Monday, February 23, 2009

Loves As Jesus Loved

I had the opportunity to watch the movie Fireproof this week and what it lacks in its acting, it makes up for in a very strong message. Kirk Cameron is the main character who has been challenged by his father to take a 40 day Love Dare challenge and he comes to a breaking point half way through those days where he has done everything humanly possible to win her love. He keeps telling his dad it is no use because with every attempt, he faces rejection over and over again and then his Dad leads him to find Jesus.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13v34

So, you’re thinking ok, I can do that. I can love others and specifically like minded people who love Jesus. However, Jesus isn’t finished, there is another sentence here with this command and it starts with ‘As I…As I have loved you! I have been called to love as Jesus loved! He didn’t give us a ‘do as best as you can’ kind of command. He is actually telling us to love the way that He did. He loved in humility with a servant’s heart, He loved powerfully with complete forgiveness and He loved us sacrificially by laying down His life for us. This is no ordinary kind of love and actually it is an impossible challenge.

Jesus’ love is:

1. The Great Exchange

If we are going to love as Jesus loved, we need the power and strength that only Jesus can give us. Jesus was good at this and gave the kind of challenges to drive this point home. He told his disciples, “pour your heart out in prayer and this mountain will be thrown into the sea.” Mark 11:23 He also challenged Peter, “Walk to me on the water” in Matthew 14 or how about how many times do I forgive…well Jesus said try seventy times seven. Jesus was always bent on setting the bar so high we would know that the only way that we could reach it would be to live a completely and entirely different way. This may surprise you, but Jesus doesn’t want you to try harder, muster up more drive from somewhere within you. Christianity is not a try harder faith and it is not a ‘change’ faith. It is an exchange. Isaiah 40:28-31

I think we’ve all felt that sense of desperation that comes from trying to do ‘whatever it takes’ to win someone over whether it is our spouse, a child, a friend and yet feeling empty because there was no response, no reciprocation of the kind, no result. However the greatest difficulties that a relationship or lack thereof has to offer us always brings us to the greatest opportunity to trust the Lord.

Our prayer of exchange: Dear Father, I don’t have the strength to turn this relationship around, I can’t do this on my own. I need to exchange my strength for Your strength, I need to exchange my desperation for Your hope, my lonliness for Your companionship, my heartache for Your comfort, my love for Your love.

2. Acting Before Feeling.

John 13 begins by describing to us the sense of urgency that Jesus felt as He knew His earthly ministry was coming to a close. We read that He was now ready to show them the full extent of his love. So, he begins by wrapping a towel around his waist and proceeds to wash his disciples’ feet. It is an act of humility and a true expression of love.

He wanted to teach us the importance of the heart of a servant. A servant will be brought low so that others may be lifted up. A heart of love will call us to lay down our own personal aspiration of greatness or fulfillment. Jesus didn’t tell us to feel this way, He told us to act if our life depended on it. He taught us to wash each other’s feet and He led by example. You might be thinking but how do I serve someone in love that I really don’t love? Isn’t that being dishonest with others and myself? How can that kind of love be real? It is a good question but in our life again and again we have to do things that we don’t feel like doing. You can’t wake up in the morning and say, ‘well I don’t feel like going into work, so you know what, I’m not going.’ Well, you can only do that for so long.

We can’t command feelings but we can command an action. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross. He knew exactly what was going to be expected of Him and the complete and utter stench of sin that He would bear for those who didn’t even want it. Yet He said in Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

This kind of love is referred to as a ‘nevertheless love’. This is the kind of moment when every fiber of your being wants to resist it, wants to keep the wall up, wants to burn silently in the frustration and anger. It is the time when you want to raise your voice in self defence or run away that you pray for nevertheless love to well up in you.

But what about the lack of feelings and how do we resolve that. Once again, you pray that they will come as you begin to act in love out of a heart of obedience. The feelings, the pulse, the rhythm will come in time.

Have you ever exposed your hands to the cold longer than you should have? What happens? Well, your fingers become so numb that they feel like stumps, like there is nothing there. The same is true of our heart if we keep it out in the cold too long. It is a dangerous place to go, to let your heart become numb in bitterness and anger.

However, when you take action and bring your heart in from the cold something happens. You begin to have a heightened sensitivity and just like the pain your fingers feel when the blood starts to flow so too will your heart feel pain and the feelings will come back.

I am praying that God will give me heightened sensitivity to the needs and awareness of both Sharon and my children. If there is one thing I need to learn it is the importance of knowing where they are at so I can respond and be there for them. I can’t do that apart from Jesus and here’s the thing. I don’t have to be perfect or have it all together, I just have to give the little that I do have and lay it at Jesus’ feet and He will take whatever I give Him and do so much more!

Don’t give up, don’t give up on people. Don’t give up on your spouse, your kids, your friends because God wants to surprise you. Don’t give up on prayer and when you feel like you just want to give up, choose to act, but act on his command with the infusion of His love.

3. A Renewed Discovery

Repent and do the things you did at first. Revelation 2:5

In a renewed discovery, we recognize the power of repentance, calling ourselves out on self destructive behavior. We all know how it feels to be vulnerable to temptation, but we pray for the clarity, insight and courage to step away from any environment that would steal away His love in our heart.

The pathway to a renewal of our love is allowing the Spirit of God to reign in us and reminding us about our initial discovery of the Christ life whether it was through a crisis or an act of surrender.

We need to rediscover the spark that ignited the flame in our soul and gave us the passion to follow.

There are really two different approaches on this. One is the ‘I think I can mentality’ and the other is knowing I can’t but knowing that God can

We remember what we knew so clearly, the childlike faith, the evangelistic heart, the tears of compassion and we pray that God would make us feel again.

4. The Gift of Forgiveness and the Price of Sacrifice

Matthew 18:32-35

Forgiveness means that I choose not to hold someone’s sin against them. It is the ability to clear the ledger, to let my desire to get even go. It does not mean trusting a person again right away to allow them to hurt me again. It is wise in this way, but it is not bitter. It is accepting the free gift I have received and in turn blessing others with it.

1 John 3:16-20

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10

For someone to receive, someone has to give. If someone has benefited and be blessed, then someone had to take the time and paid something.

If someone is fed, someone provided the food.

If someone is inspired, which means that life has been breathed into them, then somebody else had life breathed out of them. Rob Bell

A Jesus follower is living ‘communion’ in that we allow our bodies to be broken and our blood to be poured out for the healing of the world.

Writer Anne Lamont writes that the most powerful sermon in the world is two words, ‘me too’

Me too.

When you are struggling

When you are hurting

Wounded, limping, doubting

Questioning, barely hanging on,

Moments away from another breakdown

And somebody can identify with you-

Somebody who knows the temptations that are at your door

Somebody who has felt the pain you have been feeling,

When somebody can look you in the eyes and say, “Me too”

And they actually mean it, it can save you.

A church is not a center for religious goods and services, where people pay a fee and get a product in return. A church is not a Christian shopping mall with storefronts to appeal to every age group and demographic. We are not in the business of surveying the demographic to find out what the market is demanding at this given moment and adjusting our strategies to fit that niche.

The way of Jesus is one of holy communion where we understand death to self and alive in Christ. It is our willingness to enter into other people’s lives and just begin to understand their pain, their suffering. It is our weakness reaching out to their weakness with the perfect love of Christ that casts out all fear. John 4:18

Why do we bother meeting here each Sunday…. Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The word ‘good deeds’ here in the Hebrew is ‘mitzvot’ which means actions taken to bring healing the world. You can only do this as you live from the inside out.

We are here to spur each other on, to inspire each other to not random but intentional acts of kindness.

The GFN store received 35 bags of brand new clothes and we are blessed to turn them inside out as Sharon and her team have sorted clothes to bless our Women's Shelter, to minister to First Nations kids through Pathway Camp Ministries through Gord and Anne, clothes are being sent to India courtesy of Rosie and Charles, Annika is sending clothes to Ghana, Africa and we have already one suitcase of toddler and baby clothes for Mexico!!! WOW! That is inspiring!

Questions For Discussion:

1. How can I trust Jesus for the impossible in a relationship?
2. As a couple consider taking up the Love Dare Challenge and pick up the book at Family Christian Bookstore in Burlington.
3. How can we as a church keep from losing our way?
4. Where and for who do you need to be poured out?

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