Friday, December 18, 2009

Does God Really Love Me?

"I heart love because its the one thing that the Bible says God is...I think we forget that sometimes...He loves already and there's nothing we can do to take that away...If we can only understand who God is and what He is, we can comprehend love... He is everything that we are not...He's not a passive love, but a love that passes all understanding and is eternal.

Todd McVicker is a guest speaker at Fusion in the "I Heart" series to talk about his love for love. "I love turkey!" This Thanksgiving, Todd and his family had Cajun Fried Turkey. Yum. Every year, Todd and his wife go to Columbia, SC, to his wife's parents' house to do absolutely nothing. They just rest and relax. This year, there were some extra people who joined them and Todd was talking about the conversation and the fun. There was this one guy, about 30 years old, at the table and Todd asked him what he did for a living. The guy worked at Lowe's as a stock person. Well, in the conversation, Todd's wife asked the guy what he was passionate about and his answer was, "my passion was taken away a long, long time ago." It was almost painful to here those words coming from a young and capable guy.

"I'm passionate about music, my wife about Fusion. I think I'm passionate about a lot of things. But as I thought about what I really "Hearted", I realized that what I really love is "Love"." There are so many horrible headlines out there. There is war and grief and depression. There is such depression that love can be so refreshing. The world needs love. "I'm the guy that cries at the Disney movies. It's me...I'm the guy that listens to the one song that repeats for an hour because something's going on..." Todd then starts talking about a video he saw that caused him to "bawl like a little girl". When he first saw it, it was fun, but by the third time he watched it, he physically broke down wondering what it was that touched him so much about a random viral video. God seemed to whisper to him that, at that moment in the video, war didn't matter, divorce didn't matter and depression didn't matter because someone thought to put together a stupid dance and get as many people together to do it. It was people celebrating life through dance. Somebody cared enough to give these people and anyone watching a wonderful experience. Here is that video:

"There's a story in the Bible that absolutely fascinates me" says Todd. It's the story of Hosea, a prophet of God. This guy would tell his people anything God would instruct him to, whether good or bad news. Unfortunately, back then there was a lot of bad news. Hosea was minding his own business one day and God gives him a unique message, but its not a message that God wanted him to tell the people, rather it was a message God wanted Hosea to live out. It was a story about how Hosea is instructed to marry a prostitute named Gomer and how God wants him to unconditionally love this woman. It seemed like, for a while Gomer was going to turn her life around. They married and had children, but then she got bored. She decided to go back to her old ways. Time and time again, though, God told Hosea to pursue her and love her despite her betrayals. God wanted to demonstrate through Hosea how he loves his people despite their constant betrayal of Him as the one true God. God could through his hands up in the air and abandon us, but God isn't that way. He is the true meaning of love.

Hosea 2:13-16 - "I will punish her for the days she burned incense to the Baals; she decked herself with rings and jewelry, and went after her lovers, but me she forgot," declares the LORD.
Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. 'In that day,' declares the LORD, 'you will call me 'my husband. You will no longer call me 'my master.'

"I don't know about being a master, but I do know about being a husband. I remember watching my wife come down the aisle and thinking I would do anything for her." A master will tell you what to do but a husband is an image of love for his bride. God being a "husband" to us was a strange concept to Todd when he first became a Christian because he, like many Christians, saw God as the boss and as the master. But a master is someone who can be disappointed and someone who can fire you.

The relationship God seems to be describing is a relationship like what Adam and Eve experienced with God. They walked in the cool of the day in the garden and they got to speak with God face to face. It was Paradise. Yet, even in Paradise, mankind betrayed God.

We saw the same thing with the Israelites. God showed up with Moses, miracles and might to pull His people out of Egypt. But not even months later, some of the Israelites were already building idols in defiance of God. All throughout the Bible, in fact, we watch people get pulled towards God, but then they push him away.

Today, we hear John 3:16, "For God so loved the world..." Blah, blah, blah. We think to ourselves, "Yeah, yeah, I know... He loves me. We got that. These days, we've been so desensitized to even the word "love". We hear "All you need is love", "Love lifts us up where we belong", "Love is a battle field". Love has become a catch phrase; a slogan. We take this huge concept of love and then say we love McDonald's and use the same word when we say we love our spouse!

But the truth of love can be found in the Bible, which is written in 3 languages. Hebrew, Aramaic and then in the New Testament, the primary language is Greek. What Greek does is it takes this huge concept of love and assigns three words to it. Each word is unique. "Eros" is the root word where we get "erotic". It is a deeply intense sexual love and a passionate love. "Phileo" is where we get the name "Philadelphia". It means brotherly love and deep friendship love. Then there is another love. But this kind of love not in the same league as the others. This love is "Agape". God is "agape". It's a selective, unconditional love with no strings attached. God so "agaped" us, He gave his son. This is the kind of love we don't understand so much. The only kind of love like this that we can relate to might be our parents, but what happens when they are mad or when they act harshly? We associate their reactions with what we think is what God would do and He often responds very differently.

We see the love of our parents and that is what we come to understand love to be. But then we experience new love in school and we quickly learn that this love is not the same as our parents. The "love" in the real world can be very painful and it can drive people away. No wonder, when we experience God's "love", we think we better be on our best behavior. We are afraid that He will hurt us like the world has. Because we know very well what conditional love is, it's then hard to relate to God's unconditional love.

Romans 8:38-39 says, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

It's hard to figure this thing out. Let's look at this. Think of what a healthy heart looks like. It absorbs everything; the good, the bad and the ugly. It's like a sponge. But, then there's an unhealthy heart. God takes His awesome agape love and pours it into this heart, but years of rejection and hurt and pain lined this person's heart and it cannot easily receive God's love. It can be extremely difficult. But God continues to pour out His unconditional love, even to the heart that can't receive.

If we have a healthy heart, it is able to receive the abundant love of Christ. Unfortunately, most of us do not have healthy hearts. Our hearts are wounded, broken and in need of love. God takes His love and pours it in, but there is nothing to keep it there. It is a broken heart. So, tonight we have to focus on how we see God. How do we fill our hearts when they are broken?

I) We need to understand what God thinks about us.

The only way we can do this is we have to read His Word. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

1 John 4:16-18, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." Somehow, we need to get His meaning of love down in here; down in our hearts.

II). Let God love you.

There isn't anything that can take the place of God. One of Todd s favorite stories is the story about Samuel. His mother had begged God for a son and when God finally blessed her, she literally gave her son back to God and gave him to the faith. One night, years later, when Samuel drifted off to sleep, he heard a whisper. Samuel got up to ask one of the priests what they wanted, but the priest said he had not called. Samuel goes back to bed, but then hears another whisper, so he goes back to the priest and asks what he wants again. It strikes the priest that this might be God whispering to Samuel. So, the next time there is a whisper, Samuel stays still and says, "Yes, Lord. I am here." God then pours his heart out to Samuel and Samuel goes on to spend more and more time with God and ends up living an incredible life.

We need to let go of many of the things that distract us from God and we need to focus on Him so that He can give us His amazing love and we can receive it and live amazing lives in it.

III) Respond to God.

Todd gets to get up on stage at Fusion every Wednesday. He has led worship 10 years. There is nothing like it to be able to worship openly with God. But sometimes, even in worship, there is a struggle with people, sound, mikes and the stage. Without all that, worship is a response to God. There is nothing more encouraging than seeing people who are truly in a response to God in worship. We worship because it gives us a glimpse of Him and a faint idea of how much He loves us.

A few years ago at Fusion, they did a series that was called "How Far We've Come". It looked at the church as a whole and each ministry. It was about where they had been, where they were and where they were going. One of the coolest things about the series was they got to do a lot of special video projects. They drove around the country capturing memorials and memories of the country.

One day, they drove to Charlotte NC and they were looking at a library built by or for Billy Graham which was amazing. It was mind blowing. In his tour Todd was drawn to a tiny TV showing Billy preaching at this stadium. Billy Graham's signature was how he would boldly speak the Word of God. What he "hearted" was Evangelism. Now, as Todd was watching, Billy was a little more subdued and he was about to give his altar call. As he was speaking, he stops and looks up and says "He loves you". Todd's first thought, which surprised him, was "no He doesn't, not really. Why did he say that to himself? It was like he was betraying his beliefs and his career. Here he was on staff and still not believing that God could love him. It was like time stood still. His heart was waging this war inside. Did he really believe God loved him?

He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. These were the words of Billy as people in the stadium begin to HEAR it, believe it and come forward to receive it. Almost in response to his own doubt, Todd was broken inside.

The message is the same to us here. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.

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