Sermon delivered September 21, 1996

by Kay Kuzma

McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, TN

Filling Your Love Cup

The greatest need in this world is love. And we can sing because God does love us. Not only does He see the sparrow but He see us in all of our needs. He's willing to meet those needs. You know, He never treats us as we deserve to be treated. That's an incredible thought.

For example: There he was by the well. He saw her coming with water jar. She was going to get some water. But it was in the middle of the day. He didn't actually expect her, I doubt. Nobody came to the well in the middle of the day. His disciples had gone to the village to get some food and things. They were going to be back in a moment. He recognizes her. She's this woman who's been married to five men and working on the sixth. I mean, what a reputation she has. And there He is alone at the well with this woman coming toward Him.

What would you have done if you were that young man at the well? I know what you'd have done. Why, with your friends coming back momentarily, the last thing you'd want to do is get caught alone with her at the well and, the rumors would spread and I know you'd hide behind the closest palm tree and let her get her water and hope that she gets out of there real quickly. But Jesus never treats us the way that we deserve to be treated.

He stayed. In fact, He knew what she needed. She needed to feel valuable, and so He asked for a drink of water from her. To make her feel good, that she could do something for someone else. And you know the story, the conversation that took place. (John 4:4-26) The realization came upon her that no man has ever treated her with such love. And she began to fill up her self with His presence. And she ran back to the city and she said, "I have found the Messiah!" Have you found the Messiah? Have you found the person Who loves you so much that He would give His own life for you?

Love is our basic need. We're all very much like "love cups". When we're full to overflowing, we have enough love to give away. But when we're empty we are miserable. And we so often try to fill ourselves up. Because we equate love and attention, we try to get attention. Children have learned this very quickly. The easiest way to get attention is not by being good... I mean, Mom and Dad are busy at that time and they're just thankful you're good, but, boy just hits brother in the tummy and pulls sister's hair and everybody comes running and you get more attention than you really wanted. But it's negative attention you're soon empty again and... But we are all in desperate need of attention that we will take negative attention rather than no attention at all.

We equate love and attention. So often when we feel empty, we do crazy things like show off, or gossip, of put other people down so we look better. We have a way of trying to get some kind of attention. And yet what often happens is instead of getting filled up, we get emptied. We just empty without thinking by treating people the way they deserve to be treated. We boss them around: "Do this! Do that! Watch out! Shut up!

That reminds me: Children are very much like strings. Now if I put this string out on the table in front of me and push one end of the string in the direction I want it to go.... Does it go nice and straight in that direction? No! It gets all buckled up under the pressured of being pushed. Children are very much the same way. The more you push them in the direction you want them to go the more they tend to resist. Husbands are kind of like that, too, I've found. So instead of pushing, what should we do? Well, lead. Instead of taking this end and pushing in the direction we want it to go we should take the other end and lead it and the string will follow.

What does Psalms 23 say about the good Shepherd? He pushed us to drink from still waters: that was good for us. To lie down in green pastures: that was good for us. No, He leads us, and we need to learn how to lead.

We empty. We criticize. We threaten: If you ever do that again I'll beat you within an inch of your life. Now we don't mean that, but, we're trying to motivate this kid to do what we want him to do. Or we scream. It reminds me of a little boy who came downstairs one time and said, "Mommy, why is it you always quit screaming at me when Daddy comes home?" You see, we don't even want our husbands to know that we lose our "cool" and scream at our children. We know it's not good. If you can imagine getting screamed at by the boss, what would that do? It would empty you immediately.

One mother told me, she was usually very calm, but she saw her children come home in the back yard. She saw them having a mud-ball fight, good school shoes, covered with this red Tennessee mud and she flipped. She ran to the door, she yanked it open, and she started to scream at her children. Suddenly she noticed the neighbor lady planting flowers beside the fence. She didn't want that lady to know that she would scream at her children, so she changed her scream into a song: "Kids would you come into the house today, would you come into the house today." Hopefully if you start to scream, you will start to sing in the right key? So that you can break into a song and not empty another's love cup.

Tracy came to the dinner table one time and she said, "I've changed my name. My name is no longer "Tracy". And the older brothers and sister said, "Tracy's such a beautiful name. Why did you change it?" She said, "Well, if you'd change you name too if all you heard was, 'Tracy do this!' and 'tracy do that!' and 'Tracy, watch out!' and 'Tracy, I can't believe you'd do such a dumb thing!' And so," she said, "I just changed my name. And I'm not going to tell anybody what my new name is." Don't you wish that would just solve all of our love cup problems? We'd never have an empty love cup, we'd just change our names every few weeks. We can't do that. Instead what we need to do is learn how to fill each other up.

There's plenty of love. An unending supply. If we would not treat each other as they deserve to be treated, but treat each other as we need to be treated. As Jesus treats us. If we were going to a place in the scripture to find out how to do this, I can't think of a better place than First Corinthians 13. Did you know when that scripture was read to you.... Did you count the number of things, the characteristics that were given of love? There are fifteen. But if I were to ask you to stand up and tell me what those fifteen were.... Maybe you've memorized it and you could run through the list real quickly, but most of us would say, "Ah! I can't believe fifteen things. I don't remember fifteen things."

Since fifteen things are too many to remember, I brought it down to just five. And if you can write down or remember the acronym, CRAFT, you'll always remember how to love. Because each letter stand for a characteristic of love. I want you to listen to the different ways that you can learn to love.

C R A F T

"C" is for CARE. It's the most basic way. It's love in action. It's meeting another's needs. And when I think of "care" I think of the "Good Samaritan". What if that man had seen the bloody person beside the road and said, "Oh, sir. You're in terrible condition. I can't believe somebody would do this to you. Why, Look! You're bleeding and you're hurt and you can't even stand up. I feel so sorry for you. I just care for you so much. I want you to know that all day long I'm going to be praying for you." And walks away. What would you think of this person? You certainly wouldn't call him, "The good Samaritan" would you? Why was he the GOOD Samaritan? Because he took time to care for the needs of another.

I have wondered why there isn't very much caring going on in this world. And I thought.... Care takes two important ingredients. It always takes our time. And we're so jealous of our time. Why, we want to watch that television program, we want to read this book, or we want to do something else for US. We hardly have any time for the Lord or our family, let alone caring for somebody else. Care always take time.

Many times it also takes money. And we choose not to meet another's needs. There are the physical needs, that's true. But there are also the psychological needs. Just being willing to listen. Care is an important aspect of love.

Then there is the "R": RESPECT. When I think of respect.... To really, truly respect someone, (it says in the dictionary) we show them honor and esteem. Well, you say, "Wait a minute! I know lots of people that don't deserve any honor and esteem. In fact, I live with a couple, myself. I mean, you know them so well that it's had to show them honor and esteem." There was Jesus in the middle of Jericho. A crowd was around Him. Everybody wanted to see Him. People were pushing through the crowd to get a little closer. Maybe, hopeful to even touch Him. There was this little man, Zacchaeus by name. Everybody hated this guy. If there was one person in Jericho that didn't deserve any honor and esteem, it was Zacchaeus. He had stolen from everybody. I know he was a tax collector, but he had taken more than he deserved form everybody and stuck it in his own pocket. No body respected Zacchaeus. And yet, Zacchaeus had an empty love cup and it needed to be filled. So he climbed a tree to try to see Jesus. You can imagine.... Let's say somebody important was coming to town. Everybody is crowding around and you see you see this man in a business suit up in a tree to get a better view, wouldn't you kind of snicker? It would look a little funny, wouldn't it? Well, imagine a man in his business robe up in a tree. And I am sure the people around were snickering as they saw Zacchaeus up in that tree. But nobody would let him through the crowd, nobody! No sir! They didn't respect him enough to do that! But Jesus knew what that man needed. In that culture to really show respect, to really show honor and esteem, you went to the person's house to eat. That was it. And Jesus announced, loud so that everybody could hear, "Zacchaeus, I'm coming to your house to eat today. Come on down!" Do you think anybody in Jericho would ever step inside Zacchaeus' house? Only if they were starving hungry, maybe, but they wouldn't have announced to all the city. Jesus knew exactly what that man needed. And He gave it to him. And Zacchaeus was so filled up to overflowing that he immediately said, "I'm giving back everything that I have taken, plus." He didn't need a lecture. He just needed a little love.

The "A" stands for ACCEPTANCE. Acceptance means, to love, no matter what. To accept a person, no matter what! Unconditional love. Yuri Bronson Brenner says that every child, to grow up psychologically healthy, needs someone who loves them irrationally. Not for what they do, not for what they say, not for their talents, but just because they exist. A study was done in a large Christian university. They found that a number of students were hostile toward the school administration, hostile toward the church administration, hostile to authority, and they wondered, "Why were some students hostile, and others not?" They went back into the research data and they found one significant difference. Those students who were hostile toward authority felt that their parents loved them conditionally, only when they were good were they loved. They would try to be good when they were little kids, and try to walk the straight and narrow and as soon as they would step off and maybe not make their bed or brush their teeth, boy, Mom and Dad would come down hard on them and, oooh, they'd feel they weren't loved and that made them feel hurt but they never did anything about it. And those hurt feelings became more hostile and more ugly as they grew older. If you don't do anything about negative feelings, you're going to have to act them out sometime in the future. Either kids choose to rebel, which many do (I've had it. I don't care what you think, I'm going to do my own thing), or they put those hostile feelings over on a safer authority figure rather than their parents. And they become hostile to the government, hostile to the church, hostile to the school, and of course who is our ultimate authority figure? God.

Can you see how, if their parents don't love them, they can feel that God doesn't love them. There are so many adults that have that feeling. They see God as if they see their father. And they don't feel that their father or their mother loves them and they get all confused. But the beautiful thing is that God loves us no matter what. He loved us first. He accepts us, no matter what we've done. He doesn't say, "Shape up and then I'll love you." No, otherwise how could He have accepted all those twelve disciples that followed Him and did all those things? Peter, after cutting off the man's ear and then denying Him, certainly the Lord should have told him, "Peter, you show me you love me and I'll come through for you." No, no, that's not the way Jesus does things. Jesus loved, no matter what the behavior. And He accepted, no matter what.

The "F" stands for FORGIVENESS. I made a terrible mistake one time. My husband had just gotten a brand new car. Actually we had gone to Europe and picked it up and drove it around Europe a little bit. Then had the car delivered to our home in California. The first day that car was sitting in our driveway, I said to my husband, Jim, "Honey, can I drive it to work?" I was so excited about that car, his car, and he said, "Sure." So I drove it to work. You'll never believe what happened. This cement wall just jumped out at me. I couldn't believe it. There was this crunch, and I jumped out of the car only to find this horrible dent in the back fender. I even tried to wipe it off. I prayed over it hoping it would just pop back out. I knew I was in terrible difficulties. When it didn't pop back out I ran to the phone book and started leafing through the pages tying to find the repair shops. I called the body shop in San Bernardino and asked, "How fast can you fix this dent in this yellow Mercedes?" And they said, "A week of ten days." I said, "No! You don't understand. I've got to have it fixed by five o'clock tonight." And when I realized it wasn't going to be fixed by five o'clock that night I knew I was in terrible hot water. "Now children, I want you to let me tell Daddy what I have done." They were small at that time and at about 4:30 or 5:00 my obedient children went out to the mail box to wait for their Daddy to come home. As he drove in , they stopped him and said, "Daddy, you won't believe what Mother has done!" "What has your Mother done?" "Well, Daddy, it's so terrible, it's so awful, it's so horrible she told us we can't tell you..." "That she dented the Mercedes." So by the time he came in and gave me my usual hug and kiss, he already knew about the dent in his car. I felt terrible about it. I wanted to get it fixed right away. But you know, he was so understanding. He gave me another hug and he said, "Honey, I don't see why we have to get it fixed right away. You might get another dent in it and we can get them both fixed at the same time." Of course we laughed at that. The incident was forgiven and forgotten. You know, that's the way it is with Jesus. He buries our sins as deep as the deepest sea. He doesn't keep bringing them up and flashing them before us. When we ask for forgiveness, they're gone. We can trust Him. Which brings me to the final point.

"T" is for TRUST. Trust is like a two sided coin. Both, we must be trustworthy ourselves, but we need to trust others. Everything that Jesus has said, all the prophecies are absolutely true. If you go the last day events meetings, I can assure you, you will again be astounded at how the prophecies have all come true. We just are down to next one which is Jesus' coming. It's incredible how they've all come true. Jesus is trustworthy.

But the flip side of God's character is that He trusts us to make the most important decision of a lifetime: whether we will accept His gift of love or not. It's already given. He holds it out to us. Jesus has already died on the cross. All we need to do is accept that gift of love. And God trusts us to make that choice. He doesn't do it for us. He doesn't force us. In love He lets us make that choice.

I want to leave you with a beautiful promise. It's my favorite verse. It's found in Ephesians 3:17. And in the Living Bible it says, "May your roots go down deep into the soil of God's marvelous love so you will know how high and how deep and how wide and how long His love really is and so at last you will be filled up with God because God is love." We're each like a love cup, and when we get empty and there is no one else to fill, WE can always say, "Jesus, fill my cup," and He will do that. He will care, respect, accept, forgive and trust us.

     Like the woman at the well, I was seeking
          For things that could not satisfy.
     And then I heard my Savior speaking,
          "Draw from my well that never shall run dry.

     Fill my cup, Lord.  I lift it up Lord.
          Come and quench this thirsting in my soul.
     Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.
          Fill my cup. Fill it up and make me whole.

     There are millions in this world who are craving
          The pleasure earthly things afford, 
     But none can match the wondrous treasure 
          That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.

     So dear people if the things this world gave you
          Leave hungers that won't pass away,
     My blessed Lord will come and save you
          If you kneel to Him and humbly pray:

     Fill my cup Lord.  I lift it up Lord.
          Come and quench this thirsting in my soul.
    Bread of Heaven , feed me till I want no more.
          Fill my cup.  Fill it up and make me whole.

(Kay Kuzma is the coordinator of Family Ministries and is a member of the Bowman Hills SDA Church of Cleveland, Tennessee.)



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