FLAVOUR: LOVE LETTERS
Studying God’s Love Letter
God’s Love Letter to us is a book of remembrances that not only allow us to learn about Him, but also to learn about life itself. Using the simple R.A.P. (Read It, Apply It, Pray It) Method, Scripture can become more relevant and applicable to your life.
Intro: I am so appreciative to you for being here today. For some reason on some days you feel more appreciative of things than others. But I was sitting down here and I thought, we were singing the song I worship you, and I can’t decide if Moses leads an aerobics class or if he leads worship. But I do think sometimes when I’m worshipping, which this is totally beside the point, but I’m thinking I might be burning calories here. This is a good thing. I’m sure you’ve thought that, too. I thought about as I sat there and we were worshipping together that all of us had a choice today on how this hour was spent and I thank you for bringing yourself and maybe a friend here to worship God because that is what we were created to do. And God has blessed us with friends who we can come and share with so thank you, thank you, thank you for being at Flavour.
And I want to introduce someone to you that’s here, Judith Chris. Judith, stand for a moment. Judith, and Ruth, Ruth you go ahead and stand, too. Judith and her husband pastor okay, tell me the name again, City of Grace Church in Scottsdale. They have a campus in Scottsdale and one in Mesa, Arizona and they are okay y’all get ready to clap. They’re starting Flavour in their church. So you know, Ed always when Ed and I get to share with other pastors and stuff and we share ideas so today I’m going to get to go to lunch with Judith and Ruth and we’re going to share with the Flavour team. We have already learned some things backstage that they have come up with to incorporate next fall for Flavour so it’s so exciting. I’m just thrilled to death for what God is getting ready to do among the women at their church.
Today I want you to close your eyes because I need for you to imagine something. Just close your eyes and clear the slate so you can just imagine. Imagine a getaway to a Caribbean island, $1,400. Keep your eyes closed. A shopping trip to North Park Center and you’ll be doing well if it’s $185. Lunch with friends in Grapevine, $17. The ability to remember great moments, priceless. You can open your eyes now. Last night we were having dinner and LeeBeth had a friend over. Where is LeeBeth? A back row girl. Normally she sits on the front row. I will cut you some slack honey but I missed you down here. Last night LeeBeth had a friend over and we were just recalling some crazy moments in the Young household. And we needed about three years to cover them all but we tried to do it in one dinner. And we were talking about vacations. We told him of the particular vacation where Ed forgot that we had two luggage racks on top of the car when we got back from our vacation and he drove into the garage and took out the side of the garage. We were very excited to be home. It was a family outing, not a vacation. And then we talked about just different experiences through the years and we’re trying to kind of give him a picture of what our family is all about and it is just so precious to remember things throughout your children’s lives and also as parents to share things with others that tell something about yourself. I remember being on a trip to South Carolina to visit our family there and Ed and I had the opportunity, at the time my grandparents were still living, and they were in their upper 90’s, I guess. My grandfather lived to be 102 and a half. My grandmother, his wife, they were married for 77 years, she lived to be 97 so I’m counting on that gene. We were sitting down at dinner and Ed started asking them questions which I’m thinking to myself, I have lived with these people, had dinners with them on a regular basis but never had I thought to ask them these questions. Things like how they met, what caused my grandmother to fall in love with my grandfather. It was funny because she said he had the prettiest hair and there he sat as bald as bald could be. But that’s what she loved. So her description and her memory of that helped me see that. She gave me a little bit of a vision of what it was like. And it is so important for us to remember, to remember great moments, to remember great events. And to not only remember them but to share them with others.
The Bible is a book of remembrances. And we have looked this semester at Flavour at God’s word and how it is a love letter to you and me and how it says sacred things that we should treasure.
But I thought about it as I was preparing for this talk that really the scripture is like a journal that God has penned so that we can have a record and an account of who he is, what he’s done and what he will do. And for me that was somewhat of a revelation. I keep thinking that I’m old enough to pretty much know everything. I don’t know, you may think that. I think I’m pretty smart. But for the first time it dawned on me that God had penned this, had written it out and it is filled with remembrances for my benefit. We must hold fast to the scripture that God has given us so that we, too, can know what God has done, know what he is doing and what he will do in our lives. And I wanted to share with you today just some of the things that are practical as far as how I study the Bible. And it can be even intimidating but God wants us to know him intimately. He wants us to spend time with him and we’ve talked about the fact that he gave us this book as a gift, his love letters to you and me. And that we are dearly loved at the very price of his only son. That’s how much he loves us. And yet, we’re given an allotment of time and we have been talking about, I brought it up last Flavour, Ephesians 4 I don’t know. It’s the verse that Ed’s looking at. I think 14 17 or 5. Ephesians 5:14. How could I not remember? Ephesians 5:14. I’m so sorry. I had a brain cramp. But just insider information, I’m the one that sets the alarm and I have it on my side of the bed. Ed does not get up by an alarm; he gets up by an elbow. I think he would prefer the alarm if he really knew what was best for him. But Ephesians 5:14 which says, we are to make the most of every opportunity. Wake up. So God has given us opportunities and opportunities come in time, segments of time. He is the author of time. He is the controller of time. In other words, God created time. He created the sequence of days. He created the hours. He created the patterns of time. And he is the controller of time because God knows when you are born and he knows when you will die. He knows how my life will go. But there is an option given to us on how we use the time that he has given us. You and I have a choice. It is our free will to determine whether or not we will be here on a Tuesday for Flavour or whether something else will take priority or whether or not we will spend time with God each and every day. We have that choice. It is ironic, isn’t it, that we talk so much about the principal of the first in scripture, the principal of the first in our resources, our tithing that we should give to God the first of what we make and what we have monetarily speaking because God gives it all to us anyway. But God also asks that of our time. He wants us to give back to him a portion of what he has given us. And for the life of me I can’t believe how I can conjure up reasons, excuses and just rationalizations for what I do with my time. You’re the same way. I don’t have time for this. Working out, for example, who has time for working out? Janay, you do not have to shake your head so hard. Actually, what you’re doing when you shake your head like that is you’re working out. That is a workout, Janay. We do, we say that. I just don’t have time. Really what we’re saying is I do not choose to make time to work out, right?
Or, I just my husband and I don’t go on a date night. We just don’t have time with the schedule of the kids or whatever. What we’re saying is we choose not to prioritize that time for date night. Well spending time with God each day is the same way. It’s not that we don’t have time. We have 24 hours. Surely out of 24 we could give some time to God but we choose not to make that a priority. And I am preaching to me because I do the same thing.
It has been my experience that the greatest days of my life have always included time with God. I can tell you about some rough starts. I can tell you about snappy voices from me to my children. I can talk about days that work just doesn’t seem to be going right and that day is not necessarily any different than any other day except on how I process it. And the days that I start with God it’s like a supernatural vibe going on in me and I can handle it and it is the same exact event and process with a few exceptions but pretty much the same things but it’s how I process it because of how much time I have spent with God. It’s just supernatural. I can’t explain it but I can testify to it. And so as you wake up each day and prioritize your time, our goal is to know God more. All of us would say that’s one of our priorities is to know God more. All of us would say we want to do what’s best for us and for our families and our friends and for our work. But it’s all about what we’re committed to; our priorities and our commitments must match. So I just want to share with you some of the ways that I take time to study God’s word.
Now I do this in the morning, first thing because that’s when I typically am a morning person. That’s when the kids are still asleep. It’s good for me. And I also kind of use the analogy that if you were to go to the Cowboys game or any high school football game or sporting thing but let’s use football as an example. If you get there early enough you will see the team out on the field doing their stretches and warm ups and getting all loosened up for the game. You do not see them after the game on the field stretching and loosening up. They don’t do that after the game, they do it before the game. So the point being, God can teach us and work with us before the day and it helps us be loose and in the flow for the day. So I choose to do that first thing for me. Now some days it doesn’t go like that so I might be at the end of the day and I’m not going to say one way is right and one way is wrong but I do know that Jesus drew away early in the morning. In the New Testament it says that repeatedly. He would draw away early in the morning. That’s the second thing. I do this the by myself for the most part. Sometimes, now, when the children go to school Ed and I will have a cup of coffee and scripture and it is separate. We’re not pouring over it as husband and wife. So don’t get this picture in your mind like there’s some sanctified spiritual thing over the pastor and his wife.
He’s got his Bible and I’ve got mine and sometimes we’re on similar pages but not usually. I like for it to be quiet and peaceful and in a set place. However, I will tell you that sometimes the children have come in and I have bought some time with them when they were younger and I got their breakfast and still sat at the table and still finished my quite time. The great thing is they see that and it’s a great demonstration. It’s not conjured up. It’s not fake. And let’s say I’m finished with my quite time and my Bible is still there, they know it’s there. It’s a prominent thing in my world. So I do that in the morning.
I saw just recently, in fact it was Mother’s Day on Fox News they were interviewing Ann Graham Lots and she is the daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham. And they were interviewing Ann and her two daughters because this was the first Mother’s Day that they had spent without Ruth, Billy Graham’s wife. And they were asking her about that but then they said you are a very busy woman. First of all they asked her a lot of different questions and she would keep going back to Jesus, she would keep going back to scripture, she would keep going back to the answers and I’m thinking to myself this is Fox News. I can’t believe they’re allowing her to do this. Then the commentator says well I know your faith is very important but let’s get practical for a second. How, with your busy schedule, did your mother and how do you, you’re a writer, you’re a speaker, you’re a lecturer, and yet you have time to raise two girls and you still are able to do all of these different things. And of course Ann Graham Lots didn’t miss a beat. She said of course it goes back to scripture. To be very practical it goes right back to scripture because my mom taught us to start every day with God and he will fit in the rest. And Matthew 6:33 says it best, it says “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” That should be the secret combination to our life, 6:33. You might wake up to 5:14 but you’re going to open it up to 6:33. Because if we truly seek his kingdom first, then everything will fall into place. And then in Matthew chapter 6 verses 19 through 21 it says this, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is that is where your heart will be also.” Now that’s a very familiar verse to me but when I’m thinking about time and how I spend it, that is an indication of treasure. And the greatest treasure that I can have for myself and for my children is time with the one who created me, the one who made me special, the one who gave me a unique Flavour to impact the world on his behalf. I don’t want to forsake that. I need to take time to do that. Make a commitment to spend time with God each day.
And what that looks like for me now I talked to Laura Strickland and we pulled some Bibles from The Source because I’m thinking that there are so many different types of Bibles, things that you may have found one that you’re joy enjoying but a lot of people ask me that question, well how do you find the right Bible? I use and what’s all this stuff with translations and versions and all of that? There are several translations and Laura and I talked about it, the fact that you find one in the bookstore means that it’s not going to be some whacky view of scripture. It’s going to be in line with the theological foundational truths of what our church believes I can’t think of the correct word but theologically speaking it is going to be sound. Our doctrinal statement. There you go. Thank you. So that’s what you’re going to find in the bookstore, whether it’s the New International Version which is NIV. That is what I use. And I use this because this is the Bible that Ed’s mother and dad gave us when we moved into this building and it has become my Bible. I don’t like to change out Bibles. We have some really cute ones in the bookstore, blue with brown which is really popular right now, the Tiffany blue, pink and brown, all these different things but I do not like to change my Bible out. Now I use some of those at home when I’m studying but as far as what I keep this is it and I’ve had it rebound. I like the fact that I can tell you that because that means it was used to the point that it fell apart. That is a very good thing. You want your Bible to fall apart because that means you have worn it slap out. I do the NIV. You have the NASB which is the New American Standard Version. There is the New King James Version. I will tell you because a lot of people think well the King James must be the most accurate because that’s the older original and King James was the one who brought the Bible, thankfully, into its popularity when I say popularity I don’t mean the latest trend I mean his translation made it so that others could have free access to it. So it’s a very good thing, however, it is not as accurate as the more recent versions and the more information that we gather the more accurate the translation can be. That does not discredit anything from past translations but it just means that we’re continuing to get basis of truth that proves it. I don’t want to bring my confusion there. For example, NIV has been around for years. That’s what I use; it is awesome. But it is a more accurate translation than the King James Version which is more the old English. So different types of Bibles. I brought some with me. Life Application Study Bible, this is awesome. This one is the New Living Translation. Which back when Ed and I were in high school there was a Bible that came out that was called the Living Bible. It was not a version or a translation; it was a paraphrase which means a human looked at the words and said hey I’m just going to put this in common vernacular. So the Living Bible was very popular among teenagers but it was highly criticized among scholars for its accuracy. I do not have a problem with the Living Bible. This is just a translation because it’s the Living Translation so it is an accurate part.
Now that I have totally confused you. The good part is it’s the Life Application, it has wonderful applications. Again, the Bible is not for our information, it is for our application, for our transformation.
So at the bottom of each page there are the author and scholars have put practical ways to live this out in your life. So that’s a great one if you’re looking for your Bible. Another one is the Women’s Devotional Bible. It just has little devotions, snip it’s here, there, and yonder for different days. And one of these, the Identity Bible, had at the end of the month it had a devotional. So it’s awesome. They’re tailor made for women. It is a feminine Bible. It has a feminine aspect. Again, here’s one, it’s the NIV Study Bible and this is the Amplified Bible, a topical reference Bible. Which for just normal run of the mill coming to Flavour, doing your morning quite time, you don’t necessarily need this but if you want to probe deeper into something it is a great option to have. Go to the bookstore, there will be people there to help you if you are looking for something but the most important thing is to get the book. Make it your book. Make it your life manual so that every morning you can spend time with God.
So what I do each morning is I open my scripture and I might be focusing on a particular subject like if I’m preparing a talk. We have been doing Psalm 119 so I have been studying Psalm 119 and looking at other Psalms that correlate with that. I looked at Matthew 6:33 obviously as I was preparing this but I will pick a scripture. And if you wanted to choose Psalm 119 which we talked about last month that will carry you a long way. It is the longest chapter in the Bible so it will definitely carry you. But you could just pick out a verse or several verses and just write them down. Now how do I do that? Do I just get a random piece of paper? What do I do? Well I’m so glad you asked because this is my journal but this is my journal because what I’m about to show you had not come out yet. But this is my journal and I will write down the verse and I also use this for sermons. If someone is speaking or if I go to a Bible study I use it in that regard, too. So I carry it with me all the time. The great thing about having a journal is this, there are no rules. Have you ever wanted something where there are just no rules? There are no rules. It is your journal. It is for you to do with as you please. I can just tell you a few things that work for me but this will be your journal. So if you want something in your life where there are no boundaries, no rules, this is it. It is for you. And this process, this part of your life will open up a door for communication with God that I promise you, you will never, ever abandon. I watched my husband, Ed, journal from the time he was 18. And you think that’s a girl thing and here I was the girl and I wasn’t doing it and he was doing it and I’m like what?
It was amazing how his spiritual life just went deep because he was writing down those things that God was showing him. So he helped me along. So what I do is I write a scripture down and then from there I go into what does that scripture mean for me? Now I pulled some I thought I will just share with you one that I have done. Let me see if I can find it because I write the scripture and then I usually and the reason I write the scripture down rather than just make note of it is it helps me remember the scripture. Psalm and I’m just picking this. So let’s just see what I said. This is from January 28th and it was 2004. Psalm 142:3, “When my spirit grows faint within me it is you who knows my way.” And I wrote, “when my spirit grows faint” and I said something here written as a plural from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit meaning that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they know my way. Then I put “thank you for my faithful guidance.” This is from January 28th so we had just done the C3 conference or we were getting ready. “Thank you for your faithful guidance over the C3 conference and the weekend service. You are faithful and you heard our cries. Thank you for Andy, Sandra, Andrew, Garret and Ali” Andy Stanley must have spoken. So I prayed for them. “Bless them. Lord there are so many pastors around the country who seek to take your lifeline to others. Bless them in all that they do. You are the great provider, creator, and sustainer. There aren’t enough words to describe your glory.” Then I go onto pray for several other things. Then I have “Take care of LeeBeth. Calm her spirit.” LeeBeth, you might have been going through some type of anxiety over her grades. It was because she was a perfectionist. It wasn’t because she didn’t have good grades. She got upset if she had an A minus. So calm her heart. Then I have Laurie and Landra. I actually have a box around this, “Precious Ed.” I will have to show him that. “Give him calmness,” y’all know that’s a prayer that should be prayed, “peacefulness, rest, laughter, love and encouragement.” So that’s just one page out of a journal in 2004.
So when I do that I usually begin by writing the scripture down and then I apply it to my life and then I pray it through. Now when I pray it through I try to do it with the RAP version. Now if you have something to write with you can write this down. The RAP version is I Read it, I Apply it and I Pray it. So that’s how you RAP, you Read it, you Apply it and then you Pray it. So that’s the process of a journal and then within that there are no rules. A word of warning to you, though. Now I like what Virginia Wolf says, the British writer. She said that she loved to write because it took the frailty of her mind and limbered it out on the paper. She just said that for her as a writer to have no rules, that’s why journaling was so important to her because she could just freely express herself. And I know that for me I get caught up in right and wrong. Does a subject and verb agree? Is it written correctly? I get all messed up in that and with your journal that doesn’t matter.
The most important thing is that you’re just pouring yourself out on the pages based on what God is showing you. That’s what he wants to do for us. He doesn’t want us to get caught up in the perfections and things that get in the way of what he wants to do in our lives. He just wants us to express ourselves and what he’s doing in our lives. And for many that begins with praising him. Psalms has been so wonderful for me because David was a man of so many different, not personalities, but he went through so many different things in his lifetime.
At certain points he was so close to God and tight with him and then at other points he had turned his back and had fallen away and then at other times people were correcting him and then he was in battle, he was in leadership. He had all of these different things going on in his life. And the greatest thing, I think, which maybe makes David a man after God’s own heart as he’s referred to throughout history, is the fact that he authentically poured himself out. He would say God I stumble, I fumble, I need you, and I have to have you. Then he also would write down how great God was to meet all of his needs and that’s simply what praise is. You can take the words of a praise song; you can use Psalms, but praise God in your journal. I love going back and reading praises that I have written. And sometimes it’s just a mimic of scripture; I’m just writing out praises that I have read in scripture.
The other thing that I do is to ask for forgiveness. My sin is a private thing but its public to God and if you choose to be specific, that’s fine. I pray very specifically over my sin, whether it’s a harsh conversation that I’ve had with Ed, whether it’s not taking care of something I need to take care of or not being diligent. One of the passages that I read this morning before I came, from one of my old journals, was God forgive me because I have ignored you. That was asking for forgiveness. But you need to decide if you’re going to actually put that on paper because when it’s on the paper it’s there. And that would be something that you need to decide, is anybody going to see this? Is anybody going to read this? Do I want this common knowledge? For me, my journals are pretty much on open book for my family. They have seen them. I don’t just open them up and say I need for you to read this. I just know that there’s not much sacred in my house and they can get it. But I do think about one little illustration.
My daughter, Laurie, who is 13, she loves to journal and she wrote in her journal and I’m going to be very transparent here. I was very upset one morning. We were getting ready to go to school and they were supposed to take the bicycles out of car the night before so that we could get all the seats up for car pool the next morning. And so when we all go out to get ready to get in the car all the bicycles are still in the car. And they were all late.
And I’m sure I was late so I was angry with myself for being late but we don’t realize that. I don’t psychoanalyze and think I’m angry with myself so stop it there so that you don’t cause harm on other people. But I didn’t do that so I go to the car and of course I’m like what did you guys do last night? When I was cleaning the kitchen I told you to go outside and take the bicycles out of the car. We’re late already all of the seats are up, just help me. Well the dog was behind the car. So I just started dropping bicycles out on the pavement and little Sweety was on the floor. LeeBeth is back there smiling big. But little Sweety was down there. I did not hit Sweety with the bicycle when I dropped it. I just dropped it and Sweety, of course, was like mom is mad; I’m going to get out of the way. Well in Laurie’s journal she wrote, mom threw the bicycle at the dog. Well nobody was supposed to see that but some of the other kids got a hold of it and then several years later, fast forward the clock and LeeBeth and her friends were at a Mexican restaurant in Flower Mound and they’re talking about how, do you remember how Laurie wrote my mom threw a bicycle at the dog? So you have to be careful what you write in your journal. That’s my warning to you. Just be careful just in case it is for someone’s eyes. But, you know what, for the most part it is no rules; you can do what you want to with it just know that time sometimes it might get read.
But I pray it through, I praise, ask for forgiveness and then I pray on others’ behalf, or for myself and others. And that is just a petition of things I’m asking God to do in my life. And this is so important because when we’re specific about telling God what we’re struggling with, he already knows, but it is for our benefit that we articulate that and I write that down. For example, if I have a decision that needs to be made with anything, whether it’s with the children or myself or if I’m struggling with a certain behavior, anything like that I can write God I need your guidance on this; I want to hear from you and so forth. And then at the end I pray for the will of God to be done, because I may have listed all these different things. God I really need to see blah, blah, blah. God, help us do this. When God maybe saying I don’t want you to do that. I have an alternate plan and you’re going to have to wait for my timing, you’re going to have to wait for my response. And I want to be in that place. I don’t want to be demanding things from him that are not in my best interest. Again, if I had to choose my will versus God’s will, as I look back over the 47 years of my life, no question I never would have scripted the life that God has given me, never. I would have fallen so short not only for me but for my family. I would have shortchanged all of us so I pray in God’s will.
And I’m quite. Now some days I feel so rushed and I just close up my journal and close up my Bible and I head on out. But when my quiet time is the best is when I take just a few moments at the end and say God speak to me, be still and know that he is God. And he will reveal himself to you.
God has never spoken to me in an audible voice that I was keenly aware of but he has definitely spoken through his spirit to my heart and given me such clear guidance that I cannot even begin to image where I would have been without that. But it’s all about spending time with him and not only spending time in his word but I challenge you, I challenge you, I challenge you to write it down. Journal, make that a part of your day.
And speaking of that, we have come up with a Flavour journal and many of you are contributors to this. The great thing about it is when you open the pages it has a scripture verse and then it has how that scripture meant something at a particular time in someone’s life. And you will recognize some of the names. Here is one from Doris Scoggins. Joyce, I turned to your page, Joyce Andrews, Janelle Torres, Moses’ wife, my sister, Laurie Parish. It has a lot of different people from all over the country, some from here at Fellowship Church but it’s something that with want for you to get involved in. And they’re available in the bookstore. You can pick one up, a Flavour journal that will help you start this process. Here we are in the month of May and I love May but it is a hectic month. It is a month where parents are getting to the end of school. Summer is coming so even if you don’t have children and school’s not about to end, in our mind, because we grew up that way, there is just something that ends in May and something that begins in June with differences in schedule, the summer. We cannot get away from it. I pray, because summer is such a time of memory making, that this will be a time that you start journaling and set aside 3 months to prove me on this. I’m just going to say, you guys do it and then come back and tell me if you’re not absolutely 100 percent sold out. So this summer take time every day, take a breath and write in your journal, use scripture. You can use the scripture that is given on those pages but do it. God will multiply it and what a gift to give the next generation. The Bible is a book of remembrances but one day my children can look through the pages of my journal and it is not only a benefit to me as I go back and see in 2004 how God did things in my life but it will be a testimony to them and hopefully to their children and their children’s children that God was the most important thing and that we spent time with him.
There’s wonderful hymn that was penned in the 1800’s and it’s called “How Great Thou Art.” And it was written by a man, his last time is Brogan. “How Great Thou Art,” have you ever heard of that hymn? I read the history of that and it is so beautiful about the majesty of God. “When I am awesome wonder, consider all the world thy hands have made. I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder.” Then it continues on and on and on and the writer goes back to how great thou art. There are four or five verses. Google it this afternoon and see this wonderful poem that was put to music. It was written by this man, Brogan, and he penned it after walking through a garden during a rainstorm. But he felt compelled to go back to his home and just put the words to paper because he knew that he did not want to lose the expression of that moment. God had given him something very fresh, something very real and he chose to pen the words to “How Great Thou Art.” And that hymn has been handed down throughout over a hundred years, now we’re going to 150. And through the Billy Graham crusade that song became a benchmark song in America behind “Just As I Am.” “Just As I Am” would be number one and then “How Great Thou Art.” But it was penned because someone wanted to express what God was doing in their life. That could be you.
And it may not go to hundreds; it could be me, hundreds of thousands of people but what if it touched the heart of one? God wants to use you to Flavour the world but he wants to first Flavour your life. And he does that through his word and by you spending time with him. God is so good to us to give us a special relationship that we have through Christ and it is something for us never, ever, ever to take for granted.