Building Your Life On Values That Last | Value #10: Love

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What is your number one goal in life? Would you say, your number one goal in life is to be happy? Or to be loved? Or succeed in your career?  However you answer that question is your dominate life value.

Every time you make a decision, every time you have a choice,  you decide what you’re going to do based on your dominant life value, the dominant principle of  your life.

For instance, if your dominant life value is to have fun, then you’re going to tend to choose the thing that’s the most fun to do. If your most important value is comfort, then you are going to tend to choose the easiest, most convenient thing to do. 

God has a lot to say about this and says that LOVE should be your goal.

“Let love be your greatest aim.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 (TLB)

Why? Because God created everything in the universe out of love.

“Do everything with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

What does everything include? This includes writing an email, posting on social media, writing a Yelp review, ordering fast food when you can’t understand the speaker, and even finding a parking spot. Everything includes responding to people who attack you for your faith. 

Do everything with love. One day Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment and He answered: 

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”Mathew 22:37-39 (NIV)

That’s pretty clear. That’s why you are alive. Make love your highest aim. It doesn’t matter how much you acquire, how much you achieve, how many accomplishments you make or how many rewards you earn, or how famous you become.  

Love encompasses everything we have discussed during this campaign. If you love God, you’ve taken the responsibility to love him. You’ll trust him. Out of love you’ll have self-control.

If you have love you’ll live a balanced life. It’s out of love you will show respect, offer forgiveness, stay pure, treat people fairly and honestly. This is why Rock Brook Church is built on the Great Commandment and Great Commission, because we please God through those things.

The Fundamentals of Love

  1. We love because God loves us

If you go to a typical seminar on relationships you will hear that you need to “try to be more loving,” or “try to be more patient,” or “try to be more kind.” But trying on your own doesn’t work. It’s not a matter of trying; it’s a matter if trusting

The key to love is not you trying harder to be more loving. The key to love is letting Jesus Christ love through you.

It is experiencing the love of God in your life and letting Jesus Christ love through you. So it starts with receiving his love. You can’t love like he did by just trying.

“Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

If God wasn’t loving there would be no love in the universe. All love comes from God. God is love.

“We love because God first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

God is always first in everything. He takes the initiative. The only reason you can love God or love anybody else is because God first loved you. He showed that love by creating you. God created you to love you. And he showed that love by sending Jesus Christ to Earth to die for you.  He showed that love by everything you have in life; it’s a gift of God’s love.

If you’re struggling to love it’s not that you don’t love God enough. Your problem is you don’t realize how much He loves you. If you realized how much God loves you extravagant, irresistible, unconditional love – you would have to love him back.  

You could not, not love God if you understood how much he loves you. If we’re going to talk about learning to love God and others you’ve got to first understand and feel how much God loves you. The day you finally, fully understand how God loves you completely,  unconditionally, you can’t make God stop loving you.  You can try but you will fail.  

When you feel that unconditional love you’re going to start cutting people a lot of slack.   You’re not going to be as angry as you’ve been.  You’re going to be more patient.  You’re going to be more forgiving. More merciful.

The reason why you see people who are judgmental, sarcastic, mean spirited, angry, self righteous, always putting other people down is because they’re putting themselves down.  They don’t feel good about themselves.  They don’t feel loved.  They don’t feel forgiven.  They don’t feel grace. They feel guilty.  They feel bad about themselves.  And if they feel bad about themselves they certainly don’t want you feeling good about yourself.  

You’re going to have to do some healing in your heart because you have been hurt in life.  You’ve been hurt by parents or peers in school or by professionals or by partners.  Maybe some of you have been abused or misused or rejected or abandoned or betrayed.  

You have to let God do some gentle surgery on your heart because you can’t love others until you feel loved. 

“We know and rely on the love God has for us.” 1 John 4:16 (NIV)

Do you know the love of God? Do you rely on the love of God for you?

  1. Love is a choice and a commitment.

There is a myth that love is uncontrollable. That you really can’t control it. That love just kind of happens to you. You can’t force somebody to fall in love with you.  And you can’t force them to stay in love with you.  Why?  Because love is a choice.  

“You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying, and committing yourself firmly to him.”Deuteronomy 30:20 (NLT)

You must choose to love God. God isn’t going to force you to love him. Because love can’t be forced. Love is a choice.

You can choose to love anybody and you can choose not to love anybody.  So when you say, “I don’t love him or her anymore,”  don’t blame it on the circumstances.  You are choosing not to love. It’s in the moments when the loving feeling is gone that you find out what you’re made of.

  1. Love is an action, not just emotion

Love can produce emotion, but love is not an emotion.  

In the Bible, over and over, we are commanded by God to love each other. If love were just an emotion then God couldn’t command it. But love is something you do.

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6 (NIV) 

Acting in love when you don’t feel it is the highest form of love. When you get up in the middle of the night with a child, or when you take care of an aging parent, or you’ve held a sick pan for a loved one who was nauseated, you didn’t feel like doing that. You did it out of love. That is the ultimate form of love.

When you are patient with somebody who’s irritable. When you do the loving thing and you come home at night and you’re as tired as everybody else is but you do the loving thing not because you feel like doing it but you do it out of love.  

You can learn about the concept of love in a sermon, in a book, in a small group, or in a video, but you actually learn to love by practicing it. By doing it.  

  1. The best expression of love is time

We’re all different, but we all have the exact same amount of time: 24 Hours a day; 168 hours a week. What are you going to do with that time?

“We must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words.” 1 John 3:18 (GWT)

Our families need more time together. Time working hard together. Playing together. Enjoying each other. Showing love.

Love means giving up. Giving up your agenda for someone else’s agenda. Giving up your time for someone else’s time. Giving up your preferences for someone else’s preferences.

“Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”Ephesians 5:2 (NLT)

Jesus is the model of perfection in relationships.  He was the Son of God. He was perfect.  He was the only one who knew how to handle relationships perfectly.

  1. Love is a skill

Did you know that love could be learned? You can get good at it and you can get better at it. We want our church to be most known for being a loving church.

Not just the church with small groups or great music or great coffee or a great children’s ministry. We want people to say, “That’s the church where they love. They love God. They love God’s word. They don’t care who you are or what you look like or where you’ve been or what you’ve done or where you’re from, they love you there. And not only do they love you there, they teach you how to love.”

“Practice these things and devote yourself to them, in order that your progress may be seen by all.”1 Timothy 4:15 (GNT)

This is where love can get difficult. Because love doesn’t mean I just let people do whatever they want. God wants us to help each other grow. Love can mean discipline. Love can mean hard conversations. 

Just because someone doesn’t let you get their way,  doesn’t mean they don’t love you.  It may mean they’re the only one who really loves you. They are doing what’s best for you. They don’t want to see that area of your life destroyed.So they’ll tell you the truth in love.

  1. Love is a habit

You can’t claim to be a loving person unless you are attempting to love everyone. You may think you are a loving person, but love happens when you love the unlovely.

“If you only love those who love you what credit is that to you?”Luke 6:32

Being a loving person is when you love the unlovely. Love has to become a lifestyle.

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters.”Hebrews 13:1 (NLT)

“Keep on” means make a habit of it.  Do it all the time. In some of Jesus’ last words to his disciples right before he went to the cross, he’s giving them the last minute instructions before he dies and resurrects and goes back to heaven.  

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 (NIV)

The mark of a true believer is love. The symbol of a follower of Jesus is not a cross,  it’s not a fish, it’s not a dove, it’s not a crown.  The symbol of a genuine follower of Jesus is love. 

Do people know you’re a follower of Jesus because you’re the most loving person they know?


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week about honesty. How has that message and discussion impacted the way you have communicated this week?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Life is all about learning how to love. It’s the most important value we can build into our lives. Why? God created everything in the universe because of his love. He made you because he wants to love you and he wants us to learn to love like he loves. 

“Let love be your greatest aim.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 (TLB) 

The fundamentals of love: We love because God loves us. Love is a choice and commitment. Love is an action, not just an emotion. The best expression of love is time. Love is a skill. Love is a habit.

Application

  1. We love Because God loves us. What would make someone doubt God’s love? 
  2. Love is an action not an emotion. Think of a time you chose to love someone when you didn’t “feel” like it, but you knew it was the right thing to do. What did you learn?
  1. The best expression of love is time. Which of your relationships need more of your time? How would time spent together improve those relationships?
  1. Love is a skill. What aspects of love (e.g., patience, kindness, humility, hope, grace) do you have the hardest time extending to others?

Tell Someone Else

Is there someone God is bringing to your mind that you could text or call and tell them you love them right now? Who could you invite to come with you for Celebration Weekend? 

Have you taken the step of baptism in following Jesus Christ? We’ll be doing baptisms this weekend at Rock Brook. For more information visit rockbrook.org/connect/baptism

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Building Character at School & Work

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What if you could turn any job into a great job? Or any school year into a great school year? Today’s post is about how school and work can be tools to help us grow to become like Christ.

Often when we think about work and school we think about the earthly benefits. How school and work help us learn, help us make money, help us grow our career. But school and work are an integral part of your spiritual development. God wants you to grow up spiritually and our model for that is the character of Jesus Christ.

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  Romans 8:28-29

We’re growing to become like Christ. That’s why we’re called, “Christians.” That’s why Jesus invited us to follow him. We’re taking on His character. We can look at how God uses pressure, problems and people at school and work to help us become like Christ.

When we go to Jesus, he knows how to help us. Jesus can relate to what you’re going through and we often forget this. Jesus knows what it’s like to be tired. There were times when he’d been with too many people, talked to too many people, did so much, traveled so far and was tired. Jesus dealt with frustration and had his motives questioned.

Have you ever worked your tail off for something and given and sacrificed and at the end of it not only get zero gratitude but get your motive over the whole thing called into question? Jesus has been there.

We can look at these things and say, “Well, you’re Jesus.” Yes, but he was in time and space just like us and He took on flesh and bone just like us. He knows how we’re feeling. He was abandoned, betrayed, abused, and He was applauded.

He knew what it was like to have everyone turn their back on Him, but he also knew what it was like to be cheered for and be loved and be popular. He knows what it’s like to ride into town and have people chanting his name. He knows what it’s like to have the press pressing in on Him. 

God wants to show you how to redeem the pressures, the problems and the people problems in your life.


How God Uses Work & School to Build Our Character

1. God uses pressure to teach me responsibility.

Every job has its own pressures. Every grade and class has its own pressures. Another word for pressure is stress. We too often run from stress, but not all stress is bad. Stress can be beneficial if we use it to grow.

Have you ever had to complete a task that you didn’t feel like doing or take a test you didn’t feel smart enough to take? You were being responsible even though you didn’t feel it. That pressure, that stress was building your character.

“Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility, not as people who do not know the meaning of life, but as those who do.” Ephesians. 5:15 PH

The more you understand this meaning of life — to become like Christ — the more responsible it makes you. Every school and every job teach us responsibility. That’s a big deal because responsibility is in decline. We never hear people talking about their responsibility. We hear them talk about their rights.

The courts are clogged with people who say it’s not their fault. Personal responsibility is one of the biggest keys to a healthy life. Responsibility stretches us and is the key to career success and schooling success. Every time we’re given responsibility it’s an opportunity for spiritual, emotional and personal growth. Christ was responsible.

Here are some ways to develop responsibility:

  • By keeping your promises

We should be careful with our promises. If we make a promise at school or work, we need to keep that promise.

“(God blesses those who…) keep their promises even when it hurts.” Psalm 15:4

Are you a person who when you say something will get done, people will know it gets done?

  • By meeting deadlines

The Bible says when we waste our employers time, we’re actually destroying part of their work.

“One who is slack in his work is a brother to the one who destroys.” Proverbs 18:9

Another word for destroys there is sabotage. When we waste time, we’re sabotaging the business. When we waste time we’re sabotaging the company and even ourselves.

  • By working without supervision

Let’s not work hard only when the boss is in or the teacher is watching.

“Don’t work hard only when your master is watching and then shirk when he isn’t looking; work hard and with gladness all the time, as though working for Christ, doing the will of God with all your hearts.” Ephesians 6:6-7 TLB

He actually switches it here to say we’re really working hard for our real boss, Christ. Whether our supervisor is watching or not makes no difference. Christians should be known for not needing a supervisor, because they work on their own initiative. They realize they are representing Christ and God is the ultimate leader in their life.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”   Luke 16:10 NIV

He’s talking here specifically about being honest and having integrity. Who do we work for? It makes a big difference in how responsible we are. If we are just working for the government we might be irresponsible. If we are just working for a boss we don’t respect, we won’t be as responsible and honest as we would if we remembered we’re working for God.

  • By controlling costs

“If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth who will trust you with the true riches of Heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s money, why should you be entrusted with money of your own?” Luke 16:11-12 LB

One of the greatest tests of our character is how we handle money. Even more specifically, how we handle other people’s money. Will we accept ownership and treat other people’s money like it’s ours?

Let’s keep our promises, meet deadlines, work even when no one is watching, and handle money well.

2. God uses problems to teach me character.

There are no problem-free jobs or problem-free people. There are no problem-free years, classes or teachers. We all have problems at our workplaces and schools and God can use those to build our character.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3-4

God is very interested in our character. When you sign-up to become like Christ, it’s a life of significance and fulfillment. It’s not a life of comfort and pampering. It will mean a cross to bear.

For every problem at work and school, the question isn’t, “God, why is this happening to me.” The better question to ask is, “God, what do you want me to learn from this?”

Ask what, not whyGod may have something for you to work through. He may be directing you to a value or action. He may be preparing you for something. God has allowed this problem into your life, so what does he want you to work on?

While we’re working on our job, God is working on us. While you’re working on school, God is working on you. God can even use the temptations we face at school and work for good.

It’s not a sin to be tempted. It’s a sin to give in to temptation but not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted but he never gave in. God can even use those temptations to build character. Temptation offers a choice. We can choose to do good or bad. When we choose to do bad, temptations harms us. But when we choose to do good, temptations grow us.

We couldn’t say we’re an honest person unless we’ve been tempted to be dishonest. We can’t say we’re a responsible person unless we’ve had the temptation to be irresponsible. Every temptation that comes in our lives is an opportunity for growth. It’s an opportunity to grow and develop strength of character.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

God says He will never allow more temptation on us than strength He’s put in us.

Sometimes problems at school and work are overwhelming, and we feel like we’re going under. We may feel like we’re going to get swallowed up. What do we do when we get overwhelmed? We do what The Apostle Paul did when he was overwhelmed.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

Notice how many times this passage use the word ‘we.’ They did not face these challenges alone.

There are two clear things we can do when we face problems:

  • Turn the problem over to God through prayer.

Being overwhelmed is a good thing that can grow our character if takes us to God in prayer.

  • Join a Small Group.

We need a small group of people who will pray for us and encourage us when we’re having a tough time at work and school. The Apostle Paul was strong in his faith, but even he couldn’t make it alone. So let’s trust God in our problems, turn the problem over to God through prayer and turn to one another for support.

3. God uses people to teach me how to really love.

One of the most important skills you get to learn at work and at school is how to get along with other people. This is so important to your faith and spiritual growth, because life is all about learning how to love.

Life is a laboratory in learning how to love.

God is love and He wants his children to be like Him. God says the most important thing to learn in life is not a skill for a job, but how to love other people like He loves them.

“Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14

No matter what kind of work. Whether you’re an accountant, an astronaut, a driver, a ditch digger, a student, a teacher, a coach or a secret agent. We are to do all our work in love.

Why do you do what you do? You might say, “Well I just put food on the table.” There’s a better reason than that. Why do you go to school? You might say, “Well no one ever gave me an option.” There is a reason. You could use the most mundane job to grow in character.

Why do you do what you do?

The highest motivation for any kind of work is love. When you do anything in love that pleases God. You can pick up garbage to the glory of God. You can clean a hotel room for the glory of God. You can be a project manager for the glory of God.

“Let love be your highest goal!” 1 Corinthians 14:1

Sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong motivation. God is more interested in why you do what you do than he is in actually what you do. Whatever we do, we do all our work in love. When you stay at the same work for year after year, you learn how to do it out of love. Love for God and love for people. Love is the ultimate motivation and is what keeps you going when you feel like giving up.

At work, we have to deal with all kinds people. Some people are hard to love. If we’re going to grow up spiritually it means we’re going to have to learn to love those people.

If we’re not becoming more and more loving, we’re not growing spiritually.

Love is the fruit of spiritual growth. It’s that simple. By nature we’re self-centered, unless someone teaches us to be loving, we grow up selfish. God teaches us lessons in loving, and one of the ways he does this is at work and school.

He teaches us by putting people around us who are the exact opposite of us. They irritate us. They are heavenly sandpaper.

It’s easy to love people who are lovely. God loves the unlovely, and he teaches us to do the same. We have to learn to love people who see life the exact opposite as us.

How are we to love the people at our jobs or at school who are difficult and hard to love? The people who are rude or make unrealistic demands. Those who are dishonest and can’t be trusted. The people who complain, are constantly negative or get offended easily. How do we love these people?

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:16-18 NIV

God’s expectation to show love to others is realistic enough to know that there are people you can’t be at peace with. But if it is possible…as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone.

Some people you can’t be at peace with, but we are to do our best. Love is difficult. It may mean a difficult conversation, the hard work of reconciliation, holding someone accountable or boundaries and consequences. It also may mean showing grace when it doesn’t make sense to anyone else or when it might offend someone else.

Why should we make such an effort to become like Jesus at our school and our jobs?

  • God is going to evaluate our work one day.

“On the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.” 1 Corinthians 3:13

God is reminding us that he is watching. Sometimes we think no one cares or is noticing, but God is watching, He cares and is grateful.

  • God is going to give eternal rewards for whatever is done in love.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the message, on the purpose of singing?

 

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Read: Romans 12

Most people spend 40% of their lives at work and school. So God is very interested in ways he can use our work to build our character to make us more like Christ. Statistics show that 1/3 of people hate their jobs. What if you could turn any job into a great job? We can use any job or year in school to meet God’s goal for our spiritual maturity.

In this discussion, we’ll focus on the ways God uses pressure at school and work to teach us responsibility, problems to teach us character, and difficult people to teach us how to really love.

Application

  1. What would be your dream job?
  2. God uses pressure at work to teach us responsibility. Share an example of stress in a previous job or school situation that helped you learn responsibility.
  3. The ways to develop responsibility include keeping your word, meeting deadlines, working without supervision and controlling costs. Which one of these do you think is most beneficial to your work ethic today? Why?
  4. How could believing you are working for Christ improve your attitude or success at work? 
 1 Corinthians 10:13
  5. A person’s character can show who they really are. How can problems at work help us develop Christ-like character?
  6. From God’s perspective, learning to really love people in our workplace is more important than learning job skills. Give an example of an interaction with a difficult person from your past work experience that helped you learn to demonstrate God’s love.
  7. Why doesn’t the type of work you do matter to God as much as why you do it?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you share this message with? Who could you encourage as a result of this message?

 

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Week 5: Fighting For Your Spouse

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Today’s post is on marriage and why it’s worth fighting for. If we don’t know the why, we have no reason to do the what. Next week’s post will be full of practical tools on how to fight for your spouse and how to resolve conflict in your marriage.

Whether you have never been married or you’re divorced or you’re separated or you’re widowed or you are currently married, regardless of what state you’re in, the next verse applies to all of us. 

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”  Hebrews 13:4

Sadly today, marriage is dismissed as irrelevant by many people, as archaic. It’s demeaned by many people. Marriage is delayed. People are delaying marriage more and more, many times for the wrong reasons. There are good reasons for delaying marriage but there are also selfish reasons for delaying marriage. Marriage is being redefined, ridiculed and disrespected. 

We don’t live in a culture where marriage is honored by everyone any more. Even Christians fall for this trap. Part of the problem is nobody knows the basics of marriage any more. So marriage is treated like just one more little lifestyle choice.

Marriage is not just a lifestyle choice. God gave us marriage for a reason.

Most people don’t know why marriage matters. In fact, most people either have an incredibly unrealistic view of marriage, and there’s no way anybody could measure up. They think marriage will solve all their problems. A lot of people think marriage creates problems.

Marriage doesn’t solve your problems. Marriage does not create your problems. Marriage reveals problems.

Marriage reveals perfectionism, insecurities, fears, bittnerness, control, manipulation and lust. If you were able to hide those things before you got married, you won’t be able to for long once you get married.

There are a lot of things marriage can’t do, but it does have a God-designed function. We are only fulfilled in marriage when we look to the designer and the builder of marriage.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Psalm 127:1 NIV

Unless we let God be part of our marriage, we build in vain. So, let’s look at why God designed marriage.


Why Marriage Matters

1. God created marriage for the connection of men and women.

In God’s plan men and women need each other. Nobody holds the full image of God. Women get part of it, men get part of it and we need each other. God thought up gender. God thought up sex. The Bible goes back to the very beginning, in the creation of the first couple and the first marriage.

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” Genesis 2:18 NIV

The first thing to realize is that marriage, gender, sex, men, women, all these differences, are God-given things.

We see one of the purposes of marriages is an antidote to loneliness. Many companions are important in life. You need companions in all different areas, but there is nothing like the companionship of a marriage.

“Jesus said, ‘But at the beginning of creation God made them male and female.’”  Mark 10:6 NIV

God made males. God made females. God chose who he wanted you to be.

“‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:7-9 NIV

This passage says three things.

  1. Marriage is God’s plan. It’s not a human plan. It’s not a human idea. It’s not a tradition we can just throw out. God invented marriage when he invented you, when he invented me, when he invented humanity.
  2. Marriage is between a man and a woman.
  3. Marriage is to be permanent. What God joins together, no one else should separate. It’s meant to be for life.

 

2. God created marriage for the multiplication of the human race.

It’s how we all got here. You are sitting where you’re sitting because a couple got together and made you. This was God’s idea.

The Bible says that God is love, it’s His character. The only reason there’s love in the universe is because God is love. If God was not a loving God you would not have any love in your life. The only reason you are able to love is because you, as a man or a woman, were created in God’s image.

God said, “I want to love and I want to express my love.” That’s why you exist. If God didn’t want to love you, you wouldn’t exist. So God created the universe, so He could create the human race, so He could express His love knowing that some of us would choose to love him back and then we would live with him forever in heaven.

Think about this: God chose everybody who is going to be in heaven to come into existence through marriage and sex. That’s the way He chose. No one would be in heaven if God hadn’t created marriage. Because everybody has come into existence through the tool that he designed.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:27-28 NIV

There are 7.5 billion of us on the planet right now because your parents and their parents and their parents were fruitful and multiplied and filled the world. The point is, that God says one of the purposes of marriage is for the multiplication of the human race, which will multiply the population of heaven. It’s not the only purpose but it’s a big one.

 

3. God created marriage for the protection of children.

“God, not you, made marriage! His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage.  And what does he want from marriage? Godly children from your union. So guard the spirit of marriage within you.”  Malachi 2:15 MSG

This is not an indictment for childless couples. There are couples who want kids and for whatever reason cannot have them or have been unable to have them. If you’re married and you can’t have kids, God is not disappointed in you.

What this verse is saying is, we’re all alive because some couple got together. For thousands of years God has used men & women to populate heaven. If men and women weren’t getting together, marrying and having sex then there would be nobody in heaven. God wants it done in the context of marriage for the protection of children. 

We all know that kids grow better, healthier, stronger when they grow up in a stable family. When they grow up in a marriage with a mom and a dad. Why did God create marriage for the protection of children? Because when you were born you were born completely helplessly. You could not do anything.

Children need somebody to protect, guide, train, and care for them. Study after study shows that kids develop best with a mom and a dad. We’re on a broken planet. Not everything works right. But that doesn’t mean that we say the ideal isn’t real. Children thrive in families. Not in institutions. That’s what every child needs growing up – a place of refuge and security. 

 

4. God created marriage for the perfection of our character.

In relationships we learn to be unselfish, we learn to be loving and no relationship has greater impact on your life than marriage. Another fact about when you were bor, not only were you helpless you were completely self centered, no one on the planet earth is more self-centered than a new baby.

A baby does not even have the capacity to think about anyone else. All he or she can think about is itself.  Maturity and the purpose of life is to grow up and realize it’s not all about you. 

In fact real happiness comes in giving your life away and being unselfish and being serving and being loving. The goal of your life is to grow from totally self-centered self as a baby to being an unselfish adult. Life is a laboratory of learning how to love.

Why is love the most important thing in life? Because God is love and God wants you to become like Him and learn how to love.

“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.”  Proverbs 18:1 NIV

Sometimes we’ll be friendly to everyone else, except our spouse. Have you ever said things to your spouse that you wouldn’t say to anyone else?

If the goal is to pursue unselfishness, your marriage can grow your character. If you are married, the number one tool that God uses in your life to build Christ-like character is your spouse. Every day you get hundreds of opportunities to not think about you, to care about them.

Even if your spouse isn’t a Christian, it doesn’t matter. Many times in the Bible, Jesus was selfless for the sake of an unbeliever.

The more loving, giving, serving, sharing, mature, unselfish you become, the happier you’ll become.

You’ll never be happy if you make happiness the goal of your life. Happiness was never meant to be the goal. When you start caring about other people rather than your happiness you’re going to get happy.

“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”  Romans 12:9-10 NLT

 

5. God created marriage for the construction of society.

Marriage is the fundamental building block of every community, church, state, nation, society and culture. If you know anything about history, you know that where marriages are strong, cultures and nations are strong. Wherever marriages and families are weak, cultures and nations are in decline. We know that when marriages are devalued, the more a nation is in decline.

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” Proverbs 14:34 NIV

 

6. God created marriage for the reflection of our union with Christ.

Marriage is a metaphor, a symbol. It’s a walking, living, object lesson of how much God loves us and how we are to be in relationship with Him. Marriage is a model of a profound spiritual truth.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”  Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV

How did Christ love the church? He died for the church. And God says that’s the way husbands are to love their wife. That’s the kind of love you’re to have. Sacrificial love. 

“In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:28-32 NIV

When you read this it looks like Paul stopped talking about marriage and went a different direction by talking about Jesus and the Church. He’s just laying down a metaphor of our spiritual union with Christ and his love for His family, His body, His bride, the Church.

“However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 NIV

This is the most profound meaning of marriage. There are some benefits of marriage that are obvious and quantifiable, like what it does for kids, women and men. This is the most profound meaning of marriage is not as easy to grasp.

Marriage is more. It’s more than an event or ceremony. It’s more than exchanging vows.

Marriage is a covenant. It’s a covenant where two become one. It is a temporary symbol of a greater eternal reality. It’s a picture of the covenant relationship God has instituted between Jesus and his people.

Marriage is the most sacred of all things, because it’s a reflection of God’s commitment to us. 

No other relationship on planet earth, including parent child relationship, can adequately illustrate our union with Christ the way a marriage between a man and a woman does. This is the strongest reason why we must fight for marriage.

So, before we get into more practical parts of fighting for your spouse next week, let’s not labor in vain. Let the Lord build the house. Let the Lord build the marriage.

In order for relationships to work, let the one who designed them define them.


Twice in the Bible Jesus says that there will be no marriage in heaven. Why will there be no marriage in heaven? Because you won’t need any of the six reasons marriage exists. In a perfect place, you’re not going to need the multiplication of the human race, the protection of children, the perfection of your character, the construction of society or the reflection of Christ’s union. 

You won’t need a metaphor, because you’re going to experience the real thing in heaven. Here on earth, marriage matters and the Bible says we are to honor it and reap the benefits.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message on Fighting for Your Kids? Kids need fun, growth, protection and serving opportunities from their families.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

“We all are given different gifts. God gives the gift of marriage to some and to others he gives the gift of singleness.” 1 Corinthians 7:7 NLT

Why does marriage matter?

God created it:

  1. For the connection of men & women
  2. For the multiplication of the human race
  3. For the protection of children
  4. For the perfection of our character
  5. For the construction of society
  6. For the reflection of our union with Christ.

“‘A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”  Ephesians 5:31-32 NLT

Application

  1. According to John 13:35, why might Satan attack believers’ relationships? “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 NIV
  2. Why was creating a companion for man important to God? “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who is right for him” Genesis 2:18
  3. In Mark 10:6-9, what points is Jesus making about marriage and the connection of men and women? “Jesus said, ;But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  Mark 10:6-9
  4. In modern society, putting ourselves first is often seen as socially acceptable. In what ways does this socially acceptable norm damage our relationships? What behaviors can we demonstrate in our significant relationships to combat this myth and make us more like Christ? An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels.” Proverbs 18:1
  5.  Romans 12:9-10 provides us with four specific strategies for developing and maintaining awesome relationships. Pick one of these strategies and share how you could apply it to the most important relationship in your life. “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” Romans 12:9-10
  6. Read Ephesians 5:25-33 in several versions (i.e. NIV, NLT, MSG). Marriage is a metaphor for our relationship to Christ. Romans 12:9-10 above gives us a view of what we’re called to think, desire and do in marriage and in our relationship with Christ. Talk about how you want to live these scriptures in your relationships and with Christ.

Tell Someone Else

As a group, use Ephesians 5:25-33 and Romans 12:9-10 to create a prayer to strengthen relationships.

 

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God’s Greatest Gift

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Have you noticed that gift giving can get a little crazy and expensive sometimes? But giving gifts is a big part of what Christmas is all about. Christmas started with the giving of gifts.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11 NIV

The best part of Christmas is not the gifts that were given to Baby Jesus, but the gifts that God gives to us.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”  2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

There are three things we do with gifts at Christmas. We give gifts, we receive gifts and, after Christmas, we exchange gifts. Let’s focus in on exchanging gifts, because God has this great gift exchange plan.

Usually when we exchange gifts, we give back something we don’t want for something we do want. But in God’s gift exchange is far, far greater than that. Let’s look at five specific things from God’s great gift exchange.

We give God our worst and He gives us His best.


1. When we give God our worry, God gives us His peace

We all worry, especially at Christmas. The crazy, busyness of this time of year means there’s a lot to worry about. Our bodies were not designed to worry. Study after study shows the toll worry takes on our bodies; insomnia, stomachaches, headaches and even heart attacks. The number one day of the year for heart attacks is Christmas Eve. We literally worry ourselves sick. The way to stop worrying is by taking advantage of God’s gift exchange program.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

When you give God your worries, you recognize two things:

  • God is in control

We worry because we’re trying to control things. We’re trying to control the uncontrollable. When we can’t control things, we worry. Worrying then makes us think we’re controlling it. So instead of trying to control things by worrying about them, we need to recognize that God is in control.

  • God cares

No matter how big or small the worry is, God cares about it. God cares about you and what you care about. The reason why there’s Christmas is because God cares about you. Jesus came to earth because God cares about you. So take your worry, give it to God and then notice what God gives back in exchange.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid”  John 14:27 TLB

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on this earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

Who do you know that’s worried or needs to take heart? Who do you know that needs to know you care about them? Think of someone and send them a message right now telling them you are thinking about them and praying for them. As you do that, you’re passing along the gift that God has given you.

2.  When we give God our hurt, God gives us His healing.

Everybody’s hurting; emotionally, spiritually, physically or financially.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3 NIV

God sees your hurt and He wants to heal the brokenhearted. The verse says, “He binds up their wounds.” When you get injured, they bind up the wound to give it time to heal. Hurts don’t heal in an instant, they take time to heal. So God binds up the wounded places in our broken hearts so they can begin to heal. 

God wants to do more than just heal us. He also wants us to use our healing to help other people who are hurting. When we receive God’s healing, we can then pass it on to someone else.

“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Some of our wounds are self-inflicted, but God never wastes a hurt. Who do you know that’s hurting with a broken heart? Take a second right now to send a message to someone you know who is hurting and tell them you are thinking about them. Invite them to come to small group or church this weekend with you. That simple invitation can change a person’s life.

Jesus Christ can make a difference in their life through you sharing what God’s done in your life. The great thing about God’s gift is it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Whenever you share the gift, your gift multiplies.

3. When we give God our grief, God gives us His joy.

We all grieve. The only way not to grieve in this world is not to love. In this world, people don’t last forever. So if you love someone you run the risk of losing them at some point, which means you will face grief.

Especially at Christmas, we think about the people that we’ve lost. As you encounter grief this Christmas, you may be tempted to just push it aside. There are three things you need to know about grief.

  • Grief often comes undeserved.
  • Grief usually goes unrecognized.
  • Grief often stays unresolved.

Christmas turns up the volume on whatever’s going on in your life. If good things are happening, Christmas turns up the volume on that. If you’re grieving, Christmas turns up the volume on grief. That’s why we need to give each other a lot of grace at Christmas. You don’t know what grief or confusing emotions people are experiencing.

The way to deal with your grief is not to deny it, but to give it to God. Only God is greater than your grief. When you give your grief to God, He gives you something even greater than comfort.

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”  John 16:20b NIV

We give Him our grief and He gives us His joy! That seems unbelievable that God would give us joy in the midst of grief. God gives us His joy when we recognize this world is not all there is. As we realize that the person that we’re grieving isn’t gone like we think they are gone, that if they are a beliver, we will see them again in heaven. There is hope when we know, in heaven, God will resolve the circumstances that didn’t work out like we wanted.

That terrible tragedy in your life, God’s going to turn that tragedy into a blessing in heaven. If you hang your hope on this world, of course you will grieve. But if you put your hope in heaven, God will turn your grief into joy. It doesn’t happen instantly, but over time God turns grief to joy.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV

Christ is our Savior. The word “Savior” means Rescuer. Grief turns to joy when Jesus rescues us.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15 NASB

Who do you know that’s grieving? Here’s a chance to send a message to someone who could hear that you are praying for them. When we share somebody’s grief with them, we help them realize God is a part of their lives. Tell them they are not alone.

4. When we give God our fears, God gives us His love.

The way to deal with fear is to find something greater than the fear. God’s love is greater than any fear you’re facing. God’s love is greater than any problem. God’s love is greater than any illness. How does God deal with your fear?

With His love, He will calm all your fears.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18 NIV

Fear has to do with punishment. Often we’re afraid because we think we deserve what we’re getting. If you think that God is out to get you because of the wrong you’ve done, you don’t understand the message of the Bible. God is not out to get you, God is out to love you. God is not out to punish you, He’s out to forgive you. As you lean into that truth, the fears in your life are driven out by God’s love.

Who do you know who needs to hear the message of God’s love for them? Who do you know who needs the most famous verse in the Bible?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NIV

To be part of the whoever, you need to believe in Christ. Think of the least likely person to accept an invitation to come to church with you and invite that person. Take the risk to let them know that you love them and God loves them. This might be the year when they really need that invitation. This might be the year when their heart’s ready to respond to God.

5. When we give God our sins, God gives us His forgiveness.

“When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death. But God gives us a free gift – life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NCV

Sin promises so much, but in the end, the payoff for sin is always death. Jesus tells us that instead of death, I’m going to give you eternal life.

If you’ve never accepted that gift, you can accept it right now. You can pray, “Jesus Christ, I accept the gift of your forgiveness. I accept the gift of your eternal life. Thank you for dying on the cross to rescue me.” It’s a very simple prayer that changes everything, it changes your eternity.

Can you remember who first shared the message of God’s forgiveness with you? Who’s the person you need to share it with? God gave you the gift through someone else, who do you need to share the gift with?

“God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And He has given us the work of sharing His message about peace.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 CEV

There’s no better time than Christmas for sharing this message. At the bottom of this post is a digital invitation you can download and text or email to a friend. Invite someone to come to a Christmas weekend service with you. You can also invite them to one of our three Christmas Eve services. These services will be different from the weekend services.

On Christmas Eve, we’re going to celebrate the message of Christmas using the popular Christmas movie, Home Alone. Jesus would do this, not with a movie, but He would use familiar stories to illustrate a spiritual truth. So, at the Christmas Eve services we’re going to examine the film Home Alone. Tucked amid the laughter and fun of that familiar Christmas movie is a message that many people struggle with at Christmas. On Christmas Eve we will use some clips from Home Alone to illustrate the sermon. 

God’s greatest gift is the gift of peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness. Everyone needs these gifts. We all have people in our lives who need these gifts.

“As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us.”  Philemon 1:6  CEV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on Ephesians 6:10-17? Have you been using your spiritual weapons to gain victory?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

As we celebrate Christmas with the giving and receiving of gifts, let’s remember that God invites us to exchange our worry, hurts, grief, fears and sins for his peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness. Each of these gifts are ours because Jesus came to earth and died for us. As Christmas nears, let us give up the things that bind us and receive what only God can give.

Application

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

1. Discuss a gift you have received in exchange for your worries and sorrows.

2. How can a sorrow on earth become worry free, allowing you to experience the gift of peace of mind and heart?

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I will bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV

3. How can grief keep people from fully experiencing God’s joy this Christmas season? Share a time when you were struggling with grief. Which one of God’s promises could help someone find joy in the midst of grief? How might helping someone walk through their grief bring them more quickly to joy?

“When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death. But God gives us a free gift – life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 NCV

4. Reflect on a time when Jesus healed one of your hurts. What did you learn about God? What did you learn about yourself? How can the healing you experienced improve the way you help those around you who are suffering or struggling? Why is love the greatest gift we can give another person?

“With His love, He will calm all your fears.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage to find God’s peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness this Christmas?

Download Digital Invitations

 

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