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We are a TEAM!

Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like there are more weddings in the summer up here in the northland than at any other time of year. Perhaps for some its the Gazebo. You wouldn't want to do a wedding there in February. My wife and I got married in Duluth in February at the Gospel Tabernacle. Anyway, in this and the next article I want to explore the flip side of being loved.

Let's begin with God. You knew I'd do that didn't you? Well, I think it's important to keep in mind that God truly loves us. Even when we screw up for the fifty-eleventh time and begin to harbor hate feelings about ourselves. Have you ever had moments where you "hated" yourself? Well you can be assured that God doesn't join you in this. Now if sin has entered into the situation we need to keep in mind that God's love does not excuse sin. If God wanted to excuse sin He wouldn't have allowed his Son to endure the Cross for us. God takes sin seriously. I think John Newton nailed it in his song, "Amazing Grace", when he included the line, "Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fear relieved," Think about this. I do often. We are loved, but that's not the end of the story. The flip side of being loved is to love. Returning the favor of God's loving us by loving others, loving each other. John wrote in 1 John 4:19: "We love because He first loved us" (NIV).

Now I want to explore this flip-side of love out of 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a in the J.B. Phillips translation. But before I do this I want to raise up three words that surround, or under gird love. If we do not allow these three words to become a part of our love-life we will be greatly handicapped in our ability to love others, or to love at all in the biblical sense of the word.

The first word is JESUS. Humankind didn't think up love. Neither did Hollywood. Boy, that's for sure. Check out any edition of the National Intruder, er, I mean Enquirer. Love comes from God, it's the essence of his character, and he fleshed it out through His Son. He made love observable. We may not be able to write down a definition of love, but we can know real love when we see it, and better yet, when we experience it. John gets to the core of love when he writes in 1 John 4:9-10: "God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world (The Message has it that "The Word-Jesus became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood"--John 1:14) so that we might have eternal life through him. Love brings life, not death! John continues: "This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice for our sins." I heard a speaker say one time, "Even after being married for ten years I never knew how to love my wife until I met (gave his life to) Jesus." What a great prerequisite for marriage (and of course having a family).

The second word is, SACRIFICE. Did you make note of that word in the I John scripture? The bible writers had a hard time talking about Jesus without using the word, sacrifice. In fact they couldn't do it. Even the Old Testament prophets couldn't sidestep the word, sacrifice, when writing about the Promised Messiah.

Sacrifice is the giving up of one's self for anther person's highest good. It seeks (its an effort) to put the others needs before our own rights. Boy, if this isn't important to marriage. Sacrifice is an essential word on the subject of love.

The third word I want to look at is DEEDS. Love is not just a funny or fuzzy way of feeling. I know that this flies in the face of what we hear about love; especially when young people are told what they are feeling inside, and they may be (I'm not attempting to put down feelings of love), but there's more to it. Have you ever noticed that feelings aren't the major subject of wedding vows?

One time a fellow Covenant pastor told me about a couple who were attending his church, and came to him and asked if he would marry them. They were already living together. He told them that before he would agree to marry them he wanted to take them through a "Prepare Enrich" marriage inventory. They agreed. When he received the results back from Minneapolis there were so many "red flags" raised that he couldn't perform their wedding. The girl continued to attend church, the guy did not.

Two weeks later the girl came to him and said that she and her boyfriend had broken up. In the meantime she had been listening to a tape on love and marriage, and was so impressed that she took it over to her now ex-boyfriend's, house so he could also listen to it. When he answered the door she explained why she had come over. He took the tape, snapped it in two and told her to get out of there. He never wanted to see her again. In two weeks his feelings had changed that much. God saved this young lady from a destructive marriage.

Feelings, in and of themselves, are not the measure of true love. Love will always manifest itself with deeds - - love actions. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul writes that you can have deeds without love – even religious, church deeds – but you cannot have love without the deeds of love. So what do these deeds of love look like? I thought you'd never ask. I think Paul nails them in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8a. J.B. Phillips, in my opinion, does a remarkable job of bringing them to life out of the Greek for us. It's my favorite translation of this scripture. Here's a preview from verse 4: "This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience – it looks for a way of being constructive." I hope you'll join us next week as we delve into this remarkable scripture. It was the scripture that Julie and I spent some serious time with before we committed ourselves to each other and to God in marriage. That was 51 years ago!

Until next time,

Pastor Joe


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