1. Who in your immediate circle will you see for the holidays this year that you struggle to love? What about that person/people is challenging for you?
2. What is one way you can intentionally seek that person out to love them well in the coming weeks?
3. In the days/hours/minutes leading up to seeing the challenging people in your life, what can you do to prepare your heart?
4. Have you ever considered the ways in which you may be difficult to love? What is one area you can identify that you feel the Lord calling you to take a step back and do some work in your own life?
Good morning everyone, welcome to Hope City Church. My name is Peter I’m the pastor here. I’m so glad that you’re able to join us this morning. Who here is looking forward to Thanksgiving? I know that I am. Let me show you a picture real quick, I made that! That is some homemade cranberry sauce right there. And yes it taste delicious… I was just getting warmed up… Got to get in the groove… You know?
Last Sunday night we got together with one of our Connect groups for FRIENDS– GIVING. There was Turkey, there was mashed potatoes, there was some incredible corn casserole, there were biscuits, or even was a brussels sprout salad. There was so much good food that I could hardly even stand it. And that was just the main meal.
After the meal was finished and everybody pushed back from the table, we saw what was waiting for us over on the side counter. There were two different pies a cookie cake, and a pumpkin cheesecake. So we did what anybody else in this room would’ve done—we had a bite of everything. Okay maybe two bites.
Have ever felt that way? So overstuffed that you would say I have reached absolute capacity? Where you have been totally FED UP there’s no more room for you to eat anything else.
It’s not a great feeling is it? It feels good in the moment, but for hours afterwards you have indigestion, or reflux…. And then there is the bloating in the stomach… When will it be acceptable for men to wear sweat pants in public? Ladies get away with the Yoga Pants. It’s flexible. You eat a good meal, and your clothing expands with you. Where is the male version of this? I mean, THANKSGIVING IS COMING! It’s less than 2 weeks until Thanksgiving! Men, we need to find a solution for this madness.
We’ve all had times when we’ve been FED UP… we’ve experienced more than we could really handle. But wouldn’t it be nice if this experience was limited only to food? But it’s not, right! We’ve been FED UP at work… We’ve been FED UP at PUBLIX. We’ve been FED UP with our kids… I loved this meme I saw this week I mean, sometimes these kids can cause us to feel crazy.
We’ve been FED UP with neighbors… Always parking in front of your house, or not mowing the lawn….
But let’s get real. Can we be honest, we’re at church… The Holiday’s are coming. We’re less than 2 weeks to Thanksgiving, and 6 weeks until Christmas. And they’re coming in that order too by the way… 😉 You can hold off on that Christmas Tree for 2 more weeks… J But we’re getting ready to head into a season of the year where we see people, we don’t see all the time, we go to parties and spend time around family and extended family. And while you think that it would be easy to be around your family, you can get to the point where you are a bit FED UP with it all, right? And you’ve already started asking the question, HOW AM I GOING TO SURVIVE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON?
You’ve got the judgy uncle who can’t help but talk politics all the time… the brother who knows it all… the sister who critiques your parenting… the in-law who is constantly trying to impress everyone, and you can get to the place where you are FED UP! ENOUGH… I’ve had it, right?
Isn’t it odd that sometimes those we are supposed to love the most are often the hardest to love? And we are headed into that season. How do you love those your FED UP With?
For the next three weeks we are going to get ready for family. We’re going to get ready for those holiday gatherings that are going to push you over the edge. We’re going to get ready to get ready to fight the feeling of being FED UP. Consider this a Spiritual CrossFit for your relationships…
Paul writes a book to the church in Rome encouraging them on how to behave and how to deal with people that are hard to deal with. We’re going to be planting ourselves here in Romans 12 for the duration of this series. That’s found on page 775 in the Bible’s around you. So, if you’re looking for a place to start reading in your Bible, check out Romans 12…. In fact, it’s so short, that you could read it every single day. There is so much packed into these few words that Paul wrote.
So Paul, how do we deal with people that we’re Fed Up with? Paul jumps right in and says it by reminding us of something very important… LOVE. Look what he says. Starting in verse 9…
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [i]
Paul lays it out pretty clearly. He says that the way that you interact with people should be marked by Love. But not any kind of love. He says that Love Must be sincere. Literally what Paul’s original Greek words would be that Love must be without hypocrisy. There can be no pretending with this kind of love.
Hypocrisy is what happens when you and I hide our interior junk under the appearance of having it all together. It’s our inner evil thoughts cloaked under the appearance of virtue and goodness. Hypocrisy is the gap between what we show and who we are. It’s the show you put on to make everyone else believe that you are better than you really are.
The harder someone is to love, the more intentional you have to be in loving that person. Another way of putting it is that we must LOVE SINCERELY. It can’t be fake. Too many people play make believe when it comes to their interactions with other people. You have that person that you put the big smile on and wave, or hug, and then the moment they leave the room you’re like, “UGH… So glad they’re gone.” You’re just not feeling it. Right?
Love, when it’s working properly is both EMOTION and WILL. It is AFFECTION and ACTION. You can’t say that you love someone and do nothing for them. Often the measure of our love is the measure of our willingness to be inconvenienced. Let me say it this way, Your Willingness to be inconvenienced shows the depth of your love. Look at the love of a mother… It doesn’t matter what time of night it is, when your child slithers into your room and hovers over you holding onto their blankie, only to tell you they just wet the bed…. Watch that mom. Watch what she does. She cares for the child, hugs them, dries their tears, fixes their bed, and tucks them back in. I’ve seen Tiffany care for our kids in the middle of the night many times. I mean, I hear about it the next morning. Moms are incredible.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. [ii]
Love must be sincere, it must be genuine, it cannot be hypocritical. A Hypocritical love is one that says I’ll love you so long as I get something in return. I’ll act and behave as if I love you, but that all hinges on the fact that you too will act and behave as if you love me. It is possible to use the term Love in an UNLOVING way. I’ll love you IF… or, I’ll Love you WHEN.
Paul further clarifies this kind of love and says, that we are to “hate what is evil, and cling to what is good.” It’s the idea of getting rid of anything that is going to compromise your love, and the intentions behind your love. Can I ask you an honest question right now?
What prevents you from loving people sincerely?
I want you to think about that. Love is the circulatory system of the spiritual body. Your soul can only be as healthy as your love is. When you are tempted to get fed up with people… your friends, your kids, your spouse, your relatives…. You need to evaluate your love for them. What keeps you from loving people sincerely?
If we’re going to get serious about loving sincerely, then we need to figure out what it takes to have a sincere love. It doesn’t happen by accident. Thankfully, Paul gives us three steps to develop a sincere love for others. The first thing Paul says is that we need to COMMIT YOURSELF TO LOVE. Love is not something that you pick and choose when it applies. It either applies none of the time, or all of the time. There is no in between. Look at Verse 10,
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.[iii]
Devote yourself to one another. Paul gets really practical because He knows that Love must be shown to people, you can’t just leave it as a principle. You can’t just think about Love up here in your head and not have it work its way out of your heart and your hands and your mouth. Love has to be more than head knowledge. It’s about what you feel, what you do and what you say. This is why the first step to sincere love is that you must Commit Yourself to Love. Honor one another above yourself. This is why you will not hear me ever talk badly about my wife Tiffany. I will honor her, because when I honor her it appropriately reflects my love for her.
Paul goes on and says, Never be lacking in zeal, or in other words, DON’T GIVE UP! Don’t stop… Keep going. Even when it’s hard. This is what contributes to a SINCERE LOVE! Don’t forget why you are loving others… We are serving the Lord! When we love others we are serving the Lord, not our flesh, or our natural desires. 1 John 4:19-21 reminds us,
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. [iv] 1 John 4:19-21
We only know what love is because of the way that God has loved us. This may be why love is so hard to absorb and understand. Our wiring has been distorted by wounds in our past.
This afternoon, in my neighborhood, my cul-de-sac is hosting a neighborhood block party. My neighbors Chris and Amy talked to Tiffany and I and came up with the idea of a Block Party for our neighborhood. It’s hard to love your neighborhood when you don’t know your neighborhood. They’re bringing the grill to the curb, we’re renting a big inflatable slide, and we invited every single person in our neighborhood to join us. EVEN THE ONES WHO COMPLAIN AND DON’T MOW THEIR LAWN. Everyone! When we went door to door inviting people, I was shocked how many people said “I’ve always wanted to do something like this. It will be great to get to know one another.” We have made a decision that we are going to Commit Yourself to Love.
In my morning Men’s Connect Group, early on in our meeting we knew of a woman in our church that needed some help around her house. And we put a date on the calendar for us all to meet up there for 2 hours on a Saturday morning in order to care for her and her property. We’re committed to loving her.
What would it look like for you to commit yourself to loving those people who are challenging to love?
Once you commit yourself to love, Paul reminds us of this, in verse 12
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.[v] Romans 12:12
Do you see what Paul is saying? Don’t give up. Even when you don’t see any changes in the way that you are feeling, or the way that others are treating you, keep going. Be joyful in HOPE! Hope is something that you can’t see, it’s a feeling that something greater is coming. Be joyful during the time between now and then. It’s easy to be joyful in the things we see, but it’s so much harder in the things that we have yet to see. This might be your relationship with one of your kids, or siblings. You used to have a great relationship, and now something is different. Don’t give up HOPE! Stay joyful in hope.
Be patient in affliction, during the difficult times, when loving other people is hard, be patient with them and yourself. Don’t stop praying. Keep praying! Practice Hospitality… You’re not finished. Why? Because we must LOVE PERSISTENTLY.
Love cannot be pick and choose. Love is a whole package. You might not like everything about someone, but when you choose to love them, you are making a decision to love a person through every moment, the good, the bad, and the mediocre.
I’m so grateful that people have done this for me! When Tiffany and I moved here to Florida we left family behind in NJ. Tiffany’s family lives in NJ, and my Family lives in TX and Indiana. We see my family on Thanksgiving, and her family during Christmas. It’s the rhythm that we’ve been able to settle in to. Well, last year while in NJ visiting family I had gotten to a place where I was fed up. I felt it rising up in side of me the same way that you feel your stomach expanding from eating too much thanksgiving dinner. We had been there for several days and one night while we were all together, my father-in-law was joking with Tiffany… in a way that only a dad can joke with a kid. And I had gotten to that place where I was fed up. I was up to here… and I snapped. I shot from the hip and fired a sarcastic comment back at him. To be honest with you, I don’t even know what I said. But I do know that I shut him down and shut down his feelings.
Here we were its Christmas time, and we are supposed to be filled with holiday cheer and the joy of the season, and I was motivated by anger and frustration. The next day I woke up and apologized and asked him to forgive me, and explained myself… It was embarrassing… And yet, in that moment he showed me what it means to love persistently. We talked, and hugged, and understood each other more afterwards.
Have you ever had a moment like that? A relational fracture? Maybe someone has hurt your feelings, they’ve broken the relationship in some way. Love them persistently. Or maybe it’s you. Maybe you shot from the hip, maybe you used your words to minimize and shut down a neighbor, a family member, or friend. Well, you too can love them persistently… And that loves starts with going back and asking for forgiveness. Don’t wait! Life is far too short to wait.
When you find yourself in the gap, when your relationships are somewhere between healthy and horrible, don’t give up.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.[vi] Romans 12:12
A sincere love is committed, it is persistent, but it is not a statue. It is steadfast, but not stagnant. The third thing that defines a sincere love is that it is a love that Moves Towards Others. Love is not stagnant, it isn’t still & motionless. Love moves towards others, it doesn’t wait for others to come to you.
Paul identifies this for us in verse 13…
13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.  Romans 12:13
This is love in action. It is love that acts. How do we do this? We share with those in need. You can’t share something if you don’t know that there is a need. Which means that you need to open your eyes. You need to open your ears. You need to become aware of the issues around you and then do something about it. People who are looking to develop a sincere love don’t love issues. Their response to the issues show that they sincerely love people. We love people not issues. Here at Hope City, God has been increasing our love and concern for the Next Generation, but also the portion of this next generation that finds themselves in Foster Care. We don’t love Foster Care. Honestly, I wish there wasn’t a need for Foster Care. We love the people who find themselves in need of Foster Care. I can’t wait to share with you all about some things that we’re going to be doing in the next year… But you’ll hear more about that soon.
Share with those in need. And Practice hospitality. Hospitality is a lost art form in our world. We run from one thing to another and can easily lose sight of slowing down and caring for one another. It’s partially why we are hosting this block party. We need to be intentional about caring for our neighbors. It’s not enough to just talk about loving your neighbors. You’ve got to go and do it. I got this picture on Halloween from Matt and Paige Leicht… They sent me a picture of themselves grilling hot dogs out by the curb for their neighbors walking around. They’re practicing hospitality. They are showing people who they don’t owe anything care and their concern for them. It won’t be a stretch to think that next year on Halloween kids are going to be pulling their parents along asking to go over to the house with the grill in front.
A sincere love moves towards others. We will share with others and practice hospitality. (Christmas Movie Graphic) I’m excited to share with you that this fall once again Hope City is going to be hosting an event for Tatum Ridge Families and also #FORsarasota. This Christmas season we are going to be hosting our second annual Outdoor Movie Night on December 8th. We are renting a big inflatable screen, we’re giving away Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, sno-cones, and we want to host an event that the whole family can enjoy together. We are doing this because we want to serve our school and our city. We want to practice hospitality and connect with our friends and neighbors through the love of Jesus. It’s not because we love movies. It’s not because we love sno-cones. It’s because we love People and we will do whatever it takes to connect people with God!
God the Father sent Jesus to earth as a baby, who grew into a man, and pointed people to the love of God. And then He stretched out His arms on a cross and died for the sins that separate you and me from God. Christmas is the start of that story—God making himself known to us. Why would we not do whatever would could to make Him Known to others?
So today, I’m going to ask you to do two things…. I’m going to ask you to
- Invite everyone you know to the Outdoor Christmas Movie Night. Share the Facebook event with your friends. Go online right now, right after church and share that Facebook event get it in front of people. Take the invite card and personally invite someone you know to join you at this event.
- SERVE. Would you sign up to serve that night? Can you imagine a better way of loving your community than serving it? We will have opportunities for you to make sno cones, to literally practice hospitality as people arrive, to hand out food and drinks. To be the hands of feet of Jesus here in Sarasota. Hope City will you practice hospitality with me this Christmas season?
Jen Ruffin will be at the Next Steps booth after service to help you sign up, and today I will be sending you all an email reminding you to invite your facebook friends to this event as well as a link where you can sign up too!
We are serious about Sincerely Loving our City!
But don’t let our love of our city, prevent you from seeing what’s right in front of your face. It’s easy to love people from a distance. But what about those people who are up close and personal? We’re headed into a season where you may be tempted to be fed up, to give up and tell everyone else to just shut up. What if this year you went in with a plan? Not just a bunch of good ideas, but GOD’S IDEA for interacting with those around you?
Who do you need to love with more sincerity? As I’ve been talking, it’s very likely that you have been thinking of someone. Someone who either frustrates you, or your nervous to see. Maybe over this past year there has been a fracture in a relationship. What if instead of being bound by brokenness you could experience Freedom in everyway.
I believe that God wants us to have healthy relationships with others, but it first starts with our relationship with Him! How is your relationship with God? The bible tells us that every single one of us has sinned (Rm 3:23). What this means is that our sin, the things that we do that go against God, living on our own for our own, have broken and fractured the relationship with God that He wanted us to have. Your sin, and my sin separated us from God, but God had a plan for restoration, a salvation plan. A way to save us from our sin. Paul also tells us that our sin is like a cancer… It slowly eats away at our soul until we are dead inside. (Rm 6:23). And yet, God’s plan to save us from this cancer of the soul was through Jesus. And it was through forgiveness. God sent His Son Jesus to die for us, even when we still were choosing sin, God chose us. (Rm 5:8). And all we need to do is to look to Jesus. We need to place our faith in Jesus, that the best way to live our life is by trusting Him, by believing that He died for you in order for you to have life.
This morning if you’ve never made that decision. If you’ve never fixed your relationship with God, I want to give you a moment to do that. In fact, this may be the most important relationship that you ever repair in your life. There is no one here today who is beyond hope. There is no one here God doesn’t love and want to have a relationship with.
Just like any other relationship, it starts by acknowledging where you are. I’m a sinner. I have lived life on my own. And then you can ask for forgiveness. And share with God you intentions… there is nothing better than committing your life to Him!