Love Believes All Things

Week 2

Shannon Lovelady
September 30, 2018

Agape love chooses not to be cynical, chooses not to be suspicious... It chooses to forgive. It chooses to see the best, even when that person doesn’t deserve the best, but it speaks the truth.
— Shannon Lovelady

Last week we started this new series in 1 Corinthians 13, and we said that verse seven was going to be our base verse. It says, “Love never gives up. Love never loses. Faith is always hopeful and endures every circumstance.” We talked about that. I liked the way the ESV words it in this situation. It says “Love bears all things. It believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” Last week we talked about this idea of bearing all things. We said that the Greek word literally means "to put a roof over” and it says it “protects what's underneath.” It also “supports what's placed upon it.” So I pray for you guys, as we talk about this idea of a God that loves this self sacrificing type of love. I pray that you guys are taking that to heart and understanding that you have been called to protect those who are placed underneath you. As the body of Christ, we belong to each other. So we protect each other in all circumstances. We believe, as we’re going to talk about today, all things and in all circumstances. 

How many of you have ever had somebody believe in you? Awesome. Maybe an old coach. I remember when I was in high school, I always played forward in soccer. I had played my whole life and then our goalie got hurt one day. The coach in practice said, “Shannon, jump in as goalie.” I was like, “You've lost your mind. I can't be a goalie.” And he said, “Nah, man, I believe in you. I see something in you. I can tell you’ve got catlike reflexes.” He didn't really say that. I'm embellishing a little but he said, “I believe in you.” So I jumped in and got the mess beat out of me for many, many days and weeks. Ultimately, I got pretty good at it and got to go to college. Actually, a little known fact, I’ve got to brag a little bit. I was an all American my senior year as goalkeeper. But the reason being is because somebody believed in me and they took a chance. 

You guys have heard me talk about this a lot and I've mentioned it from the stage before. We were remodeling our house this past year. We had some things that needed to be done. The house was built in 1989, and just needed some updating in some areas. We’ve decided we're staying there for the long haul. It's a great house for grandkids and all that good stuff. And with all the kids I got, I'm sure I've got a slew of them coming someday, Son. Someday! Not yet, I'm way too young. So we were remodeling and our last thing that we had to get done was our bathroom. So we kind of didn't budget correctly as far as subbing that out. So last minute we were like, you know what, we'll just do it ourselves. Man, bad idea, bad idea. 

I've shared this part of the story and it has been about, gosh, almost a year ago now probably. I was in there and I was trying to work on some plumbing and I am not a handyman. I don't enjoy it at all. It is the most miserable thing on the planet for me. I just don't enjoy it. I get frustrated. It's tedious, but the problem is with YouTube nowadays, anybody thinks they can do anything. But it's always way harder than it actually looks on those videos. So I'm working on plumbing. I'm frustrated and in one of my weaker moments, I'm sitting on the bathroom floor and I remember vividly I had the screwdriver in my hand and I hummed it across the room. Y’all are looking at me so judgmental right now. I hummed it across the room and luckily the dog, Natasha, or nobody was around. I knew in that moment it was time to take a break. Natasha actually came walking in and said, “What was that?” I was like, “I’ve got issues,” and she said, “You know what, let's stop.” So we did for six months. We stopped. Y'all think I'm kidding you? I promise you, I'm not kidding at all. 

Here's the reality. This goes back to what we've been talking about and I'm telling you. this is where the Gospel meets the road. I realized in that moment that my external behavior was showing me that something was messed up in my heart. I was craving, I was desiring to be in control. I was frustrated that I wasn't in control. I was frustrated that I didn't feel like I was good enough. I said, “You know what? This is causing some major sin in my heart.” And so we intentionally decided to lay it down for six months. Finally one day back in the spring, I thought, “All right, I think God has worked on me and it’s time to pick it back up and try to finish the thing.” So we got to the shower and I wish I would have made a picture. I'm so proud of the shower, man. It looks so good. It's this tile shower and I even made this little floating bench in it. That was my crown jewel. I was like, “Oh, look what I did.” But the coolest thing about building this shower… well, number one, the shower took forever. Anybody ever start a project that you thought was going to take a Saturday and then it winds up taking like twelve Saturdays, anyone? 

So that's what this shower was doing. Anybody that's ever built your house knows exactly what I'm talking about. That's what the shower was doing and it was just frustrating. As I got to the tile work and getting so close, I just wanted to finish. I just wanted to finish and I was so in over my head. But the beautiful thing was, my wife would come in and say, “Is there anything I can do to help?” I'm like, “No, unfortunately, this is just miserable and only one person can sit in the shower and do it, but thank you. Just pray for me.” But she would come in, no exaggeration, every time I was working on this thing about every thirty minutes or so, and she would walk in. I have piano music going on my little Bluetooth speaker because I felt like, “Oh, this is calming.” That's what I needed, relaxing piano music and raindrops in the background as I'm working on the shower. She would come in and she would just say, “Babe, you're amazing. You're great. Oh, you're just doing an incredible job.” She would just speak words of life into me. She would believe in me and it would make me want to keep going, and keep going, and keep going because she believed in me. She didn't have to do that. She didn't have to choose to believe in me. 

We're going to get a little bit deeper into this idea of love believes all things, today. I want to make sure that we're crystal clear on what this agape love word means. You guys have heard me talk about it before and I rehashed it a little bit last week. This agape love means to lay down your life, to sacrifice, to give up your rights. 

I was thinking about this last week, as I was actually preparing my sermon. I've never looked at it this way before, but I mentioned those four main words that the Greek language uses specifically in the New Testament for love and how specific it is. It hit me all of a sudden that agape love, truthfully, is the only love that we actually choose. Here's what I mean by that. As I was looking at it, I was like, “Wow, I've never thought about it that way before.” 

I have talked before about eros, which is where we get the word erotic from, or it's that romantic type of love. I remember vividly in the fall of 1995 at a soccer game when I met Natasha and she came out with her bouncy little curly hair, and was just tall and beautiful, and my stomach… I didn't choose that. I didn't choose those romantic feelings. I didn't choose that eros type of love. Now you can foster that, but I didn't choose it. It just happened. 

I have talked about even that phileo love, that friendship type of love, that is literally a love that is based on commonality. A love that is based on we like the same things, we enjoy being in each other's company. You don't choose that. It just happens. 

And then I talked about storge, a type of love which is that familial type of love. You parents know what I'm talking about. You don't choose that type of love. I remember when Aidan was born eighteen years ago, August 22, 2000, he was the ugliest kid on the planet. Seriously. Some of y'all know. You remember. Y'all saw pictures. You remember he came out looking like a lizard. I mean he did, bless his heart. He's got my head. Can we just own it? Look at that thing, man. He's got my melon. He had this Gargantuan head. So he came out looking like this with spots all over his face. I mean he was hideous, but he was MY hideous. When I looked at him, I just went, “Oh, he's beautiful.” Don't judge me. Y'all know what I'm talking about when your friend comes up and shows you their beautiful baby and you're like, “Ahhh, yes he is. She's gorgeous. Yes, she is. Sure enough.” Aidan’s stunning, now. He's super handsome. As I've said, he looks just like me. Just kidding, but in all seriousness  with that type of love, you don't choose that familial type of love. It just happens no matter what, right? I mean, I can want to kill my kids, but if YOU want to kill my kids, we’re going to have trouble. Right? You don't choose that, but listen to this.

 Agape, a sacrificial love. Nobody ever accidentally sacrifices themselves. Sacrifice is a choice to lay down your life, to choose. So I want you to really think about this, because honestly, man, today it's going to get real. I'll tell you straight up, I'm preaching to myself. Somebody Thursday night was like, man, you're just kicking me in my teeth. I was like, trust me. I kicked myself in the teeth all week long. First, this is hard. Agape love is hard. Nobody loves the idea of dying. Nobody loves the idea of giving up my rights for you. This idea of sacrifice, it’s not a thing that just happens or that you just hope happens when the time hits, that I'll just act like Jesus just because. No, you choose it. That's the gospel. We choose it. 

So we're going to be in Acts 9 and there's a story of what I believe is incredible. Agape love, specifically choosing to believe all things, choosing to believe all things. We're going to look at this story that happens with a guy name Ananias and a guy named Saul. But I'm going to pray because I truly believe that God's grace just needs to settle on this place, because I know that as I begin to talk about this, people that have hurt you are going to come to mind. People who have intentionally wronged you are going to come to mind. People who have caused great pain and great scars in your life. I want to just pray God's grace over all of us because the reality is, to love the way that Christ love isn't a suggestion, it’s a mandate that he gives us. We don't love people because they deserve it. So you can breathe a little bit. Let me say that one more time. We don't love the way Christ loved because people deserve it. We love the way Christ loved because He first loved us. We have to choose that. So I'm going to pray. We're going to ask God's grace to settle on our hearts a little bit, maybe to break down walls, to open up our eyes and allow us to hear some truth this morning, but in a non-condemning type of way because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

So God, we come before you and we just love you. We thank you for loving us and God, that is why we love. We thank you that you intentionally chose, yet while we were still sinners, to give your life. Why? Because we needed it. Thank you for laying down your life so that I could live. Thank you for dying in my place, for taking the wrath of Father God to the cross so that I can have life and have it to the full. And so God, we just rest in your gospel. We rest in that truth that we don't deserve your love, but you freely give it anyway. So God help us to live in that. Help us to breathe in that and ultimately God, as your followers now, because you first loved us. Help us to love others in that same way. Help us to choose to believe all things in Jesus name. Amen. 

So Acts 9 is where we are going to be and talk about what it looks like for love to believe all things. I want to encourage you to get something to write on, maybe your phone, your ipad, whatever it is that you use. I hope today will be really practical for you to take home. I know that as I'm already talking about this, people are already coming to your mind that you're going, “I don't wanna I don't wanna.” I want to encourage you, like I don't want to either. Okay, but I have to choose to die to Shannon so that Christ can live. So Acts 9 is where we are. 

Just to give you a little bit of backstory, one chapter earlier, this guy named Stephen has just become the first martyr of the church that we know about. He was speaking of who Christ was and they dragged him out to the gates and they just start chunking rocks at him. At that time a Pharisee would never defile himself and make himself unclean in that way. So this guy named Saul stands to the side and holds their coats for them in approval of what they're doing. It says that Saul approved all things. I need you to understand that Saul was this bad, bad guy. He was doing really bad things to people. He approved of the killing of people, and as you'll see in just a second, he actually asked for permission to go all over the place outside of Jerusalem and to find Christians, men, women, and children, and drag them off to jail ultimately so that they could die. That's who this Saul was, but I need you to understand something. Saul was doing it for you know what? He was doing it in the name of religion. He just didn't know any better. Let that sink in just for a second. Saul was killing, stoning, and beating people up in the name of God. 

Now, Christians, I want to encourage us, but I have never argued anyone into salvation. I've never beaten anyone into salvation, into a relationship with Jesus Christ and again scripture is really clear. You want to know what brings people to repentance. Kindness and love. We all need a Savior. It's a matter of fact. Turn to your neighbor right now. Tell him “I need a Savior.” Come on, say it like you mean it, because a lot of us old church folks that have been in church a long time, we forget we need a Savior. We’ve turned to self righteousness and there's no such thing as self righteousness. Our righteousness is filthy rags. Alright? So I need you to understand as we walk this out, let's remember this mistake that Saul made. He thought he was doing a good thing, but he was totally against what God was really wanting to do and he was doing it all in the name of religion. 

So Acts 9 is where we start. It says, “Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and he was eager to kill the Lord's followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus and asking for their cooperation and the arrest of any followers of the way that he found there. He wanted to bring them both men and women back to Jerusalem in chains. And as he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shown down around him and he fell to the ground and he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ said Saul. And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus. The one you are persecuting now. Get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do.’” I want you to think about this. Saul immediately obeyed. 

Guys, I want to tell you, and again you've heard me say this a thousand times. When you meet Jesus and when you truly encounter His grace, there's an immediate response. You don't get to encounter grace and then go, “Now I'm just going to sit back and chill.” If that's your mentality about who Jesus is and what He desires of you is your “get out of hell free card,” you've misunderstood who Jesus is and what his Gospel is really about. Jesus said He had come that we might have life and have it abundantly. You cannot encounter the grace of Jesus Christ and not be changed. And again, you've heard me say this a thousand times, “Are you different today than when you met Jesus Christ?” And if you're not, my challenge is, have you really met Jesus Christ, or is it religion, just like Saul. 

So Saul immediately listens and the men with Saul stood speechless for they heard the sound of someone's voice, but they saw no one. Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind, so his companions lead him by the hand to Damascus and he remained there blind for three days and he did not eat or drink. 

Now, there was a believer in Damascus. His name was Ananias, and the Lord spoke to him in a vision calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he replied. And again, immediately Ananias has the same love for God. He hears from Jesus and immediately he's like, “Yes, what do you need? Here am I, send me?” The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street to the House of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul." Now, some of you guys know exactly how Ananias was feeling right now. Some of you guys have said, even here, maybe in the last few weeks have said, “You know what? I'm all in. I believe it. Here we go. I am dying to self because again, there has to be a death before there can be a resurrection. You have to die to self before Christ can live in. Some of you guys have made that choice and you've said, “Here I am, Lord, send me.” And then God goes, “There's a guy in Tarsus named Saul and you go.” “God, what I meant Lord was, here I am, send me anywhere except this one place to do this one thing!” 

My Dad showed me a letter from an old college professor yesterday that he found when he was digging through some pictures for my mom's 70th birthday and it was this note written by Olin Hay, my preaching professor, my sophomore year in college and again, I was far from the Lord at this time. I just had to take this class because I'm in college and he wrote this note to my dad talking about how great of a job that I did and blah, blah, blah, and everything else. I told my dad, he was lying. I’d never seen that note. I was like that was a bold face lie. I know the last thing I ever wanted to do was speak. The last thing I ever wanted to do! My parents will tell you when we were talking about what am I going to do when I grow up? I said, “I have no idea, no idea, but the one thing I will never do, the one thing I will never do is work for a church.” Yeah. I dare you to tell God the one thing you'll never do. I'm telling you, man, the Gospel is an all an proposition. We don't get to choose. Okay? 

So God says, “When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He's praying to me right now. I've shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” Listen to Ananias’ response. “But, Lord.” But, but, but, yeah, but we love that. When our kids do that right,”Now, what do you need?  I'm telling you what I need, but, but, no buts!” Am I the only one who’s ever said that? “I don’t want to hear any buts.” Anyone? Awesome. I'm just a terrible parent. 

“But, Lord,” explained Ananias “I've heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem. Trust me, the word has gotten out and he's authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” Write this down. Here's what love does. Here's what agape love does. it chooses to believe and to see the best in others. Write that down. Agape love chooses to see the best in others. Again, I know right now you're going, but there's nothing good in them. I didn't say that there's anything good in them. I'm saying agape love, God’s love by Christ in you, not anything you were able to do on your own and not anything that that person that you're thinking about in your head deserves right now, but agape love chooses to see the best in others. And Ananias didn't do this at first. Are you choosing to see the best in others? I know you're going there's nothing redemptive about this person. That's not what I said. Are you choosing by Christ in you, Shannon dies, so that Christ can live even when I know in my heart of hearts in this world that this person is hateful, that this person deserves death, that this person deserves punishment, that this person deserves everything that they're getting. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? 

Romans says, “We've all fallen short of the glory of God, but by His grace…” Thank God for His grace. Y'all don't even want to know what I deserve. 

Agape love chooses to see the best in others. So agape love is a self sacrificing type of love. I was thinking about this and I was like, sometimes it's good for me to think about because a lot of times you guys have heard me say this before. We look at ourselves in carnival mirrors and we think, “Oh yeah, of course. I generally see the best in others. I do. That's who I am.” And we kid ourselves. Sometimes, for me, it's better to look at the opposite and go, “Okay, do I do this?” 

So if agape love is self sacrificing, and this is audience interaction time. Are you ready? If a God love is self sacrificing, what would you say is the opposite of a a love? Selfishness is. I was thinking about this. At first I was thinking, okay, hate is the opposite of love. I was like, no, actually no. If agape love is laying down my life, choosing to sacrifice myself, then the opposite of that has to be choosing to always put myself first. So agape love chooses to see the best in others. 

So let's look at this and see what selfishness chooses. Selfishness chooses to think the worst about a person's circumstances. Write that down. Selfishness chooses to think the worst about a person's circumstances where that person who’s hurt you or that person that's found himself in the same boat again, then our brain immediately goes to, “Well, it's because… and it's this… it's that.” You’re  blind, Saul, because God is smiting you. Of course you're blind, because you're going against what God called you to do. Of course you're out of money again. Of course you’re divorced again. Of course you found yourself in a bad situation. Of course you have no friends. Of course you have nobody else to turn to. We choose to think the worst about a person's circumstances. But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles, to kings, as well as to the people of Israel, and I will show him that he must suffer for my name's sake.” And verse 17. What's it say? So Ananias did what? What did he do? He went and he found Saul. 

Here's what love does. Love chooses to risk, giving the benefit of the doubt. Write that down. Love chooses to risk, giving the benefit of the doubt. You might even want to put “risk” in quotes, because I honestly think scripture is really clear that in this world we will have trouble. “But take heart, I've overcome the world.” Man, I can tell you that if you love in this way you know what's going to happen to you. You know what's going to happen. You're going to get burnt. If you love in this way, if you choose to believe all things because of Christ and who He is, and what He has done in this world, and what He is doing in you, if you choose to believe all things, I promise you, at some point you'll get stabbed in the back. I promise you, at some point your fears and your doubts, you're going to see were justified that that person is continuing down the same trail. That person is going to hurt you. Again, it might cost you to love in this way. As a matter of fact, I will tell you generally, it always costs you to love in this way. 

Again, what's the definition of agape love. Sacrifice! Sacrifice costs, man, but the beauty of the Gospel is every time I get stabbed in the back, you know what I have the opportunity to do. We don't like talking like this. Do we? It's hard, isn't it? But every time I get stabbed in the back, you know what I have the opportunity to do? Y'all know. To forgive, to wish the best for that person. To want the best for that person to ultimately desire that that person will truly find where their meaning and where their hope really lies. It's in Christ and Christ alone. I've found that every time I forgive, I learn to grow in His grace. 

Guys, I’ve got to tell you something. There is something incredibly peaceful, that peace that passes all understanding that Jesus talks about when I'm able to forgive people that don't deserve my forgiveness, even though I know they're going to hurt me again tomorrow. Jesus said it this way. When His disciples asked Him, “So how many times do we forgive? Should we do it seven times?” They’re thinking it's a nice holy number. And Jesus goes, “Oh heck no. Seventy Times seven and trust me, Jesus wasn't saying keep tabs and didn’t mean four hundred and ninety times. Is that right? Thank you, teachers. That's not what He was getting at. Jesus will say it just like I said last week. No, when somebody slaps you on the cheek, you turn and offer them the other. Why? Because you'll find that life is never meant to be about how few people slap you on the cheek and give you respect and honor, because at the end of the day, they're not God. You will never find worth in that and people are always going to let you down. But if you will learn that your worth and your hope, your meaning, your everything comes in me, and me alone, and if you'll give up your rights, you’ll lay down your life, He says in losing your life is where you'll what, church? To help you find it, and that's not just about death. That's not just about dying. That's about if you will lose your life with your spouse when they're demanding of you, or when they don't think about your feelings, or when they don't make the bed, or when they leave dirty dishes in the sink. If you will lose your life, you what, spouse, you'll find it. It's the Gospel. 

So what's the opposite of that? Selfishness chooses to think the worst about a person's actions.  That they're out to get you, that they're out to hurt you, that they're out to harm you. And again, as I sit here and I say this, I need you to understand, you know what! They might be! But I promise you that person was created in the image of God just like you were created in the image of God, and just this side of eternity, He desperately wants them to find redemption. That's the Gospel. Again, Jesus says, “They'll know that you're my followers by the way that you love one another.” Trust me, man. This isn’t easy.

“So Ananias just went and he found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, sent me that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Instantly, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and he was baptized, and afterward he ate some food and  regained his strength. 

Love chooses not to be cynical and suspicious. Write that down. Love chooses not to be cynical and suspicious. Now, hear me when I say this. Love is not enabling. Love still speaks the truth, but it speaks the truth in love. What do I mean by that? You see, selflessness chooses to think the worst about a person's motivations. See how those go hand in hand. Ananias could have been sitting there going, “Man, I know the second that I nurse you back to health you're about to wipe me out. This is a trick. God's given your sight back and I'm dead. I think your motivations aren't pure because I've been down this road before and I think your motivations are wrong.” Do you hear what selfishness does? It's all about me and it's all about what I think and it's all about what I desire. 

Agape love chooses not to be cynical, chooses not to be suspicious. It chooses not to worry about the motivation. It chooses to forgive. It chooses to see the best, even when that person doesn't deserve the best, but it speaks the truth. Parents hear me loud and clear, it speaks the truth. See, there’s consequences to sin. I want to give you something really practical really quick, and then I want to invite my friend Jay, if you'll come up here. 

So how do I love a person that doesn't deserve love, whether that be a kid, a neighbor, a coworker, whoever? Number one, you have to stay grounded in our belief that Jesus is who He says He is. You have to stay grounded in our belief that Jesus is who He says He is. If you don't, you'll never be able to love this way. It's just lip service. It's impossible that way. 

Secondly, ask yourself why do you think that person doesn't deserve love? Then what I want you to do after you ask yourself why does this person not deserve agape love, my self sacrificing love, I want you to make a list of all the reasons that you don't deserve God's love. 

Number three, understand that agape love is undeserved. It doesn't have conditions. It always believes and hopes for restoration. That's agape love. It doesn't give up. It doesn't stop. We'll talk about that in a couple weeks. 

Then finally, agape love isn't enabling. I'm not saying ignore sin. That's not at all what I'm saying. There are consequences to sin. There are consequences to behavior, but check the motivation of your consequences. Specifically parents, why are you so upset? Why these consequences?  Are they about your kingdom or God's kingdom? 

See, God loves us so much and He wants to do work in our hearts and then He wants us to take that and spread that out. Jay shared in the green room. Every Sunday morning we have different people give devotions and I asked Jay to share. I put him on the spot and he's scared to death. He's normally the guy up in the booth. And I said, “Jay, do me a favor. I need you to wrap up the sermon today with what God's doing in you as it pertains to healing and agape love.” So if you'll just share that with us. 

Jay Watts -

Well, first I want to thank whoever made the decision to make these shirts black, because I mean, you don't see my pit stains. Whew! Okay. Nicole asked me a couple of weeks ago to plan for a devotional and I went down a few rabbit holes for a devotional and all of them seemed kind of hollow. Last night, Amy and I, my wife, had a conversation that went into the wee morning hours and while I gave her time to pray over what we had talked about, I decided to work on my devotional and decided to go a different direction and this is it. I'm just going to read it…

 Amy's been watching some conference videos regarding restoration of the heart. She shared some things with me, but there's part of me that avoids listening. Finally, she found an opportunity for us to watch some sessions together over the weekend and the things I heard hit a chord with me and also made me extremely uncomfortable. 

Things like the phrase “time heals all wounds” is actually pure crap. Turns out that time does not heal a festering wound. You just end up letting a part of yourself become disabled and that while we have these wounds, we are truly broken and unable to function the way God intended. The fact is just like physical wounds, they need to be treated, they need to be healed. But healing these wounds requires offering our past to God, our sometimes ugly, embarrassing, shameful, yucky past. Even the wounds we minimize need to be addressed. You know the ones that we say, “Well, that was just the past and it doesn't really affect me now.” if that's true, then why does it keep rearing its ugly head? Maybe there's a wound that stays hidden but shapes your responses. For instance, your response or sensitivity to someone else's pain. “Oh, I've been through that. You'll be fine. Time heals all wounds, right?” So if we have these wounds from the past that needed to be addressed, what can we do? Well, we could get alone and pray something like “God, what is it that's holding me back from being who you made me to be? If it's untreated wounds, than please reveal the one you want to heal now. Go into this place with me and reveal the truth about it, redeem it, heal it, and use it for your glory.” 

Now that sounds all easy until you're alone and you're just about to pray it and you start asking yourself, “Do I really want to go there? Do I want to open up these dark places in myself and do I want to unpack this stuff in front of the creator of the universe?” So I think it's just easier sometimes to pray a safe prayer and go back to what you're doing. So today instead of a devotional, I'm going to issue a challenge. This challenge isn't just for whoever in here that needs it, but it's for me. So if you have these symptoms, if you have adverse reactions when you share a personal story, if you find yourself becoming distracted or dismissive when someone is sharing their pain, if you avoid talking about certain things because of anxiety, if you have a past memory that haunts you at 3:00 AM, if you find yourself using the words, “I always” and “I never,” maybe there's a wound that needs to be taken care of.

So be brave enough to go there. Be brave enough to allow the only one that can restore your heart to do it. But He is a gentleman. He will not drag these things out of you. Rest assured though that He already knows your past and He knows how to heal it. He also knows the full truth of these traumas where we only see what we perceive, and what we've told ourselves. Once we get to this point, true restoration starts to happen, and that event, that thing that the enemy intended to break your hope and faith with, can become an instrument of God's glory. 

I just need to share these two hopes. One, if there's someone here that needs it. Somebody that is kind of in a rut like I'm in, you’re not alone. The other is just so that I'm held accountable. I originally intended it to be twenty people, but it'll probably be about thirteen hundred by the end of the day. But I think the main thing is that we, Shannon, Keith, the staff, all of us, we'll get these great tools and we take them, and we put them in our toolbox and we never pull them out, we never do anything with them. It does take action on our part. We have to do something. There's some awesome people here you can talk to, talk to me, talk to Shannon, but don't continue to sit in your own pain alone. Things start to die in you and  you're not alone. I guess that's what I'm trying to get to. There’re people you can talk to. Thanks.  

God, we come before you just thanking you for the Gospel, thanking you that you are the Healer. You are the Restorer. You are the Redeemer and God, we know that you are faithful and you are doing that in us. God, I thank you for Jay's courage and his boldness to come before you, to come before his brothers and sisters and to say, “Enough's enough. Let's deal with this, God. Restore, heal, redeem, and do that fully.” Then God, my prayer is that as we believe that you are who you say you are, is that we will then in turn have the courage, the boldness, and the grace, and most importantly, the agape self sacrificing love to go out and heal, be instruments of healing, to be instruments of restoration, to be instruments of grace and wherever you've called us to be. So God, let us believe all things, most importantly that you are who you say you are, that you are doing a work in us and you will be faithful to complete it. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen. 

Thank you Jay. Hey, guys, we’re going to sing a song and as we sing, if there's anybody that just needs to be prayed over. Jay, would you mind going over there as well? We've got some folks over here in the corner that would like to pray with you, or talk with you. Maybe today's that day you need to step out in boldness and say, “Here I am, Lord. Here I go.” Whatever you might need this morning. We want to walk that through with you. Don't leave that undone this morning. Let's stand and sing together.