Saturday, February 27, 2016

Love's Train Sermon Notes Part...4 of 4

Hosea 3 (New Living Translation) "Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them.”2 So I bought her back for fifteen pieces of silver and five bushels of barley and a measure of wine. 3 Then I said to her, “You must live in my house for many days and stop your prostitution. During this time, you will not have sexual relations with anyone, not even with me.”
4 This shows that Israel will go a long time without a king or prince, and without sacrifices, sacred pillars, priests, or even idols! 5 But afterward the people will return and devote themselves to the Lord their God and to David’s descendant, their king. In the last days, they will tremble in awe of the Lord and of his goodness."

Introduction: Love will cause you to behave in a manner that's errant to your pre-love declarations.
Hip-hop is a culture that has it's own sound and style. It's the popular culture, that has transcended race and is the chief unifier of modern society.

Transition: Our relationship with God isn't quite as tumultuous as the cast of the reality show, Love & Hip-hop but it is reminiscent of an old school hip-hop song. A smooth bass line, a catchy hook, dope lyrics and a feel that transcends time. You don't grow out of this relationship, you mature into it.

Exposition: Let's explore how love relates to hip-hop in three facets...

1) Just like a hip-hop song, love is sometimes senseless...verse 1
Love will have you in a relationship with a perpetual screw-up, that has no intentions of behaving. God is admonishing us to keep our hearts open if you're serious about loving the one you're with.

2) Love is always sacrificial, just like a good singer/writer gives up time to enhance their talent...verses 2-3
What are you willing to give up, to make your relationship work? Things that top this long list are money, possessions, space and sex.

3) Once love has reached a quintessential state (like when a song sounds and feels just right) don't pervert perfection because it's sacred...verses 4-5
Before you engage in delving into and developing other relationships, you must first focus on the one you're already in! Love should be a serious bond that's inclusive of reverential respect.

***Video Clip: Brown Suga (On Air Love Confession...When Did You Fall In Love With Hip-Hop?)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Love & Devotion (20 of 21)

1 John 3:18 (New Living Translation) "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions."
-Talk is Cheap

I'm really not sure if I can explain this any simpler. Talk is cheap! Don't talk about it, be about it! Our Christianity is not about how we're looking but about how we're living!

Two observations...
-Our verbal affirmations don't carry much weight. We can say a lot of things. Often we talk without meaning or feeling, making our talk void of anything worthwhile. Love expressed verbally is flattering but it's only the starting point.

-Our deeds outweigh our words. The actions of those who are believers should be truth/gospel focused. If God is to be seen, he will be seen through how we live. Loving the world involves truth that improves the quality of their existences, with our lives as evidence that Jesus will change your entire life.

*I hope that these Love & Devotion writings have been beneficial to you and your spiritual formation. As we're winding the month down, I want to prepare you for next month's devotions. Daily, I'll write responses to your most pressing questions. You can begin to send them in now. Remember that each of you has your own personal number for me, so you don't have to worry about anyone seeing your question as you text. I look forward to hearing what you all are curious about!

Don't miss the last stop of the Love Train this Sunday!
I'll be preaching about Love & Hip-hop. It's going to be crazy good, so bring someone with you!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Love & Devotion (19 of 21)

Luke 6:32 (New Living Translation) "If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!"
-Love School

Jesus is teaching about love in Luke 6:27-36, which is cool but the object of the affection isn't the loveable but the un-loveable...our enemies. As you're reading this, I hope it's not with a self-righteous attitude as if this is easy to emulate. I'm your pastor, your spiritual leader but I struggle with this same principle, just like you if you're honest about it.

The tone of the text is that love isn't exceptional but it's the standard! We must move beyond love of those who treat us right, to loving people who don't care about us back. That's hard to do but not impossible. This is a measure of our Christian maturity. With love/God living in us and we're being loved by him, loving other people that negatively affects our lives is the standard of those saved by God's grace.

Here's the bottom line: loving our enemies is hard to do when we attempt to love them in our own strength. Love them with the love of Jesus. Sinners/people who don't know God love those who treat them good, but the standard is higher for believers. Be different from them and love with everyone with ease. There's no extra credit for it, other than the satisfaction in knowing that you're looking more and more like Jesus with every enemy that you love. Class is dismissed!

*I hope that these Love & Devotion writings have been beneficial to you and your spiritual formation. As we're winding the month down, I want to prepare you for next month's devotions. Daily, I'll write responses to your most pressing questions. You can begin to send them in now. Remember that each of you has your own personal number for me, so you don't have to worry about anyone seeing your question as you text. I look forward to hearing what you all are curious about!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Love & Devotion (18 of 21)

Deuteronomy 30:20 (New Living Translation) "You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."
-The Love Connection

Alright, since yesterday's post was so long, I figured for balance sake that I'd get right to the point today. If we love God for real, then we will be obedient to him. Our obedience to God is linked to our life's positioning. And love is step one in being where God wants us to be.

Allow me to briefly unpack the above summery. The is a place/a destination that God has promised himself to give to you. He wants you to have it for generations to come but it's dependent on your obedience to his word. Doing what God says isn't hard if you genuinely love him. Love is the connection to longevity in the place of promise.

My favorite line in the verse is 'This is the key to your life.' Education is important, discipline is a necessity and wisdom is worth having, but the true key to your life is 'loving God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him.' Now that you know the key to life, make the love connection with God and live long in the place that God has promised!

*I hope that these Love & Devotion writings have been beneficial to you and your spiritual formation. As we're winding the month down, I want to prepare you for next month's devotions. Daily, I'll write responses to your most pressing questions. You can begin to send them in now. Remember that each of you has your own personal number for me, so you don't have to worry about anyone seeing your question as you text. I look forward to hearing what you all are curious about!

*Join our weekly prayer call tonight at 7 p.m. by calling (641) 715-3836 and use access code 131337.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Love& Devotion (17 of 21)

James 5:19-20 (New Living Translation) "My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, 20 you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins."-Gone But Not Forgotten

Sin is addictively alluring. For the Christian, it places them in the position to choose between temporary pleasures and eternal riches. Let's get this on the table from the start, all Christians struggle. From the pastor to the parishioners, we all struggle with making the right choice every day. This fact makes our need for non-judgmental brothers and sisters in the faith, all the more relevant to our development. We especially need each other when we go astray.

Allow me to suggest that we leave the truth because it confronts the sin that we've grown comfortable in. We wander from the people who love us enough to keep it 100 with us; we wander from the truth that makes us free and from the God who found us when we were lost and loved us back to health. The word 'wander' implies that we're gone from the safety of God's care, aimless without direction.

Even though some may leave and are gone from the church/faith community, we (their brothers and sisters) should love them enough to not forget about them! Don't forget that we're all involved in the same struggle. Don't forget that we're a mere decision away from being in the same shape they're in. Our love is agape (Greek word that means in spite of), which has the ability to love without concern of perfection. We love each other, not because we're perfect but because we're pressing! We're all works in progress.

OK, let me reign my rambling in... When I say not to forget about those who're gone from the fellowship, I'm suggesting that we become mobile and not be rigid. Somebody has to go get our brothers and sisters that are hiding from the truth. When we go get them, we can't be so rigid in our religion that sin looks better than being saved. Paul says in First Corinthians 9:22 that he relates with people on their level, so he can lead them to Jesus. Don't miss the point of our salvation. It's not to die and go to heaven; but to die, go to heaven and to carry as many people with us as we can!

I know that this devotion is long but it's important. If you really love God, then you love all of us. The proof of that love is found in your reaching those who need the Jesus you have.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Love & Devotion (16 of 21)

Philippians 1:7-8 (New Living Translation) "So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus."
-The Rhythm of Love

Anita Baker sang a song that I still groove to today, called The Rhythm of Love. She painted a vivid picture of love that is expressed in harmony of actions. The apostle Paul opens his letter of thanks to the church at Philippi, with a sense of gratitude. Philippi was in rhythm with Paul's desire to spread the good news about Jesus and was concerned about him as he dealt with the struggles that ministry presented.

Be aware of these two principles that Philippi was in tune with Paul on...

1) Divine origin of their love... They both were recipients of God's 'special favor'. God's love extended grace to them as a sign of his eternal commitment to give salvation and security. It's this bond that makes us family/brothers and sisters/partners. Our love for each other comes from God and should evoke feelings of gratitude for each other, because God's desire is for us to be together.

2) Definitive expression of their love... Paul loved Philippi and they loved him back, so much so that they didn't allow their love to be void of positive actions of affirmation. They proved their love to each other with deeds and expressed it with their words. The rhythm of this Christian love was unwavering. Weather it Paul was in jail or Philippi was on the front lines of battle for defending the faith, the love didn't stop. Life never got in the way of loving each other in a Godly healthy way.

Let me wrap this up by saying that the scriptures are full of examples of loving relationships, between Godly men and women that aren't sexual in any way. My admonition to you as your brother and your pastor, is to not pervert what's meant to be progressive. Holiness is healthy and should be honored with Godly intent and act in a manner that would please God. Don't mess up your blessing by being animalistic!!!

I love you with 'the tender compassion of Christ Jesus'!

Don't miss the last stop of the Love Train this Sunday!
I'll be preaching about Love & Hip-hop. It's going to be crazy good, so bring someone with you!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Love & Devotion (14 of 21)

Matthew 11:28-30 (New Living Translation) "Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
-Love & Difficulty Aren't Related

I wish that there was more on my mind about this passage to share with you. But, this is all I've got to say, so here goes...

God's love is so caring that it want's to make life easier for us. He has extended a invitation that's hard to refuse and is in tune with what we seek to have for ourselves. Not once has God made life difficult, our disobedience to God is what makes life difficult. Hear this word of exhortation, love and difficulty aren't related! Don't be fooled by sweet words or superficial actions, because difficulty has no place in love.

In the words of one of my favorite childhood cartoon characters, Porky Pig, "...that's all folks!" Have a great weekend of rest and I'll see you Sunday morning!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Love & Devotion (12 of 21)

Proverbs 16:6 (New Living Translation) "Unfailing love and faithfulness make atonement for sin.
By fearing the Lord, people avoid evil."-Knowing When To Bow, So You Can Stand

For many of us, we don't know how or when to back down. Unfortunately, that's a terrible quality to have. It's necessary for us to have the last word, or to get our point across no matter what. We have the tendency to equate bowing with failure. However, it's important to know when to bow, because it will help you stand later.

The fear that's mentioned in Proverbs 16:6, isn't defined as trembling but respect. The believer must respect the Lord, because his unfailing love and faithfulness has atoned us of our sins. Please understand that his love for us isn't license to do as you please. Without question we are free, but we are free to live, move and have our being in Christ alone. When we respect the Lord, there's a sense that we'll do right by him because he's done right by us.

Pay attention to the contrast between sin and evil. They aren't one in the same. God's love forgave us of our sin, which is an act of ignorance and omission. It's possible to stumble into sin and/or be coerced into sin. However, evil is premeditated. Avoid it! James 4:7 supports this admonishment, by telling us to resist the Devil. Resisting the Devil and avoiding evil, begins with our reverence and respect for the Lord. If we bow to God, we can stand against the Devil.

Don't be fooled by the blessings of the Devil. He can give you things and stuff but only God has the hand of blessing! Notice that the Devil has blessings but God has the hand of blessing. Evil shines, glitters and blings in an effort to capture your attention. God's hand of blessing isn't interested in your attention, but he's after your heart. Be encouraged to stand against the Devil, with the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33 "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

***Tomorrow's verse...Galatians 6:1 'Truth in Love' Tomorrow Pastor Walker will post a special video edition of Love & Devotion!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love & Devotion (11 of 21)

Proverbs 10:12 (New Living Translation) "Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses."
-Messy Is Never Classy

I think that Proverbs 10:12 is so simple that it doesn't require explaining. Hate is the beginning of fights but love is forgives.

Messy people like to keep up confusion. Chances are, their dysfunction is so normal that it's reasonable to impose it on other people. This serves as a warning for those of you that befriend the messy. You've been warned that you can't stay classy when you hang out with the messy. Those hugs and conversations that you all have are bound to rub off on you.

Love is a simply a class act. Faith and hope have to take a backseat to love (1 Corinthians 13:13). If you're going to be classy, it doesn't imply that you won't make any mistakes. However, it does mean that your mistakes aren't the end of you. Love earns you another chance to get it right. The key is to ensure that you're operating in love and not lust or perversion. Only pure love is worthy of forgiveness.

Let love live! Stay classy and keep the mess and the messy out of your life.

***Tomorrow's verse...Proverbs 16:6 'Knowing When To Bow, So You Can Stand'

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Love's Train Sermon Notes...Part 2 of 4

That's The Way Love Is
Hosea 2:2-13 “In that day you will call your brothers Ammi—‘My people.’ And you will call your sisters Ruhamah—‘The ones I love.’ 2 “But now bring charges against Israel—your mother—for she is no longer my wife, and I am no longer her husband. Tell her to remove the prostitute’s makeup from her face and the clothing that exposes her breasts. Otherwise, I will strip her as naked as she was on the day she was born. I will leave her to die of thirst, as in a dry and barren wilderness. 4 And I will not love her children, for they were conceived in prostitution. 5 Their mother is a shameless prostitute and became pregnant in a shameful way. She said, ‘I’ll run after other lovers
and sell myself to them for food and water, for clothing of wool and linen, and for olive oil and drinks.’ 6 “For this reason I will fence her in with thornbushes. I will block her path with a wall to make her lose her way. 7 When she runs after her lovers, she won’t be able to catch them. She will search for them but not find them. Then she will think, ‘I might as well return to my husband, for I was better off with him than I am now.’ 8 She doesn’t realize it was I who gave her everything she has—the grain, the new wine, the olive oil; I even gave her silver and gold.
But she gave all my gifts to Baal. 9 “But now I will take back the ripened grain and new wine
I generously provided each harvest season. I will take away the wool and linen clothing I gave her to cover her nakedness. 10 I will strip her naked in public, while all her lovers look on. No one will be able to rescue her from my hands. 11 I will put an end to her annual festivals, her new moon celebrations, and her Sabbath days—all her appointed festivals. 12 I will destroy her grapevines and fig trees, things she claims her lovers gave her. I will let them grow into tangled thickets,
where only wild animals will eat the fruit. 13 I will punish her for all those times when she burned incense to her images of Baal, when she put on her earrings and jewels and went out to look for her lovers but forgot all about me,” says the Lord."

Introduction: "Sometimes a man and a woman can have an understanding, that no one understands. Not even their own selves." ~Rachel in Lackawanna Blues

Transition: Love has taken a sharp turn between God and Israel, in Hosea chapter 2. Israel is too busy turning tricks in the street, to notice that God's patience with them had run out...

Exposition: God's love actions, show us the way love is...

1) Love is attentive (verses 2, 4-5, 8, 12-13)
It's important that you notice differences in behavior and appearance. This isn't license to be a detective but to not be so love struck that you're stupid.

2) Love aims to please (verses 8-9)
Healthy relationships involve both give and take. If things are one sided, then the giver needs to consider a major adjustment to the dynamics of the relationship.

3) Love has feelings (verses 6-7, 9-13)
Your emotions make you human. So, don't attempt bottle up what needs to be expressed. Nothing beats a good understanding.

*This week's sound track (follow the links): Love's Train by Con funk shun
                                                                      That's The Way Love Is by Bobby 'Blue' Bland
                                                                      Video clip of Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show

Next Sunday, it's going down!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Love & Devotion (9 of 21)

John 3:16 (New Living Translation) "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
-A Death Row Pardon

Here's an incredible thought to start your day, God's love is redemptive! Ok, since that didn't do it for you, let me start from the beginning.

Humanity was created by God and loved by him unconditionally. Man wandered away from God, by falling from grace to disgrace because of our disobedience. We were placed on death row because of our sin, God was so in love with us, that he sent Jesus (the human physicality of divinity) to die in our stead. The suffiency of Jesus' death is sure, but it's effiency depends on if we believe that Jesus can set us free,

So, God's love is redemptive (it snatches us from sin's execution and gives us eternal life)! His love is attentive to our current condition and gives us grace in exchange for our guilt. Don't miss this, we were slaves to sin but now (because we believe in Jesus) we're children of God! We are free from sin and shame, and have the freedom to serve God as a sign of our thanksgiving and love for his merciful acts.

I encourage you to think of how certain our death was, unitl Jesus came to pardon us. As you reflect, repent and use your freedom to be a servant. Since God has done such great things for us, let's do something great for him and tell the world that can't nobody do us like Jesus!

***Tomorrow's verse...Ephesians 4:16 'A Healthy Body'

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Love & Devotion (8 of 21)

Acts 2:42 (New Living Translation) "All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer."
-Loyally In Love

First, it's Ash Wednesday. Today is the beginning of the season of Lent, which prepares us for the celebration on Easter (the resurrection of Jesus from the dead). I pray that today we will all remember that we're merely sinners, who have been saved by the grace of God. That's the message of Ash Wednesday. May we be intentionally repentant (asking God to forgive our faults) and thoughtfully focused on how to make tomorrow better.

Acts 2:42 is the foundational philosophy of our church. We don't do anything that doe's not embody the five principles that are mentioned. The early church loved Jesus for real, and their love was expressed in the language of the today's passage.

Teaching...The believers remained loyal to the teaching of Jesus after his ascension (departure) back to heaven. Our relationship with God must be developed and his word tells us how to do that. Studying the scriptures is important and living what we've learned from the scriptures is even more important. 1 John 5:3 reminds us that doing what God says is easy, when we love him. Find pleasure in God's word (Psalm 1:2) and watch your relationship with him improve.

Fellowship...What we do on Sunday morning in Café Grace is not a waste of time. As a matter of fact, it's not as unconventional as some may think. Fellowship, if we love God, is a necessary component for people of faith. Fellowship is how we relate with each other. If we're brothers and sisters as the scriptures teach us, then it's important that we get to know each other. Knowing each other, requires us to be non-judgmental and accepting people for where they are. Be loyal to the principle of connecting with believers, to be a spiritual system of support that loves people where they are, in order to lift them to where they belong.

Meals...The emphasis of this principle isn't the food. This was about sharing (to ensure everyone had enough) and communication (easing the tension to talk). There should be no lack of basic needs in our faith community. Not to imply that we're to take care of our brothers and sisters but we should be there in their times of need. Our goal in eating together, is to make it easy to get to know each other. Food is a common denominator, no matter your class, race or culture.

The Lord's Supper...The bread and wine is to remind us that Jesus loved us first. We were hopeless, helpless and homeless but he loved us enough to die for us, so we could gain all those missing elements. We are to celebrate the Lord's Supper, because Jesus told us to. It's a method of connecting with God's grace and disconnecting from our sin and shame.

Prayer...When you're in love, you talk about everything and nothing with your mate. That's how we should be with God. Don't just go to God when you need something from him. Be loyal in your communication with him, and call him up in prayer, just to say thank you and I was thinking about you today. Don't be shy in prayer (Hebrews 4:16), because God wants you to talk to him regularly without restraint.

Our love for God must be expressed in these five loyal principles. Don't back away from them, but live them out daily to show God that you're behaving like you believe them!

God, we thank you for this amazing place known as Grace Corner. Where we preach and practice your word. Help us to be more expressive of our love for you, by being loyal to these principles. In the strong name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

***Tomorrow's verse...John 3:16 'A Death Row Pardon'

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Love & Devotion (7 of 21)

1 John 4:19 (New Living Translation) "We love each other because he loved us first."

As a kid I had the biggest crush on Stacy Lattisaw (that might be too much information for ya'll, lol!). She sang one of my favorite songs, I Found Love On A Two-Way Street. In the chorus, Stacy says that she lost it on a lonely highway. As I read 1 John 4:19, I thought of her lyrics. Love really is a two-way street, but we often lose it in the busyness and broad roads of life.

The reason that we love God and other people (especially other believers), is because God loved us first. His love for us is the driving force behind our love for him and our brothers and sisters in the faith. God's love for us is compelling. It keeps pulling us toward him, even when we're flirting with sin and the Devil. There's no substantive reason for us to neglect the love of God (Hebrews 2:3), because it's passionately pure, it purposely provides and powerfully protects us. Why wouldn't you love God back?!

For those of you that has a problem loving other people, it's time for you to check your relationship with God. Loving comes natural to the believer! Love is in us, because God is love. 1 John 4:20-21 says "If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers." Christians should never have a love problem! Now, we may have a like problem. Trust me, some people are hard to like, and that's alright. However, you must love period!

The law of spiritual reciprocity suggests that we should give God what he gives us. Don't be stubborn or stingy, love God back! Love him because he loved you first, when you were unlovable! Open your heart to God; not sections of your heart but let him in and give him room to roam. Hear this truth, God is not your last trifling lover! He's not the father you never really knew or the mom that you struggle to get along with. God is not your siblings that makes your blood boil or your so called friends who are never there when you need them. God will not break your heart! He's a gentle giant, that's soft enough to comfort you but strong enough to keep you and push you to be better than who and what you are.

O God, help us to love again. We've been hurt and are defensive. But we pray that we will know the purity of your love and be open to share the love that you've given us. Help us to move on from the pain of our past, with an understanding that our present has possibilities and move forward into the future with you, at full steam ahead! In Jesus' name, Amen.

***Tomorrow's verse...Acts 2:42 'Loyally in Love'

Monday, February 8, 2016

Love & Devotion (6 of 21)

Romans 8:38-39 "And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord."
-Convinced to Stay Connected

At the start of a new week of labor, I have a very little to say about this passage. But don't allow the short length of this Love & Devotion to minimize the strength of it.

Paul is writing to the church at Rome, in an extremely encouraging tone. He was convinced, based on his personal experiences with God to stay connected to his love, no matter what! Nothing was going to change Paul's mind about God.

Let's look at this in two facets, Paul's Declaration and God's Revelation.

1) Paul definitively declares, that he's not going to allow himself or anyone else, not hell or heaven for that matter, not fears or worries to move him from his choice. Here's what worth pondering over, doe's your Sunday declarations match your Monday actions? I'm urging you to boldly do what you say! Your connection to God's love is what keeps you alive, so convincing you to stick with God shouldn't be difficult to do.

2) God's revelation of his love for us, was done in grand fashion. Jesus' death is what let us know that God loves the world for real. The only fact that I want to give you about that is, love isn't meant to be buried but it should be displayed. Jesus died and was buried in a grave, but something as precious as love can't be cooled off in the darkness of the grave. Jesus showed off God's love for us by dying, which displayed how fearless his love for us is but the resurrection showed us how strong his love for us is. Thank God that he showed (Romans 5:8) us his love and the reason that we ought to be convinced that staying connected to him must be our declaration. I don't know about ya'll, but Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me!

***Tomorrow's verse...1 John 4:19 'Reciprocity'

Sunday, February 7, 2016

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Love's Train Sermon Notes...Part 1 of 4

Part-Time Lover
Hosea 1 The Lord gave this message to Hosea son of Beeri during the years when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah, and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. 2 When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.” 3 So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son. 4 And the Lord said, “Name the child Jezreel, for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence. 5 I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley.” 6 Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them. 7 But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from their enemies—not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the Lord their God.” 8 After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son. 9 And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God. 10 “Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’ 11 Then the people of Judah and Israel will unite together. They will choose one leader for themselves, and they will return from exile together. What a day that will be—the day of Jezreel—when God will again plant his people in his land.

Introduction: The relationship between God and Israel was strained. Israel was free-spirited, in that polytheistic practices were considered customary instead of sinful. They weren't necessarily trying to leave God, but they wanted God as their main squeeze along with a side piece. In short, Israel was married to God and had a part-time lover. God's stance was clear, that his love train would not tolerate stow-a-way passengers.

Transition: Overwhelming Observations that are practical for us to us...
-Beware of marrying someone with expectations of them turning into someone better
-Don't think that being in God's will, deletes life's trouble
-Children will not make a strained relationship any better
-Part-time love may come with fulltime consequences

1) An illustration of desperation...verse 2
The prostitute (Israel) was desperately searching for love and affection and God was desperately searching for someone to loyally love him the way he would love them.

2) Promiscuity leads to questions of paternity...verse 2
Verse 3 says that the child was Hosea's. Verses 6 and 8 suggests that the second two aren't. Life has a ways of starting all right but end up going all wrong.

3) Time will turn things around...verse 10-11
God wasn't giving up on Israel. He combated there part-time love with tough love. Time and space will help part-time lovers miss the water that filled the well, but now is dry. However, not all strained relationship end up like God and Israel. Sometimes you have to know when to ease on down the road.

*This week's sound track: Love's Train by Con funk shun   Part-Time Lover
*Next week we'll study Hosea chapter 2:1-13 "That's The Way Love Is" A Bobby 'Blue' Bland classic

Friday, February 5, 2016

Love &Devotion (5 of 21)

Ephesians 1:4-5 (New Living Translation)  "Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure."
-He Chose Me

Discovering who you are in Jesus, is an amzing feeling of being loved,desired and useful. You are an adopted and legitimate child of God! That's a supreme actof love on God's part. In biblical the era, it was legal for a father to disown his legitimate child. However, it was illegal for one to disown his adopted child. Thank God that we'rea dopted! He had us on his mind before the beginning of time! We were lifted by his love, to a place of being found not guilty of sin because of the blood of Jesus Christ!

God doesn't make mistakes! So the choice to make you a part of his own family was not by accident. Stop singing the woe is me song; stop feeling like no one wants you and that you're all alone; stop acting so pitiful, as if love has passed you by. Listen, God chose you! You are a part of the chosen people of God, a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9)! So act like it! Lift up your head, dry your tears and stop living a second class existence when you've got a first class ticket in your hand!

When God chose you, verse 5 says that he found pleasure in his choice. Wow! Think about that level of love for a minute... You make God smile. Now don't go getting all beside yourself, because it's Jesus who covers us that makes us presentable to God. Thank God for Jesus, that makes us choosable!

Here's how want to wrap up this week's Love & Devotion, I want you to feel wanted. That's it! We live in an image driven society, that specializes in telling you how to feel, dress, eat, how your body should be shaped...etc...but I want you to feel wanted, because GOD CHOSE YOU just like you are. Understand that that's not a license to never change. It's a license to breathe and cultivate your relationship with God. God loves you and as you love him back, you'll notice that the way he loves you will begin to improve who you are.

Enjoy your weekend. Don't let the Super Bowl keep you from worship, because it doesn't take all day to prepare. I encourage to make a phone call, senda text, tag some friends on Facebook just to invite someone to worship with you this Sunday. Help them feel wanted by the same God that loves and adopted you. Be safe and sane in your celebrations and I'll see you Sunday at 10:45 a.m. as we talk about Part-time Lover from Hosea 1.

***Remeber that I'll return to writing on Monday, but don't stop reading!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Love & Devotion (4 of 21)

1 John 3:16 (New Living Translation) "We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters."
-Love That Lifts

Some of our relationships have ended miserably, because we never had any quality examples of what 'real love' looks like to follow. Either not seeing our parents respond to each other healthily, not knowing a parent at all, seeing a steady stream of different people in and out of our parent's lives or not knowing how to properly process our emotions are all possible factors. However, I'm thankful for God's personal and positive interaction in our lives! David says in Psalm 27:10 that "Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close." God is the best example of love we have, because he is love!

People of God (those who have an experiential engagement with his authority) know real love when they see it because Jesus showed it to us in Romans 5:8. Jesus died for us and we weren't even good. As a matter of fact, we qualified to be called enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18). But Jesus gave up his life for us any way! Real love lifted our sins off of us and nailed it to the cross. So, it's safe to say that real love improves the quality of one's life. Jesus' love made us all better by adding to not subtracting from the quality of our lives. Real love lifts!

The same love that we've experienced is the same love that we should share. Selflessness is what we should embody. God is not asking for us to physically die for our brothers and sisters. Yet he is saying that we must support them. Now, that doesn't mean to take care of them but we should assist them (1 John 3:17). Real love gives of itself without bragging, for the sake of those in God's family to feel loved by our actions.

I'm challenging you to do a random act of kindness this weekend. Give what you've gotten from God! He's given you the example to follow, so follow the leader and practice love that lifts! Don't broadcast it or brag about it, just do it!

***Tomorrow's verse...Ephesians 1:4-5 'He Chose Me'

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Love & Devotion (3 of 21)

1 John 4:16-18 (New Living Translation) "We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. 18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love."

The goal of anyone that seeks to become Christ-like, is to move beyond an intellectual assent of Jesus (knowing about him mentally) into an experiential engagement with his authority (knowing him emotionally and personally). This passage speaks to the difference between the two. Ironically, many of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, lose sight of who Jesus is to us at the sign of trouble. I want to spend these few moments reminding you that there are some things that you should know and not forget about YOUR God.

You should know without any reservation, that God loves you immeasurably! That's a simple statement with significant implications. God's love is worthy of your trust. I know that your heart has been broken and you have a problem trusting people and their declarations. But you can trust God's love! It's sure (solid foundation), it's safe (gives you eternal security) and it's strong (it holds you, you don't hold it)!

Also, you should know that God is love. My father in the ministry (Pastor David Lattimore in Jacksonville, FL) used to say "If you don't love me, don't die". Jesus told us in John 13:35 that "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Here's my point, If you're a Jesus follower, then love is in you, because God is love. The radical nature of this God love is that it's alive. It goes, it gives and it grows. Believers' love should not be stale or stagnant but ever striving toward modeling Jesus.

I think you ought to know, that once you've experienced God's for real, that it ain't ever scared (I know, I just did '! God's love casts out all fear. What doe's love (God) have to be afraid of? Certainly not punishment; God can't punish himself! That's why having him living on the inside of us and exemplifying his attributes are important. On judgment day, we won't have a problem if we 'live like Jesus here in this world'.

There's a story about a Sunday school teacher, that was closing class one Sunday morning with a question. She rhetorically asked, if there was anything that God couldn't do? A little girl raised her hand with excitement. Teacher, teacher she yelled, I know something that God can't do. Annoyed, the teacher asked her what is it? The little girl proudly stood and told everyone in a professor like tone, that God can't see our sins through the blood of his son Jesus! I've got to take a praise break right there, because that's something that God can't do! Thank God that he can't do that! I'm glad that God looks at us but sees Jesus, because he lives within us. I urge you today to not forget these principles and to express them in your living, so that there's no mistake that you are a child of God!

***Tomorrow's verse...1 John 3:16 'Love That Lifts'

Love & Devotion (2 of 21)

Romans 12:5 (New Living Translation) "so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other."
-Believing Includes Belonging

When I hear about the church of Jesus Christ, I immediately think of the phrase 'assembly required'. Hebrews 10:25 admonishes believers in this way "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." Don't let anyone fool you into thinking (and don't fool yourself) that you can be saved but not need the church. Hear me clearly when I say. that believing includes belonging!

The body of Jesus Christ is composed of various parts. The implication is that all of us (believers) are a body part, which makes us valuable to it's function. Our local body known as Grace Corner, needs you in order to operate properly. I urge you to not slow down, back up or sit down. If you do, it hinders the progress of the body's purpose because all of our parts are attached to the same body.

Watch how love arrives in this text, in grand style. Paul (the author of this passage) says that 'we all belong to each other.' What sense would it make for a body to hate parts of itself! That's an incredibly unhealthy and dysfunctional scenario. I've got a big nose, I'm short and I'm of an extra chocolate hue, but I certainly don't hate those parts of myself! As a matter of fact, I love those parts of me all the more because I don't see them as flaws but as perfect imperfections that make me unique.

When I declare that I love my church, I'm really saying that we don't have it all together and we're not even close to getting there. We are a unique people that loves God and is determined to live tomorrow better than we lived today. We lie, cuss, fuss, fight, cheat and steal but we are nothing like we use to be and don't want to go back there. We love each other, not because we're perfect. Rather, we agape (loving in spite of imperfections; unconditional; without restraint) each other, the way God intended. I know I just took the long way around, but I'm simply suggesting that we 'belong to each other' and we don't have any receipts to make returns! You're stuck with us!

As your pastor, I want you to seriously thing about where you fit on the body. Get in where you fit in! After you've thought about it, and if we don't have a ministry that you feel drawn to then start it! Don't pour cold water on the Holy Spirit that's at work within you (1 Thessalonians 5:19). If you believe, then belong! You've found brothers and sisters that aren't judgmental of your past, we just want to be your family and push you to be better than you've ever been before!

***Tomorrow's verse...1 John 4:16-18 'And You Know This Man!'