A little girl from the village in Bedfordshire, England wrote a positive responsive postcard to her sweetheart who lived in Clifton, just 15 miles away. She said she was in response to his love. That postcard written, in 1910, was delivered in 1969, fifty-nine years later! The poor sweetheart never knew of the loving response. He died in 1929. It was a case of an undelivered message of love.
How would you like to get a dozen roses for your wife and have them delivered to the wrong house? Or delivered fifty nine years later? They wouldn't look like much, would they. We like to have our love delivered on time. They never got married.
We need to express our love. I have known husbands, and I could give you some names, who think it is wrong to tell their wife those three words: "I Love You." "I said it when we were married. No need to keep repeating it. I'm in it. If things change, I'll let you know." They just don't believe in that. I think love needs to be expressed. No wonder there is so much divorce. I guess you are aware that Tennessee is fourth in the nation for divorce. And, by the way, Chattanooga is number one in the nation for strokes. This is what somebody from the Heart Association told me this week at the Kiwanis Club. I wonder if that has something to do with what I'm talking about. I don't know. In our scripture reading, John 15:12-13, Jesus says we can do better: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
I will tell you that modern love is lacking. In the Reader's Digest it tells about two girls ages five and six, were playing "wedding." Do you ever play wedding? I think there are some who play at it. They were playing "Wedding" and their mother overheard the vows. They were at the point of the vows in the wedding. One of the little girls said, "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will be used against you. You have the right to have an attorney. You may now kiss the bride." - February 2003 Readers Digest page 103. There's a lot of wisdom, you know, in that.
There is a great lack of genuine love and an expression of love today in the home. And it's a shame. Even in homes with both partners, there is a monumental lack of love. And not all home have that. I guess you are aware that 48% of all American households have only one adult in the home? 22,000 Grandchildren live in the home of their grandparents. Almost 40,000 children age 25-34 still live with their parents. This is called the boomerang generation. You just can't get rid of them. Many probably wonder if the nest will ever be empty. Almost one out of every three children you see lives with only one parent in the house. See World Almanac 2003, p. 405-407.
This is a different paradigm than we have faced before. "The home ain't what it used to be," as somebody said. It is time for genuine love.
You've probably read about this story. I think Paul Harvey mentioned it. One day police entered a house and found Mary Beth huddled naked in one corner of a small filthy, foul smelling bedroom. One thin little wrist was tied securely to a bedpost with an electric cord. Her lips were split and swollen from abuse. As authorities carried her carefully out. As they did so, they carried her past her mother, and their eyes met each other. And the little girl made this statement: "Mommy, if I die, then will you love me?" For Mary Beth there never was a time for love.
But that's not how God is. In John 15:12 Jesus makes a strange command. He says, "My command is this: Love each other, as I have loved you." That's the type of love we are to love each other with. How does God love us? What is His love like? God's love is unconditional. Now you may say, "Well, I disagree with that." But to say it in other words, God always loves us. No matter what we do or how we act or what we say God always loves us.
How do we know that? Come back to Proverbs 17:17. It says A friend loves at all times. How much of the time? All the time! And Who is our best friend? God! So, how often does God love? God always loves you. You can do nothing to stop God from loving you. The highest lesson you can ever learn in this life is that God never stops loving you, no matter what you do. He loves you with an unconditional love. That is just how we must love one another. That's how we should love each other in the home.
We've got to have some method of purging the cold from our hearts and letting the warmth of Jesus love take charge in our life. Chicago used to have a tremendous problem. You've heard of the Chicago River? The Chicago River was one of the most stagnant and polluted rivers in America. Its sluggish currant received the sweepings and scum of the city. There was little flow to carry the evil away. But someone had a bright idea. They said, "You know, why don't we cut through the low ridge between the city and the Des Plaines River, reverse the flow of the Chicago River and drain it on out clear through to the Mississippi River?" And so they did. They spent $15 million dollars to make that cut in the low ridge. They reversed the flow and now they had the entire Lake Michigan to cleanse the river and send it down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. Amazing!
And I will tell you that if your heart has a lot of harshness in it, a lot of foulness in it, a lot of anything but love in it, you can cleanse all that if you allow the Water of Life, Jesus Christ to flow into your life and cleanse away all of the things that are in your life that ought not to be there. We're like the Chicago River. No human heart can purge itself of the evil lurking there. But when the water of life comes in, the once dead life will be forever changed. Jesus Christ is in the business of changing evil polluted loveless hearts into pure sweet ones. Let's look at Revelation 22:1, 2 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, and yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. That river of life provides the life for the New Jerusalem. And that river of life is nothing but a symbol of Jesus Christ. And when you invite Jesus Christ into your life, He can cleanse you of anything that not ought to be there. And your life will be as pure as a crystal. That's how we get cleansed. Your home can be cleansed of the hatred, rage and anger and in its place Jesus can give real LOVE.
The most lonely place in the world is a home that doesn't have love in it. It's pretty tough to live in a house like that where there is always bickering, fighting, kicking, and you know how it goes. That's hard. And I think it's time for Christians to recharge the low voltage in our love batteries. Love your husband. Love your wife. Readers Digest this month said: "Getting married is an incredible act of hopefulness." - Reader's Digest, 2/2003 p. 65. But with Jesus Christ it can work. I believe that divorce would be an endangered species if a man would give as much loving attention to his dear wife as he does to his cars, boats, golf clubs and dogs. If the wife gave as much attention to her husband as she does to television, telephone, and Email. But I'm going to leave that because you might not want me to go too deep right there.
Love reveals itself. It reveals itself to each of us. Love need to be expressed again and again. It can't be just led in and say, "Yes, I love you, but you'll never hear me say that again." By words, deeds and looks, we need to express ut love. Not just to each other, but to our children. They need to hear that. They need to have your arm of love upon their shoulder.
Look at Ephesians 5:28. It makes an amazing statement. ...He who loves his wife loves himself. Inst' that an amazing statement? If you love your wife, you love yourself. Now, we could reword that slightly: If you love your family you love yourself because you family is a part of you. Wouldn't that be a correct extrapolation of this verse? A man who loves his wife loves himself. But if you love your family, you also love yourself. So, therefore, if that's the case, in other words, by loving your teenager you increase your own significance. Love your family.
A small boy kept asking his father, "Dad, can we build a club house in the back yard?" The father said, "We sure can. We'll do it." But the father was involved in business trips and other activities, and would come home and every weekend he was just too tired, or whatever. Anyway, he didn't get the club house built. One day the little boy was hit by a car and rushed to the emergency room in critical condition. The father rushed to his son's side. The boy got worse. Just before he died he said: "Dad, I guess we'll never get to build that clubhouse of ours." What he had really wanted was time for fellowship and love with his father, and it never happened.
1 John 4:7, 8. Dear friends, let us love one another. This is almost like begging, isn't it. "let us love one another. for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. So, we need to love one another.
Now, everyday love can be hard. It's easy for me, you know, when I hear of the woes in Bangladesh, when I hear of all the problems in Africa and the Sudan, and these other places, my heart reaches out to them. But what is hard, my problem is that miserable dog next door that barks all night at my neighbor's house. My problem is when my teenager holds the door of the refrigerator open for three hours trying to decide what he wants to eat. My problem is when that crazy driver that slams on the breaks in front of my car. Love is not hard to do until it gets close to me. When love gets personal then it gets hard. Now, I don't have a dog that barks all night, and I don't have teenagers in the house, but I've had those things that have happened before. And you've had them, too. Love is not hard to do until it gets close to us. When love gets personal, then it gets hard. Things that are said in the home pierce our hearts. And it gets tough. When someone pierces my heart with harsh words, all the love drains out so quickly. And the hatred begins o refill. And there we start and we go at it. This ought not to be the case.
One day I went to the tire store and they were having a sale on some new puncture proof tires. I had never heard of such a thing. "Yes, this tire is puncture-proof. If a nail come through the tread, it will not deflate." And the salesman went on to tell me about it, so I bought a set for my wife's car so she would not have to worry about any of these problems. If a nail pierces that tire, there's some gook or something inside of that tire that will prevent the air from going out. Our heart is like a tire, and Jesus is like the gook in that tire. You are the tire, your home is the tire, your life is the tire, your heart is the tire. When somebody hurls a sharp word at you, it punctures you but that gook, Jesus is in there and will prevent the love from draining out. Do you see how that works? The next time someone hurls a sharp word at you, you don't have to have a blow out. Your marriage doesn't have to go flat and head for the ditch as it thumps along. No. Why not? Because when Jesus lives in your heart Jesus will fill the hole and then the love will stay in.
Come over to Matthew 22:39. This is a summation of the Ten Commandments that Jesus is saying. "The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." I agree that indeed, we should love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. My only question would be, "Could my neighbor stand that much love?" You know we love ourselves. The way some folk pamper their body and dress it in finery and care for themselves you would wonder what would happen if only half of all that affection were given to the neighbors next door.
Love imitates. Remember the old Five-Day-to-Stop-Smoking Plans we used to put on? Now it's Breathe Free. We used to have five films that we would show, one on each day. In one of those films, it had a picture of a man and his son sitting in the beauty of the great out doors. The man, as he sat there, would light up a cigarette. Then it would show the little boy beside him holding a stick, pretending to smoke. The boy was imitating his father. Love imitates. There's not question about that. Monkey see, monkey do. If you love someone you will naturally attempt to replicate what you admire. What we value, we try to copy.
This principle is aptly stated in 1 John 3:16. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Jesus laid down His life for us. So, what should we do? We should lay down our life. Do you see how love imitates? If you love Jesus, you find out what He did, you do the same thing. That's how it works. Love models what love respects. This is the precise reason we preach from this pulpit that the best way to have good works is to fall in love with Jesus. That's how that happens.
We begin to take on each others characteristics. Many times in our marriage my wife and I have had folk walk up to us and say: "You look like brother and sister." That is a compliment. We've all seen it. Two folk who have been happily married for many years seem to favor each other. Love does imitate. I don't want to take that too far because what if a couple doesn't look alike, does that mean that they're not happily married?
One quarrelsome husband and wife were sitting in front of the fireplace. They had had a survival of the fittest type marriage over the year. There were two cats, one on each side of the hearth, pleasantly sleeping. Suddenly the husband piped up, "Why can't we live in peace like those cats?" And the wife snapped back, "Well, you just tie their tails together like we're tied together, and fling them over the clothesline and see what happens."
The Bible says in Amos 3:3 KJV, Can two walk together, except they be agreed? We need to agree.
Love puts others first. A man was parking his new car and as he started to get out he noticed a little boy standing on the sidewalk. The little boy said, "Sir, that's a nice car." The man said, "Yes it is. It's brand new." And the boy said, "Where did you get that nice car?" The man said, "My brother gave it to me." And the little boy said, "Well, I wish..." And the man knew what he was going to say. "Well, I wish I could be a brother like that because my brother is crippled. I would like to give him a car just like yours." That's love, isn't it.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I'll tell you, our love needs to be lined up with Jesus and then it will be the right kind of love. How can we come to church and sing songs of love and praise and then go home and with the same mouth yell out hate at each other? If that is happening to you, then you need to get your life in alignment. We do that with the wheels on our cars.
I was driving in Ooltewah not long ago and I noticed a car going down the road sideways. I thought, "That is the weirdest looking car." I guess it had been in a wreck and the back end was at least eight inches over to one side. And, here it was, going down the road, and I thought, "My that must be terrible on those tires, you know, to drive a car like that. It must be a constant battle to keep that thing on the road, a constant tug of war." And that's the exact problem we Christians have when our marriage is not in alignment with Jesus Christ. We must possess what we profess!
In John 13:34, Jesus said: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." Why would He have to command us to love? Indeed He does. It's a strange thing, you know. We ought to love one another. And if we are in love with Jesus we will love one another.
How should we love? As Jesus loves us so we ought to love each other. Yesterday was the day the world sets aside to focus on love. Valentines day. Today the candy is half price. Valentine cards are half off. Does this mean that Love is out of season? No, love is never out of season. Never! And, I would wish for you more love with Jesus Christ in your hearts, in your homes, among your teenagers, among your children. May you have the love of Jesus Christ in your home.
Back in the third century AD it was a criminal offense to be a Christian. A man was arrested. He was thrown into jail for many years. One day the Jailer asked if the Christian man would help his little blind daughter Julia. He agreed and over the years he taught her history and arithmetic and described the world of nature and its beauties.
One day she asked if God really answered prayer. She wished to pray that God would help her to see. They knelt down together and prayed. As they did suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Julia shouted, "I can see!" And she could! Not long after that the man got ill and finally died. His name was Valentinus. On the eve of his death he wrote a last note to Julia who could now read. In the note he urged her to stay close to God. He signed it: From your Valentine.
(See Adlai Esteb, Straight Ahead, Feb 14).
1 John 3:18. Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.
Hymn of Praise: #12, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee Scripture: John 15:12, 13 Hymn of Response: #588, Lord of All Nations 030215#132
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last updated 2/16/2003 by Bob Beckett.