WORDS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
“I LOVE YOU”
NOVEMBER 2, 1997
Words! They are so powerful and profound, aren’t they? Words can hit us with an El Nino type force. On the one hand, they can make us feel like we are on the top of the world. On the other, they can scar and damage and even change our self-concept. I believe that because of all of the television shows, talk shows, Email, pagers, paperbacks and the internet, we have more words at our fingertips, more words circulating and orbiting our planet than ever before.
Granted, we use words in wonderful and high tech ways but rarely do we allow the words to change our lives. That is why I am in a brand new series called WORDS THAT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Over the next four weeks we are going to look at some words that can transform your friendships, your marriage, your parenting skills and even your career. Today we arguably look at the three most powerful words in our vocabulary. I love you.
I love you. Now just the articulation of that phrase brings to mind many vivid memories. We think about songs, events, that special someone. But we can’t really grasp this phrase until we understand that God, Himself, is the first one to ever coin this phrase. The God of this universe showed His hand. He came right out and said it. God communicates creatively to you and to me that He loves us. Then, He also boldly backs it up. God communicates creatively that He loves us. Saying it is a pretty high-risk pronouncement, isn’t it?
When Lisa and I were dating, I knew after awhile that she was a special lady. I knew that I would have to say one day those words that are so difficult for me to say, I love you. But I started out kind of testing the waters. I said, “Lisa, I think about you all the time.” I kind of threw it out there. She returned it by saying, “Ed, I think about you all the time, too.” Wow. Then a little while later, I said, “Lisa, you are special.” She said, “Ed, you are special too.” Now in my mind I was building up to the moment, even though I knew that my love could be rejected, even though I knew what I was going to have to do to back it up. One evening while sitting on her swing on her back porch, I knew it was the moment of truth, the defining moment. I remember looking down at my bell bottoms and my platform shoes and I turned to her and said, “Lisa, I love you.” It seemed like an eternity passed but she looked back at me and said, “Ed, I love you too.” And in a nanosecond, our relationship moved to another level. The whole thing was redefined. There is something important, magic, supernatural about the words, I love you. God tells us at every interchange, at every circumstance, almost in every chapter of the Bible that we matter to Him, that we are valuable. God considers the implications of His statement. God knows what it takes to back it up but He still comes right out and expresses it. He really does. And God expresses it in creative ways.
Have you ever told someone that you are not creative? We have all said, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” That is a lie. Any time that we say that we are making a mockery of God’s creative genius. The Bible says that we were all made in the image of our creative Creator. Thus, we are all creative creatures who yearn to be communicated to in a creative way. And God creatively says, I love you.
In fact, I don’t care how you are wired up, there is some kind of word picture, some vivid illustration that communicates God’s love to you. How many animal lovers do we have in the house? I love animals. In Matthew 10, Jesus compares His love for us against a backdrop of His love for a little insignificant sparrow. Christ said that He knows when a sparrow drops out of the sky, and that we had better believe that He loves us billions of times more than He loves a bird.
How many of us here don’t really relate to animals, but we relate well to statistics? Facts and figures? Any accountants in the house? The Bible says in Psalm 139:17-18, “How precious also are your thoughts to me, Oh God, how vast is the sum of them. If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.” All the people who love to crunch numbers and pick up their pocket calculators, this is the verse for you.
Maybe you don’t like animals and are not into statistics, maybe you are into flying. Do we have any pilots or flight attendants here? Any frequent flyers? Then this kind of connects with you. Psalm 103:11. “As high as the heaven is above the earth,…” And you thought that 30,000 feet was really high! “…so great is God’s love toward those who fear him.” Do you see all these word pictures? If you are a father, Matthew 7 talks about the love of a father compared to the love of God. If you are a mom, the Old Testament talks about a nursing mother. All of us have hair, some of us more than others. Jesus said that He loves us so much that He knows how many individual hairs we have on our head. You see, we live in Texas and women are known for their big hair in Texas. And guys, you sometimes laugh at that. But I am here to tell you that I believe men are more concerned about their hair than women. The next time you go to the hair stylist, think about the fact that God knows how many hairs you have. That is how much you matter to God.
So God has made it obvious. He communicates His love creatively to you and to me. Now some of you are saying that maybe great but that talk is cheap. It is cool to look through the Bible and find these neat illustrations about God’s love, but does He back it up? Does He show it? Well the answer is a resounding yes. God boldly backs it up. He says that He is going to show us how much He loves us.
Over the last two months we have been in a series called LISTEN TO THE MUSIC. If you kind of press the rewind button, think about how we discussed the love of God as we examined many different Biblical characters. In the first session we talked about Christ’s love-driven story concerning the Prodigal Son. The story is about the grace and the forgiveness and the love of God. Then we talked about the Rich Young Ruler. We saw that Jesus looked at this brash, bold entrepreneur with love. Then we talked about the E Train, old Elijah. Elijah was God’s prophet having the pity party of the century and God lovingly picked him up and boldly said, “Elijah, I am not through with you yet, man. I have more stuff for you to do, for you to accomplish. Come on.” Then we looked at Lot, wishy, washy Lot, fence-riding Lot who had trouble choosing between a life honoring God or a life spent in Sodom and Gomorrah . God expressed His bold love to Lot and his family. They deserved destruction, yet God provided a way of escape for them. Then finally we looked at old Gideon, General Gideon. God lovingly led him in an upset victory with huge implications. Everywhere you turn, everywhere you look in God’s word, you see His bold love. He backs it up.
We have to say that the best expression of God’s love is when He offered His precious Son as a sin sacrifice for non-deserving people like you and me. The blood stained cross is the ultimate expression of God’s I love you. Basically we have two responses to God’s love. We either honor it, or we hydroplane right over it. Many here have honored God’s love. We have received Christ personally. The Bible says that from the day we came out of the oven, God has been extending His love to us. God has been guiding us in ways that we can’t understand. He has been protecting us in ways that we can never comprehend. And He offers salvation to us, a home in heaven, power, purpose, strength, a clear conscience and many of us have bowed the knee and honored this love. We have asked Christ to infiltrate our lives. We begin to worship Him and learn about Him. We realize that life is a gift from God. We honor Him with our finances, with our talents, with our abilities. A lot of free-floating fears are gone. We are living with Christ. We know what it is to be a true Christ follower. Many here have honored the love of the Lord.
Conversely, there are many here who have hydroplaned right over it, skimmed over it, yawned over it, saying that someday they will respond to the love of God. Jesus says that there will be a someday. On that someday, after you die, if you hydroplaned over His love, He will look at you and say, “I made you to be creative. I communicated My love to you in unique ways. I boldly backed it up. I guided you, tried to speak to you, provided a home in heaven for you but you had your way on earth and, sadly, you will have to have your way in eternity, too.” That is why many “good” people will spend eternity in hell, because they hydroplaned over the love and the grace and the mercy of God. What is your response? Is it going to be to receive it, to honor it or to reject it and hydroplane over it? At the end of this message I am going to give you a chance to bow the knee and receive Christ into your life. It is the best thing that you will ever do. It is the only way you can ever truly know what love is all about.
Let’s say, for example, that everyone here in this place has honored Christ. Let’s say that everyone here has received Jesus. You know what God is saying to you and to me? God is simply looking at us and saying, “I want you to share the love of Christ in your life with the people I have placed in your sphere of influence.” And God tells us to communicate His love creatively and to boldly back it up. That is what God says. Isn’t that great?
Take out a pen or pencil, if you would. I am going to ask you to jot down five words. Write these words vertically. The first word is hear. The second is read. The third is receive. The fourth, feel. The final word is know. God looks at our lives. He notices our needs. We need to hear love. We need to read about love. We need to receive love. We need to feel love and we need to know that we are loved. These are our basic needs, our love needs. And God says, right up front that people in your life need to hear it. So what is our response? What do we need to do? Say it. Say it, that is the first thing that we have to do if we are going to boldly and radically love others in our lives. We have got to say it.
Several years ago we started this church. After I had been here for a couple of months, someone invited me to the Byron Nelson Golf Classic. I had never been to a golf tournament in my life. It was amazing to see all the people, the professional golfers. I had no idea that people could hit a golf ball that far. Well, there was a group of people there that really intrigued me. They had polyester outfits on, red pants and white shirts. They were the marshals, the officials of the tournament. I noticed that before the golfers would tee off, these marshals would stand there looking stern and just before the player would address the ball, they would hold up a little sign. It had two words on it. Quiet Please. And sure enough, the gallery would get really quiet before John Dailey walked up and addressed the ball. No one would say a word until the ball had left the tee box and then they would politely clap. A few over zealous fans would should, “You’re the man, John.” Like that really helped John Dailey. I will never forget those marshals.
Oftentimes in my life I will see some people and know I should express my love for them. I get this fired up feeling. I begin to approach the edge. I say to myself that today is the day. I will tell them that I love them. I get right there to the edge and then I begin to see a little man dressed in polyester in my mind stand up with a sign saying Quiet Please. And I will say, “Whoa, I had better not say I love you to this person. They might take it the wrong way. Maybe I can’t back it up.” So I will cower and throttle back. Then I will say to myself that at least I felt those feelings. That is a lot for a male, just to feel them. But I really need to say it. Who do you need to say I love you to? Show me a loving family, a loving team, a loving company, a loving neighborhood, the love revolution always started with someone boldly stepping out and saying, I love you. I love you.
The second word I told you to write down was the word read. We are to write it. For some of us just saying it is OK, but others need to see it in print. Do you write it regularly to others? Do you? Words of encouragement. Words of love can just radically transform our lives.
This past summer a friend of mine who pastors a church in Atlanta, Georgia wrote me this letter. It really helped and inspired me. “Dear Ed. I just wanted to let you know how your ministry in church has impacted the kingdom. One of our young men, John Clark, who is 34 years of age, died last week while out jogging. He and his wife, Lee, were part of your ministry and he came to Christ in your church. John and Lee had been growing in their faith here in Atlanta. They have two precious daughters, ages four and one. Sometimes it is hard to know when you are preaching the gospel in a large church who is actually being reached and I just wanted to let you know that you made an eternal difference in the life of John Clark. Thank you for your leadership and your ministry. May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen you in a great way.” Now this letter means a lot to me. And if you don’t believe it, just come up and try to take it away from me. This letter helped me. This friend to me and told me how God is using me, a self-centered sinner, to communicate His message. What can you do with a pen or pencil in your hand, or a computer keyboard in front of you? Write those little messages. People need to read them.
The next word I told you to write down is the word receive. We need to receive love. Our assignment should be to give little gifts; maybe toys, trinkets, or just special little things done for others. The Bible says this in I John 3:18. Don’t love in word only, but love in deeds as well. The Bible says in James that faith without works is dead. I believe that love without expression is dead. Do you buy those little gifts for people? When you do special things you are showing the person on the receiving end that you thought so much about them that you took some time to do something for them. You are expressing your love in a tangible way. It can make their day.
Now most of you if you hang around here very much know that I love to fish. I am into it. A year ago I was fishing with a friend of mine in a little lake which had, nonetheless, some very big bass. Before I went to the lake I went to a tackle shop and bought some plastic lizards. I had to buy these specific lizards because they were called Uncle Ed’s lizards. I had never fished with an Uncle Ed before, but I hooked him up. We were floating by a dock and I cast Uncle Ed in that direction. I watched him sink in the coffee black water. Then I saw that little jump in the line and I said to myself, “We’ve got some action.” The line kind of moved off to the left and I reeled down and set the hook. It felt like I had hooked a tractor trailer truck. I saw the line slowly rise and to my disbelief a bass jumped out of the water with Uncle Ed embedded in her lips. She weighed, conservatively, fifteen pounds. Now you think that I am kidding you, but I have caught ten pound bass before. This fish was a behemoth. We are talking about a sow. And when she hit the water, I still had her on. I thought this is the bass of a lifetime, Jimmy Houston has not caught a fish this big ever. I must confess that I am kind of an emotional fisherman. I got her closer and closer and closer and she jumped one more time and when she shook her head, Uncle Ed dribbled out of our mouth. I was devastated. I sat down in the boat and put my head in my hands. I couldn’t cast for the next ninety minutes. My friend said, “Ed, is something wrong? Are you OK?”
Later I drove home and shared the story with Lisa. Lisa knows how much I love to fish and how sad I would be to lose the big, clunker bass. I had a tough time sleeping that night. I could not get it out of my mind. I couldn’t take it. I am a deep guy, you know. Well the next morning I get up, go to work, walk into my office and on my desk are three chocolate bass and this card. Listen to this card. It has Sorry printed on it. It says, “I love you. Remember all of the joy you have had fishing.” Now Lisa is writing this card and you should be told that our very first date was a fishing trip. Anyway. “I love you, honey and I am truly sorry for the loss that you are feeling. Chocolate always takes away the pain. Enjoy. I love you. Lisa.”
Now to you that might not mean so much, but to me it really meant a lot. She took time out of her day to buy the chocolate bass, drive to the church, put them on my desk and write out the card. And it probably only cost a couple of dollars. Maybe there are some people right now that God is bringing to mind in your life who need something tangible from you. Nothing high dollar. Nothing extravagant. Nothing from Neimans or Nordstroms. Just a little something. And when you give it to them, don’t just say, “Here, I think you know what it means.” Say, “I love you” and write “I love you” out.
The next word I told you to write is feel. We need to feel love. Our response should be to appropriately touch others. Appropriately touch others. I am not talking about inappropriate touch. Don’t even go there.
You know I am not a big hugger. Some people I see these days are hugger muggers, looking for someone to hug. Six years ago our church was brand new. We had about 150 people showing up and I knew them all, even the names of their dogs and cats. A young couple came by the church and I went over to their apartment to visit them. We had great conversation. As I was leaving I stuck my hand out with the intention of saying how much I had enjoyed the visit. But both of them said, “Oh, no. A handshake will not do, Ed. We are huggers.” And they grabbed me like a defensive lineman grabs Troy! Appropriate touch. Appropriate touch speaks volumes. Jesus was the master of touching appropriately. He picked up little children and told people to have faith like a little child. He touched lepers before he healed them. He was always touching people. Just a touch can communicate so much power and so much love.
Now and then we will have special services at our church where the pastors will actually pray for someone who is sick or dealing with a difficult circumstance or situation. We will lay hands on their head and pray for them. There is something powerful about the touch.
The final word I told you to write is the word know. We should identify with others. We should dive deeply into their lives. The Bible says in Romans 12:15 that we are to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. It also says in Galatians 6:2 that we are to bear one another’s burdens. In other words, as I join in deeply with you, as we do life together, I am going to be the first one there to express my love to you when things go well. When you get the promotion, receive the windfall, have the baby, I am going to give you the high five and give you an appropriate hug and touch. Also when things kind of go south, when you lose your job, experience a death in your family, I am going to be there to identify with you.
This past March our family were having dinner when we got the dreaded phone call, a phone call that we will all get one day. Lisa’s father had suddenly died. Lisa’s dad was like a second father to me. After the call we had about an hour to get to DFW airport to catch the flight to Columbia, SC. We didn’t even have time to get spending money from the bank. We did throw some clothes into a suitcase. Two friends of ours that we love dearly, a husband and wife team, heard about the situation and immediately drove over. They were just there. The words that they said were not that important. They were just there. They took us to the airport and offered us money to use on the trip. And I will never, ever forget them for being there. They identified with us.
I ask you. I ask you, who do you need to say I love you to in your life. Communicate it creatively and boldly back it up because these three words are words that can change your life.