Over the next 7 weeks, we will be looking at 7 areas of culture that God desires to see lived out in this church – in you and me because we are the church.
These 7 areas were birthed out of countless hours of prayer and study – birthed out of countless hours of communication with God. And these 7 areas are my passion because I know that if we live them out we will be living out our purpose here on earth.
If we are active in being the people God wants us to be, we will see a church united in faith that will be pleasing to Him. If we pursue the culture God has so vividly allowed me to see, we will one day stand before God with confidence and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I don’t know about you, but these are the words I long to hear when my time on this earth comes to an end.
Before diving into God’s word, I thought I’d share a true story by Sally Arnett that will lead us into the first area of culture that God wants for LHH.
Love Is Action, Not Feeling
“If I never saw this kid again, Lord, I wouldn’t be sorry!” I thought.
Tears clouded my eyes as I stood in our laundry room. Clenched in both hands were new jeans and a shirt belonging to my 16-year-old stepson, Brett. The clothing was already destroyed from burn holes and vomit stains after a drunken binge.
Exhausted and defeated, I sank to the floor. The clothes were just one more thing Brett had ruined. He had already kicked a large hole in his bedroom wall; his bedcovers were torn. Numerous windows in our house needed repair due to his breaking in to steal money when he chose to live on the street. Yet none of this could compare to the emotional damage Brett had inflicted on our once quiet home.
I knew that Brett’s needs were deep, and I had often prayed for wisdom and love. The second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” had taken on new meaning when Brett came to live with us when he was 12 years old. If I were to love my neighbor, was I not to love my own troubled stepson even more?
During those four years I had dealt with Brett as patiently as possible, but inside I was churning. “I don’t want him in my house another day, Lord,” I cried as I knelt on the laundry room floor. “I just can’t stand him!”
Chest heaving, I poured out my despair. Then God tenderly spoke to me in my weakness. Matthew 25:35-40 rose in my thoughts—Jesus’ declaration that when we invite a stranger, feed the hungry, clothe the naked or visit those in prison, we are doing it as unto Him. For the first time I saw this story in light of the action words. Jesus was saying, “Act. Meet these people’s needs. Through your actions you are loving them and Me.”
God’s encouragement to me that day helped me to gather strength and continue parenting Brett. Still, Brett did not change his behavior.
When Brett was nearly 18, he landed again in Juvenile Hall, this time on suicide watch. Through prayer, my husband, Dave, and I sensed God’s leading to send Brett to a boarding school with a high success rate for helping troubled teens.
The psychological training at Brett’s school was rigorous. Out of more than 20 people in his class, Brett was one of only five graduates.
At the graduation ceremony the graduates stood one by one to thank those who had helped them. Each graduate held a long-stemmed, white rosebud to give to the person who had meant the most to him or her.
Brett spoke lovingly to his mother and father and for the first time took responsibility for the heartaches he had caused.
Finally Brett spoke to me. “You did so much,” he said. “You were always there, no matter what. My mom and dad, I was their kid. But you just got stuck with me. All the same you always showed me such love. And I want you to know that I love you for it.”
Stunned, I stood as Brett placed the white rosebud in my hand and hugged me hard.
At that moment I realized the truth in God’s words to me. Although I had struggled with silent anger toward my stepson, Brett had seen only my actions.
Love is action. We may not always have positive feelings about certain people in our lives. But we can love them.
God says LOVE must be evident in each of our lives, but not through mere words.
And God’s Big Idea for LHH culture from 1 John 4: 7-21 is this: SINCE GOD SO LOVED US, WE ALSO OUGHT TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
How do we do this? How do we love one another? We show it through our ACTIONS. Love – true love, not romanticized feelings – is displayed in our ACTIONS toward others.
And our actions look like this: We GREET with a smile; We see needs and assist; We PRAY; We don’t judge for sin and appearance, but encourage to seek righteousness; We ENJOY and APPRECIATE; We listen and are engaged; and We CARE.
God makes it pretty clear through the apostle John that the church must be a place of love.
Verse 7 – LOVE ONE ANOTHER for love comes from God
Verse 8 – No LOVE! No GOD!
Verses 9-10 – Love FIRSTcame from God
Verse 12 – Love for one another DISPLAYS an unseen God because He lives in us
Verse 16 – LIVINGin love means you live in God and God in you
Verses 17-18 – Live in love! No FEARon the Day of Judgment
Verses 19-21 – Loving God REQUIRES love of man
The culture of LHH must be one of love because the greatest love ever given to this world – to you and me – was an atoning sacrifice for sins through God’s Son, Jesus. If love doesn’t exist – isn’t displayed through us – then we are not the Church.
We must be a people who see all through the COMPASSIONATE EYES of Jesus. We must be a people who are willing to be PATIENT with others God wants to save – for He wants no one to perish. We must be a people who ENCOURAGE one another to persevere in the faith.
Notice I did not say PLACE. Church is not a place, but rather is the people who make up the Body of Christ – for Christ is the Church.
And so we MUST RESEMBLE the One who is Head of His Church. LHH is nothing without this love that Jesus has shown us. And if we say we love Jesus, but have not love for our neighbor, we are liars – not a true representation of the Church of Jesus Christ.
The December 5 devotional by David McCasland in the Our Daily Bread devotional booklet says this about God’s love, “God’s love is not a slowly dripping faucet or a well we must dig for ourselves. It is a rushing stream that flows from His heart into ours. We can draw from the Lord’s inexhaustible source to know His loving care for us, and we can pass it on to others.”
And so this is what we will be. We will be a church that surrounds itself in the love of God so that others may know His love through us. We have no greater responsibility than to show the world the love that has been shown to us.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. (John 3: 16-17)
God loved you and me so much that He allowed the only perfect human, Jesus His Son, to be killed so that we could have life forever.
Shouldn’t we want to show that same kind of love to those God brings into our worlds?