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Monday, February 26, 2018

Silly Love Songs Part 3 - More than Words

Introduction
            People will say some silly things to to prove they love someone.  One expression I hear a lot these day that sounds silly to me is:  “I love you to the moon and back!”  Some of our favorite silly love songs say I love you in more romantic and musically beautiful ways.  Rod Stewart (originally Van Morrison) sang, “Have I told you lately that I love you?”  Stevie Wonder sang, “I just called to say I love you!”  And, perhaps the most unrealistic of all, Chicago sang, “You’re the meaning in my life; you’re the inspiration.”  Man that sounds good, but it's a lot of pressure to be the main person who brings meaning and inspiration to someone's life.  Maybe it would be better for us to look to God for that instead of a mere mortal!
            The inspiration for today's blog came from a song by a group called Extreme.  They sang, "More than words is all you have to do to make it real.  Then you wouldn't have to say that you love me, 'cause I'd already know."  Saying "I love you" is important, but real love is deeper than words. 

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.

            Jesus showed God’s love by his actions.    It is interesting to note, the Bible never records Jesus saying those three words that are so powerful in our culture: “I love you.”   That doesn't prove he never said "I love you" because the New Testament didn't record everything Jesus said and did. We know Jesus did love people.  There were many occasions the scripture reported his feelings of genuine love for people.  However, we can be sure of Jesus' deep love--not because of what he said, but--because of what he did.
            First of all, Jesus left the glory of heaven to live in our broken world.  John 1:14 – "So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness."  Jesus left the perfection of Heaven where he was fully loved, adored, and worshiped and came to live in our broken world, in a broken human body, dealing with our broken political, economic, and social systems, and suffering the hurt, sadness, suffering, and death of our broken lives.  He didn't have to do it, but he did because he loves us.
            Jesus said "I love you" by teaching us how to live and survive and find forgiveness and love and salvation through faith in God's grace.  Jesus also showed his love by serving us.  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.”  Even though we should have been the ones serving Jesus, his love compelled him to serve us selflessly.  And finally, Jesus died for us.  John 15:13 – "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." 
            Since Jesus loved us, we ought to love one another.  And Jesus’ death on the cross is the cue for our level of commitment.  It is not that we necessarily also actually die.  What it means is we should love each other without limits.   

Learning How to Love Others in Meaningful Ways
            We’re all different and we communicate and receive love in different ways.  Gary Chapman wrote a great book, The Five Love Languages, that identifies five of the most common ways people express and receive love.  The trick to really showing people you love them is knowing how the person you love receives love.  It is very likely they receive love in a way different than you.  And if you are always showing your love in ways they don't understand, they might not know how much you love them even if you love them very much.  The key is learning how to speak their love language.  And here's the really cool thing, knowing a person's love language isn't just for romantic relationships.  It's vital for showing love to your kids, your friends, family, anyone really.      
            Understanding and speaking the love languages can help you in all your relationships.  So I encourage you to learn them.  And I also would like to offer you some help is going deeper into the love languages with the people you care about.  I have a few surveys available that can help you understand yourself and those you care about better.  My family and I used these during a family night get together.  I learned my wife's primary love languages as well as my kids.  And I try to keep these in mind as I work to show my love for each of them.  Perhaps you would like to use the surveys too.  Click here to email me and I will send them to you as an email attachment. 
            Now, I would like to give you an overview of the five love languages as we think Jesus's love and how we can love others like Jesus loves us.
 

Words of Affirmation             The first love language is words of affirmation.  Some people really feel loved simply because you tell them.  There are some important things p eople you love need to hear you say.  First of all, the need to hear you say, " I Love you."  Now, not everyone likes to say those words and some feel that if you use them too much they lose their meaning; I get that.  But people who speak the love language of words of affirmation need to hear you say it anyway.  Furthermore, everyone you really care about, needs to hear you say, "I love you" at least once in their life.  How sad it would be for a son or daughter to go through their whole live never having heard their father say he loved them.  Perhaps he showed them in a thousand ways by what he did and how he cared for and protected them, but if he never actually said it would be sad.  So say "I love you."  And for those who say those words all the time, make sure you go deeper and say why you love them.
            There are some other things the people you love need to hear from you.  They need to hear you say "I’m sorry."  We all make mistakes, but it makes a real difference when we tell people we love we are sorry when we mess up.  My brother is eight years older than me and he was my idol when I was a child.  I looked up to him so much.  But sometimes he would get angry with me (probably because I was being a pest, like little brothers sometimes can be).  I remember very vividly, though, a few times my older brother came to me after getting angry and saying "I'm sorry."  That left a huge impression on me.  I knew he loved me when he said that.
            The people we love need to hear us say, " No."  Healthy relationships have healthy boundaries and if you love someone you need to help establish them.  Saying "No" in a loving way is one of the ways you do that. 
            And finally, the people you love need to hear you say, "Thank you."  It shows you're grateful and this is especially important people whose love language is words of affirmation. 
            Now you also need to be careful, because one sure way to really hurt people with this love language is to speak hurtfully to them.  If you get angry or frustrated and lash out or say something mean to them, it's like you are saying, "I don't love you!"  To you, they may just be words; but to a person who's primary way of receiving love is through words, your hurtful words are telling them you don't care about them.  So be kind and loving with your words--especially to those who speak the love language of Words of Affirmation.


Acts of Service
           The second love language is Acts of Service.  1 John 3:18 teaches we should love—not merely by words—but by our actions.  For many people who speak this love language, actions speak louder than words.  You may say "I love you" a thousand times to an Acts of Service love language person, and they might respond, "Well that's just great.  But what have you done for me lately?"  If you want them to know you really love them, you're gonna have to get to work.  Anything you can do to ease their burden of responsibilities will communicate your love to them and will be deeply appreciated.  And here's how you can really earn some bonus points with a person who speaks the acts of service love language.  Quite often, people don't even know what they need help with.  So, if you can figure it out and help them without them even asking, you will really show them your love.
            Now with every type of love language, there are things we sometimes do that communicate the opposite of love; things that seem to say, "I don't really care about you."  For a person who's love language is acts of service, it really bugs them when you are lazy or make a promise and don't keep it.  And it also bothers them more than the average person when you make more work for them.  So be careful not to do these with people whose primary love language is acts of service.


Receiving Gifts
           For some people, the primary way they receive love is by receiving gifts.  That might seem petty or materialistic if that's not your primary love language.  However, don’t mistake this for materialism--it’s not about the things; it’s about the thoughtfulness and effort behind the gift.  To people who speak this love language, a gift shows they are known, appreciated, cared for, and prized above whatever sacrifice it took to give them a gift.  Remember, the wise men gave Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They weren't trying to buy his love.  They were expressing their love and adoration through a material gift.  Another story in the New Testament is the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with an expensive perfume.  It wasn't about the gift as much as it was the love she showed as she wept at his feet.  And remember, what is it that Jesus really wants?  Jesus wants your heart. 
            Now, you need to be careful because the surest way to make someone with the primary love language of receiving gifts feel like you don't really love them or care is to miss their birthdays or anniversaries, or just grab a hasty gift you didn't really think about.  A thoughtless gift is about as bad as no gift because it communicates you didn't care enough to think about it and don't really care about them.
 
Quality Time
            A fourth love language is quality time.  Quality time is time spent in giving another person one's undivided attention in order to strengthen a relationship.  One of the most precious gifts you can give in our busy day and age is your time.  People will pay someone to clean their house, wash their car, or change the oil.  They could do these things themselves, but it is worth it for some people to pay someone else to do these menial tasks because their time is more valuable than the money it cost to pay someone.  They would rather spend their time on things they see as more important or meaningful. 
            Jesus was an extremely busy and important person.  Everyone wanted to be with him.  And in a day and age when children were considered very unimportant, Jesus spent quality time with them.  When some children came to see Jesus, his disciples try to send them away.  But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.”  Children were important to Jesus and he gave them his undivided attention to show that "Jesus loves the little children of the world."
            Now, for a person whose primary love language is quality time, the surest way for you to communicate you don't really love them is to let yourself be distracted when you are there to be with them.  It's like when you are talking to them and you're not really listening or you keep stopping to check the Facebook updates on your phone.  Or, maybe you had a date to go out with them and you canceling or postponing the date.  These behaviors are especially hurtful to people who crave quality time with you.  So, turn off the TV and your cell phone and just be together! 

Physical Touch
            The last love language I will discuss is physical touch.  Jesus often loved people with his touch.  Jesus' touch healed people of leprosy, which was a contagious skin disease.  People with Matthew 8:3, it says, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared."
leprosy were considered untouchable.  People would shun them and isolate them from the rest of society.  And even though Jesus had the power to heal them with a word from across the way, he chose to heal them with his touch.  In
            Some people just really need a hug, or a pat on the back, or a thoughtful touch on their arm as you shake their hand.  These simple acts of physical touch communicate that you care.  But it's not just a actual physical contact.  A person whose primary love language is physical touch also need you to "being there for them."  They need you to be with them when they're going through a hard time--even if you don't say anything.  Your presence is a comfort and communicates you love to them.  They need you to answer when they call or text.  And they need you to return their emails in a timely manner.  These also show them you care. 
            On the other hand, when you aren't accessible to them, it makes them feel like you don't really care or love them.  So be careful.  And also be sure your physical touches are appropriate.  Touch is a very intimate matter and people can interpret it in different ways.  So it can be helpful ask what's appropriate and honor it.  Also, consider how damaging physical neglect or abuse might be to someone whose primary love language is physical touch.  Be careful to show your love and avoid doing anything that a person who speaks this love language might see as particular unloving. 


Jesus Love You
            Jesus is the ultimate example of God’s love.  He shows his love for us in every love language.  He told us of God’s love through the Gospel and his teaching.  For God so loved the world that he sent His only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)  He came, not to be served, but to serve others.  Furthermore, he gave the most precious gift of his life as a ransom. (Mt 20:28)  Jesus spent three years of quality time with his disciples.  He ate wth them, walked with them, camped with them, taught them, trained them, and served with them.  He welcomed little children and spend quality time with them.  He ate with sinners and tax collector who no one else would give the time of day.  Jesus touched lepers when others said they were untouchable.  His touch brought healing and forgiveness and peace.  Jesus showed us in everyway that his love is amazing and true.  And the depth of his commitment was death itself.
            I hope you know how much Jesus loves you.  And I hope it fills you to the depths of your souls.  For when it does, you will be ready to love your self and love your neighbor as yourself and love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you mind, and with all your strength.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Silly Love Songs Part 2 - Revealed in Christ

1 John 3:16
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

Introduction
            We all want to feel loved and we want to love others.  Love is programed is in our human code.  Maybe that’s why we are so infatuated with love songs.  One study showed that about 60% of the most popular songs from the last 50 years are about romantic love.[i]  In 2009, a study claimed that 92% of the top selling songs contained themes of romance, sexual appeal, or attraction.[ii]  As I was preparing for this message series about a month ago, I pasted on Facebook, asking for suggestions of cheesy love songs.  I was surprised and overwhelmed with a flood of suggestions.  It’s been a month and people are still adding song suggestions to the post!  The playlist I made from all the suggestions is over and hour and a half long!  (You can see the suggestions on my Facebook page here.) Apparently, we love our silly love songs!

The World’s View of Love
            One of the first silly love songs many children sing is:  Kelly and Chris, sittin’ in a tree.  K-I-S-S-I-N-G.  First comes love. Then comes marriage. Here comes Kelly with a baby carriage!  What a silly song!  Sadly, it is a fairly accurate description of the world’s childish view of love.  The popular conception of love is that two people see each other and it is Love at First Sight.  According to the way I define love--real love--there's no such thing as love at first sight.  There may be attraction at first sight, but that's not the same as love.  Love is something deeper that flows from a relationship that develops over time.
            The popular notion of love stories in our culture says two people meet and they Fall in Love.  In this way of thinking, falling in love is as accidental as falling in a ditch!  You have no control over it.  Again, you may certainly be caught off guard and be accidentally attracted to someone.  That is why it may be important to be careful who you hang around with.  It might not be wise for a woman and a man who are not married or in a committed relationship to hang out alone together.  Men and women are designed to develop attractions to each other and it can happen quite by accident.  That's why you have to be careful.  Again, I must point out that attraction is not the same as love.  Attraction sometimes leads to a relationship of  love, but authentic love is a choice.  We have the power to choose it or reject it.  Love does not happen by accident.  You don't fall into love by accident.  You choose it or you don't.
            In the popular imagination, people fall in love because they’ve found their One True Love.  And people often have this terrible fear they might miss out on meeting the one.  There is this notion that the is just one person out there who is meant to be your soul mate.  People feel a tremendous pressure to find their one true love.  Friends, life is not a Disney fairytale.  You don’t just have one true love out there.  There are lots of fish in the sea (as a more realistic expression goes).  There's not just one but plenty of people out there who could all qualify as your "one true love".  certainly, there are those out there who are more or less compatible with you, but there are plenty to choose from.  And your “One True Love” is the one person you choose to love and who chooses to love you for the rest of your lives.
 
The Bible and Love
            We often accept these unrealistic notions about romantic love as the gospel truth with out even thinking about it.  However, if we really want to know the truth about love, we need to search the timeless truths in the Bible.  When the Bible talks about love, it is not primarily talking about romantic love.  Remember what Jesus said?  He said the first and greatest commandment was to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And the second greatest commandment was not love your wife.  It was love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:30)
            One of the most common scriptures to read at a wedding is 1 Corinthians 13 (known as the love chapter).  It reads: "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  This really is wonderful advice to give to a couple as they tie the knot, but that's not why Paul wrote it in the first century.  Paul gave that advice to the people of his church to instruct them on how to getting along each other in church.  It was not about romantic love.
            When we here the word love, we often jump directly to romantic love, but that is not the primary focus of the Scriptures.  The very first time the Bible uses the word love is in Genesis 22:2 and it’s talking about the way Abraham loves his son Isaac.  Ephesians 5:25 does give advice about the love between a husband and wife, but it says, “Husbands, love your wives," (not by giving them a heart shaped box of chocolates, or flowers, or by writing them a sonnet, but love them) "just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  
          Love comes in many forms and it’s not just about (or even primarily about) romantic love.  1 John 3:16 tells us what real love is.  It says, We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”            Wouldn’t you agree: the most precious gift anyone can give is their life?  We admire firefighters and others who risk there life and sometimes even lose their lives trying to save others.  That is how Jesus loves us.            Romans 5:7-8 says, "Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners."  Jesus died for some good people.  (And I would argue that many of those people were good or did good things because they felt loved by how Jesus died for them.)  However, Jesus also died for some very bad people.  He died to offer forgiveness and grace and love to some people who've done some very evil things.  Maybe even some people who know one would have died for.  Jesus even died for the yong man who killed all those students at the school in Florida last week.  And Jesus died for all those who were killed.  That is the great love of Jesus. 


Dang It, Prince!
            I had planned to sprinkle some silly love song lyrics through this message like last week to drive home some of my points.  The song that came to mind for this section was Prince's song, "I Would Die For You.”  I never really listen to all the lyrics before as a child when the song was popular (and their kind of hard to understand when Prince is singing).  So I thought I better look up the lyrics so I could get them right.  I was very surprised by what I found.  These are some very spiritual lyrics that are could speak to us today!  Not the kind of thing you would expect from a pop icon famous for his sex appeal and provocative dancing and lyrics.  But listen to what he sings:
I'm not a woman.  I'm not a man.  I am something that you'll never understand.
[You see, the deepest love is not about romantic love.  It's about Christ's love for you.]
I'll never beat you.  I'll never lie.  And if you're evil I'll forgive you by and by.
[As Prince sings, he emphasizes the word "you" each time he sings this]
'Cause you, I would die for you, yeah; Darling if you want me to.
You, I would die for you


[And the song continues...]
I'm not your lover.  I'm not your friend.  I am something that you'll never comprehend.
No need to worry.  No need to cry.  I'm your messiah and you're the reason why.
'Cause you, I would die for you, yeah. Darling if you want me to.
You, I would die for you

[Listen to the song here]

            Do you realize the love you need doesn’t come from a man or a woman?  Until you realize it and find the love of God that fulfills your soul, you’re not really ready to be in a deep romantic relationship with someone.  Otherwise, you’ll constantly be expecting them to fill the God-shaped whole in your soul.  And they can’t.  At best, they’ll just leave you feeling unsatisfied.  They’ll be unhappy.  You’ll be unhappy.  In more severe cases, you’ll reach out for anyone to be in a relationship with in a desperate attempt to fill the void.  And you’ll do it again and again even if people keep using and abusing you. 
            The love you need doesn’t come from your kids or your parents or your friends.  Sure, we all need our parents to love us.  We all want our kids to love us.  And we all need friends who love us.  But if you’re looking to your parents, your kids, or friends to fill your need for God’s love, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.  If you have the love of God, you can get by without the love of these others; but if you don't have the love of God, none of these others will do.
            The love we need is found in Jesus.  He already died for you.  For you!  You are loved with the most deep and desperate and unlimited love!  Jesus suffered the most unimaginable pain and agony and death for you!  Let that sink in.  Let that encourage you.  Let that fill you from the bottoms of your feet to top of your heard and to the very depths of your soul.

Loving Others
            1 John 3:16 says, We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”  We love others, because Jesus first loved us.  We are called to love the way Jesus loved us--by giving up our lives for them.  Giving up our lives doesn't necessarily mean dying.  More often, it means living selflessly with sacrificial love.  Because of what Christ did for us, we can join in with Prince as we sing to the world:  “I would die for you!  For our spouse – “I would die for you!”  For our children – “I would die for you!”  For our parents – “I would die for you!”  For our friends – “I would die for you!”  For our enemies – “I would die for you!”  For everyone – “I would die for you!”

Invitation
            I would like to invite you to receive the love of Jesus.  He died for you. Receive his love.  Accept it.  Become his dearly beloved child.  Not because you deserve it.  But because He did it for you!  If you've never done so, please pray to accept his love today.  And start living your life for him as he died for you.
            I would also like to invite everyone to be filled with the love of Jesus.  He died for you.  Now he calls you to love others sacrificially.  We can’t do that on our own.  We need to be filled with Jesus’ love in order to love others the way Jesus loves us.  So pray and ask Jesus to fill you today. 




[i] http://news.ufl.edu/archive/2007/05/love-still-dominates-pop-song-lyrics-but-with-raunchier-language.html
[ii] https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/09/92-top-ten-billboard-songs-are-about-sex/337242/

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Silly Love Songs 1 - Steadfast & Unchanging

Introduction
We all want to feel loved.  And we want to love others.  That’s the way God made us to be.  From the very beginning in Genesis, there was love.  God created us in love and for love.  God created people as male and female, and designed us to yearn for love—between people and between people and God.  And in the beginning, the love we had in our hearts was perfect.
            But then sin entered our hearts and the world and messed everything up.  Now, so often, love is misunderstood.  Love is the subject of so many songs because it is a central yearning in our hearts, but we rarely really understand the love we sing about.  And our misunderstandings about love lead suffering, and hurt, and pain at the deepest levels.  Love is sometimes a tool to use and abuse one another.  It can even become an idol; it is an idol to so many (for an idol is anything we look to for fulfillment in ways that only God can fulfill us).
Love comes in many forms.  Obviously, there is the love between a man and a woman, a husband and wife.  But there is also the love between a parent and a child, the love of family, the love between friends, and even the love for our pets.  All love has its roots in God’s love of us.  So to get back to wholesome, healthy love—in all kinds of relationships—we must look to the love of God as our model.
Maybe silly love songs appeal to us because they tap into a primal hunger and express the way we often feel when we “fall in love.”  God designed us to feel a strong, unexplainable attraction when we meet someone who might be “the one.”  Our feelings can be so strong, they can even over-ride our reason and drive us to step outside out comfort zone to connect with someone and forge an incredibly strong bond that will hopefully survive the inevitable wear and tear life will bring our way.  Love songs capture the way we feel.  We sing:

“Ain’t no mountain high enough!  Ain’t no valley low enough!  Ain’t no river wide enough!  To keep me from getin’ to you baby.”  ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)

Boy that sounds good, and it’s the way we feel.  But, actually, there are mountains, rivers, and other obstacles that can keep us from getting to our baby.  The only One who can sing those lyrics truthfully is God.  There is nothing that can keep God from getting to us.  He has overcome every obstacle to be with you—even conquering sin, death, and the grave by dying on the cross.  Bon Jovi sang, “I’d die for you! I’d cry for you! If it came right down to me and you!  You know it’s true!  Baby I’d die for you!”  How many boyfriends and husbands have promised that?  How many have actually done it?  Friends, Jesus Christ did it for you.
So as we go through this series of 3 sermons together, I invite you to think about all your
favorites love songs and really think about the lyrics.  Are they inspiring?  Are they silly?  Are they even practical (from a human perspective)?  More important, look to God and consider the amazing love He has for you.  Divine love is greater than the love any human can express.  What is the nature of God’s love for you?
            To begin our journey, let's look at one of the famous love stories in our Bible—the story Jacob and Rachel (and it also includes the sad story of Leah).  The full story is encompasses all of Genesis 29 & 30 and continues on for several more chapters.  Let em just share the key verse and then I'll summarize the story.  Genesis 29:20 – "So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days. "



The Story of Jacob & Rachel
            There was a man named Jacob who had a twin brother named Esau.  Jacob was his mother's favorite, but Esau was his father's.  Jacob was a manipulator and a schemer.  With his mother's help, Jacob cheated his brother out of his inheritance and his father's blessing.  Esau was so mad, he vowed to kill Jacob.  So, Jacob fled from home to his uncle's house in a far away village.  
            When he arrived, Jacob noticed a beautiful woman tending a flock of sheep.  Her name was Rachel.  Jacob was so smitten with Rachel, he was like Joe Cocker singing, "You are so beatiful to me!  Can't you see!  You're everything I hoped for!  You're everything I need!"
            Now ladies, I want you to notice something.  Rachel had been tending a flock of sheep all day.  I'm sure she was sweaty and tired and didn't feel attractive at all.  Yet Jacob thought she was hot stuff!  You see, that's how God designed us.  We were designed to find you attractive.  And sometimes, even when you feel you're in your least attractive state, you might be most attractive to us.  
            Well, for Jacob, it was love at first sight.  Is that even a real thing--"love at first sight"?  Well, I believe there's such a thing as attraction at first sight.  But attraction is not the same as love.  Love is a much deeper virtue than attraction.  It's not something that happens to you by accident or because of the chemicals and hormones that run through you viens.  It may be that you are immediately attracted to someone and then that leads you to develop a relationship with them that becomes deep over time and leads to to love.  But love at first sight is an overstatement that really misuses the term love (at least in the sense we are talking about in this blog).
            At any rate, Jacob was immediately attracted to Rachel and wanted her.  The Bible says she had a beautiful figure and a lovely face and Jacob wanted her.  When the opportunity presented itself, Jacob promised to work for Rachel's father, Laben, seven years in order that he might marry Rachel.  He would do anything for Rachel.  He was like Percy Sledge or Michael Bolton singing, "When a man loves a woman!"
            Anyway, Jacob worked seven years for Laben and then said, “Now give me my wife so I can sleep with her.”  (Not exactly the most romantic thing to say, but at least he was honest!)  But then Jacob, the schemer and trickster, had one pulled over on him.  Instead of bring Rachel to marry Jacob, Laben dressed her older sister, Leah, up and brought her!  And I guess she had on a pretty heavy dress and veil and was covered from head to toe and Jacob couldn't really see her and so Jacob married Leah instead of Rachel!  Now, I can understand how he might not have been able to tell at the wedding ceremony, but you know what usually happens after the wedding and it doesn't usually involve as many clothes.  And somehow, Jacob still didn't realize it wasn't Rachel in the bed with him until morning.  I guess love really is blind!  (Or else he was just really, really drunk.)
            Well, Jacobs is pretty upset with Laben, as you can imagine, and Laben makes up some cockamany story about having to marry off his oldest daughter before the younger one.  But Laben says he will give Rachel on credit if Jacob works another 7 years for him.  And since Jacob wants Rachel so bad, he agrees.  I guess he might of been like Lionel Richie singing, "Your once, twice, three times a lady!"  (Well maybe not three times, but definitely twice!)  Jacob sort of got a 2 for one special on wives that year.

Poor, Unloved Leah
            Now we usually focus on Jacob and Rachel in the story, but what about poor, unloved Leah?  The Bible describes Leah as being kind of plain--says she didn't have the same sparkle in her eye.  I don't know if that meant she was just sort of plain or what.  But how do you think Leah must have felt to be made to feel ugly by her own father.  What kind of poor relationship did Rachel and her father have they he didn't even think she would ever be able to get a husband on her own--that Laben would have to trick some man into marrying her?  That's got to hurt.  Every woman wants to feel loved and special--and that all starts with their father.  But Rachel's father apparently never told her, or made her feel special or loved.  
            And perhaps Leah sees that this shame of a marriage with Jacob is her one chance.  Mayne Jacob will love her and make her feel worthwhile.  And even though she's not as "pretty" as Rachel, Leah is able to bear children while Rachel remained barren.  Leah and Rachel competed for Jacob's love; Rachel had the beauty and Jacob's attention, but Leah was ding everything she could to get him to look at her and love her instead.  Maybe Leah was sort of like Taylor Swift singing, “She wears shorts skirts. I wear t-shirts. She’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers. Dreaming bout the day you will wake up and find that what you’re| looking for has been here the whole time. If you could see that I’m the one who understand you; been here all the time so why can’t you see, you belong with me.” (“You Belong to Me” by Taylor Swift)
            Here's the thing, Leah had a huge void in her life--probably there from childhood by the way her father treated her.  And Leah tried to fill the void of love in her life with Jacob.  And she thought bearing him children would do the trick, but it never worked.  You can see this playing out through the children she bore and what she said at each birth.  Leah bore three children trying to earn Jacob’s love.  The first was Reuban and Leah said, “The Lord has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me.”  But it didn't work. Leah still wasn't satisfied.  So she bore a second son and named him Simeon saying, “The Lord heard that I was unloved and has given me another son.”  Still not satisfied, Leah had a third son and named him Levi saying, “Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me, since I have given him three sons!”
            Unfortunately, Jacob never woke up and loved Leah--at least not in the way she wanted in order to fill the void deep in her soul. So finally, Leah stopped looking for Jacob to complete her.  I think she finally realized only God could do that.  I think it because of what she said when she gave birth to her fourth child.  This time she named him Judah and said, “Now I will praise the Lord!” And then she stopped having children.
            God is the only one who can truly make us whole.  No man, no woman, can do that for you.  And you cannot really be satisfied with your mate if you are expecting them to be god for you.  Only God can be God.  It is the love of God that we all need in our lives.  And when we have it, we don't need our spouse or anyone else to fill the deep longing within our soul.  Then we are free to have truly healthy human relationships with everything in proper perspective.

God’s Love is Steadfast & Unchanging
            Jacob’s love caused him to worked 14 years for Rachel, but God’s love is so steadfast and unchanging He’s worked since the beginning of creation to win your love. God, in Jesus Christ, went all the way to the cross for you. And God isn’t going to give up searching for you and inviting you to receive His love and love Him back. Like singer Rick Astly, He’s “Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry. Never gonna say goodbye. Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.” (“Never Gonn Give You Up”)
God’s Love is Emotional, but more…
            Love is more than how the other person makes us feel. Love is what we do for others.  The emotions may drive us initially, but what happens when the emotions wear off? We have to make a choice to stay committed.  Captain and Tennille sang:
“Love, Love will keep us together. 
Think of me babe, whenever 
some sweet-talking girl comes along, singing her song
Don't mess around, you've just got to be strong, just stop
'Cause I really love you, stop
I'll be thinking of you
Look in my heart and let love keep us together”

The song was “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Unfortunately, love didn’t keep Captain and Tennille together. They divorced on January 16, 2014.
            Love is more than a song or a feeling. Love is a choice we make. It’s a deliberate act, a willful decision to give selflessly for another. Feelings of love will come and go and come back again, but love never ends. 
            There are days we are so in love with our kids. We just want to be with them and hug them and care for them and do for them.  Then, there are days we just want to strangle them to death and start over with a new lot! (Not really, but you get my point!) We choose to love our kids even when we don’t feel like it.  The same is true of our spouse (or our friends or our family—any form of real love).
            God’s steadfast and unchanging love is the perfect model for how we are to love.  It doesn’t depend on whether we deserve it or even try to love Him back.  Romans 5:8 say, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” A sinner is someone who has completely turned their back on God. So in other words, when God was dead to us, He still lived for us and loved us enough to die for us.

Invitation
            There is a love song I bet you’ve heard from childhood.  Maybe we dismiss it now it without even really thinking about the meaning, because we've heard it so many times.  But today, really consider the words.  And think about what Jesus is saying to you.  What do you want to say to Him?

Jesus Loves Me

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.


Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.


Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”


Jesus loves me still today,
Walking with me on my way,
Wanting as a friend to give
Light and love to all who live.


Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.


Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.


Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.


Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Testimony of Rick Tomnsend

"WHERE ARE YOU?"

MY PURPOSE: Mark 5:19 says, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

"WHERE ARE YOU?"

            I have always heard of Jesus, or about Jesus, but I was just not a follower of Jesus.  I was sprinkled as a young boy at the Methodist Church and considered myself a Christian although I probably didn't really know what that meant.  I never realized God was the one who gave me the ability to excel at sports... which was really my identity back then.  Playing sports was my life water...  I lived, breathed, and thirsted for playing sports when I should have been thirsting for the Lord.  And God said, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:9)

            After being recruited to play football by a major university, I began using drugs and drinking, feeling a thirst to fit in.  I was still excelling at football... becoming one of only 14 two-time All-Americans at the University of Tennessee.

            In 1972 and 1973, I made Football Writers' All American and Playboy All American teams and was featured in Playboy magazine both of those years.  When I was drafted by the New York Giants in 1975, I felt that my thirst had finally been quenched.  Things didn't work out there and I went to the WFL, having a great year with the Memphis Southmen.  When that league folded, I went back to the New York Giants and was then traded to the San Francisco 49ers.  Life just rolled along and I was still thirsty.  I couldn't find my fill and I never looked to Jesus.  My well ran dry and although I wasn't able to quench that thirst...  I still didn't turn to Jesus, the only one who could quench it.  And God said, "Where are you?"

            My oldest son served time in prison twice and my youngest son spent 6 months in drug rehab, while my middle son was in college on football and academic scholarships.  In 2005, my wife of 33 years divorced me followed by the loss of my mom the next year.  And God said, "Where are you?", but I still didn't get it.

            In 2007, I met Debby and we married in 2008.  Life was looking better.

            In 2013, I was hospitalized with a carbon dioxide level of 117.  Normal range is 35-45.  Within an hour of arriving in the ER, I was on life support in the ICU - where I stayed for the next 13 days.  After coming home, I had to rehab for about 6 weeks.  My wife and I were walking at the track and she started having burning in her upper chest.  She had a heart attack a few days later and we were back in the ICU.

            I told her that as soon as she was able, we were going to church (I had not been to church in 30 years).  That next Sunday we visited Christ Community Church where we still go every Sunday. The third Sunday we were there I felt the Spirit enter my body while listening to "Give Me Jesus," now one of my favorite songs.  My wife said on the way home that I was not the same man she came to church with that morning.

            I now travel around speaking to others about the grace and mercy God has shown this sinner. 

            I now live every day to the fullest, praising God each and every day for allowing me to wake up and experience all the beauty around me.  I especially thank him for using me for times like these... speaking to others in the hopes of reaching people (even if it is just one person) who hasn't been saved and leading them to Jesus.

            Jesus says He is the only way to God the Father.  Some people may argue that this way is too narrow.  In reality, it is wide enough for the whole world, if the world chooses to accept it.  Instead of worrying about how limited it sounds to have only one way, we should be saying, "Thank you, God, for providing a sure way to get to You!"

FOR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS:
RICKY TOWNSEND