Love Hopes All Things

Week 3

Shannon Lovelady
October 7, 2018

The only way that we can meditate on things that are pure and lovely and admirable, noble and worthy of praise... is to remember the truth of who God is.
— Shannon Lovelady

(Video of Chaleen Sceals)

Well, I'm Chaleen, I've been a single parent for ten years now, almost eleven. I had the chance to do foster care in Knoxville, Tennessee and my first placement was my son and my daughter, DJ and Lily Grace, and they came to live with me. I moved home, and ended up being able to adopt them. While I was living in Albany, Georgia, which is home for me, I adopted my daughter, Joy Xia, from China. I think from an early age I knew I wanted children but at the time I was single and I knew I was getting older. I was in my thirties and I knew I wanted children. I was a teacher at the time in Knox County and had a child come through my classroom who was suffering from some severe abuse at home and I just felt helpless. I wanted to do something, so I thought about going into foster care. 

What should have been just a six to nine month stretch turned out to be probably about sixteen months. It took a lot longer than it normally takes, I remember. I was approved for foster care and finally got my approval letter. I remember going to visit my sister and they called with a placement. She said it was a two year old curly haired little boy and a baby girl, a newborn. They came into the home and it was supposed to just be for three or four days, but little by little their family members backed out or couldn't do it for one reason or another. It was a year and a few months later I was able to adopt them. 

For me, I was done. I felt like I had two hands and two kids. I mean, I didn't feel like I could handle anymore. You know, I think God had other plans. It was July sixteenth and I woke up from this very vivid dream and it was probably the most real dream I'd ever had. I was in this large group, in a prayer meeting, and I walked up to the fireplace and put my head down to start praying and all of a sudden there was someone tugging on my jeans and I looked down and it was this little Asian girl and she wouldn't say anything. She just kept pointing to her mouth. I laid back down after I woke up from the dream and I thought that was really weird. I was just going to go back to sleep and I just couldn't. Then I thought, well, maybe there's this baby over in China somewhere and she's having surgery, or maybe something's hurting and nobody's there to pray for her. 

So I did get up and I went to my kitchen table and I just started praying. I knew that I was supposed to be praying for her but as soon as I started I just heard it in my spirit, “She's your daughter.” I was like, “No, I have two and I can't do more than two. And I definitely can't go to China.” So I prayed about it for months before I ever did anything and every time I turned around it was like, “Yes, this is what you're supposed to be doing.” I was like, okay. I wrote down a list of all these things. God, I don't have a savings account, and all these things that China says I have to have, I don't have. I don't have a car that will hold another car seat. I don't have health insurance and I can't bring her home without health insurance. 

It was funny. As soon as I put in the application for the adoption, it wasn't until probably six weeks I had almost all of those things crossed off there. Everything had been taken care of. I think with both adoptions, hope is a big word. There was a lot of hope involved with the first adoption. Just hoping that things would work out the way that would be best for the kids. I think even with this adoption in China, as well, I think you have to hope because you can't see much. I didn't know if she was okay or if she wasn't okay. I feel like even for myself, just challenging myself every day to trust God because I couldn't adopt another one. I mean I couldn’t. I didn't have the funds and I didn't have what I needed. I didn’t have the patience or anything, but when you trust Him and He's called you to something, whether it's single parenting or adoption or anything, He provides what you need. It's not always easy though. It's hard, but He shows up every time. 

( End of video) 

That was Chaleen. I hope you guys heard the hope in that. So we’re talking about “Love Hopes All Things.” As you know, adoption is near and dear to my heart as it is to a lot of folks who called Southern Hills home. Did you catch the, “I couldn't, I can't, I, I, I…” I want to challenge us today as we're moving forward in this 1st Corinthians 13:7 kind of verse that this love that we're talking about at the end of the day just isn't about us. It's not, and it's not about what we can see. It's not about what we can do, but it's about this confident expectation, this word “hope,” this confident expectation that we have in who Jesus is and, therefore, who we are in Him. So we're going to continue today in First Corinthians 13:7, our theme verse. 

I'm going to read it for you guys who haven't been here. This is from the NLT. First Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love never gives up. Love never loses. Faith is always hopeful and it endures through every circumstance.” The ESV says it this way, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” 

Today we're going to talk about that idea of hope and what it means for love to hope all things, but I want to review where we've been and what we talked about two weeks ago. This idea of love bearing all things, we talked about that first and foremost, and we said before we can talk about what love does, we have to talk about what love is. As I talked about last week, I want to remind us that agape is the one love in the New Testament, the one Greek word for love of God in the New Testament, that is a choice. It's a choice to lay down our life. It's a choice to surrender. Eros love, that romantic love, it happens. Storge love, that familial love, it happens. Friendship love, it just happens based on commonality, but agape love doesn't just happen. Agape love is surrender. Agape love is sacrifice, and we talked about the first week that agape love bears all things. That Greek word “bear” means literally means to put a roof over, to protect what's underneath it, or to support what's placed upon it. We talked about the first week that agape love sacrifices. Laying down your life is never easy. It is often extremely inconvenient. So my challenge is what has God placed upon you, and what is He asking you to hold up? What is the burden that He's asking you to bear? 

Of course you're not going to feel like it more times than not. Can we get an amen for that? That's not what agape love is about. Agape love is understanding what Jesus has done for us and to be clear, let's talk about that quickly. What Jesus has done for us is He's given us hope. He's given us a life that we could never have outside of Him. Why? Because we want to be our own gods. We want to be king of our own castle. At our core, we are selfish, sinful human beings, scripture teaches us, “but God so loved the world.” You guys know the verse that He gave His life. He gave His Son and His Son lived a perfect life, finding His worth in the Father, finding everything in the Father, finding His value in the will of the Father. He lived that perfectly, but not only did He live perfectly, He died so that we could have life. Make no mistake, that life only comes because of a resurrection and Jesus said, “I've come that they might have life and have it to the full.” Because He rose again, because He conquered hell, because He conquered death, because He conquered the grave, we can have life and we can have it to the full. 

But remember the gospel. Before there can be a resurrection, there has to be a death. So my challenge to us Christians as we continue to walk this out, is have you chosen to die to yourself? Have you chosen to kill Shannon, if you will? Not, you killed Shannon, I killed Shannon, and you kill you. I’ve got a buddy who gets that confused. He's like, “I killed you today.” I'm like, “No, no, no, that's you, man. That's you.” Have you laid down your life because we have to lay down our life before we can live in Christ. That's a daily decision that we walk out. So agape love bears all things.

Then we talked about agape love believes all things. It chooses to believe the best. It chooses to lay down its life. It chooses to see the best, not based on what that person has or has not done to you. We all know people who don't deserve to be loved, right? I’m king of those who don't deserve to be loved. Make a list of the reasons that I don’t deserve to be died for by Jesus Christ and it's humbling. 

Then if we truly believe what scripture teaches, that I'm to walk in his footsteps and I no longer live, but Christ now lives in me, if we truly believe that, then I have to believe all things about my brother or my sister. That person that continues to harm me over and over and over again. We talked about last week, not because they deserve it. Not because they've earned it. Again, man, I can't say enough, in your marriages, guys quit, quit, quit worshiping your spouse. Quit making your spouse God. They were never meant to be God. Find your worth in Jesus Christ, not in your spouse. It changes everything. Learn to love a husband that doesn't deserve your love. You go, “Man, I can't do that.” Let's be crystal clear. You're right. You can't. I can't, but Christ can! He has, and He promises that we can live that as well, but first we have to lay down our life and choose to allow Christ to live in us. 

So then we get today to 1st Corinthians 13:7, he says, “Love hopes all things.” Love hopes all things. Well, before we move too far into that, I want to go back to 1st Corinthians 1 and make sure we're crystal clear on who Paul is talking to. So if you’ve got your Bibles, open to 1st Corinthians 1 and we're just gonna kind of flip all the way up to 1st Corinthians 13. I want to get some context of why Paul has written this letter and who he's written it to. So first and foremost, we know that he wrote it to the church at Corinth, and I've told you guys before the church at Corinth was messed up and if there's hope for the church at Corinth, guess what? Good news, guys. There's hope for us. There's hope for us. 

So Paul writes this letter and he starts his letter off. Specifically we're just going to read. 1st Corinthians 1:2. He says, “I'm writing to God's church in Corinth.” So who's he writing to? Number one, crowd participation. Who? Help me out? Who's he writing to? Number one to God's church in Corinth. So, he's writing to the church at Corinth. But then he goes on and he says “to you, who have been called by God to be His own holy people. He made you holy by means of Jesus Christ.” 

Now again, we're going back, but this is so important because if you don't understand who you are in Jesus Christ, none of this matters. It's just feeling good about ourselves and checking a box off on our checklist on a Sunday morning. If you don't understand that you've been declared holy by the blood of Jesus Christ, not by anything that you've done so that you can boast, but that you've been made righteous by the blood of Jesus Christ, then you’re an adopted child by the blood of Jesus Christ. 

Turn to your neighbor right now and say, “I'm holy.” Tell him. Come on, say it like you mean it. “I'm holy, man.” Don't look at your neighbor that way. They are, man. I know when you walked in this morning, they didn't act holy. They didn't look holy. That's not the gospel, anyway. The Gospel is what you've been declared by the grace of Jesus Christ and by the blood of Jesus Christ in His resurrection. It has nothing to do with your righteousness or how you act. It has nothing to do with your righteousness, your holiness, your sonship. But don't mishear me, man. His grace changes you, not because you have to be changed out of obligation, because we know who we are. Not by our works, but by Him. He says, you've been made holy by means of who? Help me out. By means of who? Christ Jesus, just as He did for all people everywhere who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours. 

So who is Paul talking to? Let's be crystal clear. Who's he talking to? Help me out. He's talking to us. He's talking to the church at Corinth and He says, “And I'm talking to everyone else who has been made holy by calling on the name of Jesus Christ.” Have you called on the name of Jesus Christ, Church. Then you've been made holy. Who's Paul talking to? So guess what? When we get all the way to 1st Corinthians 13:7, guess what? You don't get a pass. Guess what I don't get? A pass. This “I love this laying down our lifetime of love, this sacrificing Shannon type of love,” guess what? It ain't an option. It's who He's called us to be. Let me ask you, church, I'm talking to you right now. If you're not a believer this morning, you do get a pass. I pray that you're drawn to Jesus Christ by His grace and mercy this morning by His Holy Spirit, but Church, I'm talking to you this morning. Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is? That was a little lame. Do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is? Yes. Do you believe that you are who He says you are because of who He is. That was a tongue tie. That was like a Dr Seuss book right there, man. It's true. So therefore, if it's true, this applies to us choosing to lay down our lives. 

So then skip over to chapter two. We get to chapter two and he says, “and we have received God's spirit.” Chapter two, verse twelve, he says, “We have received God's spirit, not the world spirit. We have received God's spirit so we can know the wonderful things that God has freely given us.” Guys, you need to understand, you are a temple of the most high God. You are a carrier of the most high God, God's spirit indwells within you. Christian, do you hear me? No longer is God set apart behind a veil, but He came so that we could have life and have it to the full. He’s given us a gift and that gift is Himself indwelling in us. You're a carrier of the Lord God Almighty. I pray that carries weight. I pray that you understand the severity of that. I'm a temple of the most high King! 

Who's He talking to? All of us, Christian, follower of Jesus Christ, surrendered disciple of Christ. He's talking to you. He's talking to me. Fast forward to chapter four, verse twenty. He says, “for the Kingdom of God is not just…” What? Oh, junk, now it's getting real. It's not just a lot of what? You're telling me that the Kingdom of God isn't about what's taking place on this stage right now?  This, isn't it? We don't get to come in and talk about it, feel encouraged or feel convicted, and then leave and go on with our life and come back next week and do it all over again. Does that sound like the Kingdom of God? No, He says, “The Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk.” It's what? Living. So which do you choose? He says the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk, man. I don't know about you guys, but that's why I “Love Does” is such an important thing to me, because I'm sick of talking about it. I'm sick of talking about who we are in Christ and how good He is, but when we leave here, our lives look no different than the rest of the world. For those of you who are walking it out, laying down your life, man, praise God that a world sees hope in you. 

I know I pick on your dads all the time, but I'm begging you, man, in the context of your family, don’t just talk about it. Live it. Don't just tell your kids how they ought to act. Show them how they ought to act by the way that you talk to your wife. Show them who Jesus is by the way that you lay down your life, by the way that you give up your rights so that your kids can see who Jesus is, by the way that you give up your rights so that you can draw your wife to Christ. Dads, I'm begging you. I know I put all kinds of pressure on you, but I'm telling you, you are leading your families. It's just HOW are you leading your families? I'm telling you, there is so much hope when you understand who Christ is, because I know if you're like me, I stand up here feeling not so confident. Anybody feel my pain? The most intimidating thing in the world for me as a pastor that stands up here on stage every week… you wonder what the hardest thing in the world for me to do is? Anybody guess? Praying with my wife. I have to choose to lay down my life. I have to choose to sacrifice my desires. You know what? Generally speaking, I don't feel like praying with my wife. You want to know why I don't feel like praying with my wife? Because my wife knows me.  

Seriously, I feel so inadequate. I feel like I'm not good enough. I feel like I'm not worthy enough and so I have to choose to say, “kill that.” Pray for your wife, pray over your wife, pray with your kids. It's not about you, Shannon. I died of that, and man, I'm telling you I can do that because I can confidently come before the throne of Christ, because of who Christ is, not because of who I am. He’s radically changing me from the inside out. And you know what's beautiful? Wives, you don't get a pass on this. The beautiful thing about that is my wife supports me. She builds me up. She tells me how amazing I am even, when I'm not and I know I'm not. Even when I'm weak, and I know I'm weak, she lifts me up. She prays for me. She speaks life into me. She doesn't condemn me. Do I deserve condemnation? Help me out, wives. Yes, I deserve condemnation. You better believe I do, but there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and my wife knows that and I know that in our context. 

So we lay down our rights and we serve each other and it's a beautiful thing, man. It's not just talk. It's living by God's power. Flip over to 1st Corinthians 8. So Paul says, “I'm writing to the entire church, those who have received God's grace, those who are holy by the grace of Jesus Christ, I'm writing to you, and there's power by His spirit in you.” And it's not just talk, live it out. Then you get to verse chapter eight, verse one, and he says, “Now regarding your question about food that's been offered to idols.” You're like, “What's this have to do with anything?” He says, “Yes, we know that we all have knowledge about this issue, but while knowledge makes us feel important…” Some of your versions might say, “ while knowledge puffs up.” While knowing a lot of things puffs us up and makes us feel important, what is it that strengthens the church? Love! And again, I challenge you. Who gives a rip about what we know if we're not intentionally laying down our lives for one another! 

This is a theme all throughout scripture. They'll know that we are followers of Jesus Christ by how? By the way that we love one another and that's agape love. It's not feelings. It's not, “Oh, I like you. I enjoy being around you.” Let's be real, man. There's a whole lot of people in this room that we don't enjoy being around, right? Don't look at them right now. It makes it awkward. But that's the beauty of the church. That's the beauty of the Gospel. The fact that we are all connected. We're family. We belong to each other as a part of the bride of Christ. This uncommon community, I like to call it. 

The world is all about commonality and goes, “Do you think how I think? Then let's hang out. Then let's do life together.” The church is about taking people who don't belong to each other, who should have nothing in common outside of Christ, Him crucified, and now alive. Then God is glorified in that because the world looks at us and goes, “That's odd. That doesn't make sense. How can that possibly be, that they treat each other in that way? How can that possibly be, that they love each other in that way?” It's the church! 

The church is strengthened when we love each other in a sacrificial kind of way. That's why we push life groups, man. I'm telling you, if you're not involved in a life group, I'm begging you, sign up for Starting Point. Get involved in a life group. That's where life change really happens. That's why we push membership. We've got a membership class. We do it once a month. That's coming up in two weeks. I'm challenging you, man, like quit just showing up and going, “This is good. Now let's take it and try to do this on my own.” We're not made to do life on our own. We weren't created that way. It's not the way God intended it to be. It’s  not that the signing of a membership covenant after the class has some super magical spiritual thing. It's just saying that we're committed to one another. We're going to walk this out with one another. We're going to love each other in a sacrificial kind of way, even when we don't deserve it. We're going to learn how to forgive when this person hurts me. We're going to learn how to live in peace even when my world's falling apart and we do that by encouraging one another. So Paul says, the church is strengthened by love. 

Flip over to 1st Corinthians 10:24. He says, “Don't be concerned for your own good, but be concerned for the good of others.” Right before this he says, “You say I'm allowed to do anything, but not everything is good for you.” Some of your versions say, “You know, not everything is beneficial, it's permissible, but not beneficial. 

Side note, this is why I don't drink. There's a couple of reasons I don't drink. Number one, the reason I don't drink is because I've been down that road and it caused major destruction in my life. Don’t mishear me this morning. I'm not telling you to have a beer is a sin. I will tell you, I believe that drunkenness is clearly a sin, crystal clear. Why? Because we're choosing to lay down our our awareness of who God is and to live out of the flesh. When that happens, it's that simple. We're choosing to not be able to think clearly about who we are in Christ when we choose to have too much. It's just the reality of it. I choose not to drink for two reasons. Again, like I said, number one, it caused major destruction in my life. 

Number two, well, three reasons. Number two, it says everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. And again, just a side note quickly. Can I say that I've never had anybody tell me that alcohol saved their life. I mean, if I can just be blunt for a second, I literally, in all my years of counseling, I've never had anybody come in and go, “Man, I was really struggling. Life was getting out of control and then I discovered whiskey and man, everything got better. It saved my marriage, saved my kids.” This isn't out of condemnation.  Let me be crystal clear again, I'm just encouraging you as a brother in Christ, man. I've never had anybody tell me that. So for me, I just go, “Why? What's the point? Why bother? There's water, there's orange juice.” 

Then the other reason I don't drink is because I truly believe that we belong to each other and the last thing I ever want to do is cause a brother or sister to stumble. So you guys will never see me with a mixed drink. You'll never find a beer in my fridge, not because I believe I'm going to hell if I do, but because I truly, really believe that my kids are watching me. You're watching me, my wife is watching me, and again, not out of condemnation, but out of a brother who says, “You know what? Above everything, forget what I want. Forget what I desire. Forget what I think I even deserve and what I have the right to do if I want to.” This is all about agape love. It's about putting other's needs before myself. There's a theme here that Paul keeps saying. Think about others first! 

Then we fast forward all the way to a 1st Corinthians 13:7. He says, “Love never gives up. Love never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures every circumstance.” I want you to flip over to Philippians 4 and we're going to camp out there the rest of the time. That was my introduction. So let's pray and then we're going to walk this out together. 

God, thank you for loving us. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your mercy. Thank you that you have not left us to do life alone, that you have given us your Holy Spirit, a Spirit of power, your Spirit indwelling within us. And God, you've asked us to do something with it. God, you've given us each other, your church, to walk life out with God. May we lay down our lives and love each other in a sacrificial way that brings honor and glory to you ultimately so that a world can know who you are and the hope that they have in you. God, thank you that you've given us your Word. So just now as we open up your Word, I believe that your Word has power, that your Word has life. So as we spend a few minutes reading through your Word together, God, I pray that you would speak to us, that you would get me out of the way and speak clearly on what you want to speak. God, encourage us where we need encouragement. God convict us, challenge us where we need challenging. God, ultimately just do business in this place just now. In Jesus' name. Amen. 

So love… I said earlier that hope is not wishful thinking. I actually said after that video that hope is a confident expectation. When you look at that Greek word, hope, it actually means it's a confident expectation, but not a confident expectation in anything that you can do. It's a confident expectation in that Jesus is who He says He is. It's a confident expectation in that God is who He says He is and His grace is what His grace says it is. Because of that confident expectation, that hope, because of that confident expectation in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, we understand as fallen human beings that nothing is ever final, this side of eternity. We understand that failure is never the end. Can we get a “thank God” for that? We understand by the grace of Jesus Christ. We are not putting a confident expectation in ourselves. We're putting a confident expectation in Jesus Christ. 

So here's my question and I encourage you to write this stuff down. I hope this is extremely practical. Last few minutes together, I think this is going hopefully to be a game changer for some of us in this room. Write this down. What are you hoping for? Or according to that definition, what are you expecting? What are you hoping for? What are you expecting and as you're mulling through your head right now going, “Okay, I don't know. What am I hoping for? What am I expecting?” I'll tell you. You’re actually doing it right now. Here's the answer. You ready? Write this down. You hope for whatever you meditate on. You’re hoping for whatever you meditate on.

I know as I say, that word “meditate” you are like, “Nah, don't do that. I don't have a little mat and I don't do the whole thing… uhmmmm.” That's not what I'm talking about, that meditation. I’ll give you the definition from Google, so it's official. What is it to meditate? “To think deeply or carefully; to consider or to plan mentally.” To think deeply or carefully, to consider or to plan mentally. So let me ask you guys, show of hands, how many guys meditate? Come on now whether you know it or not, you’re sitting here this morning and you're in meditation. As you are sitting here this morning, you have things going through your mind and here's the reality. Let's go back to the gospel. Outside of the truth of who Jesus Christ is, left to our own devices, the things that we meditate on, always, always, always at the end of the day, come back to us. They're self serving. They're selfish and again, we talked about that agape love is not selfish. It's selfless, so what do you meditate on? 

We get to Philippians 4 and Paul is writing to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:6, specifically, verse six through nine. God just hammered this with me this week. As a matter of fact, I changed my entire sermon at the last second this week because God was just hammering me with this idea of meditation, what we meditate on, what we think about. Because the reality is, according to scripture, what we think about is what we worship and is ultimately what we fall back to, what we know, what we've experienced in life. So Paul says in Philippians 4:6 “Don't worry about anything.” That sounds nice, right? Man, wouldn’t that be great? 

I had one of those nights last night. Last time I looked at the clock was 2:45 AM. You want to know why? Because I wasn't meditating on this. I was meditating on the what ifs  and the how about this person and what do they think and what did he say? You know what that leads to. Leads to worry, leads to lack of peace, leads to a grumpy dad on a Sunday. You see the cycle right? “Don't worry about anything, but instead, pray about everything.” All right, great. Let me ask you guys, seriously, when those things, when life hits you upside the face this afternoon, when life hits you upside the face, let's be honest, how many of us that's our first response. Straight up, it wasn't mine last night until I started working through this and going, “Man, you're such a hypocrite, Shannon”  Natasha, didn't know this, but I had to get on my knees on the side of the bed and spent thirty minutes going, “Lord, I'm preaching this tomorrow!” 

Pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank Him for all He's done. How many of us, as we're going through life's trials and suffering, our first response is to pray. Tell Him what we need and go “Thank you for what you're doing in the middle of this trial.” Anybody? “Thank you, God, that you're changing me in the middle of this. Thank you that you're giving me an opportunity to grow in grace, to grow in mercy, to grow in my knowledge of who you are.” And then comes the then. You hear all that. Everybody, hear all that first, and THEN you will experience God's peace. I mean let's just be real. Isn’t that kind of like the epitome of what we would love life to be like. Is this walk it out in peace, right? I mean just to be able to leave here today and just go and just have no worries, but just going, no matter what comes my way. Peace. Children, say what you want to say. Peace. Roll your eyes at me one more time. Peace. I mean wouldn’t that be great. Here's the reality, man. It can be, and I'm growing in that. I promise you. He says, “…then you will experience God's peace.” But, no, I want my circumstances changed. No, he says, you will experience God's peace which exceeds anything that we can understand. It passes all understanding. It means that when the world looks at us, they go, Shannon, your children are so rebellious, but how do you live in peace anyway? Your wife is cheating on you, not my wife, but even if, God, I don't deserve. God, that's not fair. No, I deserve death. That's what's fair. I was never meant to find my hope, my worth, my value, my meaning in my wife in the first place, and so even when she's not honoring her side of the marriage covenant. Man, that’s strong, Shannon, it's true. It's not my words. It's His. So when life slaps us upside the face, when life doesn't make sense, when things get crazy, when we're awake at night, when that addiction comes calling, go down the list. Pray, tell God what you need and thank Him for what he's doing. Even in the middle of your train wreck of a marriage. What's He doing? I'll tell you what He's doing. He's growing you in grace and He's making you more like Him, which ultimately brings peace. It says then, “It exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and your minds. It will guard your hearts and your minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” 

Guys, I'm telling you, this isn't just some fancy preacher talk. This is truth. This is real, and then he goes on. He says now, so okay, what's that look like? He says, “How do we guard our hearts and our minds? How do we live that way? Meditation, you ready? Verse Eight, he says, “Now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Then look what verse nine says, man, this is the kicker. What's verse nine say? Practice. Practice. I got Allen Iverson going through my head right now, man. We’re talking about practice. Some of y'all are like, huh? You'll look it up later. 

Yeah, we're talking about practice. You want to know how you live this out? I don't jump in a tub and go, “Lord, I surrender all,” and then all of a sudden I come out and I'm like,” Woo, do what you want. Let me turn the other cheek. I like that. Turn it again.” No, you know what I do? I turn the other cheek and I go, “Oh, that hurt and that took everything in me to not lay you out, but by Christ in me and His strength in me I didn’t, because the old Shannon would have jacked you up." And then when I laid my head down at night that night, I actually felt better about myself. I had this odd peace that I’ve never felt before. Guys, it’s really not rocket science. 

How do we do that? We think about things that are lovely, that are pure, that are admirable. I'll tell you guys, I just want to try to make this really practical really quickly. This is my journal and so this is what I do. I get up in the mornings, write this down. I hope this helps. I know some of you guys are doing that sometimes. There's different ways that you can journal and meditate on who God is, because if we don't meditate on who God is, if we don't know this, you know what your default is going to be? Anybody want to guess? Your default is going to be who you are and what you know and what life's experiences have brought you. The only way that we can meditate on things that are pure and lovely and admirable, noble and worthy of praise. The only things that we can constantly run back to those is to remember the truth of who God is. And I have to get up every single morning because naturally I can't do that. Shannon is a selfish jerk. I am. 

So, this is from Mark 12. I was reading this the other day and I highlighted. That’s what I do first. It’s called a H.E.A.R. journal. H stands for highlight. Mark 12:34. It says, “Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him,‘You're not far from the Kingdom of God.’” This is right before Jesus is getting ready to be arrested in a few days, and these Pharisees are trying to trap him and, and it's just a list of fair season. Like what about this? What about this? What about this? I think it's the fourth guy that comes up to him and he was like, “Hey, tell us what's the greatest commandment in this Word? Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is like it. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” And this Pharisee actually goes, “Man, that's a great answer, I agree.” And Jesus has compassion on this guy, this guy that's out to get him. This guy that's out to take him down. And He says, “Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, ‘You're not far from the Kingdom of God.’” So I highlighted that. I wrote that out. And I was like, wow! I was like, what grace and mercy. 

My explanation, the E in the H.E.A.D., Jesus saw that this man genuinely had a grasp on the meaning and purpose of the scriptures. And so He told him. I want to say I really truly believed that Jesus saw “You are this close. You're this close. You get it, you understand, but what you don't know is I am the Messiah.” The application, the A, is that even when Jesus was being attacked and the religious leaders were trying to trap him, He still saw the good in people. He recognized that this man was actually tracking in the right direction with God. See, I believe this man was genuinely wanting to honor God with his life. I think Jesus saw that and was filled with compassion and love. He tried to encourage this man to keep searching for God, keep exploring what God desires. 

Then I wrote my response and my response is generally a prayer. And I said, “Father, thank you for showing the example in Jesus. Thank you for the relentless, unending compassion that you have for your creation. Teach me to love like that. Teach me to be kind and as compassionate as you are, Lord. I don't want to be jaded and cynical. I want to see the brokenness and hope that people have in you, help me to not give up on your children, but to continue to love this side of eternity. Help me to see that as long as there's breath, there's hope. God help me to be wise in that hope. Give me discernment to know how to interact with those you put in my life, God. Ultimately, I desire a compassionate heart that sees people the way that you see people. I desire a heart that loves people, the way that you love people. I desire a heart that always hopes and never gives up. God, please foster that heart in me. Most of all, thank you for having that type of heart for me. Even when I seem so far from you, I love you, Lord. 

A couple days before Jesus is going across the lake because He's exhausted. Mark 6:34 says “He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, so He began teaching the many things.” That verse hit me upside the face because Jesus had every right to be irritated because He was trying to get away from the crowd. They raced around the lake, they beat Him there. He steps out of the boat and that was His response. Yeah, compassion. I said, “Jesus saw the crowds show up when He was trying to get away and it moves into compassion.” The application: Jesus had every right to be irritated, frustrated, but that wasn't His response. Even though He was exhausted, the crowds presence produced compassion in Him because He knew they needed Him. He laid down His right to be frustrated. He laid down His right to be irritated. Instead, He took care of the very people who are exhausting Him. Then I wrote in all caps with a bunch of exclamation points. Dang!!! 

Then my response was, “Good morning, Father, I desperately want that attitude in me. Help me to never see people, especially those who are placed in my care, as an inconvenience. Help me to always see them as sheep needing a shepherd. Of course, it's inconvenient and at times, God, it's exhausting, but that's what a shepherd does. He takes care of his sheep, so help me to always see taking care of others as a huge privilege and an honor and part of sharing in your suffering. So, God, the reality is sometimes I don't know how to shepherd and I put, especially the elders and the staff. I feel like I'm in way over my head, especially the last couple of months. So how do I shepherd someone’s heart? God, please give me wisdom in leading, especially the few that need it the most. I feel like I don't want my response to be irritation and frustration. I want to shepherd their hearts, but I don't know how to do it. So God, I'm begging for wisdom.”

I read that to you because I want you guys to understand that I have to set my alarm every single morning and I'm not a morning person. I'm exhausted every morning when I set my alarm every morning and I lay down my right to stay in bed and I intentionally get up because I know if I don't, very quickly I will meditate on Shannon's flesh. I'll meditate on Shannon's desires, and before I know it, the world hits me upside the face and I'm spinning and I don't know why I don't have peace, but when I intentionally choose to lay down my rights and to sacrifice sleep, sacrifice my time to sacrifice my desires, my laziness, whatever it might be, and say, Lord, I want to meditate on your word. Why? Because your word is true. Why? Because you are true. 

So, God, convict me. God, move in me and sometimes after reading, it's just a giant prayer going, “God, kill me today. Kill me today, again.” Then what happens is I get to work. I get wherever I'm going and all of a sudden things start happening and I'm tempted to operate in the flesh. At times I do, but I quickly go back to going, “Wait, remember? Remember, remember” Last night's a perfect example. I laid there for two hours. Then all of a sudden, “Wait a minute, what are you doing? What are you doing? Think about things that are lovely, pure.” 

I ran out of time Thursday night and I’ve run out of time today. If you'll go to my Facebook page, I posted some really practical things to think about and it's not original stuff. It's a hybrid of a bunch of stuff from different people and it's my nasty handwriting, so good luck reading it. But I do have to go back and in the middle of conversations, think about things that are true. What is true about this situation and about myself from a biblical perspective right now. The way my wife is treating me, the way this person is treating me. What's true about this situation? What's true about myself right now? I have to meditate on that and go what does scripture say? How do I love some of you guys for the very first time today? 

You need to accept this agape love that Jesus gave. You need to lay down your life and say, “I'm all in. I'm yours.” If that's you, we're going to have people over here. They will love to pray with you. I'm going to be over there. We'll have some other folks over there that would love to pray with you. I'd love to talk with you, love to answer questions with you, and I'm begging you to do that. Some of you guys need to ask the church to be the church and you're just kind of in a rut right now, and you need somebody to walk this out with you, man, if that's you, I'm begging you. Take the time to do that. We’ve got people that would love to grab your hand and walk this out. I've got people in my life to do that with me. 

There's no shame in that. That's the gospel. That's who the church is supposed to be, but all of us as we leave this place, need to intentionally lay down our lives and understand that love hopes all things. Why? Because we serve a God who is the God of hosts, the God of restoration, the God of redemption. So what are you meditating on? What are you thinking about that God wants to do in your circumstance and your situation? 

God, I thank you for the life that you've given us. I thank you for the hope that you've given us. God, I thank you for your grace and your mercy. So we come before you this morning, laying down our lives, laying down our rights, saying that we want to love like you love. Thank you for the Gospel. Thank you for the hope that it brings. In Jesus' name. Amen.