Sermon: Love Awakens

I shared this message on Valentine’s Day at New Vision Church, where I serve as the missions and creative arts pastor. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback.

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Serving Well?

water heart

Read John 13:1-5

 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Serving others is a value that Jesus modeled extensively in His time with His disciples. There is no clearer depiction of that than in the passage above. Jesus, the Teacher/Son Of God, is aware that the custom has been skipped or overlooked by His followers. What does Jesus do? He doesn’t point it out and or guilt someone into doing the right thing. Instead, He gets up, humbly taking on the role of a servant. There is much to be said about modeling service and servanthood, but I’ll just address a few of them in this post. At the core of service is the heart/motivation for what we do for others. Jesus demonstrated three essential things required to serve others well.

To serve others well, value people over plans.

Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

This wasn’t a rush service job. Even though Jesus knew His time to die was close, He took this intimate time with His disciples and deliberately washed their feet. Painstakingly, Jesus poured the water, over each foot, drying each with the towel. He could have asked them all to line up, get ready for a mass service project; but He didn’t.  The plan was to die, but He took the time to serve each one there. This communicates volumes about Jesus’ concern about others. He didn’t plow through the people to just get it done! He loved them to the end. He showed them value and esteemed them greatly. That’s what serving others well looks like.

To serve others well, be confident, courageous and elevate others.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.

Serving others well means that we have to be confident and courageous enough to stoop down to serve. Jesus knew who He was, to Whom He belonged and therefore, He was able to give the very best of Himself to others. Confidence is not found in belittling or berating others. Real confidence is found in knowing why you exist and for what purpose. It is found in knowing to Whom you belong and that you are unconditionally loved. Jesus knew His Father well along with His purpose and plan. His identity was not found in what He was doing (washing their feet as a servant) but in His relationship with His Father. When we truly know who and whose we are, we are free to be and to serve others around us with confidence and courage. It truly takes courage to elevate others, because it is an act of hope for others’ success, even by your submission. Serving His disciples was not “below” Him; it was an act of unconditional love. Jesus was able to show this kind of love because He Himself was love and wrapped in the Love of the Father.

To serve others well, love God and love people.

…he loved them to the end.

Jesus modeled what serving others looked like very well. He showed that it was more about loving God and people than the acts themselves. For some, love will only go “so far” but not for Jesus. He loved them all the way unto the end. His service was not just when it was convenient or easy but modeled that at any given time, serving well means loving well. He was compelled by love in everything He did having no ulterior motive or hint of self. Jesus loved His Father and followers with pure unadulterated love and He expects us to do the same.

Are you serving well?

Think over these questions:

Do you rush through tasks you do for others?

Do people feel valued and cared for by you?

How do you make people feel? Unimportant? Projects? Valued? Loved? Seen? Heard?

Is there anything you wouldn’t do for others? For Jesus?

How confident are you in who you are? To Whom you belong?

Do you have a problem in helping others succeed?

What is at the center of your motivation for serving others? Is it to get something in return?

Devotionals For Leaders: Hold On!

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 Getting There!

I can’t always see what God is doing…oh how I wish I could! Faith materializes things unseen but perseverance gets me there. At times it’s like grasping for air or vapor as James puts it but life cannot be grasped, only experienced. I cannot hold onto life but I can experience it by letting it go. God has intentions well beyond my scope of vision and faith. He sees things I cannot fathom with such earthly eyes. And His goal is to get me there. Whether I go kickin’ or screamin’ or with faithful trust and compliance is up to me.

Getting Ready!

I may feel that the path is too hard for me to handle, too rough to bear but He is simply preparing me for something greater than I can understand at this present point. My faith in God must be tested beyond ease and comfort to the depth of the deepest pains in my soul. Christ wants to save my soul while I try to save my life. He has made it clear that anyone who saves His life will lose it and yet how I still try to hold on! Forfeiting my soul for things of this world is not a wise move either and yet I daily face the challenges of letting go of everything to cling to Christ. 

Getting Ahold!

If knowing Christ is the goal of God and even some remote part of who I am and what I desperately want, then God will continue to strip away any and everything that competes against that goal. Christ is bringing me to a place where my faith will not waver, where my love will be real and my life will be saved. He is teaching me that holding onto anything except Him will prove to be another empty promise of life. His life is on the other side of the vision. I can’t see it very clearly yet but I have to trust He will get me there. God placed all bets on Christ to get me there and I have to as well.

Devotionals For Leaders: Love Overflows

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The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8

Love overflows. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t have to prove itself because it simply exudes spontaneously. God is Love and if He resides within us,  His Love will flow from us back to Him and to others. Oswald Chambers said:

If we try to prove to God how much we love Him, it is a sure sign that we really don’t love Him. The evidence of our love for Him is the absolute spontaneity of our love, which flows naturally from His nature within us. And when we look back, we will not be able to determine why we did certain things, but we can know that we did them according to the spontaneous nature of His love in us.

The leader must first and foremost be a lover. This is where we err. We can become fixated on doing things right and forget that we need to primarily love right. Leaders are not meant to just be managers but lovers of God and lovers of people. This love supernaturally overflows from God down to us and then out of us onto others.

Love God.

God doesn’t want robots. He doesn’t want rote answers or prayers. He wants love songs. He wants smiles and hugs. He wants our affection and hearts in passionate display. This is love, right? It cannot be prescribed or formulaic; it can only be natural. So love God in ways that are natural for you. Let your love for God flow from your heart of praise for Who He is and what you understand about Him.

The leader must daily be swept up in God’s love. When we fail to love people we become a taskmaster, simply using people or moving people. But when we love people, the people move of their own accord because of the power of love. Being caught up in that forceful flow, people follow the leader whose love is genuine and real. A leader can only love this way when they have experienced the love of God themselves.

Love Others.

People don’t want fake sentiments of love. They don’t want our platitudes. They want our hearts; hearts of compassion and sincerity. They want smiles and hugs. They want to know our love is genuine but it can only remain genuine when our hearts for God are genuine. We are unable to love with the love of God if God is not our first love. Love for others only overflows when we are overtaken by His love for us and them. God loves people more than we can imagine and as His leaders, He wants us to love them well also. We will love them well when we serve them well. Don’t focus on being right. Focus on loving them right.

Final thought: Remember that loving God and people is our primary goal as a leader. If we don’t love right we will not lead right. So let the love overflow.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

v2h header valentine day

It’s almost Valentine’s Day: the day we celebrate love. So what do you do if you don’t have someone special in your life? Let me help you out with the Top 10 pick-up lines for this year. Maybe it will help you move toward that special someone?

10) If you were a burger at McDonald’s, you’d be named  “McGorgeous”.

9) If I could rearrange the alphabet I’’d put U and I together…

8) You must be a parking ticket cause you got “fine” written all over you.

7) If you were a laser you’’d be set on stunning.

6) Where have I seen you before? Oh yeah it was in the dictionary next to the word KABLAM!

5) Girl, if you catch me breaking into your house, it’s revenge for stealing my heart.

4) I hope you know CPR, because you take my breath away

3) Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by again?

2) Well, here I am. What were your other two wishes?

1) Do I know you cause you look a lot like my next girlfriend!

For a few more laughs, check out the Skit Guys video here on how some people define love: Need Harmony

But in all seriousness what is it about this crazy little thing called “love”? What is it about love that totally changes our lives?Maybe there’s something that’s not so little in this thing called love? Let’s take a few moments and consider what love is and what loves does.

When we talk about love it can be more than a little confusing. I mean, how do we use a word that means deep feelings of affection for a person in the same breath with how we feel about Taco Bell? Interesting to say the least. Needless to say, the word “love” has many connotations and definitions. A general definition many people live by is: love is what someone does to us or for us. This however, is not a great definition to live by. Consider:

Love is what someone does to us. 

We get butterflies in our stomachs. Our palms get sweaty. We become giddy and lost on cloud “9”. We have pep in our step and the world just seems to be brighter when we are “in love”.

Love is what someone does for us.

All-of-a-sudden, someone is opening up doors for us, buying us gifts, sending texts all the time, posting pics of us together, and celebrating holidays and seasons together. They get us things and do things for us that no one else does. That has to be love, right?

This definition of love is probably a much better working definition than the ones above.

Love: a commitment to the betterment of another involving service and sacrifice.Tweet This! This definition is much more “scary” than the others. In the other two definitions, we are at the center of the universe. Love becomes about what’s in it for “us”. But in this definition, love becomes about “the other”. Sure “love” can involve feelings but love is not just feelings.

Feelings go away. Feelings change. But real love remains. Tweet This!

There are three basic statements that we hear centered around love. Maybe you have heard them before?

1) I love you…if.

This statement is conditional to the max. You have heard it like this: “If you love me you would…”

2) I love you…but.

This statement is a comparison statement. You have heard it like this: “I love you but you don’t treat me like so and so…”

3) I love you no matter what.

This statement is unconditional. Even as loving and caring as our parents are, sometimes, they become conditional in their expression of love. But parents and loving role models are often our best examples of this kind of love, which is only possible through God. God is the prime example of this kind of love. He  always has this kind of love for us and toward us. Regardless of what our lives are like, what our past has been, what we look like, what we feel like, what we think, God loves us perfectly, 100%, all the time.

God conveys this kind of love to us over and over in the scriptures. He says quite succinctly in Romans 5:8 that He demonstrated His love even WHILE we were still sinners. Even at our very worst, our furtherest from God, He still reached out to us and showed great love for us by serving and sacrificing. That’s real love!

Love is Service.

When Jesus came to earth, He could have required people to bow to Him, to do His bidding, to honor Him and worship Him as the God He was and is. But He didn’t do that. Instead, Jesus said in Matthew 20:28

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus lived out service to others unlike anyone ever has. He being the God of all creation, bent down and washed the feet of those whom He created. The gospel of John details this great act of love beautifully.

 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist,and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him John 13:1-5

Later in the passage, Jesus commands His disciples to do the same kind of loving thing to others.

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

Throughout His life, Jesus showed us time and again how love is not about feelings but about serving and giving. He showed this kind of love over and again through things like feeding the 4,000, 5,000, healing people, raising the dead, and even making sure His mother was cared for at the time of his own death! Jesus wants us to understand that love is service and giving of ourselves to others in service.

Love is Sacrifice.

When people really love one another sacrifices are made. Wives give up their last names, people move from their parents homes to new locations, cities, or states, as sacrifices of their love. These sacrifices expected and even nobel, but the ultimate sacrifice is the giving of one’s life. Fully yielding a life to death for the love of another is the greatest expression of love ever. Jesus Himself declares this in the following verse:

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13Tweet This!

It’s one thing to give your life for someone that you love but what about an enemy? That’s not love, right? That’s insanity! But not according to God. Through the loving sacrificial death of Jesus, while we were enemies of God, He provided a way for friendship.

For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. Romans 5:10

Jesus showed sacrificial love by laying down His own life. What makes this sacrifice so incredible is that in doing so, Jesus experienced something He never had before: separation from His Father. That was the ultimate sacrifice! In all of eternity, the Trinity had never experienced such a separation, but on the cross of Calvary, Jesus became sin for us and God turned His back on His one and only son!

45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27:45

God and Jesus Christ have demonstrated love in ways that go beyond our comprehension and experiences. The love God has for us exceeds any of our ability to explain or convey. Yet, it is more real than any other love we have as a reference.  During this Valentine’s Day, may I encourage you to take a few minutes and simply reflect upon the love of God, His acts of service and sacrifice and let that be your beginning point for the love that you express toward others.

It’s a crazy little thing called love but that thing will change your world!Tweet This!

How can you demonstrate love through service and sacrifice this Valentine’s Day?

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Valentine Day Thoughts On Romans 5:8

Romans 5-8

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and it’s a booming business. The Day Of Love results in close to $14 Billion annually! That’s about an average of $117 per person. So what makes Valentine’s Day so special?

It’s obvious through such spending that Valentine’s Day is a huge market for business. While some would prefer to not even acknowledge the pink and red ephemeral hearts that appear everywhere to celebrate love there is a deep-seated desire to express love toward those whom are the objects of our affection. We express love with balloons, chocolate, jewelry, cards, flowers, clothes and the list goes on and on. We arrange dinners, surprises and make plans to dazzle, excite, and reignite the flame of love. We travel distances, send messages and make special appearances to convey the message of our unending, undying love. Reflecting on Valentine’s Day and this verse, Romans 5:8, brought a couple of things to mind.

God Demonstrated His Love.

It wasn’t enough for God to simply shout from heaven that He loved us. We would have called into suspect every word. Instead, God, Who is Love, gave of Himself, sending His only son to demonstrate that love. Jesus Christ, the epitome of Love, came and gave Himself as a demonstration of God’s Love for us. On Valentine’s Day, it’s one thing to tell your special loved one that you love them, but if it is not accompanied by some gift (or service) at some point in the relationship, the love will be questioned.

God’s communication of love was a demonstration of love.Tweet This!

God Sacrificed For Love.

To demonstrate this Love, God sent His son not only to show acts love by healing people, caring for the poor and needy, or accepting people as they were but to ultimately die for all people regardless of their state in life. God saw all people as objects of His affection and determined that all would be recipients of the ultimate sacrifice of His son. Because God loved, God gave. But this gift was not cheap or common. This gift was not your run-of-the-mill flowers or candy. No! This was a huge sacrifice of eternal proportions. God sacrificed His son to redeem us; to show us just how much He loved us.

We cannot say we love someone without giving something, namely ourselves, to them as an act of love.   Tweet This!

God Accepts Your Love.

This Valentine’s Day, many will go great lengths attempting to impress the people they love. This is not something we have to do with God. He eagerly awaits the smallest act of your love toward Him and cherishes the heart of your gift as long as it’s sincere and true. Oftentimes gifts and services are used to manipulate people, trying to contrive love to some degree. But with God, all pretense is gone. This Valentine’s Day, all God wants is for those who know they are “sinners” to come and know He loves them just as they are. The greatest gift of love anyone could give God this year is the acceptance of the Love He has for them. Then in response to His love, give themselves back to Him. We don’t love Him first but in response to His great love for us.  Apart from God, we are unable to fully love at all.

With God, we are able to fully accept and express His love to the fullest degree.Tweet This!

I hope this Valentine’s Day is filled with all the people you love. May God, Who is Love demonstrate His love through you and to you today.

 

 

Quiet Time: Thoughts And Reflections On 3 John 7

Quiet Time

. . . they went forth for His name’s sake . . . —3 John 7

As I prepare to leave the country today for travel to Nicaragua and El Salvador, this is a great reminder of why I am going: to advance the kingdom of God in Jesus’ name. Missionaries serving the King seek to build the King’s kingdom, not their own. I am to be about the Lord’s business and not my own endeavors. The goal is to build God’s people and encourage them in the faith.

Even though Peter had denied Christ three times, Jesus reinstated Peter and asked him of his love for Christ. And of course, Peter said yes, he did love Christ. With each confession, the Lord gave Peter some instruction, that being “feed my lambs”, “tend to my sheep” and “feed my sheep” (John 21:, 15-17). Jesus entrusted caring for people to Peter. He told him that the expression of his love for Christ was to be demonstrated in his love and care for God’s people. Peter’s assignment wasn’t to build/rebuild his reputation but to make the name of Christ greater in his own life evidenced through showering the same love and forgiveness he had received onto others.

The Lord has a plans to be sure. This plan includes using me as conduit of His love. I must stay connected to the Lord and stay in tune with His leading. I have to be “detached” from things of this world and “attached” to the things of Heaven (Colossians 3:1-3). In this way, Heaven flows to earth and it happens through me via the Holy Spirit. My devotion to the Lord must be unquestionable and unstoppable. I have to be unwavering and unflappable in the midst of circumstances that seem unexplainable. God is in control and He is sending me forth in His name and it is my privilege to call on His name in prayer for guidance all along the way.

George Lockhart