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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Silly Love Songs 1 - Steadfast & Unchanging

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.

            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.

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