six hundred forty-nine thousand one hundred eighty-four

I’ve been super inactive on here the last semester, and for that I apologize. This is an adaptation of a sermon I wrote for my final in Biblical Preaching last semester. Hope God uses it for someone else too.

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Once upon a time…I went to this terrible awful place called public high school. It wasn’t actually that bad… When I was in high school, we had this thing called “Project Graduation.” We would basically go from graduation, to dinner, and then all come back to the school for a bunch of games and a photobooth and food and just being kind of crazy with our class for the last time. The goal of it was to keep us from going out and partying by having something for us to do.  The end cap of the night was an auction, and we would spend points we’d earned all year while working sports events or doing various community service projects. I got some random little stuff, a shelf unit, and a cheap laptop… but my absolute favorite thing was a kindle fire. I love to read. I honestly don’t really feel like myself this semester because I don’t have enough free time to do personal reading.

As much as I love to read, I also love just learning little somewhat useless facts. I’m going to combine those two loves and share some random facts about books with you. On amazon, when you search books about sex, there are 300,000. There are 500,000 about Christianity. There are 200,000 about money. And there are over 600,000 books about love on amazon. People are looking for love. They’re looking for an explanation; they’re looking to find love; they’re looking to learn how to give love… Society is looking to fill the need for love in their lives. Thankfully, Christ has made it really clear what His disciples need to do about that.

Let’s look at John 13: 34-35. Jesus is talking to his disciples around the table where they’d dined together, in the room where He’d washed their feet, and at some point in the day before they went to the garden where He would get that traitorous kiss on the cheek. He said, “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”

Just looking at that it may seem like it’s simple, but when it comes to our day to day lives it’s not always so easy to put it into practice. So let’s break this down a little bit, because obviously this was important to Christ, so it must be important to us.

Jesus starts off saying that this is a NEW commandment. That’s not because this is a new concept or anything, but because it is for a new object and a new measure.

So, first, let’s look at WHO this command is saying to love, this new object. The reason this is a new commandment specifically and not just another commandment, is that we’ve already seen this one, and the disciples were familiar with it already in their Jewish culture. He’s alluding to Leviticus 19:18, where the Israelites were told to “love their neighbor.” Now, in their day and age, the Jews had watered down “love your neighbor” enough that they were able to pick and choose who they wanted to love. But Christ changed it. He switched it up from just “your neighbors,” which was more easily twisted, to loving everyone who falls under the umbrella of “one another.”

Now, we have to realize that he’s sitting in a room with his disciples, and the immediate “one another” was the other disciples in the room that day. It seems a little bit odd to tell His disciples to love the other disciples there with them at first. But if we as believers do not love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, how on earth can we then go out and love anyone else? We have to start at home, and make sure our immediate family is healthy before we can go out and start loving everyone else.

Okay, so “one another” was this new object. But now we need to figure out the “new measure” I mentioned a minute ago… So let’s look at HOW this command is saying to love.

The “measure” of this love is “as I have loved you.” Jesus isn’t saying to love someone within our own capacities. We are fickle with our love; we are selfish. Humans as a whole love conditionally. As hard as we try, there’s no such thing as unconditional love within a human heart. That’s not the kind of love Christ is talking about. He’s talking about striving to always pour out the holy and pure love that we receive from Heaven. He’s talking about letting the Spirit guide us into being as selfless and caring and sacrificial as He was.

Earlier in this chapter, Jesus showed them a new standard of love by washing the disciples’ feet and completely humbling himself in a very tangible way. He didn’t just talk about it and expect them to get it…He got down on that dirty floor with his bowl of water and washed their dirty, sandy, tired feet. He did the servants job. He gave these baffled men a glimpse of the love he wanted them to give. The fact that he had just done this for them made his words even more impactful to them in this situation. Obviously, we know that Christ then went on to show them, and the rest of the world, His love in the most absolute way possible, but the disciples didn’t know what was coming yet.

Trying to love like Jesus is asking doesn’t mean you need to go find yourself some nasty feet to wash today, and it doesn’t mean you need to die for someone today, or maybe ever in your life. It means to seek the highest good for another. Agape love sacrifices for others. It is an act of will, a decision, not trying to find some fuzzy feeling for someone. It is a commitment. This Good Love, capital G, is not about your needs or my needs; it’s about God’s will. God is Good, and God is Love, and His will is for us to give this Good Love to one another. When Jesus says, “as I have loved you,” He sets Himself up as the standard by which His disciples are to forever measure their love for one another.

Now we’ve covered WHO we are supposed to love, and HOW to love them. But realistically, I know you’re probably asking WHY you’re supposed to go through life throwing this holy love at people.

That answer is pretty simple: this is a commandment from Christ. It’s not a suggestion or something we just need to think about. He’s saying, “this you have to do for me” because how we love directly effects how He looks to the world. And this loving isn’t some fuzzy feeling; this is Love the verb.

It’s worth noting that Jesus didn’t say that we had to like everyone. You don’t have to like someone to love someone. I spent the majority of my life loving but strongly disliking my father. We had an incredibly tumultuous relationship. I won’t go into details here. But there was never a doubt in my mind that I love him. I always have and I always will. But the more I figure out how to love without liking, and try to figure out this Christ-like love towards him, the more I am able to like him, and see that God’s been working in him in the last few years. You won’t like everyone. That’s life. But you’re still asked to show Christ’s love to them.

To demonstrate that we are believers and shine His light, we’ve got to show this kind of intentional, intense love for one another. Nothing will surprise and interest this broken world as much as a group that can love totally and beautifully. It’s not always a big complicated thing to love properly. Vocalize what you’re appreciative of without including “but” or a negative as well. Learn to seek out another believe and speak encouraging words. Hug someone. Find ways to serve your church more or other believers somehow.

After you leave, you’ve got to go finish exams or pack up and move out and you’ll probably be pretty stressed. That stress means you might get in a fight with your boyfriend, or your mom, or your roommate. Instead of exhibiting that Christ-love, you will show anger. You may get road rage driving back home or be stuck on a plane next to the worst person ever. You might want to give this person a piece of your mind…

These are all natural fleshly impulses that we all feel. But God is calling us to live a supernatural life that is dependent upon His strength. John is informing you and me that we can’t live the Christian life on our own for even an hour. We are weak and susceptible to sin. The only way that we can exude love is by constantly abiding in Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit. “Love one another as I have loved you.” That has always been Christ’s desire for us. And if we can live out this love in our daily lives, maybe people won’t need to write so many books about love. Maybe they’ll see that the only book about love that they need has already been written, by the One with the love they need.

pushing and preparing

Dear friends, I write to you new.

This summer has been one of breaking and building; of moulding and mending; of metamorphosis and rebirth. I have been silent through my transformation, because there was too much turmoil in my soul to get any one thought out.

Twenty is my age of new-ness, and it is the year I’ve decided to come into my own. You won’t see a different person just looking at me, other than a couple pounds lost in an effort to make 20 healthy. I will laugh at the same jokes and follow the same blogs and love the same bands. But beneath all that, I am new.  I am peeling back all the layers of who I am in Christ and deciding who I want to become in Him. I am letting Him push me into strengths I didn’t know I had and bring out desires and passions that have been hidden away.

I am saying, “speak, your servant is here,” whenever I feel a nudge.

That’s scary. You know? Because this is God I’m saying that to daily, and who even knows what crazy things He’ll tell me to do. It’s terrifying. But it’s the kind of scary when you’re at the top of a roller coaster, when you’re almost going over; when you can’t see past the break yet; when your body is screaming “no no no it’s not too late to back out!” except that it is, it’s far too late, and besides how amazing will this be?

This summer has been a summer of anticipation. Especially this past month of officially being 20. It is on the air in every breath I take, and I feel it in every step when I’m walking across campus, and I feel its tingle in my bones making it hard to sleep when I lay down at night. I’m feeling it acutely as I’m writing this tonight. It’s in every sip of the youthberry tea I just made, and the whale I have hung on my wall is whispering it to me. That incessant push. That need to go and do and tell.

He is telling me “Get ready,” and He is telling me daily and not telling me what for.

He’s showing me little pieces of the plan. He’s giving me just enough to not go absolutely insane. Just when I thought the need to go and get the heck outa dodge that I’ve had all summer would make me lose it and just run away, He let so many tiny “accidents” lead me to the opportunity to serve using my photography passion in Jamaica to help a budding women’s ministry. And now His push towards some kind of leadership is about to drive me crazy, and part of me wants to ignore it because that idea terrifies me but part of me is saying “but how undeserving are you, that He’ll have to shine through so much brighter than you,” so I wait. I am saying “here am I” and I am making myself available.

I am on the cusp. I am at the top of the roller coaster. I am on the brink of…something. Something big. But as scary as that is, it is the most beautiful feeling I can imagine. Because this year, 20, I am stronger and braver and brighter. I am bolder than I’ve ever been and I am donning my armor and filling up my heart and I am stepping out, stepping onto the water. I am ready, and expectant. Daily, I anticipate Him and His nudges and His whispers and His incessant push. I hear it now, “get ready…” So I wait and I anticipate.

the name thing

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In high school I saw somewhere to take that passage and put your name in it to remind you how to be. I then promptly forgot about it because I didn’t really care much for God most of high school. This morning I was drinking coffee and eating oatmeal with flax seeds and hoping that God would give me more energy from our time together before my 8 am lab (because whoever lives above me was apparently building furniture last night after midnight). He reminded me about that idea this morning.

Kaitlin is patient.

Kaitlin is kind.

She doesn’t envy.

She doesn’t boast.

She isn’t proud.

Kaitlin honors others.

She isn’t self-seeking.

She isn’t easily angered.

She is forgiving.

Kaitlin doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in truth.

She protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres.

That is love. God is love, and those verses say so clearly “love is” those things. If I’m trying be to be like God, then I’m trying to be like that passage. I was praying my way through those goals and then simply said “I want to be love.” God reminded me of John 15:13. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” But in daily life, there’s not necessarily always something life threatening going on to cause you to need to lay your life down. There’s just the daily grind and 1000 tiny choices and interactions. But by being patient and kind and humble etc. we are BEING love and in spirit laying our lives down for our brothers and sisters. This is the greatest love.

Try the name thing. Be love in the world.

on printing and prayer

I rented one of my text books this semester, and I got an email this morning that I have to ship it back by tomorrow or I’ll get charged extra. I’ve known for a couple of weeks that it was due, but – procrastinator that I am – I’ve been ignoring those emails. But, with one more day to ship, I said “okay, let me print that right quick before my quiet time! Two minutes.” Note that I was already about 8 minutes late in starting my quiet time, because I decided to change outfits three times – typical girl stuff.
My computer and printer like to not get along, and when it’s online for every one else’s computer, it will be offline on mine. Lately (yesterday…only yesterday.) it’s been easier to connect though. I tried for 20 minutes to print my shipping label before I finally gave up and went “okay, I’ll do it later. I guess I’ll go in to work at 9 instead of 8:30 so I can spend this time with you, God…”
I pulled my french press over to my desk from where my coffee had been brewing (steeping? It feels different in a french press…) and grabbed a big owl mug for God and a little pig mug for myself. The second I poured our cups of coffee, my shipping label printed. God has a sense of humor…and I got the message. Have you laughed with God lately? ‘Cause it’s the best thing. There’s normal laughter with friends, and then there’s laughter with the One who made you and knitted together all the little special places in your heart, and knows exactly what little irony will flood you with joy on a drizzly morning. And that’s exactly what it did – my wet and cold December morning turned warm and lovely, and I’m still giggling about the printer/coffee incident hours later as I write this during my afternoon lull.

I love being reminded that God isn’t some displeased and distant being watching as we stumble and demanding that we tick off a to-do list on how to be a good Christian. I get that twisted up in my brain kind of often. He’s the dearest friend we’ll ever know, and loves to play little jokes to remind us that He’s both funny and should come before printing something, and He enjoys sharing coffee out of animal shaped mugs with us in our dorm rooms just as much as He enjoys our worship on Sunday mornings.