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Sermon of the Week 
Tuesday, May 03 2016


    I begin with the question…What is love?  Here’s some answers which I submit for consideration and much of it I have had to learn the hard way, But hindsight can be very profitable….

    Love is silence--when your words would hurt and not heal. It is patience--when your neighbor is venting on you in a moment of weakness…It is deafness--when a scandal flows and gossip abounds. It is thoughtfulness--for another person’s flaws and broken places. It is consistent—when duty calls and it may be inconvenient. It is courage--when misfortune falls or others are at risk.

    A missionary found a starving mother lying on the ground and in her arms she held a young child. He placed a cooked sweet potato into the mother’s outstretched hand, and wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged the gift. The sweet potato could help so little -- but it was all the missionary had to give.

    Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her young child's mouth, she forced the soft warm food into the tiny throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was fed and asleep. He later learned that during the night the mother's heart stopped, but her young child had lived.

    Love is a costly thing. God, in His love for us (and for a lost world) "spared not His own Son" to show the world about Agape love.

    The Greek word “agape”, seems to have been virtually a Christian invention -- a new word for a new thing and in the earth, it is almost non-existent before the New Testament dawned. Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection, however, intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit    

    Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, v23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. v24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. v25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”.

    It is a matter of the will combined with a Godly passion for people, rather than a feeling, because Christians are called by God to love even those they may not like living, in the natural -- It is a basic, foundational  element of Christ-likeness.

    Some years ago, a noted Christian doctor and psychologist, was seeking the cause of many of his patients' prolonged illnesses. One day he called in his clinical staff and proceeded to unfold a plan for developing, in his clinic, an atmosphere of creative love. He referred to the Agape or unconditional love, which is described in the bible.     

    All patients were to be given large quantities of love; no unloving attitudes were to be displayed in the presence of the patients, and all nurses and doctors were to go about all their work in and out of the various rooms with a loving attitude. At the end of six months, the time spent by the patients in that institution was cut in half.

That atmosphere of loving acceptance and joyful welcome, should abound in every Christian church. Jesus called it the “Whosoever” attitude, which welcomes all people, everywhere.

    Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, v45 That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven”.

    Our church should be like the boy who was in the Christmas story reenactment. He was given the roll of the landlord at the Inn, who turned Mary and Joseph away, because there was no room. When the pageant was presented, and it was time for Mary and Joseph to knock on the door and ask him if he had a room for them. The boy smiled politely and said, "Why, Yes we do, we’ve got lots of room, please come on in!" He didn’t want to turn them away, and didn’t want anyone to feel left out!!!

    The greatest difference between “Agape” and Phileo, is that Phileo involves a voluntary “I feel like loving you” and Agape involves an involuntary “I can't help but love you no matter how I feel” response. There is no command to love in scripture that ever uses Phileo, it always uses Agape, when it is God’s requirement of us as His children.

    The feelings of love, must be constrained by the capacity to love. You see, the feelings of love, may be very random, irrational, and disloyal. They can easily go from I love you, to when I’m not with the one that I love, I love the one I’m with….. So I am limited by my capacity to be loving.

    What, you say!!!!??? Yes, I need to understand my capacity to be loving puts conditions on my feelings of love….True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed in the moment. It is a committed, thoughtful, deliberate decision that I make. It is a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present.     

    How many men and women have gotten in trouble, because they met a person who strongly attracted them, they enjoy being with that person, and even started developing an affection for them, but they didn’t understand that the capacity for them to do that put a limit on the feeling that might cause them to do it, because it would be destructive to their marriage or the relationship they have with someone else, to have an affair.

    Their feelings of love may be unbounded, but their capacity to be loving is limited. They have put conditions on the feeling of love, because it would violate their commitment which determines their capacity….

    So they must lead their heart and not let their heart lead them.

Puppy love is something that happens to millions of people. Love at first sight is easy to understand. But it's when those same two people have been looking at each other for 20 years and still get palpitations, that it is truly a miracle!

    You cannot expect someone to love you unconditionally when you keep asking them why they love you…. When you do that, it’s a contradiction, because you keep putting conditions on something that you need and want to be unconditional.

    A pastor was in the deep south, for a series of meetings, and it was his first time in the South. After staying in a motel overnight, he stopped at a nearby restaurant for breakfast. When the meal was delivered, the pastor saw this white, mushy looking stuff on his plate. When the waitress came by again he asked her what it was. "Oh, that’s Grits", she replied. "I didn't order it and I'm not paying for it". He said… "Sir, she said, down here you don't order it and you don't pay for it, you just git it."

On God’s end of things, that’s the way His unconditional love is, “You just get it”!!!

    And yet, it appears that the apostle Paul, is qualifying “Unconditional Love” in Philippians 1:9 “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. v10 That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. v11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God”.

    You see, while it is true that God’s love IS unconditional from His end of the equation, it is also true that on our end, something in us must change for us to truly receive this unconditional offer of the Agape kind of love, and be able to express it in our actions and motives.

    Let’s say I walk up to you and you are carrying two large boxes filled with stuff that you value. I am holding two other boxes filled with cash amounting to $10 million in large bills. I offer these boxes to you freely, without charge. No strings attached. My offer to you is unconditional. Simply take them, they are yours. So, my offer is unconditional. However, from your perspective there is a condition.

    You must first put down the boxes filled with all the stuff you value, so that you can take the boxes filled with 10 million that I offer.  So in reality, there is a condition you must meet to receive my unconditional offer. MY offer is unconditional but you must still meet a condition.

    Your full arms must be emptied in order to receive it. The condition is not on my side but on yours. God loves because God IS love and that is what Love does, it loves. We may fail to be able to experience or accept that level of love, and that inability may at some time diminish to Eros or Phlio carnal love.

    Listen, the world needs more than just a group hug to heal what is broken, But God never stops offering His Agape love, He never stops loving. How could he? God does not merely have love, He IS love.

    The Father’s offer is unconditional. But for you and me, from our side of the equation, there is a condition. We must let go of the hate, the resentment, the anger and the gratification of getting even with someone, in order to enter into it.

    During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound at the appointed time . The soldier's fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great hammer of the bell to prevent it from striking and instead of striking the rim of the bell, her body took the all the hammering. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands, and the bruises on her head and body. Cromwell's heart was touched and he said, "Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Because of her sacrificial love, Curfew shall not ring tonight!"

    The love of God is always flowing, but there must be some redemptive work on the conductor in order for the Agape of God to complete it’s circuit in and through us….A copper wire is a conductor of electricity, and it connects the source to the necessary outlet. But if there is a short in the wire, the current is not able to reach it’s desired objective. Likewise, we can become shorted out by carnal emotions, appetites, motives and pursuits, so that we become flawed conductors of His love, and operate in Eros or at best Phileo.

    I came across a letter written by a young woman, who was trying to make amends to someone they had loved and lost….it says….

    “Dearest Jimmy, No words could ever express the great unhappiness I've felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you'll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I made a very foolish mistake, in failing to recognize the good thing I had. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie. P.S., And congratulations on willing the state lottery”

   We can accurately measure our love for God by our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. So that loving God, is never a separate issue from our other relationships and it is inseparably linked to how we love others.

    Should the absence of love in others, affect our ability to love? Perhaps I could say it another way…. If folks around you choose to stay dirty and smelly, and never use soap to clean up and smell better…..does that keep you from using soap? Well, it’s the same with love!

   There are many who have bought into the sloppy Agape fuzzy love, I’m talking about the sentimental notion of unconditional love that is expressed in the old popular song which says, "Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live, he'll always say, 'I forgive." This is fuzzy romanticism and cheap (if you stroke the cat it purrs) grace, not the good news of Jesus Christ.

    Unconditional love does not mean unconditional salvation. No matter what, “God loves you”, is not the same, as no matter what, you will be saved....On the other hand, God can do everything, except make us love Him. Because if love was an obligation, then it would not and could not be the Agape kind of love.

    God’s love is constantly doing all that it is possible for God’s love to do… But the burden of our ultimate salvation rests fully upon our obedience. It is the message of the cross….If we want to be saved, we must repent of our sins, and ask to be forgiven, and invite Him into our lives. This means nothing less than giving Him the permission to speak His will into our daily journey….

    When I fall He lifts me up, When I fail, He forgives, When I am weak He is strong, When I am lost He is the way, When I am afraid He is my courage, When I stumble He steadies me, When I am hurt He heals me, When I am broken He mends me, When I am blind He leads me, When I am hungry He feeds me, When I face trials He is with me, When I face persecution He shields me, When I face problems He comforts me, When I face loss He provides for me, When I face loss He provides for me, When I face death He carries me home, He is everything for everybody, everywhere, every time and in every way. He is God, He is faithful, I am His and He is mine!!!

    A parent can love their children unconditionally, which means no matter what they do, they still love them….but if that parent’s unconditional love ignores the fact of the cross, and the salvation which it offers….when the child ends up in a place, separated from God and their Christian parents forever in a place called Hell, then the unconditional love from the parent, was not enough to save them.

    God loved us enough to provide a way so that we can receive the benefits of His love for all eternity, by making available to everyone a bridge into forever with Him called the cross.

    Simply by being alive, we receive the benefit of God’s unconditional love, but simply being alive will not save us or qualify us for heaven.

    Let me declare to you, that the unconditional love of God, is inseparably  bound to the unconditional promises of God….. We have a living word that liberates from guilt, evokes hope, and opens fresh possibilities for love and life. God’s love aligns itself with God’s promises…..

    It is the good news—good, wonderful, exhilarating, transformative, and deifying, because it is true for whosoever, whenever, whatever, wherever, and however. God’s promises are be absolute and unconditional, and entirely and utterly free of “if’s” or “buts” and “maybe’s” of any sort. God said it and that settles it, if I believe it or not!

No wonder the man said to Jesus “I do believe, Lord help my unbelief”!

    I don’t really get it, until I am able to hear God’s promises and I can say “Therefore, this is how it will be” …according to the unconditional promises of God… in spite of all that I see, hear, or feel and all considerations to the contrary.”

    “I am happy, I am wealthy, I am secure, I am positive, I am blessed, I am grateful, I am God’s amazing creation, I am confident, I am courageous, I am worthy, I am highly favored, and I am excited about God’s promises”!   I must believe this, because of His unmerited grace and favor, no matter what I see or what I feel, or what I think!

    If we never speak the promises of God as an unconditional contract we have been given, in the name of Christ, then we have simply never really spoken the gospel.

    I like what Gerhard Forde says….”Faith is a way of life”. Because the gospel is performative declaration— it changes the articulated world which its hearers inhabit, and thus it changes the hearer himself—it generates the kind of response we cannot easily describe: faith is just breathing and thinking and sensing and feeling and trusting and doing—all on the basis of the gospel. Faith is living in the language of the kingdom. “The faith by which one is justified”, “is not an inactive verb, it is a state-of-being verb. Faith is the state of being grasped by the unconditional claim and promise of the God who calls into being, that which is formed from that which is not”.                        

    Since God’s love and His immutable promises are unconditional, and flow from Him without having to depend upon any condition outside of Himself, they are a manifestation of His unconditional grace….

    We become God's sons according to God's will, long before we made a conscious choice to accept His Son Jesus…(does that sound like a contradiction..?

    Ephesians 1:5-11 “We have forgiveness according to His grace, which He made to abound to us, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself . We inherit all things according to His purpose, and He works all things according to His will”.

    God’s will from the beginning was that we all be children of God and heirs of all things, but this does not eliminate the exercise of our choice, for there are two words which connect us to the unconditional grace, love, and promises, flowing out of the very person of the Godhead.

    Those two words are alignment and obedience…Obedience is what aligns us, with what is flowing forth out of the Godhead, on a constant basis, without limits and without measure.

    A millionaire, was speaking in a local church, and he said, " I attribute my wealth to the rich blessings of God in my life, which began at a turning point in my faith. Bless God, it’s like it was yesterday in my mind.” You see, I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a church meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told about his work, among the poor and needy. I knew that I only had a dollar bill and had to either give it all to God's work or nothing at all. So at that moment I decided to give my whole dollar to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today." As he finished saying that, it was clear that everyone had been moved by his story of giving everything he had. But, a little old lady sitting in the front pew stood up and said: "Hallelujah, that’s a wonderful story! Now I dare you to do it again!"  God wants to do it again, and again, and again!!!!

    If someone announces that they are giving out free cruise tickets to Hawaii on the corner of Roosevelt Blvd and Kennedy Dr….you can stand on the corner of Flagler Ave. and Fifth St. all day long and I can promise you, you won’t get one! That’s about alignment…..

    The Bible contains many examples of people who received God's blessings by grace, yet they had to align themselves through obedience.

    God told Israel, as they came to Jericho, in their journey to the promised land. “I have given Jericho unto you”…. But to receive the gift, the people had to march around the city once each day for six days and seven times on the seventh day, blow horns, and shout. And when they did so, the walls fell down and they took the city.

But it is still grace, because the conditions did not earn the gift, the conditions aligned them with the promise through obedience.

    Elisha told Naaman, the Syrian general, to dip 7 times in Jordan and his leprosy would be cured. Naaman eventually did as he was told and was cured. But it was still grace, because the conditions did not earn the gift, the conditions aligned him with it through obedience. Have you been baptized, because baptism is first and foremost about alignment….

   With only 300 men, Gideon defeated an innumerable host of Midianites. It wasn’t his idea, it was God’s alignment idea….Gideon was to send everyone home who was fearful and afraid and who got on their knees and put their face In the water to drink. It was a condition, but it was still grace, because the conditions did not earn the gift, the conditions aligned them with it through obedience.

    A large sum of money was given to a ministry overseas to distribute to  poor pastors who labored there. Thinking that the amount was too much to send all at once, the accountant took just a part of the money, with an encouraging promise that said simply, “More to come.” In a month the ministry received another envelope containing the same amount and with the same message, “More to come.” Each month, there came another and another, with those hope filled words, “More to Come”.

    God’s unqualified grace, love, and promises, always come to us with the words “More to Come”…. because they are not only unqualified, they are also inexhaustible!!!!         

    Because of this, I know that God will show up and do amazing things in each of your lives. Life is a gift, so treasure it; Life is an adventure, so explore it; Life is a Lesson, so keep learning it; Life is a puzzle, so continue to solve it; Life is a game; so enjoy it; Life is a struggle, so face it; Life is beautiful, so embrace it; Life is an opportunity, so take it; Life is a gift, keep on unwrapping it!

    Child of God, Trust Him, for He doesn’t call the qualified, but He qualifies the called! He will use you in great and amazing ways as His instrument of blessing in the earth, not because you’ve earned it, and not because you deserve it, because you don’t. But because He has chosen you, just because He loves you with unqualified grace and love and will honor His unqualified promises to whosoever, however, whatever, wherever and whenever, as we align ourselves with Him through obedience.

    He will work through you, with you, and in spite of you… for the sake of Jesus His Son, our Savior.  He’s the God of many chances. He’s the God of supernatural positioning. We can trust the One “who redeems our life from destruction, who crowns us with lovingkindness and tender mercies”. Do you accept this as yours from God today?

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