’ve examined how we show love to each other and the importance of it.  But, one thing that we haven’t addressed is the intended response of those who are not yet a part of Christ’s Kingdom.

I’m encouraged again that the answer to this question has already been given to us and isn’t dependent upon my conclusions. Jesus tells us in John 13:34-35 that there’s a solid reason for people seeing believers love one another. Jesus puts it like this: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The message that Jesus gave in that upper room is clear to us—our love for one another is intended not only to strengthen the church, but it is to be an effective way of showing God’s love to people who are not yet believers! It is our mission. It is our calling. We are to be a church characterized by love.

As I’ve been thinking about my own life and how I show the love of Christ to others through my love for the church, there are a couple of areas where we need to be challenged in how we show love.

  • Choose to Show Love—there’s always that one person that we just can’t seem to get along with or just can’t stand to be around.  Loving people is sometimes difficult.  That’s why God reminds us that it is a choice that we need to make because He chose to love us.  Even though they might be tough to love, we need to choose to love with a genuine love.
     
  • Be Genuine in Your Love—there are times when we try to love people, but really aren’t being loving or try to put on the mask of love when our intentions are otherwise.  The world knows the difference.  They know when we’re being fake with one another.
     
  • Be Generous in Your Love—A common question that is posed around church circles often sounds like this: “How much do I have to do in order to get by.”  Friends, this is the wrong way of looking at it.  We should instead be asking “How much can I show my love?”

While this list isn’t a complete one, I do believe that it will help you in examining whether or not the world truly believes that we love one another.

Connect with Christ

“Can you sum up the entire Bible in one sentence?”  This question has been asked of me before and I’ve also posed it to others.  I’ve heard many interesting answers, such as “God’s instructions to us so that we can live,” or “God’s plan for the redemption of mankind from their sins.”  These are some of the better answers that I’ve been given—some weren’t thought out very well, so I won’t share those.  I want to give you an opportunity to answer this question before you continue to read this article.  Can you sum up the entire Bible in one sentence?

So what was your answer?  When I answer this question, I see the Bible revealing the heart of God to connect with His people.  When we start in Genesis, we notice that God created Adam and Eve in order to have a relationship with them.  Even after the fall, God continues to give people opportunities to connect with Him, and even paying the price Himself for this connection to take place.  God longs to connect with you!

We spent time in the month of June dealing with the steps that are necessary to take in order to accomplish our vision of “Living for God: Loving His People.”  We need to understand that our greatest purpose as a church is to make sure that people connect with Jesus.  While this is a simple phrase, we need to understand what this looks like, and how we plan to connect people with Jesus.

First of all, we connect people with Jesus through the message of the gospel.  A.B. Simpson, the founder of The Alliance, spent incredible amounts of time reaching for the disenfranchised and outcasts of society on the boat docks of New York City.  We need to be a people who are doing the same things. 

We are working with our ministries to develop strategies to equip people to talk about Jesus.  We also realize that connecting people with the message involves getting the message to the masses.  We do this through personal relationships (talking about Jesus with your friend or coworker).  We also use the benefits of technology to share the truth of Christ with our community, and even the world!

We also connect with Jesus through our worship services.  We are working hard to make sure that the music, Scripture passages, preaching, technology, and other creative outlets are leading people into the presence of our Lord Jesus and helping them connect with the Savior!

Jesus longs for a deep relationship with the people He created.  Some know Him, some do not.  My friends, we need to be in the business of seeing people connect with Jesus in deep, meaningful ways.    

Stir It Up

Everyone has questions that they want to have answered.  As a pastor, I’ve had my share of questions, but I’ve also had people come and ask me questions.  Most of them have to do with faith issues or “what does the Bible say about this” kinds of questions.  They are important and are in need of an answer.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you didn’t have anyone to ask these questions?  What would it be like to be pressed into a situation in your life where you needed to make a decision or take a stand but had no one to help you through this decision making process?  I oftentimes ponder these thoughts when someone comes to me and makes the statement “I love Jesus, but I just don’t need the church.”  This is such a gross misunderstanding of what God really intends for us, His Children, to have in our lives.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tackles this issue in chapter 10.  In verses 19-22, the writer points out that since Jesus has paid our way to enter the holy presence of God, we are urged to draw near to Him with complete assurance that God longs for us to be there and that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient enough to get us there. 

But the writer goes on in v. 24-25 to discuss a very important point, where he says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  We find in this passage a very important point—we were never meant to live a life of faith alone.  Christ calls us to community—to sharing our life’s struggles and successes with each other and encouraging one another to grow to know Jesus more and more. 

Scripture shows us that our lives are missing something if we don’t live in community with the church.  We have been extremely blessed as a congregation to see God growing our church.  This excites me greatly.  But I also know that some in our midst are missing out on a great blessing because of a fear of getting too close to others. 

I want to challenge each of you to take the risk and introduce yourself to someone you might not know, or speak a word of encouragement to someone who looks lost or pray for someone who needs the touch of God or wisdom in a particular situation.  It might be a good idea even to share a meal with this person.  Whatever God directs you to do, be faithful to do it. Let’s be a church that is interested in stirring each other up to love and good works.

Something Special

Originally Posted February 11, 2015 By Pastor Adam

It is incredibly hard to ignore, based on the amount of commercials that have been streaming over the television and webpages lately, that Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching.  I was amazed yesterday when I observed my daughter gawking over a 4 feet tall stuffed bear!  The toy is taller than she is, and yet she thought that it was the best thing since sliced bread!  Some people hate the commercialism of Valentine’s Day or even think that the holiday is a conspiracy between the chocolate companies and Hallmark.  While I don’t believe that it is a conspiracy, one thing has to be noted–Valentine’s Day is a special day.

It’s important for us to come to the understanding of why Valentine’s Day is important.  I do have to say, the holiday isn’t about the gifts or chocolates or flowers or dinner.  It’s not about wearing red or exchanging Valentine’s cards.  Valentine’s Day is about love.  Not simply the emotional response of love, but the real, life-giving love that first comes from God and then that we express to those around us.

I want you all to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year–not for the commercial reasons, but for this simple reason: when we celebrate love we celebrate God because God is love.  With this in mind, I pray that you all have a blessed day doing something special with the ones you love.

A Great Thought From a Random Place

Originally Posted October 17, 2014 By Pastor Adam

I have quite and eclectic taste when it comes to movies and music.  I would have absolutely no problem listening to Aerosmith and then changing the station to listen to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.  Some people think that it’s a little weird, but I think that it adds a little spice to life.  I also have a wide range of movies that I like.  I can watch action or mystery shows and then be totally singing along to a musical, all in the same day.

Just about a week ago was one of those days when a musical was just what the doctor ordered.  I was searching around for just the right one, and I happened across the old musical from the 1950s entitled Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  To me, this is one great film, where Adam, the oldest of the 7 brothers, went to town one day in search of supplies and a wife.  While many of the townfolk thought he was crazy, he did end up with a wife that day.  The new bride, Millie, ended up refining and teaching manners to the other brothers and they ended up doing some crazy stunts, even kidnapping (in a really lighthearted way that only a musical can do) in order to get their gals.  It really is a great show.

There’s one song in the movie that is reprised later on that Millie sang to Adam on their wedding night entitled “When You’re in Love.”  There’s a line from this song has stuck with me and that I’ve found really fits.  It goes like this: When You’re in love, Really in love, there’s no way on earth to hide it.  Wow!  This is so true.  Just look at a newlywed couple, and you have all you can do to not comment because of their displays of affection, flirting, loveletters, etc.  You can totally tell that they are in love.

Many of us claim to love God.  I hope that you truly do.  But as the lyric to the song suggests, if you’re really in love with God, there should be no way of hiding that fact from people.  They should just simply know.  But the opposite is true as well–if they can’t tell that you love God, I think we have to seriously look at ourselves and see if we really do or not. I pray that you do!!