FLAVOUR: LOVE LETTERS
The Evidence of God’s Love
We are blessed to have the evidence of God’s generous love all around us. Although nothing can separate us from God’s love, there are obstacles that can keep us from experiencing the fullness of that love.
Intro: I don’t normally get teary but there is something about all of us bringing these Bibles up here so I had to bring my box of Kleenex. My friends, y’all know I don’t cry. I cried at my father’s funeral. I am trying to think; it just doesn’t come very often. And I am sitting there watching each of you bring this forward and it is really moving to me.
Last month we had such a fun time when we talked about God’s love for us. And I shared about it was Valentine’s, and so that was fun. And the fact that we just send Valentine’s to one another but we really can’t express love the way God can express love and he gave us his perfect Valentine in his word. So we were talking specifically about how loved we are, that how God has just poured out his love for us. And it is in this book. And so that’s how the whole idea came up for, we need to buy Bibles. We need to get Bibles in the hands of these women who are hurting. That is how all of this came about. And so as I thought about last month’s Flavour, I thought oh my gosh, it is so incredible to feel the love of God. We are so blessed as women because we have evidence of God’s love in our lives. And I know that when we gather together there are different backgrounds that you have come from, there are different circumstances that you have just walked through as you maybe even came this morning and sometimes you might question that love. But God has shown us over and over and over the evidences of his love, and a little bit about what we talked about last month was how he shows us the evidence of his love and generosity towards us. God is generous. He has provided for us. I think back to the Garden of Eden. I mean, let’s just go all the way to the beginning. If you go back to the Garden of Eden, think about the environment that he created for Adam and Eve. And that was his intention for all of us. If you have an issue, blame Eve. She messed it up for all of us. We could have had our own little garden. She blew it. But God generously desires for us to have the abundance of his love and of his creation and of just an abundant life.
And God has been so generous with us; he has also shown us care and concern. Do you know he cares about the birds of the field, scripture tells us? He cares about every detail of our lives. There is nothing too insignificant or nothing too big. But I think for me it is even better to know there is nothing so insignificant that he would not be concerned about it. He knows the number of hairs on my head, and that changes daily. So if he can keep up with that, he has cares and concerns about us.
He gives us his attention. Because of Christ’s love and because of God’s love for us he provided a venue through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, so that we can have his attention at any time. I mean, it is an open door. We can have an audience with God at any time because of Jesus. His availability is just free and open for us because of Christ.
God’s love is so expansive; it is also evident in his forgiveness. Think about Peter and Paul. Paul was a murderer. He was Saul, the one who persecuted Christians before he came to know Christ on the Damascus Road and experienced God and God forgave him and restored him in such a way that we have a ministry. I mean, we have the New Testament, so many of the letters of the New Testament were written because of the teachings of Paul and what Christ had done in his life. And Peter, who denied Christ, he was one of the most famous preachers, I guess you could say, in the New Testament. He lived a life that was so full in Christ and restored through the forgiveness. All of those things are signs of the love that God has given us. But most importantly, it is the sacrificial love. He gave us Jesus. Jesus had every opportunity to say forget it, I’m out of here. In the Garden of Gethsemane when he prayed and said Lord if there is any way this can pass, God, I want it to go, because he wasn’t looking forward to what he was going to endure on the cross. But because he loves you and me, all of those things, from generosity to sacrifice, they are inner woven, they are all inner linked, and they all express God’s love for us. So if you have any doubt, if you have any questions of am I loved today just consider those things and they’re all in this book. But I want to read something to you. There is such comfort in knowing that we’re loved. Now listen to this. “Love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children, talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the Lord promised on oath to your forefathers. Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is God. He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. And now, oh Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve him, to serve the Lord your God with all our heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good. If you love me, you will obey what I command. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
He who loves me will be loved by my father. And I, too, will love him and show myself to him. Jesus replied, if anyone loves me he will obey my teaching. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” It is so easy and comfortable to talk about how much God loves us. It is so sticky to look at the evidences of my life, I gave you the evidences that God has given us in his word of how much he loves us, but to look at the evidences in my life of how much I love God, that’s not as easy to talk about. It is interesting when you look at these passages. One is from Deuteronomy 6 and Deuteronomy 10 in the Old Testament. And then the other is John 15. I have been reading a lot of scripture preparing for today. But it is interesting because there is a link in the evidences that show how much we love God. There is something tangible that you and I have within us to show how much we love God, and it’s obedience to his word.
So today if I could just standing here and you looking at these Bibles and me looking out at you in my view, if we could only grasp one thing is that God desires our love just as he has poured out his love on us. He desires our love. It is more than just a prayer every now and again. It is more than just, okay God I’m counting on you for my salvation. Heaven sounds like a wonderful place and I want to be in. It is more than that. It is a daily commitment to obey his word. Now, when we came up with the idea and so many of the ideas, if you could just think about the brainstorming. Our brains are on storm mode all the time as we plan things here at Fellowship Church. But I hate to even call it brainstorming. Somehow this idea came together, and I can’t even remember how it happened, to put together the note cards and the Flavour team painted these little really they were quite ugly. Tianne’s was good. But the paper with Valentine’s on them and we took them to the print shop and said, can you do on these papers what you would do to a model, you know like work their face out to be perfection? So we want to make Valentine’s and the proceeds are going to go because of Love Letters and last month’s Flavour and we want to buy Bibles for the battered women’s shelter and all that stuff and it came together and we’re like, can you believe it? We have 408 Bibles. And there will be more. I know there’s going to be more. All the cards, you know, we put the cards out there and we’re getting ready to start a new year of the Creative Church Conference on tour so those cards are going to go with us across the country to show pastors and leaders and heads of women’s organizations that come to the conferences, here, here’s an idea. And usually they’ll buy some to take with them to use as examples. You can do this in your community. Can you imagine if Flavour, because that’s the whole reason we do Creative Conference on tour, I hope you know that, is to get creative ideas out there for churches so that they can impact their communities with their unique gifts and with their high level of creativity and with the gifts and talents that God has given them. We’re going to take those note cards on tour so that we can continue to buy Bibles. We don’t want this to stop. But the fear as all the Bibles came in this week and we planned for today and I thought, we cannot let these Bibles be dropped off at a women’s shelter. What if they stayed in a box and were put in a closet and never got into the hands of a woman who needed it? That’s tragedy. That’s awful. It totally defeats the whole purpose because we have an answer and we want to get it out there to them. It dawned on me that as I brought the application of that home, that there has been times in my life where my Bible has been locked in a box in a closet and it hasn’t been in my hands, in the hands of this needy woman.
So today I hope you’ll realize and recognize, and it may be easy for some and difficult for others, that you are a needy woman and you need this book. This book was given to you as a gift of love by our Heavenly Father because he knew it was a book that would do you some good. Did you catch that passage in Deuteronomy when he said, when Moses is telling the children of Israel, and by the way Moses, those two passages of scripture were kind of like exit speeches. Moses was getting ready to die and he was leaving the children of Israel. And he was saying I have to tell you as much as I can tell you. I have to keep you on course because I’m not going to be here with you. I’m not going to be your security blanket anymore. Well Jesus was preparing the disciples in John 14 and 15, he was saying look, the time is coming, and you don’t understand it, when I’m not going to be with you any longer but I want to tell you the way for you to experience success is through obeying my commands. If you love me, obey my commands. Hold dearly to the truth. And this word is it. We are blessed to have thousands of years later a tangible item, something to hold onto that is the truth that God has given us. God’s word works. It is for our good, as Moses said in Deuteronomy. It is for our own good. But as needy women are we holding it in our hand as that tool, that resource, that gift that God intended it to be, or is it in a box in a closet collecting dust?
My desire and my burden for all of you is the same burden that I have for my own life. Because see, back when I was a child I became a Christian at the age of nine. We were attending a church, a community church and everybody in our family went there. I grew up in South Carolina and we were the kind of family where the aunts and uncles and the cousins all lived right near each other. And I don’t know if nowadays that seems kind of backwoods. It worked real well for us because we had a community garden, everybody ratted on each other, we knew who got in trouble at all times and you couldn’t get away with anything because there was an aunt or uncle or grandparent peering at you. That’s how I grew up so everybody went to the same church.
And it just so happened that the church that we went to was a wonderful, charitable organization but they didn’t teach the Bible. My dad had grown up in a very strong Christian home where the Bible was taught and he went to a church like that. So my parents set out, my dad and I am thankful to my father for so many things but one thing that I’m thankful for is that he knew the importance of the Word and he knew that it works. He knew God’s Word works. God’s Word works. Live by it. Breathe by it. Walk through it, whatever. God’s Word works. So we went to a church that held the scripture up here and then everything else flowed out of it. And that’s where I became a Christian. And the pastor knelt down and prayed with us. My mom and my sister and I accepted Christ and he gave me a Bible. That was the first time I owned a Bible that I really appreciated. I’m sure I got one when I was baptized as an infant and I had just started going through Catechism. But really I don’t remember having a Bible until that point. Now, I am thrilled to tell you that I started living by this book because my parents were living by the book. And it was our truth text, and it was what we went to. It was our go to. So I started living by it and I’d like to tell you about that part. What I don’t like to tell you about is all the times that I didn’t hold true to the Word, the times that I didn’t study it, the times that I just picked it up on the way out to church, the times that it sat on the shelf or maybe we went on a vacation and it didn’t get on the list of things to pack because it wasn’t that important me. Now I’m 47ish and I’m thinking I am wiser and older. I also realize how inadequate I am. I have lost a lot of that autonomous nature of youth that we all have and go you know what, I can’t do this thing called life on my own. I need the Book. I need the Truth. I need this Word. And also, God knows how much I love him by how much time I spend with him in this book.
So it is so important to me to be able to communicate this message to you, if you could just think about yourself as a needy woman, not necessarily in a battered woman’s shelter but someone who needs help and encouragement every single day of your life. You don’t have to do it alone. This is what you just hold dearly to. And it’s proof that how much time you spend in this book, how much time you commit yourselves to the ways of the Lord is an evident of how much we love God. I wish that I could go through and go through my notes and say you know what, after all the studying I have read through Psalm 119, I have gone from John 14, 15 and 16 through Deuteronomy 6 through Deuteronomy 10 with other passages sprinkled in between, and I wish I could tell you that it really doesn’t matter if you hold fast to this book. It really doesn’t matter if you open it every day. It really doesn’t matter if you just bring it with you to church or maybe you just know that they’re going to put it on the side screens at church, but it does.
Everything I’ve read says it matters. That’s our evidence. That’s what God looks for in our lives. I relate it to the letters that I brought last month. I brought all the love letters. If Ed had sent me a bunch of love letters and I didn’t open them, how would I have felt his love? How would I have grown closer to him if I never opened them? Now when Ed sent me those letters I was 15 and he was in Houston and I was in South Carolina. I didn’t just read them once; I read them all the time. And they were corny love letters. So God has written us this love letter and he doesn’t just want us to open it once a week or once a month or maybe if we’re going through a real crisis. I mean, he appreciates everything but the true test of love is how faithful we are. And I love the song that they just did and I was singing it, nothing can separate us from the love of the Father and that is so true. But there is something that can keep us from experiencing the love of the Father. Nothing can separate us from his love but we can keep ourselves from experiencing the fullness of it. The only thing that gets in the way is me, just me. Why do I not pick up the Bible and read it? Why do I not dedicate myself to having a quite time? Why do I not open the Word and go oh my gosh I’m hungry, I’m hungry, I’m going to eat this, not literally, but study it? It’s just me. It’s me. I’m fearful because I think, you know what, I like to be in charge. I don’t want to give up the reigns of my autonomy to God. I want to be in charge and if I study this word then I’m going to know more and if I know more then maybe I’m going to be responsible for more and I’ll have to act like I read and I don’t know if I want to do that so ignorance is bliss and I don’t want to give up my rights. Or fear, fear of I don’t understand the Bible. What if I open it and I read it and I feel stupid? Well there are two passages of scripture God gives us and it’s in Luke, I’m sorry, John. I’m having trouble. I’m challenged today with the books of the Bible. It is John 16, “Jesus told the disciples before he went away, unless I go away the Counselor will not come to you but if I go I will send him to you.” That’s John 16:7. “But when he, the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, he will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” When Jesus departed from the disciples he said I will give you a Counselor, the Holy Spirit. When we ask Christ into our lives he gives us a helper to understand his word. So you don’t have to fear feeling stupid. There have been times that I have understood things greatly and times when I haven’t understood things greatly. But he wants you to read it. Just test him; just test him because God wants to give you more and more and more of his love.
We’re hoping to do a Flavour for the battered women’s shelters. We’re hoping that we can come together and do something special that will actually deliver these Bibles into the hands of the women in need because again, the tragedy would be if the Bibles go and sit in a box and don’t penetrate the life of a woman. But I have to ask myself daily, okay Lisa, you have one of the greatest tools in your hands. You’ve got a gift that is so eloquent and so perfect and it works. There’s not one situation that I will face that it does not cover. There is not anything that I will come upon that I cannot go to this book and find peace and understanding about. So do I leave it in a box? I pray and I want to challenge you to take this word and feed upon it every day. It is not good just to eat once a week, is it? I would not miss a meal every day. I’m not just going to just eat once a week, that’s called gorging. But so often we come to church on the weekend and expect to get the spiritual feeding and we haven’t eaten at all during the week. We expect this one big meal and that’s not healthy. It is not healthy physically to do that and it’s not healthy spiritually to do that. So I want to challenge you to pick up a Bible. If you have one, that’s great. But put it where you cannot miss it. If it’s by your bedside, if it’s in the sink, your bathroom sink. Make sure it’s dry before you get up. The Bible says in James that this is a mirror. So it’s a mirror, it tells us, oh my goodness I need this and I understand that. It shows me. The mirror doesn’t comb my hair or brush my teeth. The mirror just shows me what needs to be done, and usually it is very big what needs to be done. But the Bible is the same way. It is a mirror; it shows me what needs to be done. So put it right there in your vanity so that you won’t miss it. And I’m going to challenge you, you might be thinking but I’m busy. I sent out an e mail yesterday. How many of you got the e mail, the Flavour e mail? Did you notice I used the word full? Because that is so bad, busy. That’s just not good, I’m busy, I’m busy. I have a full day. A full day is more like, God is going to do something because he has filled my day with so many things. He’s going to do something big. I like that better. I don’t like busy, it’s negative. Okay. Full, you have full days, so do I. God is the Author of Time. You can take five minutes and read this book. Just five minutes, that’s all I’m asking. And I know, I’m going to guarantee you, it’s just like a good work out. I will start a work out and say I don’t feel like working out, I don’t want to work out, but I’ll just work out five minutes. Then I end up going thirty. It just kind of works that way. But test God in five minutes and your life will be transformed. I know it. I can tell you that with such confidence. Your life will be transformed and it’s going to mess you up. It messes me up. It does because I come to understand, gosh, God is in my business. He is all up in my business. He knows what I’m doing, he knows what I’m thinking, he knows how I’m acting, he knows how I’m handling my children, and what I’m saying in the car. He is all up in my business and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want him with me. He is the author of my life. And the more I spend time with him in his word, with this love letter, more intimately I become a part of him. So today I want to challenge you, you’re maybe saying I don’t know where to start in the Bible. I have never read the Bible much.
Some of you may be seasoned at it and that’s great. You just keep reading and tell somebody how to do it. Start with Psalm 119. That’s what we’re going to be talking about next month at Flavour, is Psalm 119. It is the longest book in the Bible. I just thought I’d tell you. The longest chapter in the Bible. Psalm 119 has 176 verses so I figure we have about 30 days, that’s about 5.5, 6 verses a day. Is that the math? Is that right? Okay, good, because the way I’m going with the scripture references I might be questioning my math skills today. But just start with that because you know what, that passage of scripture is all about what God’s word can do. So start there. Psalm 119, I’m not sure of the author. Some believe it was Ezra who wrote it and penned it right after the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. It could have been Daniel or David. But you know what, who cares? It could just have easily have been me because when I read it I’m like that is so right. Yes. That’s what the Bible does for me. Oh yeah, his commands, his truth, you do raise me up when I am down. You do feed me. You are a lamp into my feet and a light into my path. I could have just as easily have written it and you could, too, because it will meet you where you are. So today we prayed over these Bibles, we have written notes in these Bibles but I want you to hold onto your Bible and to cling to it this next month, just test God, because he will speaking a fresh word to you. You will grow intimately with him, you’ll grow closer to him and all of us will be so much better for it.
We are going to have opportunities to go into the shelter I don’t know the details. Yanci and I will work on the details of getting into the shelter to do a Flavour and if we do, and it will probably be in an evening, we will invite all of you to come. I don’t know, there may be room for only a few. We may have it at a separate venue. I don’t know how it’s going to look. That’s just how things happen. And I know God’s going to work it out. But we will take these Bibles and we may provide dinner, we might do a Flavour. I would love to do last month’s Flavour for them, to actually do a love letter where we can give them mail something back to them like we did in here. I think it would be awesome. But you’re going to have an opportunity to do that. So our work with the battered women’s shelter is not over. We’re going to continue to do this. The purposes and I guess if I could say a vision on behalf of Fellowship Church for women in this church, again the whole purpose for Flavour is for us to make a difference in the lives of others. We’re women of influence, okay? So everything we do, say, touch and feel is going to have a three fold purpose which is the purposes of Fellowship Church. It is going to be reach up as women to worship God. To reach out, that’s evangelism, to share God’s love with other people, and actually lead other people into an understanding of who Christ is.
My goal is for every single person who is in this room not only to have a relationship with Christ but to be able to sit with someone and say here’s how you can have a relationship with Christ. That’s an effective, influencing woman. And then we’re going to another part of that mission statement is to reach in, and that’s to grow and develop ourselves as Christ followers, to become better, deeper, more intimately associated with God. I guess that’s a good definition. So you have an opportunity to do that. We’re going to take that on the road. So everything we do with Flavour is going to be about influencing other women. So are you excited about that? I’m excited about that. And we’ll keep you in touch on that.